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 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.”


Publication of ‘Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage’

‘Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage’

 Volume 6 of ‘Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage’ was published in March 2012. This volume includes not only research and reports relating to intangible cultural heritage, but also the transcriptions of the public scholarship lecture, “Records of the Shuni-e Ritual (Omizu-tori) at Todaiji Temple,” held on October 22, 2011 sponsored by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, as well as the planned discussion between Mr. HASHIMOTO Shoen, Choro (the head monk) of Todaiji Temple, and Ms. SATO Michiko, an emeritus researcher at the Institute. The topics covered in this discussion would be very interesting not only for the participants who were at the lecture, but also for anyone who is interested in the Shuni-e Ritual at Todaiji or in Japanese traditional events and performing arts. As with the previous volumes, the PDF version of all pages will be made public on our website.


Commission on Intangible Cultural Heritage, International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (ICAES) meets in the City of Cuernavaca, Mexico

Conference

 The Commission on Intangible Cultural Heritage is a newly established commission of the International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (ICAES). The Commission met for the first time at the Centro Regional de Investigaciones Multidisciplinarias in the City of Cuernavaca on February 25 and 26, 2012. The Commission was Shigeyuki Miyata of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage. At the meeting, attendees from participating countries presented and discussed their contributions to safeguarding intangible cultural heritage as experts. The representative from Japan described the Guideline for Visual Documentation of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties drafted by the Research Institute and proposed the drafting of guidelines for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage from an expert standpoint. Distinct from approaches by government bodies, approaches involving experts are crucial, given the increasing need for contributions by experts in relation to putting the Convention of the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage into practice. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage plans to actively participate in such meetings and publicize Japan’s experience as an expert in this field.


Recording of the Kodan Nanba-senki

A Kodan performance by ICHIRYUSAI Teisui

 Documentation of Kodan, a form of storytelling, by the Research Institute started in 2002 (at the time, the department responsible was the Department of Performing Arts, National Research Institute for Cultural Properties in Tokyo). Since that first recording, the Department recorded performances of 2 long Kodan (a Jidai-mono, or period drama, and a Sewa-mono, or a story about the lives of ordinary people) by Mr. ICHIRYUSAI, Teisui, a preserver of the Important Intangible Cultural Property of Kodan. Performances of the Jidai-mono Tenmei-shichisei-dan (recorded 12 times from June 11, 2006 to December 26, 2005) and Sengoku-Sodo (23 times from February 9, 2006 to November 22, 2011) and the Sewa-mono Midorinohayashi-gokanroku (20 times from June 11, 2006 to February 13, 2008) by Mr. Ichiryusai have been completely recorded. Recording of the 3rd Jidai-mono, Nanba-senki, began on February 14, 2012. The story tells of the Osaka Fuyu no Jin and Natsu no Jin (the winter siege and then summer siege of Osaka Castle) when the Toyotomi Clan was destroyed by Tokugawa Ieyasu.
 The Department plans to continue recording Kodan with the cooperation of Mr. Ichiryusai. (the Sewa-mono Bunka-shiranami is now being recorded).


Research on Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Republic of Armenia

A daghdghan, or wooden amulet hung around the neck to protect domestic animals and children from the “evil eye”
Wooden spoons

 Research was conducted on intangible culture in Armenia. The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation has implemented international projects to primarily conserve tangible cultural properties in the countries of the Caucasus and West Asia. In January 2012, Migiwa Imaishi of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducted a basic study of intangible cultural heritage in those countries in order to explore the potential for international research exchanges and cooperation in the field of intangible cultural heritage. As part of the study, Imaishi conducted documentary research by visiting several museums, including the History Museum of Armenia and the National Museum of Ethnography and History of the Liberation Struggle of Armenia. Imaishi talked with ethnologists and also studied the current state of research and transmission of culture in Armenia. Ethnologists acknowledge that much of the “traditional culture” of Armenia was lost during the period of Soviet rule, but pieces of culture are remembered and continued to this day. Indigenous beliefs and customs that have fused and coexisted with Christian beliefs and customs are particularly interesting. One example involves eating manners and customs. There are various customs regarding salt and the use of special salt containers (such as pots shaped like a woman or bird) that remain culturally important. Likewise, each member of a family used to have his or her own wooden spoon, just like Japanese have their own chopsticks, so spoons symbolized each member of the family. The Dovlat, a deity of the home, was also said to dwell in spoons. Spoons are also said to authorize the rights of housewives and had many magical uses, just like ladles and chopsticks in Japan. The potential for studies or research exchanges in some form must be explored in concert with local researchers.


