|■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
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage began releasing the “SAITO Tama’s Folklore Research Card Collection” on February 1st. This database is an archive of research cards created by an independent folklore researcher, SAITO Tama (1936–2017). https://www.tobunken.go.jp/materials/saito-tama
Ms. SAITO Tama began traveling and traversing fields all over Japan in the 1970s. She visited at least 2,500 areas from Hokkaido to Okinawa to conduct folk research. The research covers a wide range of genres such as plants, animals, spells, play, words, annual events, and life rituals. The total number of research cards that summarize the interviews is about 47,000. All of them are characterized by targeting often overlooked folklore that is closely linked with people’s daily life. Regrettably, there are many folklore cases that have been lost today.
These cards were originally kept by Ronsosha, which publishes many books written by Ms. SAITO. In 2017, they were entrusted to Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties through Ms. IWAKI Koyomi, a folklore scholar who has been studying Ms. SAITO. (For more details, please refer to “Document: Research Cards by Saito Tama” by KARINO Moe, published in Volume 12 of “Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage”.)
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been working on creating a system that allows us to browse the images of the cards and search through them using keywords, classifications, and place names so that we, as the next generation, can make full use of her valuable work. Thanks to the kindness of the bereaved family, we have made it possible to publish some of the achievements. We are still working on organizing the cards and plan to add and update the contents around the 15th of every month.
Each piece of information on the research card is trivial and small. However, the world that can be perceived when observing them together is extremely rich. We hope that the release of this archive will once again shed light on Ms. SAITO’s achievements and also deepen the understanding of the reality in the abundant world of folklore.
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.
Exhibits at the Gallery Walk
Fuku-Mi (lucky winnowing baskets) of the Toka Ebisu Festival at Nishinomiya Shrine (Hyogo Prefecture)
An exhibition titled “The Shapes of Mi Winnowing Baskets ― Japanese Wisdom for Living with Nature” is being held from December 2nd, 2020, to January 28th, 2021, at Gallery Walk on the third floor of the Shiodome Media Tower, the headquarters of Kyodo News. (The exhibition is organized by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage; co-organized by the Graduate School of Engineering, Chiba University and the Gangoji Institute for Research of Cultural Property, and supervised by the Workshop on Winnowing Baskets.)
Mi (or winnowing) baskets are common, indispensable tools for winnowing rice and other grains. However, the numbers of both users and makers of mi baskets have been declining since the period of high economic growth. The government has made efforts to conserve its weaving techniques by designating three techniques as important intangible folk cultural properties (folk techniques).
Mi baskets are made of natural materials such as wood, bark, and bamboo. While regular hand-woven baskets are made with one or two types of natural materials, mi baskets are made using four or five types of materials, which makes the technique of weaving mi baskets more complicated and sophisticated. Therefore, the technique is said to be the culmination of weaving techniques. Furthermore, various shapes have been created by reflecting the vegetation of specific regions.
This exhibition introduces the materials and techniques used for making mi baskets through fourteen panels, focusing on the high level of skill and knowledge in the use of natural materials that have been condensed into the form of a mi basket.
In conjunction with the exhibition, a webpage has also been launched, displaying a number of videos documenting the production techniques of mi baskets (http://www.tobunken.go.jp/ich/ mi). This webpage will remain open to the public even after the end of the exhibition for you to visit.
(Admission free/Open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays.)
Video viewing page of the Conference
The 15th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties was held online based on the theme “Intangible Folk Cultural Properties amid the COVID-19 pandemic.” The video of this event was available for viewing from December 25th, 2020 to January 31st, 2021.
As the impact of COVID-19 continues, festivals and gatherings that may attract huge crowds are forced to be canceled or scaled back. These restrictions have prevented the successors of intangible folk cultural properties from conducting their activities as usual.
Considering the situation, an online meeting was held to explore ways of preserving and utilizing intangible folk cultural properties amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Three staff from our Institute, three from the local government and museums, and five successors of intangible folk cultural properties from various regions attended the meeting. They presented videos on the current situation and issues in their respective fields and regions, and on practices that had been newly introduced amid the pandemic. Examples of these practices include infection-control measures, online streaming, and crowdfunding. Following the presentation, KUBOTA Hiromichi from the Institute and the five successors had a general discussion and engaged in a lively debate on whether it is possible to continue or resume festivals amid or post COVID-19. They also discussed the necessary measures to be taken if they would hold festivals
A full report of the conference will be published in March 2021; this will also be available on the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage on a later date.
