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

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

Recording of Mr. SATO Tomohiko

 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.

7th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

7th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

 The 7th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from December 3 to 7, 2012. The session was attended by 2 experts from the Institute, MIYATA Shigeyuki of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage and FUTAGAMI Yoko of the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems. Grenada had planned to host the session but withdrew in August due to fiscal reasons. Uncharacteristically, the session was held at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. UNESCO’s own fiscal predicament resulted in a number of complaints about logistics, e.g. only limited copies of session documents were available and there was no video streaming of events at the second venue.
 During the session, 4 nominated files were inscribed in the “List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding,” 27 were inscribed in the “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity,” and 2 safeguarding practices were registered as “Best Safeguarding Practices.” Nachi no Dengaku [a religious performing art performed at the Nachi fire festival] had been nominated by Japan for the Representative List but a preliminary review by the Subsidiary Body led to the nomination being referred back to the Submitting State. State members of the Committee deemed the nomination to have satisfied the criteria for inscription, so Nachi no Dengaku was ultimately inscribed. This situation was not unique to Japan. Many nominations were inscribed despite being referred back to the Submitting State. A guideline of 1 nominated file per country has essentially been instituted. To limit the overall number of files to evaluate, Committee Members are scrutinizing each nomination rather carefully. Last year’s 6th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the ICH and the June session of the General Assembly of the State Parties to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the ICH had been marked by a rift in opinions. In contrast, the 7th session featured few sharp disagreements between Committee Members. The session consistently featured a generally accommodating atmosphere. Because of regional divisions, countries in Africa had submitted few nominations, but proposals from those states increased considerably during the 7th session. Capacity building has taken place in the region since the Convention for the Safeguarding of ICH took effect, and those efforts appear to have finally come to fruition. For the first time, Japan has been chosen as a member of the Subsidiary Body to evaluate nominations for inscription on the Representative List in 2013. Given this opportunity, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage hopes to capitalize on its expertise in order to help with the Subsidiary Body’s evaluations.

7th Public lecture of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage

7th public lecture

 On December 8, the Society to Preserve Yamaguchi’s Sagi School was invited to present a public lecture at the Heiseikan. The lecture was entitled “Carrying on Yamaguchi’s Sagi school of Kyogen (traditional Japanese comic theater): Recordings in the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo.” The Department of Performing Arts, the predecessor of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, began recording the Yamaguchi’s Sagi school of Kyogen in 1958. The performer is now deceased, and the recording features many pieces that are no longer passed on. While enjoying and analyzing these pieces, attendees discussed the future preservation of Yamaguchi’s Sagi school of Kyogen. Attendees also enjoyed Miyagino and Busu, both of which have been passed on. The Sagi School is a style that disappeared from central Japan during the Meiji Era, and its pieces are seldom performed in Tokyo. Attendees expressed great thanks for this meaningful opportunity.

Report on the 35th International Symposium on the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Properties published

Report on the 35th International Symposium on the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Properties

 A report on the 35th International Symposium on the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Properties, “Traditions and Continuation of Textile Techniques: Current Status of Research and Conservation,” was published at the end of November. The symposium was held from September 3–5, 2011 and featured presentations by domestic and foreign experts from various disciplines such as textile makers, restorers, curators, and researchers. The report features all of the reports by those experts in order to share the topics discussed at the symposium with a larger audience and encourage further discussion. Plans are to make a PDF version of the report available on the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

A survey of Filmon audio recordings in the collection of Myogan-ji Temple (Maki Ward, City of Joetsu, Niigata Prefecture)

IKENAGA Fumio, the chief priest of the Myogan-ji Temple (right)
portable player of the Filmon sound-belt

