Research Exchange Program with the National Intangible Heritage Center in the Republic of Korea (Hosting a Visiting Researcher in Japan)
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.