The Fifteenth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee on the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO was held from December 14th to 19th, 2020. It was originally to be held in Jamaica but owing to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting of the Committee was held using a fully online modality. The secretariat was at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris; however States Parties as well as the committee member states, including Jamaica, the Chair, participated in the online meeting from their respective locations. The meetings were broadcasted in real time on the UNESCO website, and two researchers from our Institute observed the proceedings.
The number of agenda items to be discussed was kept to a minimum because it was online, and the session was scheduled from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm local time in Paris (9:30 pm to 0:30 am Japan time) each day. In spite of these constraints, three elements were inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding (Urgent Safeguarding List), and 29 elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (Representative List). Further, three programmes were added to the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices. In addition, one of the elements added to the Urgent Safeguarding List has been approved for international assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund.
Among them, “Traditional skills, techniques and knowledge for the conservation and transmission of wooden architecture in Japan” was added to the Representative List. This element includes 17 conservation techniques selected by the government. They are “building repair,” “building woodwork,” “roofing with Japanese cypress bark or with wood shingles,” “thatching,” “cypress bark harvesting,” “roof panel production,” “thatch harvesting,” “building decoration,” “building coloring,” “building lacquer painting,” “clay tile roofing (using both round and square tiles),” “plastering (Japanese walls),” “fittings production,” “tatami mat production,” “repair and conservation skills for paintings and calligraphies,” “Japanese lacquer production and refinement,” and “gold leaf production.” Until now, most of the elements nominated by Japan and successfully inscribed on the List are nationally important intangible cultural properties and intangible folk cultural properties. However, the set of nationally selected conservation techniques was inscribed for the first time. Japan is famous for its many great historical wooden structures that have been handed down in good condition to the present generation by the skilled craftsmen and technicians who repaired and maintained them in excellent condition. Therefore, the inscription of traditional building techniques is also significant because it highlights the work of those artisans working “behind the scenes.” It is also an example of the relationship between tangible and intangible cultural heritages, which has received international acclaim.
Nominations from other States Parties that were newly added to the Representative List include “Hawker culture in Singapore, Community Dining and Culinary Practices in a Multicultural Urban Context” (Singapore), which refers to the popular street food culture in Singapore, and “Taijiquan” (China), which has many enthusiasts in Japan. A large number of nominations for elements related to lifestyle and culture, such as these mentioned above, was one of the international trends. In addition, “Craft techniques and customary practices of cathedral workshops, or Bauhütten, in Europe, know-how, transmission, development of knowledge and innovation” (Germany, Austria, France, Norway, Switzerland) were selected for being registered as Good Safeguarding Practices. These practices are related to Bauhütten, a cooperative of artists and artisans involved in the construction and repair of cathedrals. It is similar to the traditional building techniques nominated by Japan. However, what is interesting is that while Japan nominated them to the Representative List, Europeans proposed inclusion of these techniques to the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices as an example of heritage conservation activities, showing the difference in approaches.
As Jamaica was the chair country of the session, reggae music, which had been added to the Representative List in 2018, was played in the background of the online broadcast. Unfortunately, there was no scope to experience live reggae music in Jamaica. However, we would like to express our respect to Jamaica, the Chair, as well as the staff of UNESCO, the secretariat, for successfully completing the first online committee session.
Scene of Performance Recording of Tokiwazu-bushi (From left to right: Tokiwazu Hidemidayu, Tokiwazu Kikumidayu, Tokiwazu Kanetayu, Tokiwazu Mojibei, Kishizawa Shikimatu, Kishizawa Shikiharu)
On December 25th, 2020, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage made the first sound recording of Tokiwazu-bushi in the Performing Arts Studio of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.
Tokiwazu-bushi, an important intangible cultural property of Japan, was created by Tokiwazu Mojitayu in 1747 in Edo. Its rhythm and pace do not change drastically, and it has a moderate depth. Tokiwazu-bushi has been handed down to the present day in connection with Kabuki and Nihon Buyo. Joruri (the voice part) has a good balance of lines and “fushi or bushi” (lines with the melody), and the shamisen part is played on a chuzao-shamisen with a bachi (plectrum), which has a large hiraki (the tip of the plectrum) that imparts a moderate depth to the sound. Another characteristic of Tokiwazu-bushi is that it has a diverse repertoire, including Danmono (works derived from Gidayu-bushi), those based on Noh Kyogen, Shinju-michiyuki, and works with a comical flavor.
