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

Raw Materials Essential to Intangible Cultural Heritage – Joining in the Cutting of Common Reed (Phragmites Australis) in the Kanmaki and Udono Areas

Common reed to use for rosetsu of hichiriki
Common reed tied into batches.

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage (hereafter, “the Department”) is conducting investigations and research into the tools (e.g., musical instruments including their parts, stage properties, and costumes,) and raw materials that are essential for intangible cultural properties.

 Common reed (Phragmites Australis) grown on a riverbed in the Kanmaki and Udono areas of Takatsuki City, Osaka Prefecture, has been known to be suitable for the rozetsu (mouthpiece) of hichiriki, a traditional Japanese flute used in gagaku, classical Japanese court music. Though it is necessary to annually burn the riverbed to maintain a suitable environment for common reed growth, the burning could not be done for two consecutive years due to unsuitable weather conditions and the COVID-19 pandemic. This resulted in an overgrowth of wild vines, which forced the common reed to almost disappear from the area by around September 2021.

 To improve the situation, the Udono Association for Common Reed Riverbeds Preservation and Kanmaki Working Union cooperated with local residents, Takatsuki City administrative staff, parties interested in gagaku, and others to regularly burn the riverbed and remove vines. The Department has been investigating the growing environment and characteristics of the common reed in the areas. As a part of our investigation, we joined in the cutting of common reeds on February 2 and 3, 2024, and collected information about the current situation regarding the common reed and its usage. This public occasion was planned to cut the thin common reed not suitable for rozetsu to produce other products such as paper and towels made of common reed, after the Kanmaki Working Union cut the common reed suitable for rozetsu of hichiriki. Enterprises trying to expand the demand for common reed and individuals and groups trying to understand the natural environment of common reed fields also gathered on those two days. More than 60 people worked each day. This year the condition of the common reed in the area was better than last year, but the supply yield was not sufficient to meet the demand for rozetsu.
 It is essential for succeeding gagaku that local people and enterprises better understand the common reed itself and that involved parties interested in gagaku gain a better understanding of common reed as a raw material of rozetsu for hichiriki.
 The Department is continuing its investigation of the characteristics of common reed itself and its suitability for rosetsu for hichiriki. Furthermore, we are carefully monitoring the local environment where the raw materials grow.

Recording Live Performances of Heike: the Sixth Session

Staff responsible for recording techniques

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been recording live performances of the instrument “Heike” or “Heike Biwa,” which faces the crisis of not being inherited by the next generation because of the recent absence of sufficient successors. This series of recordings has been conducted since 2018 with the cooperation of the Heike Narrative Research Society, led by Prof. KOMODA Haruko, Musashino Academia Musicae, and other members of the society, including Mr. KIKUO Yuji, Mr. TANAKA Naoichi, and Mr. HIYOSHI Shogo.
 The sixth recording session of the performance of ‘Suzuki’ (Japanese sea bass) was held in the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) Performing Arts Studio on February 8, 2024. In the ‘Suzuki’, an episode in which Japanese sea bass jumps into the boat of Taira no Kiyomori is narrated as a harbinger of the prosperity of the Heike clan under the patronage of Kumano Gongen. Because of its lyrics, ‘Suzuki’ is a favorite celebratory piece. The piece is also often used as an instructional (introductory) piece, as it contains a short but basic set of melodic patterns. For this recording of live performances, Mr. KIKUO, Mr. HIYOSHI, and Mr. TANAKA shared the performance, and the session was recorded.
 This recording was assisted by students studying studio recording techniques under Prof. KAMEKAWA Toru, Tokyo University of the Arts, and thereby provided an opportunity to put into practice the sound techniques essential to the recording live performances. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continue to record live performances, refining the skills involved in recording traditional performing arts with like-minded people.

Publication of the First to Ninth Video Recordings of Live Performance of Miyazono bushi (the Opening Parts Only)

Published video (from left, Mss. MIAYAZONO Senyoshie, Senroku, Senkazuya, and Senkoju)

 Miyazono bushi is one of Japan’s Important Intangible Cultural Properties; however, it is not often performed these days. Therefore, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage (hereafter, “the Department) has been recording its live performances since 2018. Recently, we published the opening parts of these video recordings on the TOBUNKEN homepage (

The original recordings of the Miyazono bushi were performed by Mss. MIYAZONO Senroku and Senkazuya both are individuals certified as Holders of Important Intangible Cultural Property, so-called “living national treasures.” The whole traditional pieces were recorded and archived in full. The full versions are available at video booths at the TOBUNKEN Library. Due to the limited number of booths, contacting us regarding availability beforehand is highly recommended. A guide to the library is available here.

The Department plans to publish as much more audio and video recordings as possible.

Eighteenth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Warthog parent and offspring just outside the venue
Video of a Bangladeshi rickshaw shown at the venue
Traditional Saudi food served as a side event
Side event of Malaysian traditional theater Mek Mulung song and dance

 The eighteenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage took place in Kasane, Republic of Botswana, from December 5 to 8, 2023. Two researchers from the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), Ms. MAEHARA Megumi (Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage) and Ms. FUTAGAMI Yoko (Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems), attended the session. The Republic of Botswana is located in the northern area of the Republic of South Africa. Kasane is known as the northern gateway to Chobe National Park, and is a small town rich in nature and home to many wild animals. The venue was a temporary pavilion built for this meeting, and the atmosphere was idyllic, with a family of warthogs and their offspring grazing outside. As if in harmony with this peaceful atmosphere, the agenda proceeded peacefully under the chairmanship of H.E. Mr. Mustaq Moorad, Ambassador of the Delegation to UNESCO (Republic of Botswana), who often lightened the atmosphere with his humor.