Restoration of Eten-raku Ima-yo

 Eten-raku, popular since the Kamakura period, is now known as Gagaku music performed at wedding ceremonies or as a Kuroda-bushi of Japanese folk songs. Though Gagaku was originally instrumental music, the melody of Eten-raku is a favorite among the Japanese. Eten-raku features varied verses. These are known as Eten-raku Ima-yo.
 Noh plays achieved success with Zeami in the early Muromachi period and sometimes set up a climactic scene by adopting the essence of other performing arts. For example, the play “Ume-gae” has a Gagaku musician’s wife as its heroine and features Eten-raku Ima-yo verses before the heroine dances as she recalls her past. The chanting melody has changed so much that it does not sound like Eten-raku anymore, but restoring the melody of the Momoyama Period should bring out the melody of Eten-raku. Ume-gae was performed publicly by Tessen-kai of the Kanze school in December and featured the melody of Eten-raku Ima-yo, which was restored with the cooperation of Dr. Takakuwa of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Study of old Noh performances by Dr. Takakuwa has shown that exchanges of the music from different genres, such as Gagaku and Noh, are evident on-stage.


The 6th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties; “Intangible Cultural Heritage in Post-earthquake Reconstruction”

Presentation
Overall discussions

 The 6th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties was held on December 16th, 2011 with “Intangible Cultural Heritages in Post-earthquake Reconstruction” as its theme.
 After the huge earthquake in March, various efforts have been made to preserve the culture and cultural properties of disaster-stricken areas. However, the reality is that issues with and information concerning the intangible culture and cultural properties of stricken areas were not adequately shared. Thus, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage planned to continue to work on this theme. For the first year, the Department sought to clarify conditions in devastated areas and to share information. Five experts who were working in the Tohoku area before the earthquake or who are providing logistical support to or helping with reconstruction efforts were invited to give lectures at the conference. Two commented from the respective standpoints of academia and administration.
 Various subjects were raised and discussed from various standpoints thanks to comments from various individuals. Interestingly, the theme of the conference was the earthquake but the actual issues raised preceded the earthquake, such as how to safeguard folk culture, how to deal with a lack of individuals to carry on traditions of techniques and shrinking communities, systematic problems involved in managing intangible cultural heritage, and the force and essential significance of folk performing arts, religions, and beliefs. An extremely unusual event, the earthquake and subsequent tsunami had distorted everyday life and revealed what is essential. One of the invited speakers was from Fukushima, which is struggling with a nuclear power plant accident. Although Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures are all labeled disaster-stricken areas, conditions in Iwate and Miyagi differ vastly from those in Fukushima. There has been little talk of Fukushima’s reconstruction. As the speaker reiterated, nuclear power is a force that had never been fully controlled by humans and was now present in a form completely divorced from the local culture.
 Plans are to disseminate and share information by covering issues concerning the stricken areas and restoration. The lectures and discussions at the conference should be published in March.


Study of techniques to catch Japanese cormorants in Jyu-o town, Hitachi City, Part 2

Decoy cormorants placed in front of a hut (where catchers wait for cormorants) on a 15-meter-high cliff
A cormorant that has just been hooked and caught

 This study examined techniques of catching Japanese cormorants (an intangible folk cultural property of Hitachi City) in Jyu-o Town, Ibaraki Prefecture in the beginning of November. This was the second time this area was visited since last spring, when the aftermath of the earthquake in March was investigated. Since the study took place midway through the autumn cormorant season, the actual techniques used to catch cormorants were observed and recorded. Cormorants in flight are lured in by using several cormorants as decoys. They are then hooked with a long bamboo pole, placed in bamboo cages with their bills fixed with a little wooden implement called a Hashikake, and sent to cormorant fishing sites all over Japan.
 Researchers were fortunate enough to see a cormorant been caught during the study since cormorant catchers mentioned that they often saw no cormorants flying even after waiting for several days. In terms of the type of technique, techniques to catch cormorants could be categorized as ambush hunting techniques, which include techniques to catch falcons and Mabushi hunting, a primitive style of hunting. Cormorant catching retains this primitiveness because catchers have to select and catch only quality cormorants and because large numbers of cormorants need not be caught. However, this also means that cormorant catching alone cannot constitute one’s livelihood, resulting in a lack of catchers to carry on the technique. Since almost all of the cormorant fishermen at 12 locations in Japan use cormorants caught in Jyu-o town, this technique of catching cormorants is an important folk technique that sustains traditional cormorant fishing in Japan. Additional safeguards are needed to pass on this technique in the future


