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


A study of the revived lion dance in the Town of Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture

The lions of Onagawa [lion dance performers] gathered at Revive! The Lion Dance Performance

 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.


Efforts to use descriptions of folk customs in areas stricken by the Great East Japan Earthquake

The class at the Hometown Center

 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 .


Survey of festivals at Yamada Shrine in the City of Minamisoma

A festival at Yamada Shrine

 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.


Survey of the current state of the cultural heritage of Oceanic island nations

Survey of a traditional meeting house in Kiribati
Dancing at a traditional meeting house in Tuvalu

 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.


Second Conference on the Intangible Cultural Heritage Information Network

The 2nd conference

 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.


Study of a hand drum unearthed at the Baba Minami site

A hand drum unearthed at the Baba Minami site (Photo: Kyoto Prefecture Research Center for Archaeological Properties)

 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

A lion dance outside temporary housing (Konori region, Town of Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture)

 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)

Putting the warp on the loom
A tool to wind the thread that will become the weft

 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.


8th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties held

A general discussion underway

 The 8th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties was held on November 15th. The Conference covered “Passing down Techniques: Traditions and Their Use,” and the central theme of the Conference was folk techniques, which the national government began designating in 2005.
  A system of national designation to preserve folk performing arts and manners and customs has been in operation since 1975. Although preservation of these practices has been amply discussed in the past, there has been limited awareness of the concept of folk techniques and a system to designate them. Moreover, performing arts and festivals essentially fall under practices or events that are out of the ordinary while folk techniques basically fall under routine practices, so a number of people make their living performing these techniques. Thus, these techniques are more susceptible to social and environmental changes.
  Given this reality, the Conference featured reports and a discussion of current issues encountered in efforts to preserve folk techniques and what types of preservation efforts are feasible. The Conference featured 2 individuals who are working to preserve nationally designated folk techniques and 3 individuals who have worked to preserve craft techniques in Tokyo prior to the system that nationally designated folk techniques. After these individuals delivered presentations, they were joined by 2 commentators to participate in a discussion.
 Reports and the discussion highlighted various issues such as the reduced demand for folk techniques (products), the breakdown of specialization, the shortage of raw materials, and the lack of individuals to carry on techniques. There is no magic bullet to resolve the difficulties in carrying on traditions, but the Conference emphasized the fact that concerned parties in different positions need to discuss issues and share information.
 The Conference also emphasized the need for coordination that bridges the divide between production sites and compartmentalized government administration. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage hopes to share and disseminate information by assembling examples of efforts in different areas.
 Plans are to publish a report on the conference’s proceedings in March 2014.


The 8th public lecture by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage on Oral Recordings of Kamigata Rakugo from the Early Showa Period

Leaflet for the 8th public lecture by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage

  Following the public lecture it offered last year, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage offered another public lecture on materials in the Institute’s collection. The lecture sought to inform the broader general public of the existence of materials that the Department had assembled for research purposes.
 The lecture discussed long-playing records (LPs) from Nitto Records (the Nitto Gramophone Company). Nitto Records was a record label established in Osaka, and the company sold LPs in the early Showa period (the 1920s). The LPs recorded sound in a different format than that used in typical records, hampering the ability of present-day listeners to listen to the LPs.
 Nitto Records’ LPs feature KATSURA Harudanji the first [note: multiple generations of rakugo (Japanese comic storytelling) performers often adopt stage names derived from their master’s name, hence “the first”, “the second,” etc.], TACHIBANAYA Kakitsu the second, and SHOFUKUTEI Shikaku the second (SHOFUKUTEI Shokaku the fifth), who were rakugo performers typical of the pre-war Kamigata style (from Osaka and surrounding areas). Some of the performances by these performers are found only on Nitto Records’ LPs, and the recorded performances are very interesting in terms of their execution. During the 8th public lecture, attendees took whatever time was available to listen to excellent performances of Kamigata rakugo from the early Showa period.