 The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo has conducted joint studies of Filmon sound-belts with the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University. Some of the results of those studies were previously reported in the March 2011 edition (Vol. 5) of Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage.
 Filmon endless sound-belts are a special type of audio recording medium (record) developed in pre-war Japan. At the time, the most ubiquitous records were 78 rpm records that had an average recording time of about 3 minutes. In contrast, Filmon sound-belts could record performances of 30 minutes or longer. These sound-belts were a ground-breaking invention, but they were produced only for a short period from 1938 to 1940. Moreover, they required a special player, so after the war they were soon forgotten. Only a few sound-belts and players have survived until today.
 About 120 types of sound-belts appear to have been sold. When the report mentioned earlier was written, 85 types were thought to have survived. Late last year, information became available that Myogan-ji Temple in Niigata Prefecture (Maki Ward, City of Joetsu) had a number of sound-belts in its collection, so the sound-belts were surveyed in October with the assistance of the Temple’s chief priest, IKENAGA Fumio. The survey found 49 types of sound-belts in the collection, and 16 of these types had not been seen before. Moreover, few portable players remain, but the Temple had one in working order. The survey was also a major milestone in terms of on-site studies.
 The sound-belts in Myogan-ji Temple’s collection consist of a number of public performances, most of which are Rokyoku or recited stories accompanied by music. According to the Temple’s chief priest, the Temple’s former chief priest, the late IKENAGA Takakatsu, fashioned a setup for wire broadcasts on the main building of Myogan-ji Temple (broadcasts started in 1937) because the region had little entertainment (it currently takes about an hour to reach the Temple by car from the JR Takada Station, which is the closest station). Apparently, the late IKENAGA Takakatsu bought large numbers of recordings to broadcast (primarily in the form of long recordings on Filmon sound-belts) along with players. Several broadcast facilities from that time still remain. The collection is also a wealth of material in terms of the history of folk culture in the region.

7th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties held

the 7th Conference

 On October 26th, the 7th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties was held with “Passing down Recollections and Records: Disasters and Intangible Folk Culture” as its theme. Following up on the 6th Conference on “Intangible Cultural Heritage in Post-earthquake Reconstruction” that was held in December of last year, this year’s Conference delved further into the topic of disasters and intangible folk cultural properties.
 Ways of passing down intangible folk cultural properties to future generations are normally an extremely important topic, but this topic is particularly pressing in regions that were disrupted and depopulated by the tsunami and nuclear plant accident resulting from the March 11, 2011 earthquake. Thus, the 7th Conference covered “Records,” which is one way of passing down intangible folk cultural properties. Invited to the Conference were 5 presenters who dealt with records in various capacities following the disaster and 2 commentators. These experts described and discussed previous efforts and issues and prospects for the future. Various recording techniques and uses of records were presented during the Conference. In addition, the importance of a network linking efforts was again confirmed from various perspectives.
 The 7th Conference was also attended by many relevant personnel from regions potentially slated to suffer a large-scale disaster in the future. Steps that can be taken and steps that should be taken to prepare intangible folk cultural properties for crises in the near future, such as massive disasters, the falling birthrate, aging of the population, and depopulation of rural areas, are important topics warranting future discussion.
 Plans are to publish a report on the Conference’s proceedings in March 2013.

Research on the Kyogen of Yamguchi Sagi School

Interview with Mr. KOBAYASHI Eiji

 The 7th Public Lecture, organized annually by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will be held in December 2012, with the Kyogen of the Yamaguchi Sagi School as its theme. The Sagi School had been one of the Schools of Kyogen in central Japan until it was abolished under the confusion in the Meiji Restoration. In Yamaguchi prefecture, however, the tradition was maintained until present thanks to SYUNNICHI Syosaku, a Kyogen performer who taught his performing skills to the nonprofessionals. Now the preservation society for Yamaguchi Sagi School has formed and was designated as the intangible cultural properties of Yamaguchi prefecture. Department of Performing Arts, the predecessor of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, conducted on-site recording of this Kyogen in 1958, which became the oldest record of the Kyogen of Yamaguchi Sagi School.
 The Department conducted the on-site research on September 18th, and interviewed with Mr. KOBAYASHI Eiji, the eldest member of the preserving society, about the situation of the transmission of the Sagi School. Its result will be introduced in the coming Public Lecture.

International Field School Alumni Seminar on Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia Pacific in Lamphun, Thailand

Participants of the International Seminar

 This international seminar was held in Lamphun town in Northern Thailand, from August 6–10, 2012, under the joint sponsorship of the Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn Anthropology Centre, Thailand, and the International Research Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region, Japan. MIYATA Shigeyuki from the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage participated in the seminar as a guest Resource Person.
 In the seminar, young experts from Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, and Bhutan, who are involved in museum management and anthropological studies took part in practical case study reports and discussions, and fieldwork studies. Researchers from Thailand, the U.K., the United States and Japan also participated as Resource Persons, and in addition to giving presentations, they also participated in the discussions. Since most of the participants are practically involved in safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in their region through their daily research activities in museums, their discussions were extremely lively and valuable, reflecting their high level of practical concern. It was also very encouraging for us Resource Persons to hear the fresh voices of the young experts who are at the forefront of research. This seminar is planned to be held in the same way yearly from next year on. As a result, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage plans to actively participate in the seminar in cooperation with the International Research Centre for ICH in the Asia-Pacific, and to contribute as experts on Japan.