“6th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage”

6th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

 The 6th session of Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was held in the Nusa Dua area of Bali, Indonesia from November 22 to 29, 2011 at the Bali International Convention Centre. Representing the Institute, MIYATA Shigeyuki and IMAISHI Migiwa from the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage and FUTAGAMI Yoko from the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems participated in the conference.
 In the Session, 11 nominated files were inscribed in the “List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding,” 19 were inscribed in the “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity,” and 5 safeguarding practices were registered as “Best Safeguarding Practices.”
 Six files nominated by Japan for the Representative List were evaluated. As a result, 2 nominated elements, “Mibu no Hana Taue, ritual of transplanting rice in Mibu, Hiroshima” and “Sada Shin Noh, sacred dancing at Sada shrine, Shimane,” were inscribed, and 4 nominated files, including “Hon-minoshi, papermaking in the Mino region of Gifu Prefecture,” were “referred” back to the submitting state.
 “Referring” a nomination is a system adopted by this session of the Committee in order to ask Submitting States for additional information, if necessary, to better recommend whether to inscribe the element or not. Since the system is brand new, lengthy debate was held over the appropriateness of each “referral.” Topics that had been discussed starting last year, such as limits on the number of nominations considered, limits on the number of nominations made by each State, and the appropriateness of involving experts from the Consultative Body, led to a greater rift in opinions among Committee Members than was apparent last year. Several topics were even decided by a majority vote, which had never occurred before in a session. Although in full force for less than 3 years, the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage appears to have reached a turning point. This issue is of considerable interest domestically and, given the desire to encourage international exchanges in the area of Intangible Cultural Heritage, these trends must be carefully followed in the future.


6th Public Lecture“Records of the Shuni-e Ritual (Omizu-tori) at Todaiji Temple”

Lecture program
A talk underway
Exhibition at the Heiseikan

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage held an annual public lecture at the Heiseikan of the Tokyo National Museum on October 22nd. The lecture dealt with recordings of the Shuni-e Ritual (Omizu-tori), held annually at Todaiji Temple, among materials in the Department’s collection. On-site recordings have continued to be made since 1967, resulting in an extensive collection including more than 400 10-inch open-reel tapes. Some of the recordings were played for the audience in between talks by the invited speakers, Mr. HASHIMOTO Shoen, Cyo-ro (the head monk) of Todaiji Temple, who confined himself to the temple for prayer from the 1960s to the 1990s, and Ms. SATO Michiko, an emeritus researcher at the Institute who played a leading role in the recording work. An exhibition displaying rare materials related to Shuni-e was also featured at the Heiseikan.
 The lecture and the exhibition were well-received by 200 or more participants. An overview of the lecture, including interesting stories told by Mr. Hashimoto and Ms. Sato in their talks, will be presented in the next Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage, Vol. 6, to be published in March 2012.


Research on techniques to maintain Kayabuki roofs in the City of Senboku, Akita Prefecture

Setting up wooden scaffold by a Kayabuki hut
Craftsmen thatching a roof using the Sashi-gaya technique

 Techniques of maintaining thatched roofs in Akita Prefecture were studied in mid-October 2011. Kayabuki, or a thatched roof, is a general term to explain roofs that are covered with plant fibers, such as Japanese pampas grass, reeds, and Kariyasu (Miscanthus tinctorius) and is a traditional style used on Japanese houses, temples, and shrines. Since Japan’s period of high economic growth, techniques, landscapes, and culture related to Kayabuki have rapidly disappeared. Furthermore, the decline has been spurred by a decline in the number of craftsmen due to their advancing age and the lack of materials due to environmental changes.
 Research was conducted by interviewing Kayabuki craftsmen and studying techniques firsthand with the cooperation of the “Committee for the Transmission of Kayabuki Culture, Akita.” There are basically two types of techniques to maintain a Kayabuki roof: Fuki-kae, a technique to entirely re-thatch a roof, and Sashi-gaya, a technique to partially re-thatch a roof by only changing damaged materials. The Tohoku region that faces the Sea of Japan and that includes Akita Prefecture is unique in the sense that the craftsmen there mostly maintain Kayabuki only by using the Sashi-gaya technique.
 The current study plans to investigate and record the Sashi-gaya technique in order to understand it as a folk technique and to clarify its cultural importance.