 This committee decided to inscribe six elements on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding (Urgent Safeguarding List) plus 45 elements on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (Representative List), and to select four programs as the Programmes, The Evaluation Body, made recommendations to the committee, and recommended the inscription and selection of all of these elements and programs, which also greatly contributed to creating a peaceful atmosphere at the venue. Ms. FUTAGAMI will report on the details in the forthcoming “Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage” volume 18, to be published in March 2024; however, below we mention three impressions that we felt through the meeting.

 First, many elements were nominated as multi-national nominations by multiple State Parties. Although the State Party of Japan has not yet had the experience of multi-national nomination, 12 of the 45 elements decided to be inscribed on the Representative List were multinational nominations. This trend has been noticeable for the past few years and is likely to continue.

 Second, a common trend was observed in the videos shown at the meeting. Once the committee decided to inscribe an element, a short video introducing the element of intangible cultural heritage was often shown on the screen at the front of the venue, and many of these videos included the implications for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In particular, keywords such as “gender,” “education,” and “marine and terrestrial resources,” were shown in the video story, and it was emphasized that intangible cultural heritage is built on SDGs efforts, or inheritance of intangible cultural heritage is directly linked to SDGs initiatives.

 Third, we experienced the real thrill of side events. A number of small pavilions were temporarily erected adjacent to the venue, where a cultural aspect of each country was showcased and reports on safeguarding activities were made. Dance and musical performances, craft technology demonstrations and workshops, and activities of related NGOs were also presented. Intergovernmental Committees are attended by people who are highly interested in intangible cultural heritage from all over the world, not only from the committee member countries, but also from cultural property administrations, research institutes, and NGOs. Side events are very effective in appealing to their interests.

 We felt that while the Intergovernmental Committee meeting was important for establishing international cooperation and assistance for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, it was also a good opportunity to understand how each country views intangible cultural heritage.

The 17th Public Lecture Held by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage: Exploring the Charms of Miyazono-bushi

Ms. MIAYAZONO Senroku (round table talk) 
Ms. MIYAZONO Senkazuya (round table talk)
Short talk about shamisen by Mr. TAKEUCHI Yasuo
Exhibition of kendai (book holder), shamisen, and materials.

 The 17th Public Lecture Held by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage: Exploring the Charms of Miyazono-bushi was held on November 22, 2023 in the seminar room and the lobby on the first basement floor of TOBUNKEN.

 The first half of the lecture began with an explanation of the purpose of this lecture by Ms. MAEHARA Megumi, the head of Intangible Cultural Properties Section, Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Presentations were then conducted with audio and video documentations by Mr. FURUKAWA Ryota (doctoral student, the University of Tokyo); Ms. HANDO Aya (Shokei-kan, Historical Materials Hall for the Wounded and Sick Retired Soldiers); Mr. IIJIMA Mitsuru, Senior Fellow of the Department, Dr. KAMATA Sayumi, Researcher of the Department, and Ms. MAEHARA.

 In the latter half of the lecture, a round-table-talk titled Talk with Ms. MIYAZONO Senroku and Ms. MIYAZONO Senkazuya was held. Both are individuals certified as Holders of Important Intangible Cultural Property. Ms. MIYAZONO Senroku and Ms. MIYAZONO Senkazuya talked about the characteristics of Miyazono bushi, and presented some episodes on how to learn it, and about the relationship of this genre with other types of hogaku (Japanese traditional music) genres. In addition, they answered pre-submitted questions from the participants. After that, an excerpt from the Live Performance recording of Miyazono bushi play, “Yugiri” was screened.

 In this lecture, several attempts were made to help the audience to understand Miyazono-bushi from several perspectives: through hands-on experience of Miyazono bushi Shamisen; a short explanation by Mr. TAKEUCHI Yasuo, shamisen craftsman; a small exhibition of materials and musical instruments borrowed from General Incorporated Foundations Kokyoku-kai, Ms. MIYAZONO Senroku, and Ms. MIYAZONO Senkazuya, and related materials owned by TOBUNKEN; and a poster exhibition of the Live Performance recordings of Miyazono bushi, which TOBUNKEN is currently working on.

 A questionnaire survey conducted after the lecture made us realize that this lecture became a meeting point for the traditional performing arts, based on answers such as “it is the first time to know TOBUNKEN,” and “it is the first time to listen to Miyazono bushi.”
We at the Department will continue our efforts to spread the charms of intangible cultural properties with the latest research outcomes. An edited video recording of this lecture will be broadcasted during a limited period. A report will be published both in paper and digital (pdf) formats in FY 2024, including each presentation and material introduction.

Ninth Recording of the Live Performance of “Miyazono-bushi”

Preparation for the live recording.
Live recording being filmed (from left: MIYAZONO Senyoshie, MIYAZONO Senroku, MIYAZONO Senkazuya, and MIYAZONO Senkoju).