Research on tub boat (taraibune) building in Ogi in the City of Sado

A tub boat for sightseeing with an outer covering of clear FRP
A current tub boat for isonegi with an FRP outer covering and an outboard motor attached

 From September 10–11, tub boat building techniques (nationally designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 2007) passed down around the Ogi Peninsula, south of the City of Sado, Niigata Prefecture were studied. Tub boats, known on Sado Island as hangiri, are able to make tight turns and are highly stable, so they have readily been used for isonegi (fishing or harvesting seaweed close to shore), which is done in inlets with numerous rocks.
 Coopering techniques are applied to build tub boats, which are made by sticking planks of Japanese cedar together and then holding them in place with hoops of timber bamboo. The City of Sado attempted to train successors to carry on these techniques by conducting a seminar to train tub boat builders in 2009. However, the situation remains dire as there are only a few such boat builders. One reason for this was the initial decline in demand for tub boats. As a result, tub boat builders had difficulty making a living and they had few opportunities to hone the skills. Tub boats are still used for isonegi on the northern coast of the Ogi Peninsula, but isonegi itself is not as prevalent as it once was. Moreover, fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) was used to coat tub boats starting in the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, increasing their durability. Thus, there is little projected demand for new tub boats.
 When demand for a folk technique like tub boat building wanes as a result of changes in ways of life and people’s lives along with changes in lifestyles and as a result of the introduction of new technologies, the technique itself quickly fades. That said, the fact is that techniques can be carried on by altering the techniques and their uses in accordance with changes in the social climate. In Ogi, a private operator began offering rides in tub boats starting in the mid-1960s to mid-1970s. Sado has now become synonymous with sightseeing. Fishing from tub boats and tub boat building had been passed down in places like the Noto Peninsula and Toyama at one time, but those traditions have steadfastly remained only in Sado. This is probably because Sado created a new demand by turning tub boats into a sightseeing resource and because of changes in people’s attitudes towards tub boats.
 Nonetheless, FRP is being used to successively coat the boats that were built and stored for tub boat sightseeing about 10 years ago. The passing down of tub boat-building techniques will be subjected to further changes.


A study of Noh scripts written by Zeami

 Hozan-ji in the City of Ikoma, Nara Prefecture has a number of noh texts written by Zeami, himself in 14th century. Those texts include some musical notes alongside verses. Those notes were examined in detail, providing clues to how Zeami composed the works.


Research on sedge hat-making in Ecchu-Fukuoka

KIMURA Shoji, a craftsman who makes the hat’s framework
Even an experienced sewer can barely sew 2-3 hat per day

 From August 21st–22nd, sedge hat-making techniques (nationally designated as an Intangible Folk Cultural Property in 2009) passed down in the former town of Fukuoka (now part of the City of Takaoka), Toyama Prefecture were studied.
 Sedge hats were originally a folk implement that was ordinarily used as protection from the sun or as rain gear. Today, however, these hats serve as props in folk performing arts or period dramas (especially those about feudal Japan) or as folk decorations. Sedge hats in Ecchu-Fukuoka were known as “Kaga Hats” since the days of Japan’s feudal domains, and these hats enjoyed wide use because of their high quality. Today, Ecchu-Fukuoka accounts for 90% of the output of sedge hats nationwide, making it the premier site of hat-making.
 Sedge hat-making is divided into several steps: growing sedge (the raw material for a hat), making the hat’s framework, and sewing the hat (sewing sedge onto the hat’s framework). In the past, men made the hat framework while women sewed the hat as a sideline activity during the off-season. The steps of sedge growing and making the hat framework in particular are seriously suffering from a lack of individuals to carry on the technique. As an example, the number of individuals who cultivate sedge fields completely by hand is decreasing yearly. According to a survey by the Association to Preserve Ecchu-Fukuoka Sedge Hat-making Techniques, the area of sedge growth in the city has shrunk to less than 100 ares (1 hectare). During the heyday of sedge hat-making, there were around 200 craftsmen who made the hat framework, but currently Mr. KIMURA Shoji, a craftsman in his late 80s, is the only craftsman still doing so. The current reality is that not enough people have been trained to carry on the technique, so supply is unable to keep up with existing orders.
 In light of these circumstances, the Association to Preserve Ecchu-Fukuoka Sedge Hat-making Techniques and the City of Takaoka’s Fukuoka General Administration Center have led the charge with comprehensive steps to pass on sedge hat-making techniques. A wide range of activities have been used thus far to pass on the culture of sedge hats, including efforts to ascertain the area of cultivated sedge fields, efforts to create records of the cultivation of sedge fields (a manual), discussions with hat makers, sales demonstrations, workshops to teach hat-making, and identification of companies to make needles to sew sedge hats. In August 2012, the Committee to Preserve Sedge Hat-making was established, and in August 2013 the Ecchu-Fukuoka Sedge Growers Association was established. These organizations are transcending boundaries as they liaise with the Regional Development Section and the Economic Development Section, the Fukuoka Educational Administration Center, the Cultural Properties Division, and the Agriculture and Fisheries Section (this section is heavily involved in sedge growing).
 Designation of folk techniques as an Important Folk Cultural Property began in 2005, but the preservation and utilization of these techniques has not been fully discussed. Information on the issues involved, steps to take, and the feasibility of those steps was not been adequately shared. The various efforts to preserve sedge hat-making techniques in Ecchu-Fukuoka warrant close attention as a case study involving the preservation and utilization of folk techniques.


