The Intangible Folk Cultural Properties Section is conducting surveys to create an ethnography in order to document intangible cultural heritage in areas where residents were forced to move or relocate as a result of the Great East Japan Earthquake. One of the sites currently being surveyed is the Town of Onagawa, Oshika County, Miyagi Prefecture. A survey was conducted on April 29 in conjunction with the Tohoku History Museum. The survey team visited the Takenoura area. Soon after the Earthquake, residents of a village of about 60 homes evacuated to the City of Senboku, Akita Prefecture. Temporary housing was subsequently built, but evacuees were scattered among 30 or so locations. There are few opportunities to bring this disjointed community back together. One such opportunity is the lion dance (“lion shake”) at New Year’s. A mikoshi (a portable shrine) is carried from a shrine and brought down to the pier in the new port. There, the lion dance takes place. The village’s landscape is changing as the village relocates to higher ground. Documenting life in terms of intangible cultural heritage such as festivals and performing arts will hopefully help the community to reunite and recover.
|■Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties||■Center for Conservation Science|
|■Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems||■Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation|
|■Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage|
Noh chants from Sotoba Komachi were performed by the preeminent SEKINE Shouroku, a lead actor in the Kanze school of Noh, and recorded on March 13. A Noh play intended primarily for the initiated, Sotoba Komachi features the part of an old woman that can only be performed by veteran actors with years of experience. Somewhat more complex techniques than are normally used are used to portray the old woman’s mindset. Plans are to continue with this recording work after April and record the old woman’s part.
A seminar on passing down intangible cultural heritage (traditional techniques): The People and Tools that Sustain Textile Techniques
A seminar on passing down intangible cultural heritage (traditional techniques) was jointly organized by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum on February 3, 2015. The title of the seminar was “The People and Tools that Sustain Textile Techniques Tools are essential to passing down textile techniques. The seminar featured a panel discussion of how those tools and techniques are related and the current state of those tools and techniques. FUJII Kenzo (of the Kyoto Textile Research Institute) was invited to comment. The panel included YOSHIMURA Kouka (a curator at the Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum), textile makers who were filmed for the exhibition, NAKAYAMA Shunsuke (Head of the Modern Cultural Properties Section of the Institute’s Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques), and KIKUCHI Riyo (of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage).
The textile makers described how they are continually confronted with a choice regarding which tools to use, i.e. whether to introduce machinery to increase operational efficiency or to continue using the tools they have inherited. The textile makers also described how the techniques to make those tools have disappeared over the past few years. As a result, tools that were once readily available are no longer available, so craftsmen cannot inherit them even if they want to.
That said, there is the view that only those techniques with accompanying demand should be preserved. Kimono are currently worn on special occasions. Kimono production is almost non-existent in comparison to the days when kimono were everyday wear. Textile techniques are a form of intangible cultural heritage, but textile manufacture also falls within the framework of an industry. Textile makers produced textiles to make a living, but that cannot happen if there is no market for those textiles. In other words, what sort of kimono do consumers want? Existing techniques can change depending on the answer to that question.
The people that sustain textile techniques are not merely the textile makers. Each person who buys or wears clothing made from those textiles and wishes to preserve those textiles sustain the techniques used to make them. This seminar was meaningful since it impressed that fact upon a number of attendees. The seminar had numerous issues, such as time constraints, a lack of further discussion, and the fact that too broad a range of topics was covered. In the future, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage would like to draw on the views expressed by attendees and provide a forum in which individuals with different perspectives can discuss the passing down of textile techniques.
On January 24, efforts to preserve and pass on a technique to make winnowing fans from Japanese wisteria (nationally designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property) were surveyed. This technique has been passed down in the Kizumi area of the City of Sosa, Chiba Prefecture.