 On October 31, 2023, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducted the ninth recording of Miyazono-bushi at the Performing Arts Studio of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN).

 Miyazono-bushi, one of the Important Intangible Cultural Properties of Japan, originated in the Kamigata (Kyoto-Osaka) area in the mid-Edo period and has since been handed down mainly in the Edo area. Today, Miyazono-bushi is collectively referred to as ‘kokyoku’ (lit. old music) along with other voice genres Icchū-bushi, Katō-bushi, and Ogie-bushi, and there are not many opportunities to hear it performed. The department has continued our attempts to record the live performances of Miyazono-bushi since 2018, archiving the target pieces in their entirety, without omission.

 For this recording, two of the ten pieces in the Miyazono-bushi repertoire classified as ‘modern pieces’ were selected: “Sonoo no Haru” (Garden Spring) and “Wankyū.” The former was composed in 1888 to commemorate the official recognition of the Miyazono-bushi genre by the Meiji Government in 1884 and includes flamboyant kaede (another melody played in coordination with the basic melody) in the shamisen part, which is unusual for Miyazono-bushi compositions. The latter is a more recent work, composed in 1949. It tells the tragic love story between Wanya Kyūbē (also known as ‘Wankyū’), a wealthy merchant in the Osaka Shinmachi area, and Matsuyama, a courtesan in Shinmachi, and depicts a scene in which Wankyū falls into insanity. The roles were performed by MIYAZONO Senroku (lead jōruri voice performer: an individual certified as a Holder of Important Intangible Cultural Property or what is called a “Living National Treasure”), MIYAZONO Senyoshie (supporting jōruri voice performer), MIYAZONO Senkazuya (lead shamisen player: an individual certified as a Holder of Important Intangible Cultural Property, commonly called a “Living National Treasure”), and MIYAZONO Senkoju (supporting shamisen player).

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continue to make live recordings of classical and rarely performed modern pieces of Miyazono-bushi.

Investigation of Techniques and Raw Materials to Conserve Cultural Properties Related to Traditional Musical Instruments in the Republic of Korea

Tapping lacquer in South Korea
A Daegeum in which red lacquer was applied to the inside

 With the cooperation of the National Intangible Heritage Center in the Republic of Korea, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Center for Conservation Science of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) jointly investigated the current situation regarding procurement of bamboo materials and urushi lacquer used to adjust the inner diameter of Japanese traditional wind instruments, and the succession of related techniques that developed in the Republic of Korea, where bamboo is used for their traditional wind instruments as in Japan.
 In this investigation, we learned that bamboo logging associated with the development of residential and commercial lands is popular in Korea. Therefore, the general bamboo materials are in plentiful supply. On the other hand, the supply of some special bamboo materials such as ssanggoljuk (double-groove bamboo) used for daegeum, a traditional Korean bamboo flute, is unstable. Therefore, the Research Institute for Musical Instruments of the National Gugak Center developed a new material made by flatting bamboo to thin plates and bonding them under pressure, obtained a patent, and made this technique public. However, this new material is not yet widespread among instrument manufacturers or daegeum players. We understand the challenges involved.
 Regarding urushi lacquer, we were impressed that the workers involved are well-protected to increase domestic production and demand for urushi lacquer liquids to change the current situation that many lacquer liquids are imported from China. We understand that the challenges related to the tools and materials used to restore the urushi lacquer products are not as severe in Korea as in Japan. For example, people we interviewed said that in Korea there are more than ten shops that process and sell mother-of-pearl shells, which are especially used for decoration.
 In Korea, it is not popular to apply lacquer to wind instruments at present. However, red lacquer was applied inside of daegeum in the past. Even now, red lacquer is sometimes applied for decoration. We wonder about the original reason why the red lacquer was applied in the past.
 In Japan, multiple lacquer layers of urushi lacquer are applied inside of the wind instruments to adjust their inner size. In Korea, the inner size is adjusted by shaving the inside of the bamboo, which has thicker and denser walls. These very different techniques provide an interesting contrast.
 We will continue our investigation to find solutions to the challenges by comparing the challenges in Japan to secure the raw materials and success of the conservation techniques implemented in other countries that use the common raw materials, and by understanding the characteristics of each technique.

Investigating the structure of Koto from multiple perspectives: In collaboration with Society for the Conservation of Traditional Japanese Musical Instrument Making Skills and Kyushu National Museum

Checking the captured CT images.
Setting up to scan the koto, which is over 170 cm in length, was a challenge.

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducts research not only on the traditional performing arts themselves, but also on their ‘tools’ – musical instruments. The department has now started a joint survey of the structure of a koto (in a private collection), which is thought to have been made between the late Edo period and the Taisho period, in collaboration with two organisations: the Society for the Conservation of Traditional Japanese Musical Instrument Making Skills, which is a conservation group for the Selected Conservation Techniques of the making of the koto and the fashioning of the shamisen neck and body, and Kyushu National Museum, which belongs to the National Institutes for Cultural Heritage, in common with us. This effort is an attempt to synthesise the knowledge and perspectives that have connected performers and audiences through instrument-making skills, the techniques and perspectives of museology for non-destructive investigation of the interior of cultural properties, and the perspectives of instrumentology and musicology on intangible cultural properties to clarify the structure of the koto from multiple perspectives.