In this session, the entire classical piece “Shinobiyoru Koi wa Kusemono: Masakado” was recorded. Although this is one of the most popular pieces of Tokiwazu-bushi, it is rarely performed in its entirety these days. It is a large piece that takes about 40 minutes to perform, with a clear structure consisting of “Oki” (the part before the appearance of the characters), “Michiyuki” (the appearance of the characters), “Kudoki” (expression of passion), “Monogatari” (narration of the story of the battle), “Kuruwa-banashi” (the red-light district story), “Odoriji” (showpiece of the dance), “Miarawashi” (revelation of the character’s true identity), and “Dankire” (the finale). When performed with the typical characteristics of music, each part of the piece stands out. The performers are the seventh Tokiwazu Kanetayu (the first performer), Tokiwazu Kikumidayu (the second performer), Tokiwazu Hidemidayu (the third performer), the fifth Tokiwazu Mojibei (the first shamisen), Kishizawa Shikimatsu (the second shamisen), and Kishizawa Shikiharu (Uwajoshi, high-pitched melody).
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage plans to continue to record pieces that are rarely performed as well as valuable full-length performances.
In keeping with the norms of social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, masks used in Kabuki performances were worn during the recording.
Presentation by Mr. OHTSUKI Bunzo, shite kata (main role) of Kanze (a school of Noh) [prerecorded]
Presentation by Mr. OKUDA Utanoichi, so performer
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage studies the impact of COVID-19 on intangible cultural heritage. It also collects information on related support, new initiatives, and related news in other countries. As a part of these efforts, the first forum of the series titled “Traditional Performing Arts amid COVID-19 Pandemic” was held in the seminar hall at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties on September 25th, 2020.
The forum was focused on the traditional performing arts, especially classical performing arts, which have been greatly affected since the onset of the pandemic. In the first half of the forum, we gave a lecture on the role that the “public sector” serves for traditional performing arts amid the pandemic. We also presented some topics from the standpoint of our organization which is engaged in studies and information gathering. In the second half, we took up two different genres of the traditional performing arts, Nohgaku (a form of classical Japanese dance-drama) and Hohgaku (traditional Japanese music by traditional musical instruments such as so, a traditional Japanese zither and shamisen, a three-stringed traditional musical instrument). Then, for each genre, current situations were explained from the standpoint of performers, organizers/producers, and preservation techniques which are indispensable in the traditional performing arts. This was a valuable opportunity to share difficulties amid the pandemic. In the round-table discussion that followed, the talk centered around “social integration” that the traditional performing arts need beyond each genre and role. Participants shared a common view that raising awareness of “social integration” of the traditional performing arts is critical for communicating the current situation accurately in order to receive proper support. It is also critical for promoting education and/or training in anticipation of an increase in demand.
The video footage of this forum was released for free until November 3rd. We will publish a revised report with some additions online at the end of this fiscal year.
The website of “COVID-19 and Intangible Cultural Heritage”
The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been continually causing a serious impact on the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage at in Japan and abroad.
For example, in the field of traditional performing arts, performances face forced cancellation or postponement, or the reduction of the number of seats even if performances resume. The production of musical instruments and costumes to support traditional performing arts also has been suffering from a serious impact caused by the decline in demand. In the area of traditional craftsmanship as well, we can observe negative effects like restrictions on holding exhibitions, which serve as the occasions to present work, and limitation on opportunities and venues for sales. Furthermore, we know these traditional performing arts and craftsmanship are, in most cases transposed to the next generation through face-to-face training and skill transfer, facing serious diminution of such opportunities.
We can also observe serious impacts on folk performing arts, customs, and techniques handed down in local regions. Regarding these intangible folk cultural properties, it is true that the aging and declining population had already made it difficult for many of them to survive in local areas, It is concerned that this COVID-19 pandemic spurs them to further deterioration, now leading a number of them to face possible annihilation.
When it comes to international affairs, there are concerns that the existence of intangible cultural heritage handed down by ethnic groups is at stake in countries and regions already facing challenges in the medical system and sanitary environment.
Although the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are generally widespread on tangible and intangible cultural heritage, we believe that the effect on so-called living heritage including intangible cultural heritage is very serious. This is because such heritage is supported by the activities of living humans, and activities by humans are exactly what the COVID-19 pandemic restrains most.