Winnowing fans are an essential tool for everyday life since these fans are used to carry items and separate grain from chaff. These fans are also ceremonial implements that are used in festivals and annual events. These fans are thus an essential part of life. Three techniques to make these winnowing fans have currently received national designation as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property (folk technique). One of these techniques is practiced in the Kizumi area of the City of Sosa, where winnowing fans continue to be made using Japanese wisteria and dwarf bamboo. Winnowing fans from the Kizumi area are light, sturdy, and extremely flexible, and these fans were widely used throughout the Kanto region. The heyday for the making of winnowing fans was from the Taisho Period to the mid-1950s, when the Kizumi area and surrounding areas produced 80,000 winnowing fans annually. However, changes in the social climate and the spread of plastic baskets and baskets from China have resulted in a sharp decline in current demand for the winnowing fans.
The Kizumi Society to Preserve the Making of Winnowing Fans was formed to pass on the technique to make winnowing fans in the Kizumi area. Starting in 2010, the Society has conducted a class to pass down the technique and the Society has worked to foster individuals who will continue to pass on the technique. The class is held monthly. Local individuals who wish to pass down the technique act as teachers, and they work tireless to collect materials for the winnowing fans, work those materials, make the fans, and put on demonstration sales at local festivals. Students attending the class vary in age; some wish to start making the winnowing fans after mandatory retirement, some are learning how to make winnowing fans while working bamboo professionally or semi-professionally, and some are local organic farmers. Regardless of who they are, the students are passionate about learning. Some of the students are residents of the Kizumi area while others attend monthly from places such as the Town of Yokoshibahikari and the City of Kamogawa. The class on January 24 had several dozen students who learned about harvesting Japanese wisteria and dwarf bamboo and then treating and working those materials.
The demand for many folk goods has declined sharply due to changes in the social climate and the spread of materials and tools that can be used to mass produce items at a low cost. Circumstances continue to hamper the passing down of folk techniques. If those techniques are no longer needed by society, how will values change? Is there a point to passing down those techniques and if so how? Numerous communities are facing these issues.
The survey found that residents of the Kizumi area have created a place and an atmosphere where people can learn how to make winnowing fans and they have taken in outsiders who are interesting in learning how to make those items. The residents do this as part of their own life’s work, as a hobby, or as practitioners of an art. The survey revealed evidence of a new relationship emerging in which people are no longer forced make winnowing fans as an occupation, as they were in the past. Instead, people have decided themselves that they want to make winnowing fans. As the evidence indicated, this approach may constitute a new model with which to pass down techniques. This approach is possible because values are more diverse today, so people have the option of reexamining traditional culture and seeking to return to a life more in tune with nature.
The 9th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties was held on December 5. The topic of the conference was “Local Identity and Folk Performing Arts: Relocation/Resettlement and Intangible Cultural Heritage.” The Great East Japan Earthquake re-emphasized the fact that intangible cultural heritage such as folk performing arts is a way for a place to maintain its local identity. What role could folk performing arts play when communities are forced to relocate to higher ground or settle elsewhere because of an earthquake? To answer this question, this conference featured detailed presentations citing 4 examples of relocation or resettlement from around the country.
The first example concerned the role and current status of folk performing arts that settlers brought with them when they settled Hokkaido. The second example concerned the state of “hometown associations” that natives of different islands and regions of Okinawa organized in Tokyo and the role that folk performing arts serve for these associations. The third example concerned the characteristics of believers in Pure Land Buddhism who migrated from Hokuriku to Fukushima Prefecture during the Edo period. The last example concerned folk performing arts that were discontinued as a result of depopulation in Yamanashi Prefecture; in fact, these arts are being practiced again by migrants to urban areas. The presentations were followed by a general discussion that delved deeper into the topic of folk performing arts based on the examples provided. Plans are to publish a report on the conference in March 2015.