 On August 29, a CT examination of the koto was conducted at the Kyushu National Museum, and while checking the images immediately after the scan, several discoveries unique to this collaboration were made. For example, opinions were exchanged on a newly discovered notch on the inner bottom surface of the koto: the notch appears to have been accidentally caused by the entry of a saw blade once used in the instrument-making process and to have been partially filled in with other wood to compensate for this.

 This research has only just begun, but by gathering opinions from people with various perspectives, it is hoped that new aspects will emerge, such as the techniques used in the instrument-making process, the intentions of the makers, and the structure of the koto as the culmination of this work. In the future, we intend to examine the CT images obtained in detail, scrutinise the origin of this koto, and compare it with other kotos owned by other institutions that may have been made by the same maker, to clarify the characteristics of its structure and production techniques.

Survey on the Restoration of Common Reeds around the Mouth of the Kitakami River – Raw Materials for Rozetsu of Hichiriki

Common reed field at the mouth of the Kitakami River selected for 100 Soundscapes of Japan: Preserving our Heritage (Agency of the Environment (at that time) 1996)

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage investigates the common reeds (Phragmites australis) used for a rozetsu (reed) of hichiriki (Japanese traditional flute) as a part of a project to investigate the raw materials essential for intangible cultural properties. We conducted a survey of common reeds growing around the mouth of the Kitakami River in Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, where such reeds are produced. We had two goals for this survey: the first was to assess the suitability of the common reeds in this area for rozetsu of hichiriki by analyzing their characteristics; the second was to find ways to “restore common reeds” in the riverbeds of the Yodo River (Osaka Prefecture), which is known as a production field of the common reeds suitable for rozetsu of hichiriki, by understanding the common reed restoration process and the present conditions of the Kitakami River area, which was severely damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.
 We visited Kumagaya Master Thatchers Co., Ltd., which is working on restoring the common reed field in the Kitakami River area. We interviewed them, about the current common reed field situation and were given samples of common reeds with external diameters large enough to make rozetsu. Kumagaya Master Thatchers thatches roofs of temples, shrines, and other traditional Japanese architecture using traditional techniques and also works on the conservation and restoration of Important Cultural Properties designated by the Japanese government.
 We requested two craft persons to make rozetsu from the common reed samples of the Kitakami River that we were given. We plan to compile findings, including evaluations by hichiriki players on the rozetsu made from those common reeds.
 We also visited the Kitakamigawa-karyu River Office of the Infrastructure and Transport Tohoku Regional Bureau, the Ministry of Land, which manages the Kitakami River, and Prof. YAMADA Kazuhiro of Tohoku Institute of Technology, is investigating the common reed field before and after the Earthquake and is active in promoting the field. Though the reed field was approximately 183 ha before the Earthquake, it has since shrunken to approximately 87 ha. The field has sunken by 50 to 60 cm and was flooded in the aftermath of the earthquake. Therefore, many common reeds withered and died, and growth of the rest was inhibited by debris brought by the tsunami.
The debris has since been removed thanks to local cooperation, and the reeds have been replanted as an experiment to restore the field. We appreciate the understanding and cooperation of locals who supported the nature revival in the process of the natural environment recovery from the damage by the natural disaster.
 Furthermore, a framework was set for conserving the river and surrounding environment through information exchange and reporting by the Kitakamigawa-karyu River Office and other three cooperative organizations backed by the River Cooperation System set in the Act for Partial Revision of the Flood Prevention Act and the River Act (June 2013). We understand that these cooperations contribute to restructuring the common reed field.
 Researchers of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, respectively specialized in intangible cultural properties, folk cultural properties, and cultural heritage disaster risk management, work together to comprehensively investigate the situations, challenges, and solutions in regard to the people, techniques, and materials essential to inheriting intangible cultural properties.

Recording Live Performances of Heike the Fifth in Collaboration With the National Center for the Promotion of Cultural Properties

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been recording live performances of Heike or Heike Biwa. However, this tradition faces the crisis of not being inherited by the next generation because of the recent absence of sufficient successors. This series of recordings has been conducted with the cooperation of the Heike Narrative Research Society, led by Prof. KOMODA Haruko, Musashino Academia Musicae, and other members of the society, including Mr. KIKUO Yuji, Mr. TANAKA Naoichi, and Mr. HIYOSHI Shogo since 2018. The fifth recording session of the performance of Nasu no Yoichi and Ujigawa (Uji River) was held in the TOBUNKEN Performing Arts Studio on February 3rd, 2023.

 Nasu no Yoichi is famous for the episode where Nasu no Yoichi shot down the targeted fan with his arrow, and he was praised and credited by Minamoto no Yoritomo. This scene has also been repeatedly painted. Therefore, working with the National Center for the Promotion of Cultural Properties (CPCP) of the National Institutes for Cultural Heritage, which promotes the utilization of high-resolution reproduction of cultural properties, we recorded live performance that was set with the high-resolution reproduction folding screen of the Battles of Ichi-no-tani and Yashima, from the Tale of the Heike behind the player. This was our first trial. The Ujigawa episode has the theme of a majestic fight for the vanguard in front of the Uji River between Sasaki Takatsuna and Kajiwara Kagesue. We recorded the performance of Nasu no Yoichi. The first part and the last parts were performed by Mr. KIKUO and Mr. HIYOSHI, respectively, while Ujigawa was performed by Mr. TANAKA.