The 35th International Symposium on “Tradition and Transmission of Textile Techniques: Present Condition of Research and Conservation” was held

Lecture underway

 The 35th International Symposium on the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Properties was held at the Heiseikan Large Auditorium, Tokyo National Museum from Sept. 3 to 5, 2011 with “Tradition and Transmission of Textile Techniques: Present Condition of Research and Conservation” as its theme.
 At the symposium, domestic and foreign experts from various disciplines related to textiles, such as craftsmen, restorers, curators, and researchers were invited to discuss the “making,” “protecting,” and “handing down” of textiles. This symposium sought to suggest directions for future research on textile techniques. Particular focus was placed on problems with raw materials and tools encountered during the making and restoring of textiles, the nature of the system to educate successors to pass on these techniques to future generations, and multifaceted approaches to the study of textile techniques.
 Two keynote speeches given at the beginning of the symposium dealt with the fundamental themes of textile techniques, such as the fact that these techniques had inevitably undergone change over the years and that some of techniques had been lost in that process.
 Following the keynote speeches were 4 sessions on Protecting of Textile Techniques, Textile Conservation Today, Approaches to Textile Techniques, and Transmission of Textile Techniques; these sessions were followed by a general discussion. Each session included interesting presentations dealing with problems such as advice on handing down textile techniques from the craftsmen’s points of view, the history and current state of restoration techniques at home and abroad, methods of studying domestic and foreign textiles and other related materials in order to advance research on textile techniques, and the education of successors to carry on these techniques.
 In the general discussion, problems commonly encountered by participants were discussed, such as how to conserve textile techniques that inevitably change over time, technical problems that craftsmen and restorers face, and differences in concepts of keeping modern textile collections in Japan and abroad.
 There was not enough time to delve deeply into each problem, but the participants praised the symposium as a significant opportunity to discuss present problems and to build new networks among colleagues. Plans are to publish details of the symposium in proceedings next year.


Study of a newly donated item, a biwa (a type of lute) with mother-of-pearl designs of flowers and birds named Ko-Cho-Gen, in the Saga Prefectural Museum

The back of the biwa Ko-Cho-Gen in the Saga Prefectural Museum

 Recently donated to the Saga Prefectural Museum, a biwa (a type of lute) with mother-of-pearl designs of flowers and birds and named Ko-Cho-Gen was studied by the Institute’s Izumi TAKAKUWA and Prof. Haruko KOMOTA of the Musashino Academia Musicae. This biwa was imported by the Taketomi Family from their original home of Ming Dynasty China. This biwa is said to have been bought from a Qing merchant by the father of TAKETOMI Rensai (1638~1718), who built O-takara Seido. It is also said that Rensai played this biwa in the presence of the Emperor Gomizunoo and that it was Imperially bestowed the name “Ko-cho-gen.”
 The instrument has mother-of-pearl inlay on its back, which Mr. Tomio KOIKE of the Tokugawa Art Museum identified as a technique from Ming Dynasty China. However, the trunk of the biwa is plumper than other popular biwa from the Ming Dynasty, so this biwa is thought to belong to the Nan-pi Biwa tradition from south China. A bridge of this biwa, a part that was specific to Chinese biwa, may have been taken off in order to perform Japanese music. Plans are to conduct further studies by comparing this biwa to biwa in China.


An International Conference on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Japan and South Korea was held

Researchers from South Korea and Japan discussing a display on “Documentation of Intangible Cultural Heritage” in the Lobby of the Institute

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage is actively encouraging international cooperation in the study of intangible cultural heritage with several foreign institutions mainly in Asia in accordance with greater momentum worldwide with regard to safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. As part of these efforts, the Department concluded an agreement with the Folkloric Studies Division of the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, South Korea on Research Exchanges between Japan and South Korea in relation to the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2008. International research exchanges have taken place in the 3 years since. Culminating these exchanges was an international conference on the intangible cultural heritage of Japan and South Korea that was held at the Institute on August 9th. Participants included 6 researchers from South Korea. Research presentations on intangible cultural heritage were given by 6 researchers, 3 of whom were Korean. The Department and the National Research Institute also agreed to continue exchanges as part of a 5-year plan starting in 2012.


Filmon Audio Recording of Helen Keller’s during Her First Visit to Japan was Found

Filmon endless sound-belt recording of “Talking Books: Helen Keller” in the Osaka University of Arts Museum

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage is conducting joint research with the Tsubouchi Memorial Theatre Museum, Waseda University into the Filmon endless sound-belt, which is a long-playing record invented in Japan. Since this sound-belt was produced only from 1913 to 1915 in pre-war Japan, very few recordings have survived. An audio recording of Helen Keller was known to have been made during her first visit to Japan in 1937, but the actual Filmon sound-belt had long been lost. During the course of this research, the sound-belt was found to be in the Osaka University of Arts Museum. This is apparently the only recording of Keller’s voice from her trips to Japan and thus has historical value. The recording was featured in the evening edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun on August 18th.
 An overview of the Filmon endless sound-belt was presented in Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage, Vol. 5, published in March 2011. Plans are to describe some details, like what was recorded, in this year’s Report.


Recording Kyo-kanze

 The Research Centre for Japanese Traditional Music at Kyoto City University of Arts has been working on a project entitled “Recording Kyo-kanze” since May 2011. The Centre held a public lecture on “The tradition of Kyo-kanze: What can be gleaned from its records and memories” in February 2011 celebrating the 130th anniversary of the founding of the university. In conjunction with the lecture, Ms. Takakuwa, head of the Intangible Cultural Properties Section, participated in the project. Kyo-kanze is a traditional Utai (Noh chant) unique to Kyoto that survived until the mid-Taisho period. The form of Noh chanting is no longer practiced, but 50 years ago the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage recorded Kyo-kanze and 30 years ago the Department used those recordings to help produce records. As the repository of these materials, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continue working with the Research Centre for Japanese Traditional Music to revive the tradition of Kyo-kanze.


Research on techniques of straw mat manufacture in the Yonegawa area of the City of Kudamatsu, Yamaguchi Prefecture

Listening to villagers and former villagers talking about their lives from 1945 to 1955

 Techniques of mushiro [a type of straw mat] manufacture in Nishi-hira-dani in the Yonegawa area (formerly Yonegawa Village) in the City of Kudamatsu, Yamaguchi Prefecture were studied from July 4th to 5th. Nishi-hira-dani is a set of small mountain villages consisting of Nishi-dani and Hira-dani and is located deep in a valley of the Chugoku Mountains. After 1955, village inhabitants flooded to urban areas on the coast, leading to such severe depopulation that there are fewer than 10 families left in both villages combined.
 As part of efforts to promote the region, the Yonegawa area began efforts through local volunteers to revive techniques of making mushiro starting last year. Mushiro are folk implements that had long been an essential part of the lives of Japanese peasants. Techniques of manufacturing mushiro are more or less the same throughout Japan and have been so since the rise of modern Japan. However, the ubiquitous nature of mushiro meant that techniques of mushiro manufacture were seldom properly recorded for posterity. Since the mushiro in Nishi-hira-dani are made for personal use, mushiro are manufactured using the simplest of tools, presumably preserving an ancient form of mushiro manufacture. The current study seeks to revive, record, and carry on with techniques of mushiro manufacture through the assistance of local volunteers. This study also seeks to delve into and document life and conditions in villages that created folk implements like mushiro.


Study of the techniques to craft Kurume Ikat

Ikat weaving in the studio of Moriyama Torao, a second–generation crafter of Kurume Ikat

 This study examined techniques of crafting Kurume Ikat, which is designated an important intangible cultural property, by visiting members of the Society to Preserve Ikat from June 27th to 28th. Ikat is a decorative fabric woven with a weft and warp that are dyed differently depending on the pattern. The picture shows how ikat is woven by adjusting the weft and warp in order to create certain patterns on the cloth. Kurume Ikat also uses araso, a hemp fiber, to prevent dyeing of the weft and warp. Manufacture of this araso is a selected preservation technique and is thus nationally protected. Plans are to conduct additional studies of these techniques firsthand and their preservation.


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