This year, a project on safeguarding the cultural heritage of the Oceania island countries was implemented as part of the Networking Core Centers for International Cooperation in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage Project. Fiji is a key country collaborating with the project, and 3 researchers from the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development of the University of the South Pacific were invited to visit Japan. Joeli VEITAYAKI, Semi MASILOMANI, and John Kaitu’u from the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development visited Japan on December 15 and concluded a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on scholarly exchanges and exchanges with the Institute. Until their departure on December 21, the researchers participated in various field studies and scholarly exchanges.
On December 16, a Workshop on the Cultural Heritage of the South Pacific was held at the Institute, and opinions regarding cultural heritage were discussed in relation to sustainable development in the South Pacific and Japan. On December 17, a field study of the landscape and cultural heritage of satoyama woodlands was conducted near the City of Higashimurayama, Tokyo. On December 18, a survey on the use of cultural heritage was conducted in Chiba Prefecture’s Boso-no-Mura Museum. From December 19–21, the researchers visited Okinawa where they toured the Oceanic Culture Museum and learned about the cultural landscape in Bise (the Town of Motobu, Kunigami District). One of the visitors remarked that “Japan is a model of development in the Pacific region in the sense that it retained its culture as it developed.” Additional scholarly exchanges with the university are anticipated in the future.
Participation in the Ninth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage
The Ninth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris November 24–28, 2014. The session was attended by 4 personnel from the Institute. These staff members gathered information on the state of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage.
During the session, 34 elements of intangible cultural heritage were inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (the Representative List). The inscribed elements included “Washi, craftsmanship of traditional Japanese hand-made paper.” “Sekishu-Banshi,” which was already inscribed on the Representative List, was joined by “Hon-minoshi” and “Hosokawa-shi.” This was the first time that a State Party had added elements to inscribed intangible cultural heritage. On the day the decision was made, there were numerous Japanese news media at the session. Like the nomination of “Washoku” last year, this year’s nomination also included the word “Wa (which means “Japanese”),” and this may explain the heightened in interest in the nomination.
That said, there were instances when State Parties that nominated elements for inscription on the Representative List or that reported on the status of elements inscribed on the Representative List were criticized by other State Parties for including elements of those parties. Indicative of the relations between states, such conflict is probably unavoidable. The inscription of an element on the Representative List does not imply exclusivity or ownership of that element by the nominating State Party, and an element need not exhibit originality or uniqueness with respect to similar elements. These facts must be publicized both at home and abroad.
As UNESCO’s Secretariat reported, most of the nomination files that State Parties submitted to propose elements for inscription on the Representative List had missing or incorrect information and had to be sent back to the nominating State Party. This was due to lack of experience with document preparation as well as an imperfect system for documenting intangible cultural heritage that should be protected. State Parties should avoid seeking merely to inscribe an element on the Representative List. Support is needed to create a framework for identification and protection of differing intangible cultural heritage. This is, after all, the initial goal of creating a nomination file. Japan can play a role in providing this support.
The 9th public lecture at the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo
On October 18, a 9th public lecture took place at the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo. The lecture was held in Heiseikan of the Tokyo National Museum. The topic of the lecture was “Michiyuki as Popular Songs: The Origins and Spread of Noh and Kyogen songs with a focus on ‘Kaido-kudari.’” Michiyuki, or a song describing sceneries seen along a journey, have long captured people’s hearts and have become popular songs. Led by a lecture by OKADA Mitsuko of the Osaka Institute of Technology, the public lecture dealt with how Michiyuki influenced Soga (ballads popular among nobles, samurai, and Buddhist priests that were popular in the Kamakura Period), Noh and Kyogen songs, and Michiyuki that have been passed down until today. In the third portion of the public lecture, SATO Tomohiko (an Izumi-style Kyogen actor) and ASAKURA Toshiki (a Hoshu-style Noh actor) performed chants and komai (lit. small dances), which were well received by lecture attendees.
