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

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.

Fifth Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage holds a conference on the study of discussing various problems concerning the conservation and passing on of intangible folk cultural properties every year. We held the fifth conference with the theme of “roles of museums and resource centers in protecting intangible folk cultural properties” at the seminar room of our Institute on November 18, 2010. While the activities of museums and resource centers have become diversified in recent years, there have been more and more examples of actively struggling to protect and pass on intangible folk cultural properties, regarding them as representatives of cultures in local communities. The conference asked four museums and resource centers nationwide to report on the current status and issues they face, and there was an active discussion based on those reports. The details of the conference will be issued as a report in March 2011.

Recording of 100-ban Hosho-style Yokyoku (Noh Songs) by Master Imai Yasuo achieved

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been recording the ban-utai of Master Imai Yasuo, the eldest Noh actor to perform in a Hosho style, since 2005. This September, the 100th ban-utai was recorded. The repertory of Hosho-style Yokyoku includes 210 pieces, and the major numbers have been produced a record. The memorable recording of the 100th Noh-song “Higaki” was a secret piece of music in the penetrallia which was not played as Noh, but only the utai was handed on. Mr. Imai, who is 90 years old this year, sang quietly in a straightforward manner, performing this song about a beautiful shirabyoshi (dancing girl), who grew older, fell on bad times and made a confession before a Buddhist monk. Passing on the collective recordings of Noh-songs sung by a Hosho-style Yokyoku master in the late Showa Period has a significant meaning. The plan is to continue this recording a little more.

Survey at Joshibi University of Art and Design Museum (JAM)

Survey at Joshibi Art Museum

 As part of joint research at the Joint Research Center for Fashion and Clothing Culture, we surveyed the textiles at the JAM on July 12, 2010. This joint research started in November 2008, aiming to clarify the relationship between the Mitsui-family descendent short-sleeved (kosode) kimono owned by the Bunka Gakuen Costume Museum and the associated Maruyama-school costume design. We conducted the detailed survey on the short-sleeved kimonos, which were in the possession of the now-defunct Kanebo Ltd. and now owned by JAM, focusing on those similar to the Mitsui-family descendent kosode, including the techniques, design and tailoring. We will advance a close investigation on the findings obtained through the surveys, aiming at the issue of a report in next fiscal year.

Training at the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, Korea

Listening at the survey on important intangible cultural property at the inheriting hall (Ms. Han Sang Soo, an important intangible cultural property holder in embroidery)

 Mr. Hyoki of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage visited the Division of Folklore and Folklife of the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, Korea from June 28 to July 8. His visit was in the framework of exchange between Japan and Korea on research related to conserving intangible cultural heritage. He received training on how to protect intangible cultural heritage in South Korea. In the past two years, training sessions and surveying had been conducted on the status of archiving the records on intangible cultural heritage in Korea. This year, we investigated the way the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea is performing intensive data management on the recordings produced by the relevant organizations. We also examined the guidelines on creating standard data of cultural property recording projects. We carried out our investigations by listening to the people involved. We also conducted a survey on the current status and issues of the inheriting instructor system that is a feature of the system for protecting intangible cultural properties in Korea. We listened to the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea and the holder of intangible cultural property (conservation society of Pilbong peasant music).

Investigation on Filmon Sound Belt

Filmon Sound Belt

 The Filmon Sound Belt is a special storage medium (a kind of record) developed in prewar Japan. The shape is an endless tape made of synthetic resin (approximately 13 m long), and it is said that the tape can record sound for up to 36 minutes. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage owns five such sound belts. Since a special player is needed to play them and very few players now remain, it has not been possible to even check what is recorded on them up to now.
 Since last year, the Department has been researching the Filmon sound Belts jointly with the Theatre Museum of Waseda University (Collaborative Research Center for Theatre and Film Arts). The Theatre Museum stores the players in a playable state, so digitizing the sounds played back by the players is also included in the investigation plan.
 At present, we have confirmed there are a total of more than 100 sound belts in existence when including those stored in the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Theatre Museum and those owned privately. Unfortunately, quite a few of these sound belts are hard to play back since they have deteriorated noticeably through age, but we are now working to obtain playback sound from as many belts as possible.

‘Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage’ Issued

 The ‘Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage’ volume 4 was issued in March 2010. This year volume includes the three reports which relate directly to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage: “Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Now in Its Implementation Phase” by Mr. Miyata Shigeyuki, “Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region, Classification of Items Listed on the Representative Lists and the Function of Specialized Institutions” by Ms. Matsuyama Naoko, and “Challenges of Safeguarding Intangible Cultural Heritage – Visiting various regions in Japan and Asia-Pacific countries” by Mr. Hoshino Hiroshi. The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage went into effect on April 20, 2006. The understanding and handling of cultural heritage vary depending on the countries that ratified the convention because of the circumstances of each country, and so this situation is fraught with versatile and complicated issues. The reports show a portion of these circumstances. As with the previous volumes, the PDF version of all pages will be made public on our website.

Report issued on Symposium by the International Workshop on the Conservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage: “Current status and issues on protection measures in Asia-Pacific region countries”

 On January 14, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage held a symposium entitled “Current status and issues on protection measures in Asia-Pacific region countries” in the seminar room of the Institute with 11 Japanese and overseas conservation specialists. A report on the symposium has been issued recently. View the following page for the PDF version:

Survey on intangible cultural heritage protection status in Asia-Pacific region

Activity to pass on textile dyeing technique at Bhutan Textile Art Museum
Activity to pass on traditions at Tonga College of Education (ceremony of “Kaba”)
Activity to pass on traditions at Tonga College of Education (creation of tapa cloth)

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage is surveying the protection status of intangible cultural heritage in the Asia-Pacific region in the framework of the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. In February, we dispatched a mission to Thailand, Bhutan and other Pacific nations (Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand, Fiji and Palau) to listen to the persons in charge of intangible cultural heritage in governments and relevant organizations and exchange opinions. Thailand was strengthening its domestic structure for protecting intangible cultural heritage in anticipation of ratifying the Convention, and Bhutan started to record its intangible cultural heritage and create a database after ratifying the Convention and has made preparations for drafting a domestic law. The Pacific nations are keen to conclude the Convention, but have major issues in improving their domestic structures to implement the Convention. We plan to continue surveying what issues the Asia-Pacific region countries face and how we can have exchange and cooperation in the field of research on protecting intangible cultural heritage under the Convention.

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