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been widely collecting information on the effects of the COVID-19 on intangible cultural heritage in Japan and overseas since April 2020. Among them are information on cancellation and postponement of performances, exhibitions and festivities, information on their resumption, information on support (benefits, subsidies etc.) by the government, local public organizations and private organizations, information on new attempts including online distribution and disclosure of performances and exhibitions, information on situations in each country and attempts by international organizations including UNESCO.
We are also working to disseminate some of the collected information. For example, we launched the webpage of “COVID-19 and Intangible Cultural Heritage” (https://www.tobunken.go.jp/ich/vscovid19) on the website of the department. This webpage provides information on supports by the government, local public organizations and private organizations as well as discloses the analytic results of statistical information on postponement, cancellation and resumption of related businesses regarding the effects of the COVID-19 disaster on traditional performing arts. We also launched Facebook Groups “COVID-19 and Intangible Cultural Heritage” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/3078551232201858) on the Facebook page of the Institute to provide information on supports as well as information on new attempts and information on international trends. Anyone who has a Facebook account can join the group as a member and receive information on a regular basis. Also, anyone who has a Facebook account can read articles even without becoming a member.
We are also working to disseminate information through holding forums. In September, we are going to hold “Traditional Performing Arts and Novel Coronavirus” as the forum 1 of “Series Forum: COVID-19 and Intangible Cultural Heritage.” In December, we plan to hold “Intangible Folk Cultural Property in Novel Corona Virus Pandemic (tentative title)” as the forum 2. From the viewpoint of preventing the infectious disease, we have to limit the number of participants and have some presenters participate by recording or remote call. We plan to upload the videos of the forum online for a certain period of time. We will release the details of these forums in our future activity report.
The situation of the COVID-19 disaster is changing from moment to moment, making it already difficult even at present to obtain information on the preceding situation. Therefore, we are going to continuously collect information and comprehensively analyze the data including information not published on websites and in forums so that we will be able to effectively utilize them to contribute to the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage.
A scene from the public lecture
On Thursday, February 6th, 2020, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties held the 13th public lecture, titled “Technology in Kusatsu Supporting the Textile Technology: Spiderwort-dyed Paper-Blue Made from Flower Petals.”
In the morning session, records on spiderwort-dyed paper were examined by watching films: a documentary film of craft techniques by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, titled “Yuzen – The Textile Art of MORIGUCHI Kako –“ (1988, Sakura Motion Picture),” and a film, titled “Asiatic Dayflower, the Flower of Kusatsu City: Handing Down of Spiderwort-dyed Paper,” produced by Kusatsu City in 1999.
In the afternoon session, there was a lecture describing the outcomes of a joint research on the spiderwort-dyed paper production technique of Kusatsu City, Shiga Prefecture, and Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, conducted from 2016 through 2017. The joint research report has been published (refer to the April 2019 monthly report: https://www.tobunken.go.jp/materials/ekatudo/817676.html).
During the course of the lecture, explaining the main points, a documentary film was shown, titled “Recording Process of the Spiderwort-dyed Paper Production Technique” (produced in 2018 by Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties), which was shot and edited in the joint research. This was followed by a report on a survey by KIKUCHI Riyo from the Institute that explained how both the natural spiderwort blue and its alternative, synthetic spiderwort blue, are now used. The report was in the form of a presentation, titled “Current Situation of Spiderwort-dyed Paper Use – Through a Listening Survey on Textile Technicians.” Adding to this, Ms. OKADA Yumi from the Kusatsu-juku Kaido Koryukan made a presentation titled “Kusatsu City and Spiderwort-dyed Paper – Toward the Preservation of the Spiderwort-dyed Paper Production Technique,” which highlighted the relationship between Kusatsu City and the technique of producing spiderwort-dyed paper as clarified through the joint research, in addition to the present situation. Since the joint research was conducted two years ago, the circumstances surrounding the three farmers producing spiderwort-dyed paper have changed. To hand down the traditional technique to the coming generation, seminars for producers-to-be are now being implemented in Kusatsu City. The report on the current efforts unveiled the need for considering spiderwort-dyed paper as local culture and for protecting this cultural form. ISHIMURA Tomo, Head of the Audio-Visual Documentation Section of the Institute, made a presentation, titled “Spiderwort-dyed Paper as Cultural Heritage,” focusing on how the technique to produce such material should be positioned for protection of cultural properties.