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage and South Korea’s National Intangible Heritage Center have been conducting Research Exchanges between Japan and South Korea in relation to the Safeguarding and Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage. As a result, Myung Jin LEE of the Research and Documentation Section visited Japan for 30 days starting on August 11. LEE conducted a joint study on the Sugisawa Hiyama Bangaku (the Town of Yuza, Yamagata Prefecture) and Hayachine–Take Kagura and Koda Kagura (the City of Hanamaki, Iwate Prefecture). LEE reported the results of this study during a presentation, entitled Kagura Traditions in the Tohoku Region that took place in the Institute’s seminar hall on September 8. Basically, Kagura is sacred and ritual performing arts to invite gods. Kagura performed in the Tohoku Region often includes dramas or acrobatic feats. Bangaku is also one of the local names for Kagura.
LEE’s presentation began with a basic description of the characteristics of mountain asceticism in the Tohoku region and the relationship between Kagura and mountain asceticism. LEE then compared the 3 Kagura traditions. LEE discussed topics related to preserving intangible cultural heritage, such as specific examples in which traditions were maintained and passed down as well as involvement of preservation societies and government bodies, in detail. LEE also described conditions in South Korea for comparison. In addition, LEE discussed characteristics of Kagura traditions in the Tohoku region as folk performing arts, and LEE suggested that the traditions may be comparable to “gut” (shamanistic rituals) and the “Mask Dance” in South Korea. The presentation was quite meaningful in that it described the current state of and issues with preservation of intangible cultural heritage from the perspectives of preserving cultural practices and folklore studies.
Publication of the Survey Report on the Oceania Island Countries and scholarly exchanges with the University of the South Pacific
The Survey Report on the Oceania Island Countries has been published. These surveys took place last year as part of a project on International Contribution to the Protection of Cultural Heritage (expert exchanges) commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan. The Republic of Kiribati and Tuvalu face the potential effects of rising sea levels due to climate change. The report primarily contains photographs of cultural heritage in these 2 countries and the state of that cultural heritage.
In addition, a project on protecting the cultural heritage of island countries in Oceania was implemented last year as a Networking Core Centers for International Cooperation on Conservation of Cultural Heritage Project. Personnel from the Institute visited the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, a key country collaborating with the project, on August 8. Personnel met with Elisabeth A. HOLLAND, Director of the University’s Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development and discussed signing a memorandum on scholarly exchanges between the Institute and the University of the South Pacific. In addition, results of surveys of intangible cultural heritage primarily in the Republic of Kiribati and Tuvalu were reported and representatives of the Pacific Centre expressed their views.
Through this project, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continue to teach and train personnel in order to document and protect the intangible cultural heritage of island countries in Oceania.
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducts scholarly exchanges with South Korea’s National Intangible Heritage Center. This year, KIKUCHI Riyo studied the current state of the passing down of Korean textile techniques over a 2-week period starting on August 18.
Information on “Materials and Tools” is essential to the passing down of textile techniques. Even if finished pieces look the same, use of different materials and tools can change the way the pieces were made (how they were made) and thus affect the technique used to make them.
In Japan, there are currently no requirements for an individual to be designated as an important intangible cultural property (a living national treasure) under the Act for the Protection of Cultural Properties. This is presumably because the type of material selected and the choice of which tools to use to produce an item are essential aspects of being designated as an important intangible cultural property. In contrast, designation as a preservation society involves requirements that limit the materials and tools that can be used. This is the major difference between designation as an individual and designation as an organization. Restrictions on materials and tools that can be used affect the production of items in various ways. This is because changes in lifestyles have made some materials and tools hard to obtain. In light of the current circumstances in Japan, interviews regarding materials and tools were conducted in South Korea.
These interviews covered gilding, braiding, sewing, cotton fabric-making, and indigo dyeing techniques, which are designated as important intangible cultural properties in South Korea. These techniques are also found in Japan, but the materials and tools used differ. A look at gilding, for example, shows that in Japan glues made from seaweed, rice paste, or starch paste were used to affix gold leaf to a form or mold fashioned from Japanese paper coated with persimmon tannin. A different technique has been passed down in South Korea, where gold leaf is affixed to a wooden mold with glue made from the swim bladders of the Honnibe croaker. Conditions have changed, making this fish glue harm to obtain.
