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

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.

Raw Materials Essential to Intangible Cultural Heritage –Starting the Survey on Common Reed (Phragmites Australis) in the Riverbed from Udono to Kanmaki in Osaka

Survey on slashing and burning common reed riverbeds in Kanmaki and Udono
A Reed(mouthpiece) of hichiriki

 Raw materials of reeds (mouthpieces) of hichiriki (a Japanese flute), is common read (Phragmites Australis; Genus:Phragmites, Family:Poaceae). Especially common reeds growing on the land near the rivers and the lakes are said to be suitable for hichiriki’s reeds. Udono and Kanmaki areas of the Yodo River riverbeds in Takatsuki City, Osaka Prefecture, are well known as a production area of the good quality common reeds grown in the land. For long time, Udono Association for Common Reed Riverbeds Preservation and Kanmaki Working Union have been working to slash common reads and burn the reed riverbeds there to preserve reed riverbeds and exterminate harmful weeds and insects during every February. However, due to the unsuitable weather condition and the COVID-19 pandemic, this work could not be carried out for two consecutive years. We were concerned about the common reeds growing environment. From September 2021, the information was spread that the common reeds in that area were almost extinct.

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been engaged in the surveys on conservation techniques to transmit traditional performing arts, and the tools and raw materials for these arts. The common reeds are mandatory as raw materials to support gagaku (a Japanese classical music, which are mainly played in courts and shrines.) Therefore, we documented and studied reed riverbeds burning held on Feb 13th, 2022, first time in two years.

 They plan to improve the environment for common reeds growing under the initiative of Udono Association for Common Reeds Riverbed Conservation and Kanmaki Working Union by stripping vines which coil around and blight reeds. The department continues to closely monitor the activities as an important attempt to secure the raw materials, which are mandatory for the conservation for cultural properties.

Performance Recording of Heike the Fourth, Resumed After Two Years

From the left: Mr. TANAKA Naoichi, Mr. KIKUO Yuji, Mr. HIYOSHI Shogo

 A Japanese traditional performing art Heike or Heike Biwa faces the crisis of not being inherited by the next generation because of the recent absence of sufficient successors. Given these circumstances, the department of intangible cultural heritage has been recording the performance since 2018, with the cooperation of the Heike Narrative Research Society, which was founded under the initiative of Prof. KOMODA Haruko, Musashino Academia Musicae, including its members comprising Mr. KIKUO Yuji, Mr. TANAKA Naoichi, and Mr. HIYOSHI Shogo. We could not make it happen last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but managed to resume recording the performance at the Performing Arts Studio of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), on February 4th, 2022 after a two-years gap.

 Sotoba Nagashi, a traditional piece transmitted in Nagoya, was recorded. This piece, which is regarding the priest, Taira no Yasuyori, who was exiled to the Kikaijima Island, narrates the story in which Taira no Yasuyori made a thousand Sotoba (Buddhist wooden objects), and wrote two waka, Japanese poems on two sotoba. After he threw them to the sea, one of them was washed up to the seashore in the Itsukushima Shrine. It was brought to Taira no Kiyomori through other hands. He was very touched by the poem. The highlight of the piece is the part where it is told how wonderful waka is, referring to Kakinomoto Hitomaro and Yamanobe no Akato, who were the poets of Man’yōshū, an ancient collection of waka This part requires to be narrated in high voice tone. This time, it was recorded by the rengin (group reciting) comprising Mr. KIKUO, Mr. TANAKA, and Mr. HIYOSHI.

 The Heike Narrative Research Society is characterized by not only learning the traditional pieces but also reconstructing lost pieces of Heike. We will continue recording the traditional and reconstructed pieces of “Heike” to create the archives.

Series of Intangible Cultural Heritage and COVID-19 – “Forum 3: Traditional Performing Arts amid COVID-19 Pandemic: Seeking Good Practices for Safeguarding”

The Shakuhachi 5 performed “Space for three Shakuhachi”
Round table session

 Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage held “Forum 3: Traditional Performing Arts amid COVID-19 Pandemic: Seeking Good Practices for Safeguarding” in the seminar room at the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) on December 3rd, 2021.
 In the morning session, ISHIMURA Tomo, MAEHARA Megumi, and KAMATA Sayumi of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage reported on the topics: the UNESCO’s perspective of “Good Practice,” the current situation of traditional performing arts, and various supports for them amid the COVID-19 pandemic. MAEHARA also introduced the technique recently recognized as the nation’s Selected Conservation Technique. The topics on the movements of young and mid-career performers such as “Souten” and “the Shakuhachi 5” were also introduced. Then shakuhachi performance followed.
 In the afternoon session, the case studies were introduced from the viewpoints of various roles:
 as planners and producers, the Japan Arts Council, an independent administrative agency, and Hyogo Performing Arts Center;
 as performers, Noh performer of Kanze School, and Japan Shakuhachi Professional-players Network(JSPN);
 as a conservation technique practitioner, Fujinami Properties Co. Ltd. (Association of Conservation for Production Techniques of Kabuki stage properties); and
 as secretariat of Dissemination and Empowerment for Hogaku, Agency for Cultural Affairs, Toppan Inc.
 At the round-table-talk, we discussed how to foresee realistic ways of managing “with COVID-19,” even when we are still amid the COVID-19 pandemic; overview of the current situation of traditional performing arts and their activities; and information sharing. We concluded this forum with the statement that holding this kind of discussion itself is considered as “Good Practice”.
 This forum was held with an audience limited to small numbers of related parties, considering the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is now available to watch on the TOBUNKEN website till March 31st, 2022. We also plan to publish a report at the end of FY2021 and release it on our website in Japanese.

Release of Biwaseisaku no kiroku (Record of biwa production) (the short version) featuring ISHIDA Katsuyoshi and Biwaseisaku no kiroku (Record of biwa production) (the long version) featuring ISHIDA Katsuyoshi

Recording scene
From the video

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage records and edits intangible cultural properties and makes them available to the public to the extent possible to contribute to the transmission of preservation techniques related to intangible cultural properties.
 We have uploaded videos (short and long versions) that depict how ISHIDA Katsuyoshi produces biwa (a traditional lute) on the website of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties ( We researched and recorded the entire process of how Ishida makes satsuma biwa from July to November 2017, and later edited it. Ishida is the fifth-generation owner of Ishida Biwa Store which is probably the only biwa shop that still exists in Japan. He has acquired the techniques of his father, ISHIDA Katsuo (ISHIDA Fushiki the fourth), the holder of selected conservation techniques for the crafting and restoration of biwa lutes.
 In the long version, information on the materials and tools is provided as much as possible via subtitles to facilitate the transmission of the techniques. The short version, based on the overall production process, has been edited so that it is easier to watch as we seek to disseminate it widely.
 These videos may not be reproduced, distributed, altered, or used for commercial purposes without permission. However, you may use them for exhibitions, lectures, and so on by contacting us and going through a certain procedure. A portion of the video is being used in the exhibition Biwa kokoro to katachi no monogatari (Biwa: a story of the heart and form) (July 31st – December 7th, 2021), which is currently held at the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments.
 Cooperation: ISHIDA Katsuyoshi. Photography: SANO Masaki (the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage) and ODAWARA Naoya. Editing: ICHIKAWA Koichiro. Supervisory assistance: SOMURA Mizuki. Supervision: MAEHARA Megumi and SANO Masaki (Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage). Production: The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.

