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


Lectures at the International Seminar for Traditional and Ritual Theatre (Tehran)

Lecture at Beethoven Hall during the Iranian Artist’s Forum (Aug. 22)
Performance at the City Theatre Café (City Theatre of Tehran BF1) (Aug. 25)

 Researchers of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage were asked by the Dramatic Arts Center of Iran to give lectures at the International Seminar for Traditional and Ritual Theatre during the Iranian Artist’s Forum (August 20-22, Tehran). Ijima Mitsuru spoke on “Bunraku: Traditional Japanese Puppet Theatre” and Hyoki Satoru on “Folk Performing Arts and Traditional Festivals in Japan.” They also attended an informal discussion at the Iranian Academy of the Arts and exchanged opinions on such matters as future cooperation in research.
 The Seminar was held prior to the 13th Tehran International Ritual-Traditional Theatre Festival (August 23-28). During the festival, various performing arts were presented at many places in Tehran by players from different places, mainly from Iran and neighboring countries. Various performing arts of the Middle East that cannot be seen by foreigners were presented. In this sense, too, it was very meaningful.


Study of the Kishu Tokugawa family collection of musical instruments owned by the National Museum of Japanese History

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage started a joint research with the National Museum of Japanese History on the Kishu Tokugawa family collection of musical instruments that the Museum owns. These instruments, mainly ones used in gagaku, were collected by Harutomi, 10th Lord of the Kishu Tokugawa family. The Museum owns more than 157 instruments, many scores and related documents, and published an illustrated catalogue of these materials in 2004. Based on this catalogue we plan to conduct a more detailed study with experts on traditional Japanese musical instruments. The study of wind instruments that began from July has revealed the possibility that the nokan, or the transverse flute used in noh, called “Gasho” is the “Kokyo no Nishiki” mentioned in Meikanroku, a list submitted to the Tokugawa shogunate in the late 18th century of famous transverse flutes.


Study of geihoku kagura

A scene from a regular performance at Kagura Dome

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage is engaged in studies related to the conservation and utilization of intangible folk cultural properties of Japan. As an example of research associated with the actual transmission of folk performing arts and their performances, an on-site investigation was made into the activities of kagura Monzen Toji Mura at Midoricho, Akitakata-shi, Hiroshima prefecture. Midoricho (formerly Midoricho, Takata-gun, Hiroshima prefecture) is known for geihoku kagura, a type of kagura that has been transmitted in the northwestern area of Hiroshima prefecture. Presently there are 13 kagura troupes that are active, and some of their repertories and groups are designated intangible folk cultural properties of Hiroshima prefecture. However, the reason that this type of kagura is well known today is because the repertories called shinmai, which was created after the War and which incorporates new tastes, has become firmly established among the people of the area as a form of entertainment. kagura Monzen Toji Mura is a facility for relaxation and entertainment that was opened to the public at Midoricho in 1998. This and the kagura Dome, a theater especially for kagura with a capacity of 3000 people, function as symbols for the popularity of this new type of kagura.
 At kagura Dome regular performances are held every Sunday and on national holidays by kagura troupes of Midoricho. In addition, on Saturdays open rehearsals are held at Kamukura Theater, an indoor stage attached to the facility as are various kinds of kagura competitions, such as the Hiroshima kagura Grand Prix. These performances are attended by people from not only Hiroshima but also other prefectures. Moreover, since the theater is opened to the public as a place that can be used regularly for the practice of kagura and since opportunities for performances are guaranteed throughout the year, for the kagura troupes of Midoricho it serves as a site for transmitting kagura. Since many of the audience are residents of neighboring districts, it may be said that this is a facility that is firmly rooted in the area.
 Although kagura of this nature, the purpose of which performance is entertainment, may be thought to be rather new, it has been reported that kagura and bon-odori competitions have been held in areas around Hiroshima prefecture from before the War. The oldest competition that is still being held today dates to 1947 and has a history of over 50 years. In addition to popular shinmai, competitions are also held in the skills of kyumai, the traditional repertories. Thus the fact that these events support the transmission and vitalization of traditional repertories cannot be overlooked. The popularity of “kagura as entertainment” as found in Midoricho is spreading to neighboring Shimane and Okayama prefectures today.
 Of course, some issues have been pointed out for consideration, such as economic stabilization, apprehension concerning changes in the nature of kagura and the question as to whether major performing groups should be limited to kagura troupes of Midoricho or not. However, it is also a fact that such a phenomenon is effective in the transmission of culture and the formation of the identity of a given area. It may be said that this phenomenon is a very interesting example of the transmission of folk performing arts in today’s world.


Information retrieval on traditional Japanese musical instruments

Page from the database on traditional Japanese musical instruments

 Data on traditional Japanese musical instruments can now be retrieved from the “Database on Traditional Japanese Instruments Designated as Cultural Properties” (ed. Department of Performing Arts, March 2006, in Japanese), which was introduced in TOBUNKENNEWS Vol. 25. From 2001 questionnaires on traditional Japanese musical instruments were sent to museums throughout Japan and boards of education of the prefectures, cities, towns and villages. This database is based on replies to those questionnaires from the boards of education and information obtained from the web sites of prefectures and cities. It is composed of 4 items: type of instrument, name of instrument, designation, name of prefecture. Categorization of the type of instruments is based on the Sachs-Hornbostel system and classified into chordophones, aerophones, idiophones, membranophones and excavated instruments. With regard to the names of instruments, it is possible to retrieve information by part agreement search, for example by inputting tsuzumi instead of kotsuzumi or fue instead of ryuteki (fue used in gagaku). There are 6 kinds of designation: by nation, prefecture, city, ward, town and village. However, recent changes due to the merger of cities, towns and villages are not reflected on the database. Data will be updated from time to time so that it will be possible to confirm the location of traditional instruments.


Meeting of experts on the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

Intangible Cultural Heritage “Kutiyattam”

 A meeting of experts on the UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was held for three days from April 2. Twenty-nine experts on intangible cultural heritage from various nations attended this meeting, which was sponsored by UNESCO and the government of India, at New Delhi. From the Institute, Miyata of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage participated.
 This meeting is an important meeting in preparation for the first extraordinary session of the Intergovernmental Committee to be held in May at Chengdu, China and the second ordinary session of the Intergovernmental Committee to be held in September at Tokyo. Discussions were held concerning the relationship between the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding which are the core of the Convention, and the standards for their registration. Opinions of the experts will be used by the UNESCO Secretariat for the future implementation of the Operational Directives. However, since there was not a sufficiently common understanding among the participating experts with regard to concepts like “representativeness” and “urgent safeguarding” the discussions tended to be abstract and ended without the adoptation of any form of recommendation or the like.
 Although the meeting was not necessarily successful, when considering the initial purpose for which it was held, the various cultural programs presented by India, the host country, showed India’s great desire to safeguard intangible cultural heritage. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage strongly felt the necessity to conduct interchange with India.


to page top