 Heike started as a traditional performing art at the beginning and was transformed into the Tale of the Heike as literature and further developed into other genres, including paintings. We intend to explore new ways to spread awareness about Heike as an art form that has been represented in various cultural mediums presenting the same theme.

Mr. KIKUO Yuji playing Nasu no Yoichi, performing in front of the high-resolution reproduction folding screen of the Battles of Ichi-no-tani and Yashima, from the Tale of the Heike

Enlarged image of a part of the high-resolution reproduction folding screen

Series of Intangible Cultural Heritage and COVID-19 – Forum 4: Traditional Performing Arts amid COVID-19 Pandemic: Dissemination and Succession for the Future

Jiuta sangen (right: Mr. OKAMOTO Shintaro; left: Ms. OKAMURA Ai)
Roundtable discussion (from right: Mr. SAKURAI Hiroshi, Mr. NUNOME Aito, Mr. EZOE Junichiro, and Mr. NAKAMINE Miki)

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage held Forum 4: Traditional Performing Arts amid COVID-19 Pandemic: Dissemination and Succession for the Future on November 25th, 2022.

 First, ISHIMURA Tomo, MAEHARA Megumi, and KAMATA Sayumi of the department presented international case studies regarding traditional performing arts and education, the current status of traditional performing arts amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and last year’s progress in Japan.

 Following three presentations, Mr. SAKURAI Hiroshi (from Independent Administrative Agency, Japan Arts Council), Mr. NUNOME Aito (from Public Interest Incorporated Association, Geidankyo, Japan Council of Performers Rights and Performing Arts Organization), Mr. EZOE Junichiro (from Toppan Inc., Secretariat of Dissemination and Empowerment for Hogaku of the Agency for Cultural Affairs), and Mr. NAKAMINE Miki (from Association of Okinawa Sanshin Manufacturing) reported their respective case studies, in which they tackled the topic of dissemination and succession of traditional performing arts from different positions and frameworks. Between case reports, Mr. OKAMURA Shintaro and Ms. OKAMURA Ai—who teach Japanese traditional music to the schools selected for the Dissemination and Empowerment of Hogaku, by the Agency for Cultural Affairs—performed jiuta sangen, a type of Japanese traditional music played on the shamisen, Kurokami (black hair), and Hashizukushi (bridges).

 The roundtable discussion was held by four case study reporters, in addition to ISHIMURA and MAEHARA. Through this roundtable discussion, we shared the dissemination and transmission of traditional performing arts from different positions. Moreover, it revealed that the challenges of increasing demand were inherent even before the pandemic, and that it became increasingly apparent during COVID-19. Furthermore, based on the common understanding that dissemination is the basic foundation for the succession of traditional performing arts, we recommended the following steps to seamlessly disseminate traditional performing arts: meet the needs of various ages from various positions and by various frameworks; and grasp a variety of demands by sharing this information among the people who work on the dissemination and succession of traditional performing arts.

 This forum was held with limited seats to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. The recorded video is now available for free on the TOBUNKEN webpage ( in Japanese till March 31st, 2023. We plan to publish a report and make it available on our website by the end of this fiscal year.

The 16th Public Lecture Held by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage – Intangible Cultural Properties and Visual Documentation

Round table talk (from the left, SANO Masaki, Mr. SAKURAI Hiroshi, Ms. KOIZUMI Yurina)
Mr. ISHIDA Katsuyoshi reporting the first case study

 The 16th Public Lecture was held on October 28th, 2022.
 On the morning prior to the Lecture, the videos individually produced by the POLA Foundation of Japanese Culture, the Japan Arts Council, and the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) were shown.
 At the Public Lecture held in the afternoon, first, MAEHARA Megumi, head of the Intangible Cultural Properties Section, explained the aim of the Lecture. Then, the following sessions were presented: Intangible Cultural Heritage and Visual Documentation by ISHIMURA Tomo, head of the Audio-Visual Documentation Section; Practice at TOBUNKEN: Visual Documentation of Intangible Cultural Properties by SANO Masaki, associate fellow; Conservation Techniques for Traditional performing Arts by Mr. ISHIDA Katsuyoshi, manufacturer and biwa musician (Japanese traditional lute) and MAEHARA; and Visual Documentation of Craft Techniques by Mr. SETO Takashi, Associate Professor at Bunka Gakuen University and KIKUCHI Riyo, Senior Researcher. At the following round table talk, Mr. SAKURAI Hiroshi, Executive Director of the Japan Arts Council and Ms. KOIZUMI Yurina, Curator of the POLA Foundation of Japanese Culture, introduced their respective video projects for intangible cultural properties. Together with TOBUNKEN researchers, they identified the characteristics of each institute and reached a common understanding regarding the aims, methods, and publication of “intangible cultural property visual documentation.” Furthermore, it was concluded that the intangible cultural heritage can be documented comprehensively by archiving and publishing the diversified visual documentation to the fullest possible extent and methods based on a mutual understanding of each institute’s characteristics.
 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage strives to continue facilitating occasions to share and discuss various challenges on documentation methods and the utilization of intangible cultural properties. A report of this Lecture will be published, and also available online in the coming fiscal year.