A survey of techniques to produce Kurume ikat

Drying araso (the bark of hemp stalks)

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage gathers information on and studies selected techniques to preserve traditional craft techniques.
Riyo KIKUCHI of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducted a survey of techniques to produce araso (the bark of hemp stalks). This technique is selected preservation technique. Kurume Ikat uses araso (to prevent dye from penetrating to fiber).
 Araso is currently made in the Yahata Family in the City of Hita, Oita Prefecture. July, this hemp is harvested, steamed, and the stalks are peeled and dried . By change of society, this technique is difficult to inherit technique with one family. In light of these circumstances, members of an important intangible cultural property Kurume Ikat instituted a system last year to help with work. The Cannabis Control Act made obtaining araso more difficult, and the material is not as easy to obtain as it once was. In the future, ways to remedy situations like this need to be considered from various perspectives.


A survey of traditional techniques in South Korea: The second research exchange with the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, South Korea

The Korea Bamboo Museum in Damyang County

 As part of the second Research Exchange between Japan and South Korea in relation to the Safeguarding and Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage that took place last year, Migiwa IMAISHI of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage visited South Korea for a scheduled 2 weeks starting on June 12. In South Korea, the survey examined traditional Korean techniques and their preservation and conservation. The survey focused on techniques of bamboo work in the Damyang region of South Jeolla Province and techniques of sedge (“wangol”) handicrafts on Ganghwa Island, part of the City of Incheon. 
 Damyang is a major center for production of bamboo products, with almost all of its residents engaged in bamboo work. Five specialties, including the making of chaesang (bamboo boxes or baskets), the making of folding fans, and comb-making, have been designated as intangible cultural properties by the national or municipal government. The survey provided the opportunity to meet possessors (preservers) of cultural properties and ask about traditional techniques, changes in those techniques, and the current state of preservation of those techniques. The survey also helped to ascertain circumstances regarding cultural properties in the form of efforts by Damyang County to turn its “bamboo culture” into a tourist attraction and revitalize the local area (e.g. development of new bamboo products, the County’s own craftsmen support system, and management of bamboo-related facilities). The survey provided a glimpse into how cultural properties have been passed on in the past and how they may be passed on in the future. Preservation of traditional techniques differs in Japan and South Korea. In Japan, traditional techniques are preserved under two different systems: “intangible folk cultural properties” (folk techniques) and “intangible cultural properties” (craft techniques). In contrast, traditional techniques in South Korea are preserved under only one system: “intangible cultural properties” (craft techniques). Thus, techniques that fall under “intangible folk cultural properties,” i.e. techniques that are “indispensable to understanding changes in the Japanese people’s way of life” in Japan, are considered to be “intangible cultural properties” in South Korea, where they are valued as arts, skills, or techniques with “significant historical, artistic, or scholarly value.” These differences in the Japanese and Korean systems must have an impact on the perceptions of preservers of cultural properties and the general public and they might also impact techniques themselves. These varied impacts must be clearly discerned during future research exchanges.


A study of selected conservation techniques in the Village of Showa, Fukushima Prefecture: The second research exchange with the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, South Korea

Burning off brush to prepare fields to grow ramie

 Following events in April, Mr. Chae Won LEE of South Korea’s National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage visited Japan as part of Research Exchanges between Japan and South Korea in relation to the Safeguarding and Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Mr. LEE studied selected conservation techniques, which are techniques for conservation of cultural properties. The Village of Showa, Fukushima Prefecture grows ramie (Boehmeria nivea) and extracts its fiber to supply the material to make Ojiya crepe and Echigo linen, which are important intangible cultural properties. The study coincided with karamushi-yaki, or burning off of brush to prepare fields to grow ramie during shoman (the 8th of 24 solar terms in the traditional Japanese calendar when crops ripen/bloom around May 21st or so). This coincidence allowed Mr. LEE to see an important growing process firsthand. In addition, group interviews regarding ramie were conducted to hear the perspectives of administrators and conservators and the perspectives of others, facilitating a more extensive discussion of the significance of ramie growing to the Village of Showa and systems to conserve selected conservation techniques. Results of the research exchanges, which lasted 2 weeks, were presented at a seminar that highlighted differences in Japanese and Korean perceptions of Selected Conservation Techniques (no such framework exists in South Korea). The seminar also highlighted ways to safeguard cultural properties.


A study of Yuki-tsumugi (silk fabric from Yuki): The second research exchange with the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, South Korea

the Omoigawazakura workshop

 This year marks the second year of Research Exchanges between Japan and South Korea in relation to the Safeguarding and Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducted exchanges with South Korea’s National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage. In April, researcher Ms. Gyeong Soon HWANG of South Korea’s National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage visited Japan, where she studied Yuki-tsumugi in Ibaraki and Tochigi Prefectures. Since Yuki-tsumugi was inscribed on UNESCO’s 2010 Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (Representative List), efforts have made to conserve the technique through culture, industry, and tourism. The study of Yuki-tsumugi included group interviews with conservators, administrators, and other personnel, and the study also enhanced discussion of the basis for preserving Yuki-tsumugi. Results of the research exchanges, which lasted 2 weeks, were presented at a seminar. The seminar highlighted differences in Japanese and Korean policies regarding and views of intangible cultural heritage.


Recording of Hanago by the Izumi school of Kyogen

 There are two main schools of Kyogen, the Izumi and the Okura. Kyogen performances and scripts of the two schools differ. In fact, traditions can differ even within the same school. There are three traditions within the Izumi school: Kyogen Kyodosha (Nagoya), the NOMURA Matasaburo Family (now residing in Nagoya), and the NOMURA Manzo and NOMURA Mansaku families (originally from Kanazawa). The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has studied Kyogen performances. As part of that research, SATO Tomohiko of Kyogen Kyodosha was recorded performing Hanago. Hanago is a piece primarily in the form of a ballad. Hanago is a naraimono, or a piece requiring special skills that one is not authorized to perform until reaching a certain age.


Study of the Koshikijima no Toshidon visiting-deity event in Kagoshima Prefecture

A presentation during the study meeting
A Toshidon revealing its face

 I conducted a study of the Toshidon event held on New Year’s Eve on Shimo-Koshikijima Island in the city of Satsumasendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, in which deities are said to visit bringing good luck. Koshikijima no Toshidon was named an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan in 1977, and in 2009 it was added to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
 The Toshidon deities are said to visit on the evening of December 31, riding headless horses. Children of ages three through eight come out to meet them in the living rooms of their homes. The deities emerge from the darkness accompanied by low, groaning voices saying “Oruka, oruka” (“Is anybody there? Is anybody there?”) and the sound of a hand bell, appearing in the corners of the living room and questioning the children. They both scold and threaten the children for the bad things they have done over the year and praise them for the good things they have done, along with having children show off their own talents such as singing, dancing, or multiplication tables and praise them for how they do. Lastly, they admonish the children to be good and give them large rice cakes called toshimochi, before disappearing.
 This is a deeply frightening experience for small children, and some run away in tears, but after successfully completing the questions and answers they seem relieved, feeling as if they have accomplished something. I also was impressed by the way other family members too are moved to tears, perhaps as a result of thinking about the children’s growth. People in the local community consider the Toshidon an educational event for children, and it probably could be said that in one aspect this event has continued to the present day thanks to the way this meaning of the event, easy to understand in contemporary society, has been discussed and shared in the community.
 However, it is a fact that there are many issues regarding the continuation of this tradition. The biggest problem is the low birth rate, as only four of the six designated Toshidon conservation associations conducted the event this year. Even in the Teuchi Motomachi conservation association, which I accompanied on its rounds, only five homes were visited this year compared to a number of 10 homes up until a few years ago, and two of these five were grandparents’ homes where grandchildren were visiting for the holiday.
 Another major issue is how to balance the tradition with tourism. Since the Toshidon being named an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009, the Motomachi conservation association has actively accepted researchers and other visitors coming to view the event. This year, the group was accompanied by about 15 onlookers, including myself. As the Toshidon becomes well-known in Japan and around the world and attracts the interest of many people, this provides significant motivation to the local community to continue the tradition and also serves as a tourism resource. However, at the same time I sensed that an important issue in the future would be that of how to preserve and balance its significance and atmosphere as a religious observance and ritual.


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