At the end of the lecture, Mr. SUZUTA Shigeto was invited for a round-table-talk, titled “Spiderwort-dyed Paper as a Textile Material.” He was certified as the holder of the Mokuhanzuri Sarasa (wood-block) dyeing technique that was designated an intangible cultural property. The talk reinforced the fact that spiderwort-dyed paper works as a material supporting an important process even in producing works with the technique although it is considered a material to draw designs for Yuzen dyeing and tie-dyeing.
Transfer of technique to produce spiderwort-dyed paper is now at a milestone. One must always bear in mind that protection of intangible culture involves some alteration and hence, there should be scope for a compromise. The lecture was a good opportunity for the audience to understand the dilemma concerning spiderwort-dyed paper and whether it could become a sustainable material.
A scene from the comprehensive discussion
On December 20th, 2019, the 14th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties was held on the topic “Towards the new utilization of intangible cultural heritages.” The meeting attracted about 170 participants including government officials, researchers, and representatives of conservation groups.
Due to the amendment of the Act on Protection of Cultural Properties, the utilization of properties is expected to increase., many cultural programs featuring intangible cultural heritage are planned or have been implemented for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. However, there is room for discussion on how to utilize such properties and whether they should be utilized or not in the first place has not been discussed thoroughly. Leaving many properties vulnerable to total demise, a new way to make good use of them for inheritance is sought.
The meeting featured four presenters in different positions from various regions. With specific examples, they reported the utilization through existing systems such as the hometown tax system and programs on traditional culture for parents and children, utilization by building an inter-regional network, and utilization for the purpose of transmitting attractive features of the heritage to the public via multimedia. This was followed by a vigorous and comprehensive discussion by the presenters and two commentators.
This conference will be published in March 2020, and they will be available on the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.
A live performance of “Music and dance of Dominican Bachata” (Dominican Republic), which was inscribed on the Representative List
The fourteenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage took place in Bogota, the capital of Columbia, from December 9th to 14th, 2019. Two researchers from this Institute attended the session.
At the session, Japanese elements were not discussed, but the Committee inscribed five on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding and 35 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Committee also added two projects to the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices. Among the elements inscribed on the Representative List are “Music and dance of Dominican Bachata” (Dominican Republic), “Nuad Thai, traditional Thai massage” (Thailand), and “Ie Samoa, fine mat and its cultural value” (Samoa). In particular, “Safeguarding strategy of traditional crafts for peace building” (Colombia), which was also added to the Good Practices, attracted global attention. As a good model, the strategy shows that intangible cultural heritage plays an active role in recovering from the devastation of long battles with drug syndicates.
In a first, the Committee decided to remove one element, “Aalst Carnival” (Belgium), from the Representative List. The reason for that was the recurrence of anti-Semitic and Nazi representations on the carnival floats, which was not stopped on the grounds of “freedom of expression” despite protests and objections from various quarters. This is incompatible with the fundamental principles of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, thereby non-conforming with the inscription criteria. The global community expressed its intention to not allow any forms of discrimination, even in cultural activities or practices.
Intangible cultural heritage may give courage and pride to people, promoting dialogue between peoples of different cultural backgrounds, while it may also highlight the cultural superiority of one side, denying or excluding people on the other side. We feel that it is the responsibility of us experts to blow a whistle against political use of intangible cultural heritage while promoting its use for peacekeeping and mutual understanding.
Participants at the International Researchers Forum
The International Research Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region under the auspices of UNESCO (IRCI) co-organized the International Researchers Forum “Perspectives of Research for Intangible Cultural Heritage: Toward a Sustainable Society” with the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, on December 17th and 18th, 2019 at this Institute. As a co-organizer, the Institute thoroughly cooperated in this forum, right from its planning to operation.
The forum’s aim was to discuss how Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) can contribute to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDGs are the international goals to shift the world onto a better, sustainable path by 2030, specified in “the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” adopted at the UN Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015, following the Millennium Development Goals developed in 2001. Under its 17 goals and 169 targets, the agenda pledges to leave no one behind. As universal goals, not only developing countries but also developed countries, including Japan, are expected to achieve the SDGs.
