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Disaster prevention for intangible cultural heritage

  (Photos: SHIRONO Seiji)

 The Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011 brought with it a heightened awareness of the threat posed by natural disasters to Japan’s cultural properties. Even so, the concepts and methods for protection of intangible cultural heritage are still not firmly established.
 Among the various genres of intangible cultural heritage, we have learned that folk performing arts and festivals can play an extremely important role in the recovery of areas struck by natural disasters. Attention has been drawn to the revival of such elements of intangible cultural heritage as a focus for feelings of love for native place and a way for disaster-stricken local communities to recapture their vitality. When considering post-disaster relief efforts, it is important to give thought to protection of intangible cultural heritage.
 On the other hand, there are also elements of intangible cultural heritage, such as folk and craft techniques, that may be brought to the verge of extinction by natural disasters. While it is true that they are also threatened by ordinary existential risks such as a shortage of young people committed to carrying on the tradition and environmental change, such issues emerge all the more starkly in the wake of a natural disaster. We believe that protection of intangible cultural heritage from natural disaster includes the building of networks among practitioners and others involved and the compilation of records that can facilitate the transmission of the necessary skills, so that these elements of cultural heritage are not lost before people become aware of it.
 Traditional forms of knowledge and wisdom, passed down for generations, are another form of intangible cultural heritage. How people have responded to disasters over the years, and what they have done to maintain the natural environment are forms of knowledge whose reevaluation could connect to the protection of intangible cultural heritage from natural disasters.
 We are engaged in efforts to think about this issue from a variety of perspectives such as those just mentioned—and we hope you will view the present exhibition as part of this process.
 In addition to expressing our thanks to all of those who cooperated and provided assistance for our research, we give our heartfelt prayers for the recovery of all disaster victims.

Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties
Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage

©Independent Administrative Institution National Institutes for Cultural Heritage Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties