|■Tokyo National Research
Institute for Cultural Properties
||■Center for Conservation
|■Department of Art Research,
Archives and Information Systems
||■Japan Center for
International Cooperation in Conservation
|■Department of Intangible
Renewed Performing Art Studio (Recording Room)
The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has documented live performances of intangible cultural heritage, including traditional performing arts at the Performing Art Studio in the TOBUNKEN facility. The Studio consists of two rooms: a stage for video recording and a recording studio for audio recording. At the stage facility, we have continuously recorded performing arts including kodan and rakugo. In addition, traditional music such as Miyazono-bushi, Tokiwazu-bushi and Heike have been recently recorded. However, the recording studio was hardly used due to its age. Its recording equipment was not suitable for the kind of digital recording widely used today. Therefore, TOBUNKEN made large-scale renovation of this recording studio in FY 2021, and it was completed in March 2022.
The renewed recording studio have a feature suitable for recording Japanese traditional music: Its floor is made of hinoki, Japanese cypress. This can properly reflect the echo of Japanese traditional musical instruments. In addition, a small space exists under the hinoki floor for ventilation. This will release humidity from the recording studio and prevent curving and mold involving the floor materials.
The new recording studio has zigzag shape with wide angle on the rear walls. This is an alternative to traditional byōbu (folding screens), which are set behind performers when they play Japanese traditional music. Byōbu not only visually highlight the performers, but also reflects the sound. The rear walls thus play this role of sound reflection. In addition, the rear walls have several sets of three sliding doors that are set vertically. Opening and closing these mechanisms controls sound reflection. Furthermore, different types of materials including washi (white in the photo) and cloth (black in the photo) are used in the wall, which contribute to control the balance of sound reflection and absorption.
Then, the panels are set in different angles on the ceiling. Some of the panels reflect the sound to the players and others absorb sound and suppress reflection.
Many modern music studios are designed to prevent sound reflection by setting acoustic materials on walls and ceilings. This is because recording clear sounds in the environment requires minimum reflection. However, players feel strange in these circumstances because the music they play does not bounce back. In particular, Japanese traditional music is usually played in an environment with some sound reflection. Therefore, it is important to record the music in an environment close to normal performances to document such live performances. Simultaneously, to record “clear” sounds, an environment with minimum sound reflection is preferable. It is difficult to meet these two incompatible conditions simultaneously, but we attempt this in the recording studio using a highly precise design.
Related with the recording studio’s renewal, the sound equipment was completely replaced with contemporary digital recording equipment. We plan to start live performance documentation in this new recording studio from FY 2022. We expect to record performances with higher quality and presence than ever before.
Kiribati faces the risk of being submerged by increasing sea levels (photo taken in February 2014)
Currently, climate change is one of the most important issues that need resolution. To that end, the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 26) was held from October 31st to November 12th, 2021 to tackle this issue on a global scale.
Climate change is closely linked to the conservation of cultural heritage. For example, large typhoons and heavy rain that are considered common indicators of climate change could damage cultural heritage and museums. Furthermore, rising sea levels caused by climate change could vanish the cultural heritage in coastal areas and at low altitudes. The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) conducted a survey entitled “The Current State of Cultural Heritage Sites that Are Likely to be Affected by Climate Change” as a “Project for International Contribution to Cultural Heritage Protection (Exchange of Experts)” commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs in FY2013; in the project, we made surveys in Tuvalu, Kiribati, and Fiji of the Oceania region which were likely to be affected by climate change.
In 2021, the International Co-Sponsored Meeting on Culture, Heritage and Climate Change (ICSM CHC) was held online from December 6th to 10th and was co-sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It became the first international opportunity to comprehensively discuss the impacts and issues of cultural heritage and climate change. More than 100 experts participated from all over the world. Two experts from Japan participated: ISHIMURA Tomo (this article’s author), Head, Audio-Visual Documentation Section of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Dr. IWABUCHI Akifumi, Professor of Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology and a member of the ICOMOS International Committee on the Underwater Cultural Heritage (ICUCH).
Prior to this meeting, three preliminary meetings were held online from September to October 2021 in which discussion points were organized and clarified in preparation of the ICSM CHC. The outcomes were then compiled as reports titled “White Papers” on December 1st; these reports formed the basis of discussions during the ICSM CHC.
Three themes were discussed: 1) Knowledge Systems and Climate Change: Systemic connections of culture, heritage and climate change; 2) Impacts and Climate Change: Loss, damage and adaption for culture and heritage; and 3) Heritage Solutions and Climate Change: Role of culture and heritage in transformative change and alternative sustainable futures. Each theme had a panel discussion, workshop and poster presentations. Preliminarily selected experts participated in the panel discussions which were broadcasted online. Experts participated in the workshops using an online conference platform. Since simultaneous discussion with all participating experts was not practical, the experts were divided into groups of 5 to 10. For the poster presentations, experts posted their posters on the web and participated in related Q&A sessions and discussions using an online conference system.
Many topics were discussed in the meetings. Currently, the secretariat of the ICSM CHC is compiling the outcomes of discussions and the final report will be published in the first half of 2022.
I, as a participant in this meeting, strongly feel that people are powerfully connected to cultural heritage, especially intangible cultural heritage, and can thus be spurred to better attend to climate change issues. Many participants said that in the discussion for the theme “Knowledge Systems and Climate Change,” we would need to seriously consider not only “scientific knowledge” but also “indigenous knowledge” and “local knowledge” to address climate change. These are considered equivalent to the so-called “traditional knowledge” that intangible cultural heritage provides. Participants made the claim that, to understand the effects of climate change on cultural heritage, it is essential to incorporate local community knowledge in areas surrounding such heritage. Additionally, many people suggested that the key to solving climate change related issues can be found in indigenous and local knowledge.
ICOMOS will continue to work on this project to build a framework to pursue the issues of culture, heritage, and climate change. The author, in collaboration with the TOBUNKEN team, will also continue to monitor the situation.
Field research for canoe culture in the Federated States of Micronesia by TOBUNKEN (August 2018)
The Sixteenth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO was held from December 13th to 18th, 2021. This session was planned to be held in Sri Lanka but was held online like the previous session due to COVID-19. While the previous session was shortened to three hours per day for deliberations, this session had 6 hours per day and the agenda was the same as usual. In the meeting, only Dr. Punchi Nilame Meegaswatte, chairperson of the session and Secretary General of Sri Lanka National Commission for UNESCO, and members of the secretariat gathered at UNESCO’s headquarter in Paris, while other representatives from the Committee Member States, States Parties, accredited non-governmental organizations etc. participated using an online conference platform. It was broadcasted via the internet and two researchers of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) participated as observers.
This time, while Japan did not submit any agenda, the Intergovernmental Committee inscribed four elements on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, 39 elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and 4 elements on the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices. The elements of 9 countries were inscribed for the first time on the list: the Federated States of Micronesia, Montenegro, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo, Denmark, Seychelles, Timor-Leste, Iceland, and Haiti.
Among these elements, “Carolinian wayfinding and canoe making” which was nominated by the Federated States of Micronesia and inscribed in the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, is the one related to the international cooperation projects for cultural heritage conservation by TOBUNKEN. TOBUNKEN has been working on the conservation of canoe culture as intangible cultural heritage (ICH) in the Pacific Island nations: the first “Canoe Summit” was held in Guam in May 2016 and interactions took place in Japan with the traditional navigators of the Federated States of Micronesia. In fact, one of the TOBUNKEN outcomes was the inscription of “Carolinian wayfinding and canoe making” at this time. “Joumou soup” nominated by Haiti was discussed in this session and inscribed in the Representative List in accordance with Haiti’s wish and international society’s consideration to encourage the people in Haiti, who were devastated by the 2021 earthquake. The important role that ICH plays to encourage people suffering in the aftermath of disasters was highlighted in the discourse regarding the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 and reaffirmed in this case.
In this session of the Intergovernmental Committee, the outcomes of “Open-ended intergovernmental working group meeting in the framework of the global reflection on the listing mechanisms of the 2003 Convention” held in 2021, were also discussed. Though the operational procedures for the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage are described in “Operational Directives,” there are various cases whose procedures were not covered by the current “Operational Directives” as it has been more than 10 years since the Directives were first adopted. For example, there are no descriptions on how to transfer the elements in the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, and how to remove the elements once inscribed from the list. These cases have been individually judged in the intergovernmental committee. The working group, which was set up in 2018 to comprehensively discuss these issues, has submitted the revision of “Operational Directives” based on the outcome of the intergovernmental working group meeting held in 2021 described above. While the reform plan was decided to be submitted to General Assembly in 2022, the mandate of this working group was extended to 2022 to further streamline the discussion.
This session progressed smoothly despite it being online owing to the mutual trust and cooperation among the state party representatives including committee member states and the UNESCO secretariat; nevertheless, I felt that it was largely because of the chairperson’s leadership. The session in Sri Lanka, the chairperson’s native country, could not happen but he took his position’s responsibility seriously and made the participants feel comfortable using his sense of humor. We were deeply impressed by his attitude. The next host country will be officially announced after monitoring the COVID-19 situation. We sincerely hope to hold the meeting in person.
The Fifteenth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee on the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO was held from December 14th to 19th, 2020. It was originally to be held in Jamaica but owing to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting of the Committee was held using a fully online modality. The secretariat was at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris; however States Parties as well as the committee member states, including Jamaica, the Chair, participated in the online meeting from their respective locations. The meetings were broadcasted in real time on the UNESCO website, and two researchers from our Institute observed the proceedings.
The number of agenda items to be discussed was kept to a minimum because it was online, and the session was scheduled from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm local time in Paris (9:30 pm to 0:30 am Japan time) each day. In spite of these constraints, three elements were inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding (Urgent Safeguarding List), and 29 elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (Representative List). Further, three programmes were added to the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices. In addition, one of the elements added to the Urgent Safeguarding List has been approved for international assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund.
Among them, “Traditional skills, techniques and knowledge for the conservation and transmission of wooden architecture in Japan” was added to the Representative List. This element includes 17 conservation techniques selected by the government. They are “building repair,” “building woodwork,” “roofing with Japanese cypress bark or with wood shingles,” “thatching,” “cypress bark harvesting,” “roof panel production,” “thatch harvesting,” “building decoration,” “building coloring,” “building lacquer painting,” “clay tile roofing (using both round and square tiles),” “plastering (Japanese walls),” “fittings production,” “tatami mat production,” “repair and conservation skills for paintings and calligraphies,” “Japanese lacquer production and refinement,” and “gold leaf production.” Until now, most of the elements nominated by Japan and successfully inscribed on the List are nationally important intangible cultural properties and intangible folk cultural properties. However, the set of nationally selected conservation techniques was inscribed for the first time. Japan is famous for its many great historical wooden structures that have been handed down in good condition to the present generation by the skilled craftsmen and technicians who repaired and maintained them in excellent condition. Therefore, the inscription of traditional building techniques is also significant because it highlights the work of those artisans working “behind the scenes.” It is also an example of the relationship between tangible and intangible cultural heritages, which has received international acclaim.
Nominations from other States Parties that were newly added to the Representative List include “Hawker culture in Singapore, Community Dining and Culinary Practices in a Multicultural Urban Context” (Singapore), which refers to the popular street food culture in Singapore, and “Taijiquan” (China), which has many enthusiasts in Japan. A large number of nominations for elements related to lifestyle and culture, such as these mentioned above, was one of the international trends. In addition, “Craft techniques and customary practices of cathedral workshops, or Bauhütten, in Europe, know-how, transmission, development of knowledge and innovation” (Germany, Austria, France, Norway, Switzerland) were selected for being registered as Good Safeguarding Practices. These practices are related to Bauhütten, a cooperative of artists and artisans involved in the construction and repair of cathedrals. It is similar to the traditional building techniques nominated by Japan. However, what is interesting is that while Japan nominated them to the Representative List, Europeans proposed inclusion of these techniques to the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices as an example of heritage conservation activities, showing the difference in approaches.
As Jamaica was the chair country of the session, reggae music, which had been added to the Representative List in 2018, was played in the background of the online broadcast. Unfortunately, there was no scope to experience live reggae music in Jamaica. However, we would like to express our respect to Jamaica, the Chair, as well as the staff of UNESCO, the secretariat, for successfully completing the first online committee session.
The website of “COVID-19 and Intangible Cultural Heritage”
The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been continually causing a serious impact on the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage at in Japan and abroad.
For example, in the field of traditional performing arts, performances face forced cancellation or postponement, or the reduction of the number of seats even if performances resume. The production of musical instruments and costumes to support traditional performing arts also has been suffering from a serious impact caused by the decline in demand. In the area of traditional craftsmanship as well, we can observe negative effects like restrictions on holding exhibitions, which serve as the occasions to present work, and limitation on opportunities and venues for sales. Furthermore, we know these traditional performing arts and craftsmanship are, in most cases transposed to the next generation through face-to-face training and skill transfer, facing serious diminution of such opportunities.
We can also observe serious impacts on folk performing arts, customs, and techniques handed down in local regions. Regarding these intangible folk cultural properties, it is true that the aging and declining population had already made it difficult for many of them to survive in local areas, It is concerned that this COVID-19 pandemic spurs them to further deterioration, now leading a number of them to face possible annihilation.
When it comes to international affairs, there are concerns that the existence of intangible cultural heritage handed down by ethnic groups is at stake in countries and regions already facing challenges in the medical system and sanitary environment.
Although the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are generally widespread on tangible and intangible cultural heritage, we believe that the effect on so-called living heritage including intangible cultural heritage is very serious. This is because such heritage is supported by the activities of living humans, and activities by humans are exactly what the COVID-19 pandemic restrains most.
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been widely collecting information on the effects of the COVID-19 on intangible cultural heritage in Japan and overseas since April 2020. Among them are information on cancellation and postponement of performances, exhibitions and festivities, information on their resumption, information on support (benefits, subsidies etc.) by the government, local public organizations and private organizations, information on new attempts including online distribution and disclosure of performances and exhibitions, information on situations in each country and attempts by international organizations including UNESCO.
We are also working to disseminate some of the collected information. For example, we launched the webpage of “COVID-19 and Intangible Cultural Heritage” (https://www.tobunken.go.jp/ich/vscovid19) on the website of the department. This webpage provides information on supports by the government, local public organizations and private organizations as well as discloses the analytic results of statistical information on postponement, cancellation and resumption of related businesses regarding the effects of the COVID-19 disaster on traditional performing arts. We also launched Facebook Groups “COVID-19 and Intangible Cultural Heritage” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/3078551232201858) on the Facebook page of the Institute to provide information on supports as well as information on new attempts and information on international trends. Anyone who has a Facebook account can join the group as a member and receive information on a regular basis. Also, anyone who has a Facebook account can read articles even without becoming a member.
We are also working to disseminate information through holding forums. In September, we are going to hold “Traditional Performing Arts and Novel Coronavirus” as the forum 1 of “Series Forum: COVID-19 and Intangible Cultural Heritage.” In December, we plan to hold “Intangible Folk Cultural Property in Novel Corona Virus Pandemic (tentative title)” as the forum 2. From the viewpoint of preventing the infectious disease, we have to limit the number of participants and have some presenters participate by recording or remote call. We plan to upload the videos of the forum online for a certain period of time. We will release the details of these forums in our future activity report.
The situation of the COVID-19 disaster is changing from moment to moment, making it already difficult even at present to obtain information on the preceding situation. Therefore, we are going to continuously collect information and comprehensively analyze the data including information not published on websites and in forums so that we will be able to effectively utilize them to contribute to the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage.
A live performance of “Music and dance of Dominican Bachata” (Dominican Republic), which was inscribed on the Representative List
The fourteenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage took place in Bogota, the capital of Columbia, from December 9th to 14th, 2019. Two researchers from this Institute attended the session.
At the session, Japanese elements were not discussed, but the Committee inscribed five on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding and 35 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Committee also added two projects to the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices. Among the elements inscribed on the Representative List are “Music and dance of Dominican Bachata” (Dominican Republic), “Nuad Thai, traditional Thai massage” (Thailand), and “Ie Samoa, fine mat and its cultural value” (Samoa). In particular, “Safeguarding strategy of traditional crafts for peace building” (Colombia), which was also added to the Good Practices, attracted global attention. As a good model, the strategy shows that intangible cultural heritage plays an active role in recovering from the devastation of long battles with drug syndicates.
In a first, the Committee decided to remove one element, “Aalst Carnival” (Belgium), from the Representative List. The reason for that was the recurrence of anti-Semitic and Nazi representations on the carnival floats, which was not stopped on the grounds of “freedom of expression” despite protests and objections from various quarters. This is incompatible with the fundamental principles of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, thereby non-conforming with the inscription criteria. The global community expressed its intention to not allow any forms of discrimination, even in cultural activities or practices.
Intangible cultural heritage may give courage and pride to people, promoting dialogue between peoples of different cultural backgrounds, while it may also highlight the cultural superiority of one side, denying or excluding people on the other side. We feel that it is the responsibility of us experts to blow a whistle against political use of intangible cultural heritage while promoting its use for peacekeeping and mutual understanding.
Participants at the International Researchers Forum
The International Research Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region under the auspices of UNESCO (IRCI) co-organized the International Researchers Forum “Perspectives of Research for Intangible Cultural Heritage: Toward a Sustainable Society” with the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, on December 17th and 18th, 2019 at this Institute. As a co-organizer, the Institute thoroughly cooperated in this forum, right from its planning to operation.
The forum’s aim was to discuss how Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) can contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDGs are the international goals to shift the world onto a better, sustainable path by 2030, specified in “the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015, following the Millennium Development Goals developed in 2001. Under its 17 goals and 169 targets, the agenda pledges to leave no one behind. As universal goals, not only developing countries but also developed countries, including Japan, are expected to achieve the SDGs.
This forum addressed two goals related to ICH in particular: “Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” and “Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” For the goals, three sessions were arranged—in Session 1 “Community Development: ICH and Regional Development,” we mainly discussed the promotion of local cultures, communities, and economy through ICH, and then the efforts to conserve urban landscapes and the natural environment through ICH in Session 2 “Community Development: Environment and ICH”; in Session 3 “Discussion from Education Perspective,” how ICH could contribute to education was discussed based on the discussions of the previous two sessions. The forum ended with a comprehensive discussion covering all three sessions.
At the forum, 10 experts each from home and the Asia-Pacific region delivered presentations. While many of them specialized in cultural heritage and education, it should be noted that some were actual successors to or practitioners of ICH. Professor Vince DIAZ from the University of Minnesota, who has his roots in Micronesia, Guam, and the Philippines, is working on the revival of canoe culture in the Pacific region. He said, “For the natives in the Pacific region, nature has always been one with people. Protecting nature means keeping us human. The canoe is one of the means which connects nature with people. The revival of canoe culture is a process of making us more human, in addition to protecting nature.” His impressive talk suggests that some clues to achieving SDGs might be found in our traditional knowledge or worldview.
It is true that many intangible cultural properties are now in danger due to globalization or modernization. On the other hand, they may become the sources from which to regain such lost properties. Thus, this forum, which spotlighted the active aspects of ICH through SDGs, is significant enough to be disseminated to the world.
Watching the land under slash-and-burn agriculture in Shiiba village, Miyazaki Prefecture
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been conducting research exchanges with the National Intangible Heritage Center in the Republic of Korea since 2008. As a part of the interaction, the department welcomed Ms. Kang Kyeonghye from the center as a visiting researcher from September 17th through October 4th, 2019.
The theme of her research during the visit was agricultural folk technology as an intangible cultural heritage in Japan; particularly, the current slash-and-burn agriculture practiced here. Therefore, we accompanied her to field studies as support from the department.
During her stay, she conducted field work twice. First, she visited Ikawa in Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture, which is a mountain area above the Oi River. Slash-and-burn agriculture had flourished until World War II in the area. Shortly after the war, it declined so drastically that it was maintained only for the cultivation of foxtail millet, which was used for rites of the shrine. In recent years, however, a private organization has taken the initiative to revive slash-and-burn agriculture to encourage the growth of traditional crops.
Second, she visited Shiiba village in Miyazaki Prefecture, an area located in the middle of the Kyushu Mountains. Slash-and-burn agriculture had also flourished there until the war. In the post-war period, it almost disappeared. However, one farm family has been sustaining the cultivation technique. Recently, a new association was established to preserve the technique while schoolchildren were taught about slash-and-burn agriculture as part of a work-study program, in addition to the promotion activities by a group led by the farm family. The slash-and-burn agriculture in Shiiba village was designated as an intangible folk cultural property by the Village in 2012, and then by the Prefecture in 2016. It is now well-known as the Takachihogo-Shiibayama Site by the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) after the certification in 2015.
In Korea, the Act on Conservation and Promotion of Intangible Cultural Properties was enforced in 2016, which raised interest in traditional knowledge as an intangible cultural heritage. From 2017 to 2020, the Cultural Heritage Administration has been investigating the traditional agricultural knowledge that exists until today. The data is to be accumulated as basic information or used for the designation of cultural properties. However, Korean slash-and-burn agriculture techniques have also almost disappeared, and none of them have been designated as cultural heritage properties.
In Japan, although the slash-and-burn agriculture in Shiiba village is designated as an intangible folk cultural property by the Prefecture and the Village, there are no nationally designated agricultural techniques. It should be noted that private organizations have taken the initiative to promote slash-and-burn agriculture, as observed in Ikawa and Shiiba village. Utilization of GIAHS or any other framework different from the existing one might be more important in the future.
Thus, how to conserve and utilize the traditional agricultural techniques, including slash-and-burn agriculture is a common issue in both Japan and Korea. It would be meaningful to find a solution for such a common issue by exchanging information and promoting discussions through this joint research.
Scene from the study meeting
The 2nd study meeting titled “Production of Visual Documentation for Intangible Cultural Heritage” was held on February 22nd, 2019.
Many intangible cultural heritages are predicated on intangible human “techniques.” In addition to written records, video records serve an important role in recording these “techniques.” The issue then becomes what kind of video recordings should be created.
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties held the Sub-conference on Video Recording of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties from 2003 to 2007, and the results were released in the “Guidance on the production of recorded videos for intangible folk cultural properties.” However, in recent years, the video industry has undergone marked changes, particularly in the development of digital equipment, so there are expectations that the content be updated. Although the aforementioned guidance was created mainly for the video recording of folk art, there are expectations for it to be applied toward other types of intangible cultural heritage such as craft skills and folk techniques.
Thus, with the intention of creating a new “Handbook for the production of visual documentation for intangible cultural heritage,” the Institute convened a study meeting titled “Production of Visual Documentation for Intangible Cultural Heritage” from 2018 to consider the content. This study meeting is the second one convened.
In the first half of the meeting, an expert Hirohito KANAMORI (Over4K Ltd.) spoke on 4K/8K video technology, which has been attracting attention in recent years. He discussed the possibilities for this technology, and its application toward the recording of cultural properties and heritage. As 4K/8K technology will improve the color reproducibility (i.e., color gamut and brightness) as well as high definition images, there is significance for this technology in recording cultural properties.
In the latter half of the meeting, participants discussed the contents of the “Handbook for the production of visual documentation for intangible cultural heritage” by chapter. Participants made various proposals that included keeping in mind that the record creation method will differ depending on the type of intangible cultural heritage and to also take heed of preserving and applying video record media taken in the past (film or electromagnetic tape, etc.) The Institute will refer to these opinions in creating the “Handbook for the production of visual documentation for intangible cultural heritage.”
Viewing of "Shishifuri" (lion dance) performance in Onagawa-cho
Seven staff of our Institute, including the Deputy Director General Emiko YAMANASHI, participated in the “Asia-Pacific Regional Workshop on Intangible Cultural Heritage and Natural Disasters” co-organized by the International Research Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region (IRCI) and our Institute and held in Sendai on December 7th to 9th, 2018. This workshop was conducted as the conclusion of the “Research on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) Safeguarding and Disaster Risk Management in the Asia-Pacific Region” conducted by the IRCI since 2016. Additionally, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of our Institute cooperated in this project and dispatched staff for field surveys in Vietnam, the Philippines, and Fiji.
Cultural heritage and disaster risk management experts from eight countries in the Asia-Pacific Region were invited to this workshop. Together with experts from Japan and other countries, they reported and discussed how to protect intangible cultural heritage from natural disasters. On the second day, Hiromichi KUBOTA of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducted an excursion to Onagawa-cho, Miyagi Prefecture, to show the participants the roles the intangible cultural heritage played in the reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Each country and region’s seemingly different perception of the relationship between intangible cultural heritage and natural disasters marked the discussions in the workshop. For example, while Japanese experts emphasized that intangible cultural heritage formed a bond in the disaster-affected communities and became a source of strength for the reconstruction, several foreign experts highlighted that traditional knowledge contains knowledge to forecast and prepare for natural disasters. The UNESCO Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage lists “knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe” as a form of intangible cultural heritage, and traditional knowledge is generally recognized as intangible cultural heritage. On the other hand, Japan’s Act on Protection of Cultural Properties does not clearly consider traditional knowledge as a category of intangible cultural properties.
In Japan, attention has been paid to the folkloric records and knowledge related to natural disasters, such as tsunami monuments; however, they were not much discussed in the context of the relationship between intangible cultural heritage and natural disasters. This workshop was a meaningful opportunity to know different perceptions from each country and region, discuss with people who have diverse ideas, and widen our perspective.
View of the seminar
The seminar entitled “Safeguarding Living Heritage in Nepal” was held on December 10th, 2018. The Director General Jaya Ram SHRESTHA and the curator Yamuna MAHARJAN of the National Museum of Nepal were invited and spoke on the current situation and challenges of intangible cultural heritage in Nepal. Tomo ISHIMURA and Hiromichi KUBOTA (Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage) also presented the surveys on Nepalese intangible cultural heritage conducted by our Institute. Dr. Tomoko MORI (Sapporo City University) who has been involved in the preservation of urban scenery in Nepal gave comments as well.
Diverse ethnic groups and religions coexist in Nepal, which has given birth to abundant intangible cultural heritage. However, the earthquake of April 2015 caused severe damage in many regions and affected traditional cultures to no small extent. Moreover, the rapid modernization in recent years is forcing traditional cultures to change. We spent meaningful time learning about such situation of the Nepalese intangible cultural heritage, sharing information with Japanese experts on Nepal who attended the seminar, and exchanging ideas with Nepalese experts.
This seminar was held as part of the Project “Technical Assistance for the Protection of Damaged Cultural Heritage in Nepal” which is the Networking Core Centers for International Cooperation in Conservation of Cultural Heritage Project commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs in FY2018.
Appearance of the venue.
Inscription of “Raiho-shin, ritual visits of deities in masks and costumes” was adopted by the committee.
The Thirteenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage took place in Port Louis, the capital of Mauritius, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, from November 26th through December 1st, 2018. Two researchers from this Institute attended the session.
At this session, whether or not “Raiho-shin, ritual visits of deities in masks and costumes” nominated by Japan should be inscribed on the Representative List was discussed. The Committee decided its inscription on November 29th. At the Sixth session of the Intergovernmental Committee in 2011, the similarity of “Oga no Namahage, New Year visiting of masked deities in Oga, Akita” nominated by Japan to “Koshikijima no Toshidon (visiting deity that occurs every New Year’s Eve on Shimo-Koshiki Island),” which had already been inscribed on the Representative List, was pointed out. In response to the decision of the referral of the element by the Committee, ten nationally designated Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties (protecting groups identified) including “Oga no Namahage, New Year visiting of masked deities in Oga, Akita,” “Paantu” on Miyako Island in Okinawa Prefecture, and “Boze” on Akuseki Island in Kagoshima Prefecture were grouped into the expanded “Koshikijima no Toshidon” as its elements. Therefore, the number of Japan’s intangible cultural heritage elements inscribed on the Representative List remains twenty-one. However, more Japanese cultural properties have been inscribed as UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.
It is highly important that “Reggae music” nominated by Jamaica was inscribed on the Representative List among the other properties examined by the Committee this time. Inscription of “Reggae music” might not have been decided at this session since the Evaluation Body initially recommended the element to be referred back to the State Party. However, a discussion by the Committee members resulted in inscription.
Japan serves as a Committee member from 2018 to 2022. Also at this session, the Japanese delegation introduced two cases of intangible cultural heritage in need of urgent safeguarding with a focus on Japan’s efforts making a significant contribution: “Disaster Prevention for Intangible Cultural Heritage” on which this Institute works, and “Research on Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) Safeguarding and Disaster Risk Management in the Asia-Pacific Region” with which the International Research Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region (IRCI) deals. Japan is expected to continually make a presence at the Intergovernmental Committee.
On the other hand, we felt concerned about how the Committee meeting should be developed. In recent years, referral recommendation by the Evaluation Body is often turned into inscription decision by the Committee. Occasionally, we also came across such cases at this session. In some cases, proceedings that are not accepted in the guideline for the Convention were decided by the Committee. In fact, some signatory States Parties expressed concern about such a policy of the Committee, causing a stir in its ruling idea for the coming session.
Metalwork removed from the float for restoration (shaft-point metalwork).
Mr. Kiyoshi TSUJI engaged in restoration work.
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been researching and studying conservation techniques for cultural properties. To hand down tangible and intangible cultural properties to the coming generation, it is necessary to conserve and inherit the techniques required for conservation and restoration of cultural properties, as well as manufacturing technologies for the materials and tools used for them, in addition to cultural heritage itself. In Japan, we call these techniques “conservation techniques for cultural properties” under the Act on Protection of Cultural Properties. By selecting those that particularly require conservation measures as “selected conservation techniques,” great effort has been put into their conservation and protection. According to each nation, techniques subject to safeguarding are just a small percentage of the whole. We think this Institute should play a leading role in paying attention to the techniques not selected by the national government as subjects of our research and study.
In FY 2018, we conducted a survey for Mr. Kiyoshi TSUJI, a holder of the “Hikiyama Metalwork Restoration” technique selected for conservation by the Shiga Prefectural Government jointly with the Shiga Prefectural Board of Education. Mr. Tsuji has been engaged with restoration of numerous festival floats as a holder of the restoration technique for metalwork such as metal ornaments for floats used in the “Nagahama Hikiyama Festival” designated as one of the nation’s Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties, also serving as an element composing “Yama, Hoko, Yatai, float festivals in Japan” inscribed on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list. At present, he is working on restoration of the metalwork for the float of Kin-ei Town (Hogiku Float) used for the “Hino Hikiyama Festival” (prefecturally designated intangible folk cultural property) held in Hino Town, Shiga Prefecture. We have been surveying and video-recording the restoration process.
Needless to say, festival floats are essential for the implementation of the Hikiyama Festival. Accordingly, conservation of and succession to the festival as an intangible cultural property require a restoration technique for the floats. It is true that successors to such technique are insufficient. Our research and study aims not only to conserve and record the technique for the coming generation but also to highlight the conservation techniques for such cultural properties attracting less attention for their significance.
Researchers at an agehama-style salt farm in the Okunoto area
Researchers at a tea field in Uji
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been participating in a research exchange program with the National Intangible Heritage Center in the Republic of Korea since 2008. As part of the research exchange program, we hosted Ms. Yun Soo Kyung, researcher of the National Intangible Heritage Center, as a visiting researcher from October 15th to November 2nd, 2018.
Ms. Yoon Soo Kyung’s theme in this research exchange program is Japanese folk technology as an intangible cultural heritage, particularly focusing on salt production and tea production. Therefore, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage supported her research expertise by traveling with her to the following cities: Suzu City in Ishikawa Prefecture in the Okunoto area, known for agehama-style salt production designated as one of the nation’s Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties and Shizuoka City in Shizuoka Prefecture as well as Uji City in Kyoto Prefecture, reputed for tea production.
Folk techniques as an intangible cultural heritage is regarded as one of the three categories in intangible folk cultural property in Japan along with manners and customs, and folk performing arts. However, in 2004, when the Act on Protection of Cultural Properties was amended, folk techniques were added to this list. In 2018, 309 items were designated as the nation’s Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties but only 16 items were classified into the category of folk techniques. With regard to salt production, the production of agehama-style salt in the Okunoto area is designated by the country as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property while tea production is designated as a folk property, not by the country but by the prefectures. “Uji Tea” is produced in Uji City and the tea fields and tea factories are considered as elements comprising the “Cultural Landscape in Uji,” designated as the nation’s Important Cultural Landscape, as well as components of “A Walk through the 800-year History of Japanese Tea,” designated as Japan Heritage.
In Korea, salt production and tea production are classified into one of the categories for intangible cultural properties, “traditional knowledge,” and they are also selected as national cultural properties. Under the Act on Protection of Cultural Properties in Japan, designation of a certain intangible folk cultural property requires the authorization of its conservation group(s). In Korea, such a property inherited in a wide area can be designated comprehensively without identifying its holders or conservation groups. It is interesting to know the differences in the Japanese and Korean protection systems for intangible cultural properties.
The advantage in this kind of a research exchange program is an understanding of the differences in the classification of intangible cultural properties by the two countries, which results in knowledge of the differences in how conservation should be supported. It is meaningful for both countries to start seeking better ways to conserve cultural properties in their own country through the cultural exchange programs.
Opening ceremony of the workshop
Trainees classifying and organizing actual materials
The Cultural Heritage Protection Cooperation Office of the Asia-Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU) in Nara City organized the “Cultural Heritage Workshop 2018 (Fiji)” from October 22nd to 27th, 2018 in Fiji. The workshop was co-organized by ACCU, the Fiji Museum, and the Agency for Cultural Affairs with an aim to teach the trainees to record specific items, such as archaeological items and ethnic materials, stored in the museum. The workshop attracted twelve Fijian people involved in museums in addition to one participant from the Kingdom of Tonga, Fiji’s neighboring country. Mr. Tomo ISHIMURA, the Head of the Audio-Visual Documentation Section of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, gave lectures in the first half of the workshop, i.e., October 22nd to October 24th.
First, the trainees classified and organized the earthenware unearthed from actual archaeological sites according to their patterns and parts (rims, bodies, etc.). Following this, they recorded notes in a ledger in order to document these earthenware pieces. Then, they gathered characteristic relics from the classified ones to prepare rubbed copies and measured drawings (sectional views) of the relics. Next, they prepared measured drawings of the unfragmented earthenware with replicas for practice. Finally, they prepared and organized cards based on the rubbed copies and measured drawings.
The advantage of the on-site workshop was that it provided a concise understanding of technological transfer in a more practical manner by actually allowing the participants to work with local materials. However, the disadvantage was in the planning of the workshop which was more suitable for the local materials, the features being different according to each site. For example, in Fiji, it is rare for an archaeologist to unearth an unfragmented piece of earthenware from the site. In many cases, the earthenware is discovered in small pieces. The focal point of the archaeological workshop organized by ACCU in Japan was the practice of measuring unfragmented earthenware whereas in this workshop in Fiji, a lot of time was spent in the classification and organization of earthenware pieces and recordings of their rubbed copies in accordance with the local conditions.
Many trainees attending this unique workshop were interested in the topic since they had practically handled materials in diverse manners without systematic processes to classify, organize, and record the materials. We would be honored if this workshop contributed to the conservation of cultural properties in this region.
Mr. Raigetal delivering a presentation at the World Social Science Forum (WSSF) (Fukuoka City)
Mr. Raigetal exchanging opinions on canoe-building technique with members of the Nippon Voyaging Association (Hyuga City)
The “World Social Science Forum (WSSF)” took place in Fukuoka City from September 25th through 28th, 2018. This is one of the largest international conferences on social science. The opening ceremony, which was held on September 25th, was attended by Their Imperial Highness Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako. His Imperial Highness Crown Prince Naruhito delivered the opening speech. On September 26th, the session “Protection and Promotion of Heritage and the Diversity of Cultural Expressions to Foster Culture of Belongings in Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) under Globalization and Climate Change” co-chaired by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) and the UNESCO Office for the Pacific States took place. Prior to the session, to exchange opinions particularly on the conservation and utilization of canoes as intangible cultural heritage, the Institute invited Mr. Larry RAIGETAL, who has traditional navigation technique and heads up Waa’gey, an NGO working on revival of canoe culture and environmental issues based in Yap State of the Federated States of Micronesia.
Mr. Tomo ISHIMURA, from the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, TNRICP and Dr. Akatsuki TAKAHASHI from the UNESCO Office for the Pacific States moderated the session. In addition to the presentations by Mr. Raigetal, Ms. Sandy MORRISON (University of Waikato), a researcher on the native tribe in New Zealand (the Maori), and Mr. Yuji KURIHARA (Executive Vice Director of Kyoto National Museum), Dr. Matori YAMAMOTO (Hosei University), the President of the Japanese Society for Oceanic Studies, offered a comment. At the session, an active discussion was held over how to conserve tangible and intangible cultural heritage in the Pacific States and how it should be developed further into the renaissance of culture.
During the presentation, Mr. Raigetal expressed his opinion that the conservation of traditional culture in a sustainable manner under the current circumstances of climatic change and globalization would result in finding a key to solving the problems of modern society while referring to traditional navigation technique for canoes acquired by him, particularly to his knowledge on star navigation. The opinion of Mr. Raigetal, who has wide international knowledge by attending the Conferences of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was a precious, thought-provoking one.
On September 29th after the forum, we were invited to the workshop organized by the Nippon Voyaging Association (Representative: Mr. Tomoki OKU) in Hyuga City, Miyazaki Prefecture. Mr. Raigetal exchanged opinions with the members of the NPO association. The association has been working on the restoration of traditional navigation canoes donated by the Republic of Palau to Japan and their test navigation, as well as on attempts to revive ancient Japanese navigation technique. Through the exchange between the association and Mr. Raigetal, the linkage of canoe culture is expected to extend from the Pacific States to Japan, boosting the momentum for interactions between the two regions.
TNRICP has been involved in international cooperation for conservation and utilization of canoe culture in the Pacific States by organizing “the First Canoe Summit” at the 12th Festival of Pacific Arts and Culture held in Guam in May 2016. Presently, people in the Pacific States are getting the momentum rolling toward the nomination of canoe culture as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. TNRICP hopes that it will contribute further to such a movement as part of its international cooperation.
Shibetsu Icarpa implemented on the Ichani Karikariusu-iseki Ruins
On June 17th, 2018, a traditional rite for Ainu people called icarpa was established out on the Ichani Karikariusu-iseki Ruins (nationally designated site) inside the Po-gawa River Historical Nature Park in Shibetsu Town, Hokkaido. Researchers of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage also visited the site.
Shibetsu Icarpa is a memorial service for 23 Ainu people who were executed due to the Menashi-Kunashir rebellion in 1789, one of the resistance activities against the Wajin (the ethnic Japanese). The icarpa, organized by the Shibetsu municipal Ainu Association, was started in 2009, and it commemorated its tenth anniversary this year. For the first half of the rite, kamuinomi was established to offer sacred sake to the gods. For the last half of the rite, icarpa was conducted as a memorial service for the deceased. At the end of the rite, a song and a dance called upopo and rimse were performed.
Shibetsu Icarpa was carried out at the Ichani Karikariusu-iseki Ruins, where a settlement had been formed most probably in the period when the Tobinitai culture had flourished from an archaeological perspective (circa 9th – 13th century). Together with Shibetsu Wetlands spreading in front of the site, it is now preserved in the Po-gawa River Historical Nature Park. Strictly speaking, the zenith of prosperity in the site is not consistent with the time when the rebellion occurred. Given that the site was run by their ancestors, it seems to have been chosen as a ritual place for reviving the traditional rite for Ainu people.
In recent years, following the requirement of utilization of cultural properties, the case of Shibetsu Icarpa may become one of the good models in the utilization of relics. This is because utilization is realized by making good use of an intangible element of the site or “cultural space” as the land of the ancestors. That is, the historical value of the site can be considered utilized as a cultural resource in today’s cultural renaissance for the Ainu.
On the other hand, the value of the Ichani Karikariusu-iseki Ruins does not belong to Ainu people only. In time, with Shibetsu Icarpa, “Po-gawa River Festival” is held for local citizens by organizing a variety of events such as canoeing, historic spot guide touring by curators, and Jomon kids’ village. As part of the educational program, local school children continually participate in the icarpa in an attempt to understand the local culture. Although most of the residents in Shibetsu Town do not trace their roots to the Ainu, the site is utilized as a local cultural resource for these people too. At the same time, the site also serves as a place of interaction between people who have Ainu ancestry and non-Ainu ancestry.
Recently, one city and four towns in Eastern Hokkaido including Shibetsu Town (Nemuro City, Betsukai Town, Shibetsu Town, Nakashibetsu Town and Rausu Town) have started an activity to jointly nominate the heritage of this area as Japan Heritage. The Ichani Karikariusu-iseki Ruins is positioned as its key component. In Hokkaido, a region where people with diverse roots live in harmony, how to honor its local heritage is a difficult issue. We will continually pay attention to the movements in Eastern Hokkaido including Shibetsu Town.
Reproduced mill and milling hut in Jeju Island
Ongoing workshop at the National Intangible Heritage Center
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been conducting research exchanges with the National Intangible Heritage Center in the Republic of Korea since 2008. During the exchange, staff members of each institution stay at the other institution to conduct research while holding joint symposiums. As part of this research exchange, Tomo ISHIMURA, Head of the Audio-Visual Documentation Section of the Department, stayed in Korea for overseas research for two weeks from April 23rd to May 7th, 2018.
The objectives of overseas research currently was to research the movements of anthropological and ethnological studies made by Japanese researchers in the Korean Peninsula during the colonial period and to critically redefine their significance today. In this instance, research was conducted to retrace the steps of Professor Seiichi IZUMI (1915-1970), who worked as an assistant professor at Keijo Imperial University in the Korean Peninsula until the end of the war and was involved in the establishment of Japan’s first Cultural Anthropology Department at the University of Tokyo after returning to Japan.
During the first half of the research in Korea, Tomo ISHIMURA visited Jeju Island where Professor IZUMI conducted research in the 1930s and 1960s, in order to organize a hearing survey in the villages that Professor IZUMI had visited. The society on Jeju Island drastically changed due to the Jeju uprising that lasted from 1948 through 1954. It resulted in the replacement of most village residents. Fortunately, ISHIMURA could meet an old man who had been living in the same village since the 1930s when Professor IZUMI conducted the first research. ISHIMURA succeeded in clarifying the tangible changes in the village. Through research, Professor IZUMI defined multiple families who jointly owned a flour mill as a “molbange (mill) association” by regrading such a group of families as a unit comprising the social aggregation on Jeju Island. However, through the current research, ISHIMURA found that the use of the mill almost ceased from the 1950s to 1960s and that not only social changes but also mechanization of flour milling affected the extinction.
In the last half of the research in Korea, ISHIMURA stayed at Jeonju, where the National Intangible Heritage Center is located. He organized the details of his research on Jeju Island to report the achievements at the workshop while expanding exchanges with the staff members at the National Intangible Heritage Center．
Through this study in Korea, ISHIMURA confirmed that Korean society including Jeju Island drastically changed during the prewar and postwar periods and that former anthropological and ethnological research materials are significant today in understanding such changing processes.
Last but not least, we would like to express sincere gratitude to Myung Jin LEE (National Intangible Heritage Center) and Doc Woo LEE (Kanagawa University), who supported his study during this research exchange.
Exchange of ideas with the delegation from the Ministry of Culture in Thailand
Visit to the Performing Arts Studio of the Institute
On March 13th, 2018, five delegates headed by Mr. Pradit Posew, the Deputy Director-General of the Department of Cultural Promotion (the Ministry of Culture, Thailand), visited Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, and exchanged ideas with researchers at the Institute
In 2016, the Thai government ratified the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, a UNESCO Convention. At present, the government is preparing an inventory of the intangible cultural heritage of the country. In 2017, the government made an nomination files to have “Khon (traditional mask dance drama of Thailand)” and “Nuad Thai (traditional massage of Thailand)” included in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The former will be examined at the 13th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Mauritius, scheduled for November 26th through December 1st, 2018.
The objectives of their visit to Japan were to update themselves on the current condition of conservation and utilization of intangible cultural properties and heritage in Japan, which has years of accumulated experience in these activities, and to exchange ideas with Japanese experts. At this Institute, Thai and Japanese experts reported the current status of their respective intangible cultural heritage and discussed the issues common to the two countries, along with related questions and answers. Particularly, all the members recognized that how to hand down intangible cultural heritage to the coming generations is an important issue both in Japan and in Thailand.
In the course of modernization, numerous traditional cultures have disappeared in Japan. Today, Thailand is experiencing rapid economic growth and accelerating development while facing the possibility of deterioration or extinction of its traditional cultures. Thus, the balancing of economic development with the preservation of culture is an important issue there. We believe that Thai people would be able to find a better way to hand down their intangible cultural heritage to future generations by referring to Japanese experiences not only of success but also of failure in preserving cultural heritage.
Venue of the symposium (Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan)
During the international symposium
The international symposium “Cultural Heritage and Religion in East Asia” was held at the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan, from January 8th to 9th, 2018. The participants at this symposium, co-hosted by Academia Sinica and The Australian National University, included specialists in cultural heritage studies from Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Australia, the U.S., and the U.K. As a representative from Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tomo ISHIMURA, Head of the Audio-Visual Documentation Section, Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, was invited to present at the symposium. In his presentation titled “Intangible cultural heritage and the protection system related to religion in Japan,” ISHIMURA argued that the Act on Protection of Cultural Properties in Japan can cover some elements of intangible cultural heritage with religious associations, but not other elements, by citing the examples of the Shunie ceremony held at Todaiji Temple and the Yamahoko Junko parade held as part of the Gion Festival. As a commentator, a South Korean researcher reviewed ISHIMURA’s presentation from various perspectives, making reference to Japan’s postwar policy of separating religion from the state.
The main takeaway from this symposium was that many East Asian countries and regions recognize religion as an important element of intangible cultural heritage and that this notion is often reflected in their heritage protection and tourism policies. ISHIMURA also learned that this has both positive and negative aspects; while religious elements of heritage are protected under such policies, these elements can lose their original forms in the process of tourism or development.
In contrast, Japan does not, in principle, apply the Act on Protection of Cultural Properties to religious elements. In reality, however, while festivals celebrated primarily by religious bodies are not easily designated as cultural properties to be protected under this act, those celebrated primarily by local communities can be designated as cultural properties. It is, in fact, often difficult to separate religious and secular elements of actual festivals.
This symposium served as a valuable opportunity for us to reflect on what is considered “cultural heritage” in Japan, that is, what “cultural heritage” means in Japan, by comparing our country’s situation with examples of other countries.