Investigation of Tools and Raw Materials Essential for Intangible Cultural Properties – Rozetsu of Hichiriki and its Raw Materials

Common reed from the areas of Kanmaki and Udono, Nishino ko lake, and Watarase River (from the left)
Hishigi: flattening the reed using hishigi gote (flat irons)
Whittle the reed tip using a small knife over a kirosoku (Japanese traditional candle made of plant-derived oil)
Rozetsu made from the common reed from the areas of Kanmaki and Udono, Nishino ko, and Watarase River

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducts investigation and research of tools such as musical instruments associated with their parts, and costumes, and their raw materials essential for intangible cultural properties.

 Rozetsu (reed) of hichiriki (Japanese traditional flute), a wind instrument used for gagaku (Japanese classical court music), is made from landward common reed (Phragmites australis), which grows in the riverbeds and near lakes. The common reed especially grown in the area of Kanmaki and Udono areas of the Yodo River riverbeds in Takatsuki City, Osaka Prefecture is considered the most suitable for rozetsu of hichiriki. However, the tick common reed suitable for rozetsu has decreased remarkably even in these areas due to various changes such as environmental changes that affect its habitat. The Department conducts investigations to identify the characteristics suitable for rozetsu by comparing the common reed of the Kanmaki and Udono areas, the Nishino ko lake (an inner lake of the Lake Biwa) and the Watarase Yusuichi (Watarase retarding basin) with the Center for Conservation Science. As a part of this investigation, we made rozetsu using reed from each area, recorded its making process with the support of, and interviewed Ms. NAKAMURA Hitomi, a hichiriki player. We measured each reed’s bore and outside diameter and plan to observe the cross-sections in detail and conduct further research on the characteristics and the suitability of each reed for rozetsu of hichiriki.

 In the process of making rozetsu of hichiriki, there is a unique step called hishigi in which the reed is pinched with hishigi gote (flat irons) heated to a suitable temperature, and gently flattened. The shortage of high-quality hishigi gote is also reported. There may be challenges to sustainably obtaining a manufacturing tool (hishigi gote), not only a tool (rozetsu) and raw materials (common reed) mandatory for gagaku.

 The Department is continuing comprehensive research of the current status, challenges, and solutions of techniques and materials mandatory for the succession of intangible cultural properties.

Final Investigation of the Higo Biwa Tradition and Related Materials

Biwa used by Mr. NAGAMATSU Daietsu (owned by NAGAMATSU Mitsutoyo at that time)
Biwa used by Mr. HASHIGUCHI Keisuke (owned by HASHIGUCHI Kenichi)

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has investigated the Higo Biwa Preservation Society and the successors of Higo biwa technique, who have dedicated to pass down the Higo biwa, and its related materials including the biwa. We conducted the third on-site investigation from September 7th to 9th. We studied the biwa used by Mr. NAGAMATSU Daietsu, a sighted Higo biwa player and the one used by Mr. HASHIGUCHI Keisuke (HOSHIZAWA Tsukiwaka), a successor of Hoshizawa school, whose root is Sumoto, Amakusa City. Both were preserved by their bereaved families. Therefore, we visited them and studied the biwa there. We had precious opportunities to learn about these two Higo biwa players from their families. Mr. NAGAMATSU’s biwa will be donated to Historical Museum Kokoropia of Tamana City associated with his related hand-written books of relics and records via the curator who accompanied us. We expect them to be widely available for studies.

 Furthermore, we conducted studies on the biwa owned by Shinwa Museum for History and Folklore and Amakusa Hondo Museum of History and Folklore and concluded this investigation series. We may conduct a few supplementary studies and plan to issue the report in FY 2022.

 We noticed that a village manages a single Higo biwa instrument in turn and plays it as an offering every new year. We cannot study this case in our investigation series, but we hope that our analysis inspires further research on Higo biwa tradition status.

Surveys on Aizugiri, Paulownia Produced in Aizu District in Fukushima Prefecture

Domestic paulownia lumbers left in the rain and winds for three to five years to remove tannin after sawing (Aizukiridansu Corporation)
Paulownia trees planted in the town in 2016

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage continues to conduct surveys of the raw materials which support intangible cultural heritage. We have been focusing on techniques to collect and process trees as materials, and conduct surveys, recordings, and a reevaluation of the disappearing techniques and knowledge since FY2020. These activities are supported by the Research Grants in the Humanities of the Mitsubishi Foundation offered for the project “Research on Traditional Wood-use Techniques and Knowledge Regarding Intangible Cultural Heritage.” As a part of these surveys, we visited Mishima Town, Fukushima Prefecture on July 14th, 2022 and investigated the production status and associated issues of Aizugiri: paulownia timbers planted and produced there in Aizu district.

 Paulownia timbers are excellent materials because of their characteristics: lightness, limited distortion, excellent function of humidity control, and low heat conductivity. They are generally well-known as materials for Japanese traditional chests and wooden clogs. They have also long been used for koto, a Japanese traditional musical instrument. Furthermore, paulownia boxes have been popular as the most suitable conservation containers for fine arts and crafts. However, the domestic demand for paulownia materials shrunk to approximately one eighth compared to 1959 at their peak, partly because of a shift in consumer preferences away from Japanese traditional chests. Additionally, domestic materials among the overall paulownia material supply dropped sharply. At their peak, domestic materials represented almost 95% of the total supply in Japan. However, they dropped to approximately three percents as of 2018 because of imported paulownia timbers (Data by Mishima Town). The production of Nanbugiri, paulownia produced in Nambu district in Iwate Prefecture, had already ceased, although it was as popular as Aizugiri. The annual market dedicated to paulownia timbers in Yuzawa City, Akita Prefecture, which was the last one, has now been halted. Domestic paulownia timbers are now only produced in limited districts, including Aizugiri and Tsunangiri, paulownia produced in Tsunan district in Niigata Prefecture.