The Second Research Exchange with the South Korean National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage

Interview with NOMURA Mansaku, a Kyogen performer

 The second research exchange between the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the South Korean National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage has begun according to the agreement signed last November. Following TAKAKUWA’s research in Korea in May, Ms. Lee Myoung-Jin, a researcher from Korea, visited Japan in July, and conducted research on Kyogen for a month.
 The ideas regarding intangible cultural heritage in Korea are different from those in Japan: the Korean ICH does not distinguish important intangible cultural properties from important intangible folk cultural properties, as they do in Japan.
 Most performing arts in Korea can be categorized as important intangible folk cultural properties under the Japanese classification system, and also the basic idea of “what is traditional?” differs from Japan to Korea. Thus, it is necessary to learn the differences in order to compare performing arts and their protection systems. However, during her visit, Ms. Lee seems to have deepened her cognizance of the meaning of tradition in Japan while interviewing the Kyogen performer of the Izumi School.

The 4th session of the General Assembly of the States Parties to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

The 4th session of the General Assembly of the States Parties to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

 The 4th session of the General Assembly took place from June 4 to 8, 2012 at UNESCO Headquarters, Paris. Representing the Institute, MIYATA Shigeyuki participated in the conference. The main subject for discussion during the session was revision of the Operational Directives, which led to a more lively discussion among representatives from participating nations than takes place at a usual session. Past sessions approved the decisions of the Intergovernmental Committee, but the current session turned into a discussion, much like the Intergovernmental Committee. Revision of the way in which nominations for inscription on the Representative List are evaluated was a matter of intense debate. The question was whether to change from evaluation of nominations by the Subsidiary Body, with extensive advice from the Intergovernmental Committee, to evaluation by the Consultative Body, which is comprised of experts like those tasked with considering nominations for the Urgent Safeguarding List. In the end, the present method of nominations evaluated by the Subsidiary body was retained, with revision of recommendations from the Committee. Decisions that will greatly affect the implementation of convention were made, e.g. the maximum ceiling of files to be evaluated annually by the Committee, a long-running concern, was formally defined in the Operational Directives. Although the Assembly still has supreme decision-making ability with regard to the Convention, this session was the first to completely overturn the recommendations of the Committee, and problems with implementation of the Convention remain. In addition, the appearance of divergent opinions among different regional groups must be followed closely. Since Assembly sessions have increasingly become a forum for discussion, this trend must be followed closely in the future.

Preliminary research on Kezurikake-like poles in Sarawak State, Borneo

Kezurikake-like poles of the Berawan people as a decoration to welcome “VIPs”
Kezurikake-like poles of the Kayan people fashioned during slash-and-burn agriculture

 This research examined customs and folk techniques related to poles found in Sarawak State, Borneo from June 27th to July 4th. These poles resemble the Kezurikake, or half-shaved sticks, found in Japan. In the Japanese Archipelago, Kezurikake are widely used as ritual implement or as decorations during Ko-syogatu, or the New Year according to the lunar calendar, or as Inau, a ritual implement of the greatest importance to the Ainu people. Although similar poles were known to be found in Borneo, there have been almost no field studies or comparative studies of these poles by experts. Thus, preliminary research was conducted in cooperation with experts from the Center for Ainu & Indigenous Studies, Hokkaido University in order to facilitate future comparative studies.
 The research site provided several opportunities to talk with local residents and observe their creation of these poles. A rough outline of customs related to these poles was also obtained. The names, uses, forms, and materials of these poles differ slightly depending on the tribe. The Iban people, for example, call these poles Bungai Jaraw (Bungai means“flower”). Nowadays, these poles are typically considered a decoration to welcome “VIPs.” However, there is some evidence that these poles had greater symbolic or religious meaning since they played an important role in headhunting and during traditional festivals. More in-depth research is needed.
 Plans are to study Kezurikake-like poles in countries like Borneo in order to better understanding the customs related to Kezurikake in Japan and techniques for their fabrication.