The type of material selected and the choice of which tools to use to produce an item are essential aspects of being designated as an important intangible cultural property in Japan, and the current interviews indicated that the same holds true in South Korea. In both countries, the supply of materials and tools changes on a daily basis. The techniques that make crafts possible must be passed down so that materials and tools that were used in the past are still available. The current interviews revealed that the passing down of these techniques is an issue that both South Korea and Japan must deal with.
In the Town of Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture, locals refer to the lion dance as the “Shishi-furi.” In the Town of Onagawa, the lion dance has been passed down in most of the settlements dotting the rias of the prefecture’s coast. However, most of these settlements were devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake, and many of the dance props and costumes were washed away. Despite this, there is a mounting call for the dance to resume. Fortunately, the dance props and costumes are being recreated with support from several sources.
The revived lion dance was performed at Revive! The Lion Dance Performance that took place last summer. The lion dance was originally performed at New Year’s, but prior to the earthquake the dance was performed on the water during the Onagawa Port Festival at the end of July. Performers from each settlement would ride on fishing boats in a maritime parade. Although this event is a relatively new tradition, it is deeply ingrained in the minds of the people of Onagawa. Reconstruction of the port is not yet finished, so this year the performance took place on the field at an elementary school. Nonetheless, throngs of residents of the Town of Onagawa gathered to boisterously cheer on several wildly dancing lions [lion dance performers]. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has continued to study the lion dance in Onagawa since the earthquake. This year, the Department has worked on creating an ethnography focusing on the lion dance.
Study of the conservation and further utilization of tools used in textile techniques: A case study of Kumagaya dyeing
Starting this year, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has studied the preservation and further utilization of tools associated with intangible cultural heritage. Craft techniques and folk techniques are intangible cultural properties, and tools are essential to these techniques. However, a system of preserving these tools has yet to be instituted. Workshops and plants in various places are closing due to the advanced age of the craftsmen who work in them and the lack of individuals to carry on techniques. As a consequence, tools are in danger of vanishing. Preservation and further utilization of tools is essential to passing down intangible cultural properties, and the current state of the preservation and further utilization of these items probably needs to be ascertained and discussed.
Kumagaya dyeing (yuuzen [a form of dyeing with drawn patterns] and komon [intricate pattern dyeing]) is a traditional handicraft as designated by Saitama Prefecture. This year, the tools used in Kumagaya dyeing were studied with the cooperation of the Kumagaya City Library in the City of Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture. Workshops that use Kumagaya dyeing were found to use traditional craft techniques and to incorporate somewhat modern craft techniques such as screen printing. Information about early modern textile techniques that have expanded on traditional textile techniques must be compiled to pass down those techniques. Information about the tools that are kept by and used in various workshops is essential to understanding the techniques those workshops use. As the study progressed, it revealed that the type, usage, and repair of tools differed depending on the workshop. In the future, we would like to explore new ways to pass down intangible cultural heritage as we compile information about these tools.
The Description of Folk Customs in Goishi is a report that was produced by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage last year documenting religious festivals and life in the Goishi region of Massaki-cho in the City of Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture. The region was stricken by the massive tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake. An attempt to read this report together with local residents and put it to use has begun. The Kasumigaseki Knowledge Square has been active in the Massaki region. As part of the Square’s Digital Community Center, a class was conducted entitled “Learn in Massaki! A look back at our hometown…via the Description of Folk Customs in Goishi.” KUBOTA Hiromichi of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage attended the class. The class took place at the Hometown Center in the Massaki region and it had about 30 attendees. After a lecture, attendees exchanged various types of information. In the future, local residents will take the lead in creating descriptions of more familiar folk customs and in passing on those customs to local children. This approach was evident in the class. Preserving local identity is a concern since communities are scattered or they are relocating to higher ground. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage plans to continue its efforts, and its efforts in the Goishi region may serve as a case study. The Description of Folk Customs in Goishi (in Japanese) is available in PDF format on the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage .
As part of a survey of intangible cultural heritage in areas stricken by the Great East Japan Earthquake, an annual celebration at Yamada Shrine in the City of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture was attended on April 23, 2014. Located on the coast, the shrine was washed away by the tsunami following the earthquake, and the area served by the shrine suffered heavy losses. Chief priest MORI Yukihiko also works as a curator at Fukushima Museum. In addition, comments and expressions of sympathy were received by the Intangible Cultural Heritage Information Network operated by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
After the disaster, a temporary shrine was built through the efforts of volunteers from Kumamoto Prefecture. One the date in question, a number of attendees joined parishioners as a result of extensive media coverage of the plight of Yamada Shrine. However, parishioners’ organizations in many of the surrounding areas are on the brink of collapse. Major issues regarding maintenance and reconstruction of the shrine remain. Religious institutions like shrines and temples tend to be thought of as distinct from management of cultural properties in light of the separation of church and state. That said, the existence of those institutions is closely tied to the passing down of intangible cultural heritage. Thus, relevant information needs to be shared and issues need to be discussed in the future.
As part of Japan’s International Contribution to the Conservation of Cultural Heritage (expert exchanges) commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, a Survey of the Current State of Cultural Heritage that is Likely to be Affected by Climate Change was commissioned by the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation. The survey was conducted from February 18th to March 5th. The areas surveyed were the 3 Oceanic nations of Kiribati, Tuvalu, and Fiji. These nations are threatened by rising sea levels due to climate change.
The capital and outlying islands of Kiribati and Tuvalu were visited, and the current state of cultural heritage, which includes traditional dances, folk techniques, traditional architecture, and sacred sites, was surveyed. Damage due to rising sea levels was noted. Surveyors talked with administration officials and chieftains on outlying islands. Both countries face real problems in terms of the deterioration and disappearance of cultural heritage as well as the erosion of the country itself due to rising sea level. Sustainable intangible cultural heritage helps to maintain a people’s identity even if they are forced to emigrate overseas; representatives from both countries were cognizant of this fact. One example of cultural heritage is the large meeting houses that are found in villages in both countries. Various observances, such as religious rites and dances, are performed at these meeting houses. The culture related to these meeting houses is intangible and their architecture and building techniques and materials are closely linked to various elements, such as nature. These buildings represent the survival of that culture. At the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, surveyors exchanged opinions with researchers in relevant fields. This survey was significant in terms of considering the future of the cultural heritage of Oceanic island nations.
Together with cooperating organizations, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage operates the 3/11 Reconstruction Assistance: Intangible Cultural Heritage Information Network [note: the Great East Japan Earthquake struck on March 11, 2011]. The 2nd conference on the Network was held March 5, (Wed.), 2014 in a conference room in the Institute’s basement. This conference follows the 1st conference that took place in March of last year when the Network was created. Attendees shared information and exchanged opinions on restoration of intangible cultural heritage damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Attendees (37 individuals) spanned a range of fields, from researchers and administration officials to individuals working in affected areas, support organizations, religious representatives, and members of the media. The latter half of the conference featured a report by guest speaker Kei TANAKA (the Tsumugu Project) and a report by Takeshi ABE (Tohoku Institute of Filmed Cultural Properties). Discussion primarily concerned documenting intangible cultural heritage in affected areas.
“Documenting” intangible cultural heritage is a term that encompasses several aspects. Aims of the 2nd conference included: (1) documenting intangible cultural heritage to facilitate its continuation, (2) documenting intangible cultural heritage that can no longer be handed down, (3) documenting intangible cultural heritage to encourage its transmission to children and young people, and (4) documenting intangible cultural heritage to highlight its widespread existence. The creation of this new Network is anticipated to prove effective in achieving these aims by documenting intangible cultural heritage. Nevertheless, conditions differ in each of the areas affected by Great East Japan Earthquake. The 2nd conference affirmed the approach of fully ascertaining the needs of these areas and then restoring intangible cultural heritage.
