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.
|■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
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage holds a conference on the study of discussing various problems concerning the conservation and inheritance of intangible folk cultural properties every year. We held the fourth conference with the theme of “inheriting intangible folk cultural properties and their relationship with children” at the seminar room of our Institute on November 19, 2009. The declining birthrate and a growing proportion of elderly people have also greatly affected the inheritance of folk cultural properties. In such circumstances, however, various kinds of assistance are given in cooperation with various organizations such as schools and museums so that children become familiar with local traditional events and festivals and can participate in them. At the conference, advanced examples of such activities were reported, and active discussions were held thereon. The details of the conference will be issued as a report in March 2010.
We performed a field survey of the Star Festival Dance (Tanabata-odori) inherited by Osato of Ichikikushikino City, Kagoshima Prefecture as part of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage’s Investigation and Research on the Conservation and Use of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties study project. The Tanabata-odori is performed in 14 localities in the Osato District, and consists of dancing with drums (Taiko-odori) played by representative dancers of each locality, large decorations created by all the localities, and various processions. In this field survey, we paid special attention to the practice of continuous dancing for one week, which is called Narashi. Narashi is mainly carried out by youth groups of each locality, assisted by all the people in the district. Through this cooperation, we can clearly see the way social relationships have been maintained and restructured. On the other hand, we also need to consider that handing down traditions can be difficult, causing a large problem from the viewpoint of conserving cultural heritage.
Mr. Hyoki of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage received training in South Korea for two weeks from May 25 to June 8 based on the exchange between Japan and Korea on research related to the conservation of intangible cultural heritage decided upon last June with the Division of Folklore and Folklife of the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, Korea. In last year’s training, most of the surveying was conducted on the archives of important intangible cultural properties created by the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, Korea, and research was also conducted on archives related to important intangible cultural properties in other Korean organizations. I myself did a detailed investigation on the current status of the traditional arts archive of the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts and the folk archive of the National Folk Museum of Korea. Both organizations have carefully established classifications for sorting materials and metadata in anticipation of a future coalition of archives: I felt that they taught many points that would be helpful for similar projects in Japan. During the training sessions I was able to have the opportunity to see two intangible cultural properties in the suburbs of Seoul: the Kannun Dano Festival, and the Yeongsanjae Ceremony.
Report on the 3rd Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties Conservation of Goods Related to Intangible Folk Cultural Properties
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage holds an annual meeting where preservation personnel, administrative personnel, and researchers gather: They decide a theme every year and discuss the protection and inheritance of our intangible cultural heritage. On November 20 of last year, the Department chose the theme Conservation of Goods Related to Intangible Folk Cultural Properties and held their meeting in the seminar room of the Institute. We summarized the details of this conference, issued a report in March 2009, and distributed it to interested persons and organizations. This report can also be downloaded in PDF format from the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been holding meetings on activities to safeguard intangible cultural heritage in Asia since last year. This year, on February 19, we invited Dr. Kim Sam Ki of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Division of the Cultural Heritage Administration, Korea. He gave a lecture on the system of and activities for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage in Korea and discussions were also held with relevant persons outside our Institute. In particular, Dr. Kim introduced in detail the processes of designating intangible cultural heritage and holders of intangible cultural heritage. He also spoke about the system for training successors that is obligatory for holders of intangible cultural heritage. The participants actively voiced their opinions and raised questions. Both Japan and South Korea have led the systematization of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, and this meeting clearly showed the differences and similarities between the two nations. We learned about the validity of referring to the activities of both countries in dealing with the problems that each country has.
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage held its third conference on the study of intangible folk cultural properties on November 20, 2008. This year’s topic was Conservation of Goods Related to Intangible Folk Cultural Properties. To conserve intangible folk cultural properties, including manners and customs, folkloric performing arts, and folklore techniques, not only must the skills be transferred, but many goods such as materials and tools, huge decorations, floats, and stalls must be appropriately secured and maintained. From this viewpoint, we listened to examples of four cases reported by relevant organizations engaged in actual maintenance and protection, and had discussions with people involved on the floor. Eager discussions were held on the difficulty of “conserving while using” (i.e. the organization of conservation activities with a view to new creation) and building a system to conserve both the tangible and intangible as a whole. The detailed agenda for this conference will be summarized and issued in March 2009.
Based on the agreement for research exchange between Japan and Korea on the conservation of intangible cultural heritage, which was signed last June with the Folkloric Studies Division of the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage of Korea, Hyoki Satoru of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage researched visual documents of intangible cultural heritage in South Korea for two weeks in October 2008. The purpose was to investigate the current condition of such visual documents and apply the results of this research to the management and utilization of similar documents in Japan. In South Korea, the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage actively creates visual documents of intangible cultural heritage and manages them in cooperation with various organizations including the National Archives of Korea and the Korean Film Archive. There are many points to be learned from this organizational management system. For example, the active use of visual documents made by the Institute in television broadcasting was quite impressive. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage is now creating a database of locations of visual documents on Japanese intangible cultural heritage and would like to consider sharing information with Korea.
Last year the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage held a conference to discuss issues related to the protection and transmission of intangible folk cultural properties. The second session of this conference was held on December 7, 2007 in the Seminar Hall of the Institute. The theme for the 2nd Conference was “Merger of municipalities and the protection of intangible cultural properties.” Among the many types of cultural properties, folk cultural properties are most likely to be influenced greatly by merger since they are transmitted and protected within the given region. Presentations were made by municipalities that have recently experienced merger and municipalities that have succeeded in using the merger for the protection of their intangible folk cultural properties. These presentations centered on such matters as the systematization of preservation activities and collaboration with school education and were followed by overall discussions. The content of this conference is scheduled to be published in March 2008.
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.
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.