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 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”

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.

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

Hut on a cliff where young cormorants are caught in flight.
A young cormorant of suitable age for use in fishing

 This study examined techniques of catching Japanese cormorants (an intangible folk cultural property of Hitachi City) in Jyu-o Town, Ibaraki Prefecture from June 7th to 8th. Most of the wild Japanese cormorants used in cormorant fishing, a traditional fishing technique now found mainly in western Japan, are caught here in Jyu-o Town at a little hut located on a precipitous cliff facing the Pacific Ocean. Both the technique and the present status of its transmission were studied. The hut had been affected by the collapse of the cliff due to the huge earthquake in March but had been repaired by cormorant catchers before the spring cormorant season starts (from the end of April to the middle of May). In all, 11 cormorants were caught and sent to fishing sites around the country. Plans are to visit the site again in the autumn cormorant season and to study the techniques firsthand.

An international conference on “The Value and Competitive Power of Naganeupseong Folk Village as World Heritage” was held in Suncheon City, Jeollanam-do, South Korea

Discussions at the Conference

 An international conference organized by the Folklore Society of Korea was held on May 12th as part of efforts to designate Naganeupseong Folk Village (Suncheon City) as a world heritage site. Experts from various disciplines related to cultural properties such as history, folklore, and architecture and administration officials involved in protecting cultural properties participated in the conference. Mr. Miyata Shigeyuki from Japan was invited to give a lecture on “The present state of designation of intangible world heritage in Japan.” Naganeupseong Folk Village is not merely an amusement park but it is a place where people reside. Participants shared the perception that approaches to assessing such a “living” heritage as both tangible and intangible are essential. There was also great interest in how Japan deals with intangible properties. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage plans to actively participate in such exchanges of opinion and publicize its experiences findings from Japan.

Reports on Preservation and Utilization of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties published

The Reports on Preservation and Utilization of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties

 The Reports on Preservation and Utilization of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties was published and distributed to interested persons and organizations. This report is based on a 5-year (2006–2010) project on intangible folk cultural properties that was conducted in parallel with the study and collection of data on folk techniques. The report includes three papers regarding preservation and utilization of intangible folk properties; “A study of folk techniques and a report of results,” “Publicizing and international exchange of intangible folk cultural properties—15 years of the International Festival of Folk Performing Arts,” and “An essay on organizations transmitting folk performing arts—The present state of the hozon-kai.” A PDF version of the document in its entirety will be made available on our website.



 An international seminar is routinely held under the auspices of the “NETWORKING OF EAST ASIAN CULTURAL HERITAGE (NEACH),” an organization that consists of the 10 ASEAN states as well as Japan, China, and South Korea. Malaysia hosted the seminar in Kuala Lumpur from March 5 to 8, 2011. The theme of the Seminar was intangible cultural heritage and Mr. Shigeyuki Miyata from Japan was invited to give a lecture on “Documentation and Archiving of Japanese Intangible Cultural Heritage.” Even though some participating states were not parties to the “Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage,” participants were generally quite conscious of the need for conservation of intangible cultural heritage and an active discussion took place. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage plans to actively participate in such conferences and publicize its experiences in Japan.

Report on the 5-year Project of the Division of Intangible Cultural Properties published: “Compiled Documents on the Transmission of Intangible Cultural Properties”

An illustration from “Yokobue Saiku Shiritu Binran

 Results of a 5-year project concerning “Study of the Conservation and Transmission of Intangible Cultural Properties” that started in 2006 were reported in March 2011. The report describes 3 documents regarding the conservation and transmission of intangible cultural properties:
 “Yokobue Saiku Shiritu Binran”—a handbook on the manufacture of the Japanese transverse flute
 “Gidayu-bushi no Syurui to Kyokusetu”—Records of the Gidayu-bushi of Bunraku, with the categorization of their tunes and melodies.
 “Edo-komon Gijyutsu Kiroku”—Records of the manufacturing process and history of Edo-Komon
 A PDF version of the document in its entirety will be made available on our website.

5th Public Lecture “Inheritance of Izumi-style Kyogen (Noh farce)” in Kanazawa

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage held an annual public lecture at the Ishikawa Prefecture Noh Theater on December 12, jointly hosted with the Kanazawa University integration project — Japan-China cultural heritage project. Kanazawa City has the character of a locality where Noh has flourished since the Edo Period, and the Hosho-style Yokyoku and Izumi-style Kyogen are performed. We spotlighted the Izumi-style Kyogen this time. The tradition varies greatly between Kanazawa and Nagoya, even though the style is the same Izumi. We gave a lecture on the historic background and difference in actual performance, and asked the performers to act out a kyogen based on their different traditions. Although the audience was small, unlike in Tokyo, there were many ardent listeners, and the performances were well received.

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