An earthen hand drum which had been found at the Baba Minami site in the City of Kizugawa, Kyoto Prefecture was studied. Until this hand drum was unearthed in 2008, the only ceramic hand drum in Japan was the tricolored drum in the Shosoin (the treasure house of the Todaiji temple in Nara). It is clear that they were used in the almost same time, in the late of 8th century. The discovery of this hand drum has great significance in terms of the history of musical instruments. The reconstructed drum is described in a 2010 report and in an article by Ms. MATSUO in the bulletin of the Kyoto Prefecture Research Center, but the descriptions differ. Ms. MATSUO explained the reason for this discrepancy. Examination of the drum indicated that different reconstruction techniques may have been used in the report and in the article by Ms. MATSUO. Plans are to study the drum further and compile theories on ancient ceramic hand drums.
Participation in the Exploratory Committee on Local Performing Arts Projects: Efforts of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Information Network
Together with cooperating organizations, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage operates the 3/11 Reconstruction Assistance: Intangible Cultural Heritage Information Network [note: the Great East Japan Earthquake struck on March 11, 2011]. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage gathers information on intangible cultural heritage in areas stricken by the earthquake and it is involved in providing assistance to restore that heritage. As part of these efforts, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage coordinates with the Arts and Culture Consortium for Reconstruction, which consists of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, arts organizations, and companies.
On January 29, 2014, a meeting of the Exploratory Committee on Local Performing Arts Projects was organized by the Consortium in the City of Sendai. The meeting was attended by Hiromichi KUBOTA of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Since local performing arts (folk performing arts) are a major part of the role that culture and arts play in reconstruction, the Exploratory Committee met to explore future activities in relation to local performing arts. The meeting was attended by representatives from relevant organizations such as the Japan Folk Performing Arts Association, the Association for Corporate Support of the Arts, and the Board of Education of the Town of Otsuchi. Individual proposals were discussed.
Three years have now passed since the earthquake, and circumstances related to the restoration of local performing arts are changing. The Exploratory Committee affirmed its intent to develop new approaches to the restoration of those performing arts in light of current circumstances.
Survey of the activities of the Tsukigase Society for the Preservation of Narazarashi (bleached linen)
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage gathers information about traditional craft techniques and it studies those techniques. Riyo KIKUCHI of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducted a survey of the activities of the Tsukigase Society for the Preservation of Narazarashi (Tsukigase is a village in Nara Prefecture).
The word “sarasu” (which is where –sarashi in Narazarashi comes from) originally meant “to bleach,” and bleached hemp or cotton cloth is called “sarashi.”
Narazarashi is fabric made from hemp. Narazarashi is a “speciality” of Nara that was mentioned in the Wakan Sansai Zue (1712) and Bankin Sugiwaibukur (1732). These descriptions noted that “the best hemp has to be from Nanto (lit. the Southern Capital and another name for Nara),” and gained a national reputation during that era. Other descriptions mentioned that hemp from Nara could be distinguished from hemp from other regions when it was procured as a raw material. These descriptions provide a glimpse into aspects of the division of labor at the time.
Techniques that have been handed down in an unbroken line since those times are being passed down by members of the Tsukigase Society for the Preservation of Narazarashi even today. The raw material to make Narazarashi is now hemp from the Iwashima region in Gunma Prefecture. A framework to obtain raw materials is also found in other regions such as Echigo, where a hemp fabric known as Echigo linen is made. Dyeing techniques are not simply several local techniques. These techniques are underpinned by a number of people; straying from the passing down of those techniques is inconceivable. Greater attention should also be paid to the materials and tools that are essential to the passing down of crafts.
This survey has spurred renewed consideration of the importance of community in preserving traditional techniques.