 Among them, Aizu district is said to have been the place where paulownia planting began. Since large-scale paulownia afforestation occurred there in the Meiji period, paulownia raw woods have been actively shipped as farmers’ side business. Based on this background, Mishima Town founded Aizukiritansu Corporation (meaning a corporation for Aizu Japanese traditional chests made of paulownia), co-funded by the town and the private sector in the early 1980s, when the demand for paulownia timbers decreased. Since then, the town has trained craftsmen and developed new products and markets. These days, it allocates “Kiri (paulownia) experts” and plants paulownia saplings, manages planting, makes manuals for paulownia planting, and conducts various other activities.

 Paulownia trees grow quickly and become ready for timbering in approximately 30 years. Meanwhile, they require intensive work including mowing undergrowth, fertilization, and disinfection. It was said to be a reason why people planted paulownia trees near their houses and took sufficient care of them. Now, approximately 900 paulownia trees are planted and managed by the town. It requires special know-how unique to paulownia trees such as a wider space required between each tree than Japanese cedar trees and efforts against damages by pests and rats. The town not only keeps striving toward a stable supply of paulownia timbers, but also proposes new types of chests suitable for the modern life and develops completely new products such as chairs and butter cases.

 Markets for domestic timbers including paulownia have been shrinking. Both the demand and supply of lumbers especially used for further niche fields of intangible cultural heritage have been shrinking drastically. Thus, we face a greater risk of being unable to obtain suitable materials when necessary. The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) will strive to enlighten larger audiences about the efforts necessary for planting, managing, and processing timbers including paulownia, at a reasonable value for its price, to liaise among production regions, craftsmen, and consumers, and to elucidate raw material characteristics from the scientific study. We will continue to work on this.

Investigation of the Higo Biwa Tradition and Related Materials

Ms. GOTO Akiko played Higo biwa at the Zenkōji Temple in Yamaga City

 Japanese government selects “the performing arts including music, dance and drama, and the techniques playing an important role in such performing arts’ establishment and construction, which possesses a high value for seeing the history of the transition of the performing art in Japan” as “Intangible Cultural Properties that need measures such as documentation (performing art)” under the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties.

 As of March 2021, 31 techniques were selected. However, 24 of them were held by individuals. Therefore, all these techniques were practically lost when these individuals died. On the contrary, the rest seven were held by groups. While one of the seven, Kineya Eizo School, a holder of geza ongaku (geza music: music play behind the stage) of kabuki lost its power due to the death of its leader, Mr. Kineya Eizo, the third, in 1967, the other six (Sagiryu kyogen (the kyogen of the Sagi School), Higo biwa, Ryukyu traditional sokyoku (3 groups), and wazuma) are considered as being passed down in their respective groups.

 The department of Intangible Cultural Heritage started investigations on Higo biwa, one of these “Intangible Cultural Properties that need measures such as documentation (performing art).” We began collecting information last year and initiated full investigations this year about the Higo Biwa Preservation Society and Higo biwa technique successors, who have been dedicated to passing down the Higo biwa, and the materials related to the Higo biwa including biwa itself. We conducted the second investigation from June 22nd to 24th, 2022. Thereafter, we investigated the objects left by Mr. YAMASHIKA Yoshiyuki, a Higo biwa player (March 20th, 1901 to June 24th, 1996), which are kept in Yamaga City Museum. They vary from his favorite everyday items to photos and biwas, and were counted to 84 cases (containing even more items). As the last day of this investigation happened to be his death anniversary, we were fortunate and honored to be a part of his memorial service with biwa play offering by Ms. GOTO Akiko, who had learned from him and the people very close to him.

 We plan to publish a report on the Higo biwa tradition and its related materials in this fiscal year after the planned third investigation.

Video Documentation of the Manufacture of Carving Tools for Sculpture – Recording Survey of Tools and Raw Materials used for the Preservation and Restoration of Art and Craft Objects

Video and photo documentation of the chisel manufacturing process
Manufacturing chisels for sculpture

 Understanding the manufacturing situation of tools and raw materials used for restoration is extremely important to continue sustainably restoring cultural properties. However, “the Research Project on Preservation and Restoration of Tools and Raw Materials,” commissioned to the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) by the Agency for Cultural Affairs since FY2018 revealed that the manufacture of tools and raw materials for cultural property restoration faces many challenges rooted in the following two factors. The first is the human factors of aging manufacturers and a shortage of successors, and the second is factors caused by shifts in social structures, such as deteriorating business and the unavailability of raw materials. Considering this research outcome, the Center for Conservation Science initiated a project to collect fundamental physical property data and to document tools and raw materials necessary to preserve and restore cultural properties. The Center has worked on this project with the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems and the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage. This monthly report presents the documentation survey of chisels for sculpture, the manufacture of which will cease.