First Recording of the Live Performance of “Odoriji (Tokiwazu-bushi)

Performance of Tokiwazu-bushi (from left to right: TOKIWAZU Hidemidayu, TOKIWAZU Kikumidayu, TOKIWAZU Kanetayu, TOKIWAZU Mojibei, KISHIZAWA Shikimatu, and KISHIZAWA Shikiharu)
Performance by hayashikata (hayashi ensemble) (from right to left: KATADA Kiyo, KATADA Kiyomi, and UMEYA Tomoe)
Performance by hayashikata (from left to right: KATADA Masahiro and KATADA Takashi)
Performance by hayashikata (HOUSEI Chiharu)

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage recorded a live performance (audio recording) of “Odoriji (Tokiwazu-bushi)” at the Performing Arts Studio of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties on January 29th, 2021. This recording aims at producing an audio recording of kikyoku (rarely performed tunes) “Hidakagawa Mitsuomote (Hidaka River three masks)” and “Tojin (foreign lady)” and preserving it as a joint project co-organized by the Executive Committee for recording Tokiwazu-bushi Hidakagawa Mitsuomote and Tojin and the institute.
 Both tunes that were recorded this time are odoriji, which are performed as accompaniment for dancing, and as the dance pieces came to be rarely performed, the music pieces were practically no longer performed. Although how they were created is not well known, there are hardly any practice books left that appear to have been published in the period spanning the end of the samurai period to the Meiji period (all books are published by Tamasawaya Shinshichi) and a film of performance by “Kikujuro no kai” (30th anniversary of the master registration) (held by a private individual). The practice books revealed that the dance pieces were choreographed by NISHIKAWA Koizaburo I (head of Nagoya Nishikawa School). This time, based on these materials, the performances were reproduced and performed.
 In “Hidakagawa Mitsuomote,” a butterfly vendor performs three roles, i.e., a priest Anchin, Kiyohime (Prince Kiyo), and a shoke (young priest in training) while changing from one mask to another. As the title “Hidakagawa” suggests, the play is based on the Dōjōjimono, that is, tales that are taken up in Noh plays, jōruri (dramatic narrative chanted to a shamisen accompaniment), and kabuki, and this one is a witty dance piece by a vendor who plays three different characters with a sense of humor. Furthermore, part of the Japanese song “Choucho (butterfly)” based on a German folk song with the Japanese lyrics “choucho, choucho, nanoha ni tomare, nanohani aitara, sakurani asobe” is used as a verse, which is interesting.
 “Tojin” is a play made up of Chinese-style music and a dance full of exoticism. It begins with music created from taiko drums and sho bells called Togaku (Tang-era Chinese music) (which is not directly related to Togaku in gagaku (Japanese court music)). A man with his hair shaped in benpatsu (queue) and a woman who piled her hair high on the top of her head dance, and both of them are in Chinese-style costumes. The verses are filled with mysterious words like a spell and are pretty much kuruwa banashi (lovers’ conversation) between the two performers in a comical atmosphere.
 The performers were TOKIWAZU Kanetayu (seventh generation, tategatari or first jōruri performer), TOKIWAZU Kikumidayu (wakigatari or second jōruri performer), TOKIWAZU Hidemidayu (sanmaime or third jōruri performer), TOKIWAZU Mojibei (fifth generation, tatejamisen or first shamisen player), KISHIZAWA Shikimatu (wakijamisen or second shamisen player), KISHIZAWA Shikiharu (uwajōshi or high-tone shamisen player), HOUSEI Chiharu (Japanese flute), KATADA Kiyo (kotsuzumi or small hand drum), KATADA Kiyomi (ōtsuzumi or knee drum), UMEYA Tomoe (taiko or drum), KATADA Masahiro (ōdaiko or big drum), and KATADA Takashi (bell).
 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continue to record plays that get few occasions to be performed and invaluable live performances of an exhaustive list of plays, and carry out joint projects like this as the opportunity arises. The records will be used in Japanese dance performances by the Executive Committee and can be listened as research material at the institute.
 For your information, the recording was carried out in which all performers used masks, similar to those used on the stage of kabuki to curb the spread of COVID-19.

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