This forum addressed two goals related to ICH in particular: “Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” and “Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.” For the goals, three sessions were arranged—in Session 1 “Community Development: ICH and Regional Development,” we mainly discussed the promotion of local cultures, communities, and economy through ICH, and then the efforts to conserve urban landscapes and the natural environment through ICH in Session 2 “Community Development: Environment and ICH”; in Session 3 “Discussion from Education Perspective,” how ICH could contribute to education was discussed based on the discussions of the previous two sessions. The forum ended with a comprehensive discussion covering all three sessions.
At the forum, 10 experts each from home and the Asia-Pacific region delivered presentations. While many of them specialized in cultural heritage and education, it should be noted that some were actual successors to or practitioners of ICH. Professor Vince DIAZ from the University of Minnesota, who has his roots in Micronesia, Guam, and the Philippines, is working on the revival of canoe culture in the Pacific region. He said, “For the natives in the Pacific region, nature has always been one with people. Protecting nature means keeping us human. The canoe is one of the means which connects nature with people. The revival of canoe culture is a process of making us more human, in addition to protecting nature.” His impressive talk suggests that some clues to achieving SDGs might be found in our traditional knowledge or worldview.
It is true that many intangible cultural properties are now in danger due to globalization or modernization. On the other hand, they may become the sources from which to regain such lost properties. Thus, this forum, which spotlighted the active aspects of ICH through SDGs, is significant enough to be disseminated to the world.
Scene of winnowing
On September 23rd, 2019, the fourth “Workshop on Winnowing Baskets” took place for interested persons at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.
The series of workshops aims to research the techniques and cultures involved in “winnowing baskets” as folkcraft articles, used for screening and carrying threshed grains, considering the inheritance of them to be important. Originating in the “Summit Conference on Winnowing Baskets – Discussion of Weaving Techniques” held here in 2017, the workshop was organized by those who are interested in winnowing baskets, such as specialists in folk studies, archaeology, design engineering, and botany, as well as craftsman, sellers, and users of winnowing baskets and other handicrafts. We have been sharing our research outcomes and issues through the workshop held almost biannually.
For the fourth workshop, winnowing experiments were conducted with baskets produced in various areas, in addition to the research reports. Wheat, rice, and perilla were screened with winnowing baskets named Omogishi (Iwate Pref.), Oidara (Akita Pref.), Kizumi (Chiba Pref.), Ronden/Kumanashi (Toyama Pref.), Awa (Tokushima Pref.), and Hioki (Kagoshima Pref.) (production techniques for Oidara, Kizumi, and Ronden/Kumanashi ones are designated as national intangible folk cultural properties), in addition to Chinese willow ones, Korean wickerwork ones, and Malaysian ones. Actual comparison between these baskets allowed us to deepen the understanding of their functions and arrive at a basic date to verify the significance of their individual shaping and material selection as well as the differences in user-friendliness (functionality) according to areas.
The workshop will enhance studies on winnowing baskets produced in a variety of areas and reflect on the inheritance of their production techniques and cultures of usage together with their craftsman and sellers.
Watching the land under slash-and-burn agriculture in Shiiba village, Miyazaki Prefecture
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been conducting research exchanges with the National Intangible Heritage Center in the Republic of Korea since 2008. As a part of the interaction, the department welcomed Ms. Kang Kyeonghye from the center as a visiting researcher from September 17th through October 4th, 2019.
The theme of her research during the visit was agricultural folk technology as an intangible cultural heritage in Japan; particularly, the current slash-and-burn agriculture practiced here. Therefore, we accompanied her to field studies as support from the department.
During her stay, she conducted field work twice. First, she visited Ikawa in Shizuoka City, Shizuoka Prefecture, which is a mountain area above the Oi River. Slash-and-burn agriculture had flourished until World War II in the area. Shortly after the war, it declined so drastically that it was maintained only for the cultivation of foxtail millet, which was used for rites of the shrine. In recent years, however, a private organization has taken the initiative to revive slash-and-burn agriculture to encourage the growth of traditional crops.
Second, she visited Shiiba village in Miyazaki Prefecture, an area located in the middle of the Kyushu Mountains. Slash-and-burn agriculture had also flourished there until the war. In the post-war period, it almost disappeared. However, one farm family has been sustaining the cultivation technique. Recently, a new association was established to preserve the technique while schoolchildren were taught about slash-and-burn agriculture as part of a work-study program, in addition to the promotion activities by a group led by the farm family. The slash-and-burn agriculture in Shiiba village was designated as an intangible folk cultural property by the Village in 2012, and then by the Prefecture in 2016. It is now well-known as the Takachihogo-Shiibayama Site by the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) after the certification in 2015.