 Chisels and saws are key tools to restore wood carving cultural properties because new timber materials may be carved and used as repair materials. Konobu Ltd. (Konobu), founded in the early Shōwa era (early 20th century) by the Takiguchi family, specialized as carving tool smiths. Since then, this smith has manufactured chisels for sculpture; Mr. SAITO Kazuyoshi succeeded their manufacturing techniques. Their products have been favored by many in charge of wood carving restoration and wood carving itself. However, Konobu stopped accepting new orders in October 2021 and expressed that they would soon close their business. TOBUNKEN used videos and photographs to document their full manufacturing process of chisels for sculpture, as well as their equipment and smith tools in interviews from May 23rd to 27th, 2022. Mr. KADOWAKI Yutaka of BIJYUTSUIN Laboratory for Conservation of National Treasures of Japan and the Agency for Cultural Affairs cooperated in this documentation survey.

 Unfortunately, it became almost impossible to experience and observe in person the Konobu chisel manufacturing process. We plan to organize the survey records to serve as a clue for future generations who want to reproduce chisels for sculpture.

Publication of a Brochure Titled Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts VIII: Noh Costume by Sasaki Noh-Isho

Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts: Noh Costume by Sasaki Noh-Isho

 The department of Intangible Cultural Heritage published Noh Costume by Sasaki Noh-Isho as the 8th brochures of the series, Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts.

 Manufacturing Noh costumes was certified as a Selected Conservation Technique, and Mr. SASAKI Yoji, the 4th president of Sasaki Noh-Isho, as its technique holder by the government in FY 2020. Noh costumes are not only customized for the plays, characters, and traditions of each school, but also introduce new creativities and ingenuities. In this brochure, each process of “making Jacquard cards,” “preparing yarns,” “weaving,” and “finishing” is briefly introduced in the order of work.

 The research outline of technique details is published in the Investigation Report on Techniques for Preserving Cultural Properties with a Focus on Musical Instruments 5 (MAEHARA Megumi & HASHIMOTO Kaoru, Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage 15, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, 2022.) Please refer to this material along with the brochure. It will be available on TOBUNKEN’s website.

 These series of brochures can be distributed for non-commercial purposes via Yu-Pack (parcel), Japan Post with a cash-on-delivery option. Please email to with your name, address with postal code, phone number, and the name(s) and number of the brochure(s) requested.

Series of brochures published so far:
Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts I: Biwa by ISHIDA Katsuyoshi
Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts II: Koma (Bridge of Shamisen) by OKOUCHI Masanobu
Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts III: Futozao Shamisen (Three stringed lute with thickest neck) by ISAKA Shigeo
Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts IV: Wind Instruments for Gagaku music by YAMADA Zenichi
Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts V: Shirabeo (Tension ropes for drums) by YAMASHITA Yuji
Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts VI: Shamisen (three-stringed lute) by Tokyo Wagakki
Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts VII: Koto (thirteen-stringed zither) by KUNII Kyukichi

Publishing a Video Recording of the 15th Public Lecture, Culture of Using Trees – Using Cherry Trees, Playing with Cherry Trees

Recording demonstration to assemble kotsuzumi
Playing water (from the left, Mr. TŌSHA Eishin (drum), Mr. TŌSHA Yukimaru (ōtsuzumi), Mr. TŌSHA Roei, Mr. TŌSHA Rokon (kotsuzumi), and Mr. FUKUHARA Kansui (flute)
Round-table talk

 The 15th Public Lecture titled Culture of using Trees – Using Cherry Trees, Playing with Cherry Trees is being distributed on our website ( until the end of May 2022. This is the edited video recording, considering the COVID-19 pandemic situation. The report will be published in FY 2022 based on this lecture.

 Cherry blossoms are extremely popular among Japanese people and used as motifs in various performing arts. However, in this public lecture, we focused on cherry trees from the viewpoint of “the ones whose timbers and barks are used,” rather than “their blossoms which we enjoy and celebrate or play with.”

 In the beginning, Mr. KAWAJIRI Hideki of the Gifu Academy of Forest Science and Culture provided a lecture on the Current Situations and Challenges to Use Various Types of Trees including cherry trees. IMAISHI Migiwa and MAEHARA Megumi, of the department, presented reports on the Usage of trees in the folklore world – Focusing on Cherry Trees and Intangible Cultural Heritage and Cherry Trees – Use Cherry Trees and Play with Cherry Trees – respectively.

 Then, focusing on kotsuzumi, whose body is made of cherry wood, an interview of Mr. TŌSHA Roei about the Charms of Kotsuzumi, a Musical Instrument, a demonstration to assemble a kotsuzumi, and the performance of Water composed by Mr. Roei were recorded. Moreover, this lecture was concluded by a round-table talk with Mr. KAWAJIRI, Mr. Roei, IMAISHI and MAEHARA. At that talk, various topics were discussed reflecting the diverse backgrounds of the participants; changes in demands on broadleaf trees including cherry wood, the current situation of forestry and necessity of “woods consisting of various type of trees,” the charms of cherry woods as musical instruments’ materials, and the importance of popularization using “authentic” musical instruments.

 Our department continues to strive to share and prepare for occasions to discuss various challenges on intangible cultural heritage and related techniques and materials.

Renewed Performing Art Studio (Recording Studio)

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.

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