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


Barking of the Manchurian Elm and Japanese Lime

Barking the Japanese lime
Separating the bark of the Manchurian elm into outer and inner parts

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been researching folk techniques using wooden materials. As part of this research, we have conducted a field study on barking to manufacture fabrics in June 2019.
 “Bark fabrics” refer to the cloth woven using yarn made of fiber obtained from the inner bark of trees. In Japan, the Manchurian elm, Japanese lime, Japanese wisteria, Kozo paper mulberry, and East Asian arrowroot etc. are renowned as raw materials. We researched and recorded how to bark the Manchurian elm in the central part of Hokkaido Prefecture on June 15th and the Japanese lime in Sekikawa, Tsuruoka City, Yamagata Prefecture on June 30th.
 The traditional fabric of the Ainu, comprising the Manchurian elm called “attus,” and “shinaori,” of Sekikawa comprising the Japanese lime, are designated as traditional crafts by the national government (“Nibutani-attus” and “Uetsu-shinafu”). In this case, the Manchurian elm was barked by the Nibutani Folk Crafts Association, whereas the Japanese lime was barked by the Sekigawa Shinaori Cooperative Association.
 These trees are barked from June to early July when they grow by drawing water. Smooth barking is allowed only during this period. Basically, barking is applied to the standing Manchurian elm and the fallen Japanese lime. The bark is separated into outer and inner parts using only hands and simple tools. The inner bark is further processed into water-resistant strong yarn by devoting a considerable deal of time and effort.
 To ensure efficient and sustainable use of natural materials, people have accumulated knowledge and techniques by deepening their understanding and increasing their experience over a long period of time. You can find some of the human interaction with nature through folk technologies that target natural materials.


Survey of the Restoration Technique for Hikiyama Metalwork in Shiga Prefecture

Metalwork removed from the float for restoration (shaft-point metalwork).
Mr. Kiyoshi TSUJI engaged in restoration work.

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been researching and studying conservation techniques for cultural properties. To hand down tangible and intangible cultural properties to the coming generation, it is necessary to conserve and inherit the techniques required for conservation and restoration of cultural properties, as well as manufacturing technologies for the materials and tools used for them, in addition to cultural heritage itself. In Japan, we call these techniques “conservation techniques for cultural properties” under the Act on Protection of Cultural Properties. By selecting those that particularly require conservation measures as “selected conservation techniques,” great effort has been put into their conservation and protection. According to each nation, techniques subject to safeguarding are just a small percentage of the whole. We think this Institute should play a leading role in paying attention to the techniques not selected by the national government as subjects of our research and study.
 In FY 2018, we conducted a survey for Mr. Kiyoshi TSUJI, a holder of the “Hikiyama Metalwork Restoration” technique selected for conservation by the Shiga Prefectural Government jointly with the Shiga Prefectural Board of Education. Mr. Tsuji has been engaged with restoration of numerous festival floats as a holder of the restoration technique for metalwork such as metal ornaments for floats used in the “Nagahama Hikiyama Festival” designated as one of the nation’s Important Intangible Folk Cultural Properties, also serving as an element composing “Yama, Hoko, Yatai, float festivals in Japan” inscribed on the UNESCO intangible cultural heritage list. At present, he is working on restoration of the metalwork for the float of Kin-ei Town (Hogiku Float) used for the “Hino Hikiyama Festival” (prefecturally designated intangible folk cultural property) held in Hino Town, Shiga Prefecture. We have been surveying and video-recording the restoration process.
 Needless to say, festival floats are essential for the implementation of the Hikiyama Festival. Accordingly, conservation of and succession to the festival as an intangible cultural property require a restoration technique for the floats. It is true that successors to such technique are insufficient. Our research and study aims not only to conserve and record the technique for the coming generation but also to highlight the conservation techniques for such cultural properties attracting less attention for their significance.


“Cormorant Fishing Boat Project” : Completion and Launch Ceremony

The completed boat and the Project members
The launch ceremony also featured the rite of “funa-kabuse,” in which the boat is capsized three times to pray for its safety on the water.

 The “Cormorant Fishing Boat Project,” which has been underway at the Gifu Academy of Forest Science and Culture from May 22, has been successfully completed. The 13-meter-long cormorant boat was displayed at a launch ceremony on July 22.
 The aim of this Project was to record and inherit boat-building techniques while actually engaging in building a cormorant boat, with the participation of American boat builder Douglas Brooks, under the guidance of boat builder Seiichi Nasu (86) of Mino City, Gifu Prefecture (also refer to our May 2017 Activities Report). Also participating were American naval architect Marc Bauer and Gifu Academy furniture student Satoshi Koyama. The boat-building process was open to the public in the shelter structure built within the Academy premises. Tobunken served in the roles of research and documentation, taking video records of virtually the entire building process. Going forward, we will be editing and assembling the records in a way that will be useful for acquiring the necessary building techniques, and plan to co-author written and video reports with Mr. Brooks by the end of the next fiscal year.
 While the Project itself has come to a conclusion, the utilization, transmission, and dissemination of cormorant boats and their building techniques will continue across many fields. The cormorant boat built in the Project will be purchased by Yui no Fune, an organization that offers guided boat tours of Nagara River, and will be used to introduce river boat culture to the general public. Meanwhile, at Gifu Academy, work is underway to explore how smaller, more manageable boats can be made using the traditional techniques learned in the Project. Since techniques will not be handed down if there is no demand for them, there is a need for flexible thinking to devise boats that meet contemporary needs and interests.
 The transmission of living techniques requires not only the compilation of academic records but also efforts to utilize them in contemporary ways and to make them more widely known to the general public. Tobunken intends to continue working with organizations and experts in a wide range of disciplines to explore better ways of transmitting these techniques.


