The 13th Public Lecture Held by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage

A scene from the public lecture

 On Thursday, February 6th, 2020, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties held the 13th public lecture, titled “Technology in Kusatsu Supporting the Textile Technology: Spiderwort-dyed Paper-Blue Made from Flower Petals.”
 In the morning session, records on spiderwort-dyed paper were examined by watching films: a documentary film of craft techniques by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, titled “Yuzen – The Textile Art of MORIGUCHI Kako –“ (1988, Sakura Motion Picture),” and a film, titled “Asiatic Dayflower, the Flower of Kusatsu City: Handing Down of Spiderwort-dyed Paper,” produced by Kusatsu City in 1999.
 In the afternoon session, there was a lecture describing the outcomes of a joint research on the spiderwort-dyed paper production technique of Kusatsu City, Shiga Prefecture, and Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, conducted from 2016 through 2017. The joint research report has been published (refer to the April 2019 monthly report:
 During the course of the lecture, explaining the main points, a documentary film was shown, titled “Recording Process of the Spiderwort-dyed Paper Production Technique” (produced in 2018 by Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties), which was shot and edited in the joint research. This was followed by a report on a survey by KIKUCHI Riyo from the Institute that explained how both the natural spiderwort blue and its alternative, synthetic spiderwort blue, are now used. The report was in the form of a presentation, titled “Current Situation of Spiderwort-dyed Paper Use – Through a Listening Survey on Textile Technicians.” Adding to this, Ms. OKADA Yumi from the Kusatsu-juku Kaido Koryukan made a presentation titled “Kusatsu City and Spiderwort-dyed Paper – Toward the Preservation of the Spiderwort-dyed Paper Production Technique,” which highlighted the relationship between Kusatsu City and the technique of producing spiderwort-dyed paper as clarified through the joint research, in addition to the present situation. Since the joint research was conducted two years ago, the circumstances surrounding the three farmers producing spiderwort-dyed paper have changed. To hand down the traditional technique to the coming generation, seminars for producers-to-be are now being implemented in Kusatsu City. The report on the current efforts unveiled the need for considering spiderwort-dyed paper as local culture and for protecting this cultural form. ISHIMURA Tomo, Head of the Audio-Visual Documentation Section of the Institute, made a presentation, titled “Spiderwort-dyed Paper as Cultural Heritage,” focusing on how the technique to produce such material should be positioned for protection of cultural properties.
 At the end of the lecture, Mr. SUZUTA Shigeto was invited for a round-table-talk, titled “Spiderwort-dyed Paper as a Textile Material.” He was certified as the holder of the Mokuhanzuri Sarasa (wood-block) dyeing technique that was designated an intangible cultural property. The talk reinforced the fact that spiderwort-dyed paper works as a material supporting an important process even in producing works with the technique although it is considered a material to draw designs for Yuzen dyeing and tie-dyeing.
 Transfer of technique to produce spiderwort-dyed paper is now at a milestone. One must always bear in mind that protection of intangible culture involves some alteration and hence, there should be scope for a compromise. The lecture was a good opportunity for the audience to understand the dilemma concerning spiderwort-dyed paper and whether it could become a sustainable material.

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