Research Exchanges with South Korea’s National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage: A Comparative Study of Buddhist Rituals

Monks and believers praying for their ancestors
A lantern for the Nento Festival

 A second round of research exchanges between the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Folkloric Studies Division of South Korea’s National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage began based on an agreement concluded last November. During the first year of exchanges, Takakuwa visited South Korea for 2 weeks from May 18th to study Buddhist rituals. Buddhism plays a great role in both Japan and South Korea, but there are a number of differences in rituals and observances since Buddhism has developed in forms particular to each country.
 In South Korea, April 8th on the lunar calendar is Buddha’s birthday and a national holiday, and the Nento Festival or the Paper-lantern Festival is gaily celebrated 1 week prior to the Buddha’s birthday, even attracting tourists from abroad.
 Buddhists in South Korea, 90 percent of whom follow the Jogye order of Zen, worship Buddha every morning, noon, and night. This practice is similarly followed by Japanese Buddhists, but South Korea Buddhists appear to be more enthusiastic, with believers participating in overnight retreats and praying with monks.
 In addition, religious ceremonies are considered “religious acts” and are not designated as important intangible cultural properties in Japan. In South Korea, however, religious ceremonies are treated quite differently, as exemplified by the Yeongsan-jae ritual of the Taego order that has been inscribed in the Intangible Cultural Heritage List of UNESCO. This comparative study of Buddhist rituals also revealed differences in Japanese and Korean perceptions beyond the Buddhist religion.

Research on Intangible Cultural Properties in Areas Stricken by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

Ugoku-Tanabata floats from Nagasuka ward in the City of Rikuzen-takata that were damaged by the tsunami. They have been assembled in a vacant lot in front of a wooden Buddhist monument marking houses that were washed away.
Hooks used in the Sanriku area to catch abalone. These hooks were made by local smithing. The blacksmith’s home workshop in the City of Rikuzen-takata was not damaged by the tsunami, but abalone fishing has not started since many fishermen were affected by the disaster last year. The blacksmith has also been unable to ship the hooks he has made.

 Damage to and restoration of intangible cultural properties in the coastal areas of the Tohoku region was studied. Over a year has passed since the disaster, but studies of intangible cultural properties and support for their restoration have lagged behind studies of and support for tangible cultural properties. Relevant organizations and groups have striven to collect and disseminate information on the damage and link providers of support with recipients, but support efforts have often failed to meet needs and too much support is provided where it is not needed instead of where it is needed. Such problems have arisen because of the lack of a network linking support efforts overall.
 In many instances, sites of folk techniques had not been determined prior to the disaster, and information on damage overall and needed support has yet to be obtained. Many folk techniques use natural materials such as wood and clay, so practitioners face both the physical damage from the tsunami as well as radioactive contamination of materials as a result of the nuclear plant accident and harmful rumors. Determining the state of those techniques under such circumstances is difficult.
 Although such problems exist, festivals and folk performing arts have been emphasized by local residents in light of prayers and memorials for the deceased. The strength of these cultural practices is more evident or is being reassessed in many instances since these festivals and folk arts have served as an important tie to bind disjointed communities with residents living in temporary housing.
 With a focus on conditions in stricken areas, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will strive to collect information. The Department will also work to create new networks to provide support to stricken areas and respond to future disasters.

“Intangible Culture Heritage inPost-earthquake Reconstruction—Reports from the Field and Proposals” published

Report on the 6th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties

 A report on the 6th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties was published in March 2011. The conference was held on December 16, 2011 with the theme of “Intangible Culture Heritage in Post-earthquake Reconstruction.” Seven experts working on reconstruction from various standpoints were invited to give lectures and to discuss actual conditions and issues concerning intangible cultural heritage in post-earthquake Tohoku. Details of the lectures and discussion are included in this report in order to share information with and describe issues to as many people as possible. The report was distributed to relevant personnel, including all of the conference attendees. The entire report can also be downloaded in PDF format from the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage is planning to hold a 7th conference in the autumn of 2012 to continue discussing the theme of “Intangible Cultural Heritage in Post-earthquake Reconstruction.”

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