Development of the record of ukaibune building

Mr. Douglas Brooks (left) and Mr. Seiichi NASU (right)
Ukaibune under construction

 Ukai, or a fishing method which uses trained cormorants to catch river fish, conducted in the Nagaragawa River in Gifu Prefecture is now famous as a representative tourist attraction of the prefecture. The ukai fishing conducted in the goryoba, or the Imperial Fishing Ground, is called goryo ukai, which has an important role of serving the caught ayu (sweetfish) to the members of the Imperial Family. Moreover, the technique has been designated as an important intangible folk cultural asset of Japan. Thus, ,ukai is historically and culturally significant. One of the essential elements to support the ukai fishing technique is the cormorant fishing boat called ukaibune that is helmed by the usho, the cormorant fishing master. There is a fear, however, that the technique of building ukaibune will not be handed down to the future generations, as at present, there are only two funadaiku, or boat builders, capable of building this type of boat.
 Under these circumstances, a project has started, in which Mr. Douglas Brook, a U.S. citizen, researcher of Japanese boats and funadaiku, who has experience in building tarai bune (tub boat) of Sado and sabani (small sail fishing boat) of Okinawa, has become an apprentice to 85-year old Mr. Seiichi NASU, one of the two remaining ukaibune builders, and is working with his master to build an ukaibune. The Gifu Academy of Forest Science and Culture and the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties participate in this project, the former providing a place for boat building and the latter producing a video record.
 The building of ukaibune began on May 22, 2017 and is scheduled to be completed in about two months. Agility and gracefulness are required in particular of ukaibune when compared to other wooden boats in general, and therefore, sophisticated techniques are required. It is a major target of this project to accurately and completely record the technique to help hand it down to the future generations.
 It is somewhat paradoxical that a non-Japanese is learning and mastering this traditional Japanese technique that is on the verge of extinction. We believe, however, that recording the intangible technique by positively taking advantage of this opportunity is one of the roles our institute should play since the conservation of cultural properties is our mission.


Study Meeting on Production of Recorded Videos for Intangible Cultural Properties

Having a discussion while watching the recorded video

 On February 22nd, 2016, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage held a study meeting titled “Production of Recorded Videos for Intangible Cultural Properties,” where Takeshi ABE (Tohoku Institute of Filmed Cultural Properties) was invited as a guest speaker. He has been engaged in production of recorded videos for intangible cultural properties of Iwate Prefecture in Tohoku District. The meeting was held as one of the efforts of the “preparation of dynamic records for cultural properties protection” project that was governed by the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo as a part of the promotion program of the National Taskforce for the Japanese Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Mitigation Network under the National Institutes for Cultural Heritage.
 In this meeting, the current state of folk performing art in the disaster-affected areas was reported based on the activities of Mr. Abe in Iwate Prefecture after the Great East Japan Earthquake and a discussion was held on how to utilize the recorded video for disaster prevention and mitigation.
 Today, due to the development of digital equipment, ordinary people who are not professional photographer can easily take moving pictures and a possibility to accept those pictures as a part of the records in a flexible manner was also discussed.
 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage held the Sub-conference on Video Recording of Intangible Fork Cultural Properties over the years from 2003 to 2007. Based on what was discussed there, the Conference on the Study of Intangible Fork Culture Properties was heled and relevant reports such as “Guidance on the production of recorded videos for intangible fork cultural properties” have been published. Based on the discussions held so far, it is considered necessary to address new challenges that have arisen and also to include intangible traditional techniques in local areas into our continuing discussion in the future meetings on production of recorded videos.


Seminar on the “Intangible Cultural Heritage and Disaster Prevention―Importance of Recording for Conservation of Traditional Techniques

Demonstration of winnowing-basket making process

 A seminar was held on December 22nd,2015 under the title of “Intangible Cultural Heritage and Disaster Prevention―Importance of Recording for Conservation of Traditional Techniques.” This seminar was organized under the “preparation of dynamic records for cultural properties protection” project that was governed by the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo as a part of the promotion program of the National Taskforce for the Japanese Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Mitigation Network. As intangible cultural heritage specifically includes “immaterial” culture, use of recording is considered an important element for the purpose of disaster prevention/disaster reduction.
 This time, with a focus on the traditional techniques especially in the radiation-affected area in Fukushima Prefecture among the disaster-affected regions of Great East Japan Earthquake, two cases were introduced using the pre-disaster and post-disaster records to show what efforts have been underway towards disaster prevention and reconstruction.
 The cases introduced were “Obori-Soma Ware” of Namie Town, Fukushima Prefecture, and “Odaka Winnowing-Basket Making” of Minami-Soma City. The case of “Obori-Soma Ware” showed the reconstruction efforts that were in progress after the workshops had moved out of Namie Town after the disaster. Further, in the case of “Odaka Winnowing-Basket Making,” the current efforts to restore the technique by referring to the videos that had been recorded before the disaster were introduced. Further to explain acquisition of skill obtained in the recorded video, a part of the actual making process was demonstrated while discussion was held about importance of recording in intangible cultural heritage.
 As we need to think of a wide variety of cases for disaster prevention of the intangible cultural heritage, there is no single best answer to it. Based on continuous discussion, we will keep making efforts to contribute to disaster prevention/disaster reduction of the cultural heritage.


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