In Korea, the Act on Conservation and Promotion of Intangible Cultural Properties was enforced in 2016, which raised interest in traditional knowledge as an intangible cultural heritage. From 2017 to 2020, the Cultural Heritage Administration has been investigating the traditional agricultural knowledge that exists until today. The data is to be accumulated as basic information or used for the designation of cultural properties. However, Korean slash-and-burn agriculture techniques have also almost disappeared, and none of them have been designated as cultural heritage properties.
In Japan, although the slash-and-burn agriculture in Shiiba village is designated as an intangible folk cultural property by the Prefecture and the Village, there are no nationally designated agricultural techniques. It should be noted that private organizations have taken the initiative to promote slash-and-burn agriculture, as observed in Ikawa and Shiiba village. Utilization of GIAHS or any other framework different from the existing one might be more important in the future.
Thus, how to conserve and utilize the traditional agricultural techniques, including slash-and-burn agriculture is a common issue in both Japan and Korea. It would be meaningful to find a solution for such a common issue by exchanging information and promoting discussions through this joint research.
Filming of Miyazono-bushi (from left to right: Miyazono Senyoshie, Miyazono Senroku, Miyazono Senkazuya, and Miyazono Senkoju)
On July 31st, 2019, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage recorded a live performance of Miyazono-bushi (second recording of a live performance) at the Performing Arts Studio of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.
Miyazono-bushi is an important intangible cultural property of Japan which was founded in the first half of the 18th century by Miyakoji Sonohachi in Kyoto. After seeing a revival during the mid- 18th century in Edo, it has become what it is today. Miyazono-bushi can be characterized by its distinctive vocal part called joruri (dramatic narrative chanted to a shamisen accompaniment) that is sang in a solemn and silky voice, accompanied by the soft and thick sounds of a chuzao shamisen (middle-neck sized three-stringed Japanese banjo). With training and experience, subtle expressions are produced through their harmonization. Traditional songs include classical dramatic piece in ten acts as well as modern songs, with the content of these songs being almost entirely about elopements for double suicides.
This time, two pieces were recorded: a classical piece, the “Michiyuki Natane no Midarezaki – Yamazaki” (blooming of rapeseed flowers during an elopement – Yamazaki) and a modern piece, the “Uta no Nakayama” (small path near Seikanji Temple). Both pieces were performed by Miyazono Senroku (lead singer; an individual certified as a Holder of Important Intangible Cultural Property or what is called living national treasure), Miyazono Senyoshie (supporting singer), Miyazono Senkazuya (lead shamisen player), and Miyazono Senkoju (supporting shamisen player).
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continue to record live performances of Miyazono-bushi classics, as well as new pieces that get few occasions to be performed live.
Original thread manufacturing machine for traditional Korean string instruments
Research presentations at the National Intangible Heritage Center
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been engaged in research exchange with the National Intangible Heritage Center in the Republic of Korea since 2008. This exchange involves conducting overseas research while staying at the other party’s institution for a certain period of time and holding joint symposiums. Megumi Maehara, Head of the Intangible Cultural Properties Section of the Department sojourned in South Korea from July 1st–19th, 2019 to pursue overseas research.
Considering current conditions in Japan where cultural heritage application is anticipated, the purpose of this overseas research was to derive hints at preserving and transmitting cultural heritage preservation techniques used in musical instrument manufacturing and repair, in addition to cultural heritage utilization. During her stay, Ms. Maehara visited musical instrument manufacturers, musical instrument materials manufacturers and those associated with the education on, and preservation and succession of, traditional performance art (music), and also research organizations. The aim of her visit was to investigate South Korean traditional musical instrument manufacturing and repair techniques, the tools and raw materials used, the frameworks utilized to support these techniques, and the treatment of these techniques in the education about, and dissemination of, traditional music to the masses.
In South Korea, classical music and folk music are considered to be inseparable facets of “traditional Korean music (gugak).” Having knowledge and practical skill in these subjects are requirements for teachers who wish to be employed in music education because “traditional Korean music” is an indispensable qualification for music educators. This environment where one can naturally come in contact with traditional Korean music is starkly different from that in Japan. Nonetheless, there is still room to cultivate a general awareness of the techniques and raw materials supporting traditional performance art (music) in Japan and even in South Korea. Case studies and common issues discovered from this research exchange were compared to the current situation in Japan and the results were presented orally on July 18th at the National Intangible Heritage Center. Together with an investigative report in Japan, an overview of this investigation into musical instrument manufacturing and repair techniques will be published in the 14th volume of the “Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage” to be issued at the end of the fiscal year.
The Institute would like to extend its deepest gratitude to Kyeong-Hye, Kang of the National Intangible Heritage Center for supporting its research during this exchange, to interpreter Ji-Ye, Lee, and to everyone at the National Intangible Heritage Center.
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.
The performers (from left to right: Fukuda Twelve Kinds of Sacred Music and Dancing Preservation Society, Washinokami Kumano Shrine Lion Dance General Meeting, Takenoura Lion Dance Preservation Society, Tsukizawa Arts Preservation Society)
Performance in front of the Honkan (Japanese Gallery) of the Tokyo National Museum (Tsukizawa Hashigo Toramai (Ladder Tiger Dance))
The “Tokyo Shishimai Collection 2020” event was held on May 11th and 12th (Saturday and Sunday), 2019, in the Front Garden of the Tokyo National Museum. This event was planned by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage and was held as part of Japan Cultural Expo, an arts and culture festival that will coincide with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. It was co-sponsored by Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, the Tokyo National Museum, and the Japan Arts Council, in cooperation with tateito-yokoito llc., Culture Vision Japan Foundation Inc., and DO CREATION CO., LTD. The purpose of this event was to showcase lion dances from all over Japan as folk art which prominently expresses Japan Cultural Expo’s theme of “the Japanese and Nature”, and to transmit this to the world by performing the lion dances in Tokyo.
Lion dance performances, particularly from the three prefectures stricken by the Great East Japan Earthquake, were involved in this 2020 pre-event. During the two days, three lion dances were performed by three prefectures: Iwate Prefecture performed Rikuzentakata City’s “Tsukizawa Toramai (Tiger Dance)” (Tsukizawa Arts Preservation Society); Miyagi Prefecture performed Onagawa Town’s “Shishifuri (Lion Dance)” (Takenoura Lion Dance Preservation Society/Washinokami Kumano Shrine Lion Dance General Meeting), and Fukushima Prefecture performed Shinchi Town’s “Fukuda Juuni Kagura (Twelve Kinds of Sacred Music and Dancing Performed at Shrines)” (Fukuda Twelve Kinds of Sacred Music and Dancing Preservation Society). According to a count by the Tokyo National Museum, 2215 people attended the six shows during the two-day event.
In addition to watching the performances, many spectators participated in a hands-on learning experience by having the opportunity to actually touch the lion masks and musical instruments that ordinarily cannot be seen up close, and hearing explanations about the lion dances. Foreign language pamphlets were provided and bilingual staff was prepared so that visitors from various countries could enjoy the shows.
On a similar note, a Lion Dance Forum is planned for September of this year. In addition to holding lion dance performances in Tokyo, information about lion dance festivals and events held in various regions of Japan will be released to give many more people the opportunity to visit the regions where lion dance festivals are performed. In order to preserve intangible cultural heritage, this kind of information transmission and networking is crucial.
Cover of the report: “Joint Research Report on the Spiderwort-dyed Paper Production Technique: Kusatsu Techniques that Form the Backbone of Textile Dyeing Technology”
Spiderwort-dyed paper is a type of Japanese paper, which is soaked in the extract from Asiatic dayflower petals. The paper is used as a dyestuff to make rough sketches during the production of Yuzen-dyed fabrics. From 2016 to 2017, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage in association with Kusatsu City, Shiga Prefecture conducted a joint research on the spiderwort-dyed paper production technique and, in 2018, published a project report titled, “Joint Research Report on the Spiderwort-dyed Paper Production Technique: Kusatsu Techniques that Form the Backbone of Textile Dyeing Technology” (DVD included).
This report was compiled by staff from Kusatsu-juku Kaido Koryukan in association with researchers from Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties and included the following studies: a record of the techniques employed by three producers of spiderwort-dyed paper; a study on the soil in which Asiatic dayflowers are cultivated and the preservation of the extract from Asiatic dayflower petals; a study on the Japanese paper that is used to make spiderwort-dyed paper; a study of ancient documents relating to spiderwort-dyed paper; a questionnaire survey of producers and users of spiderwort-dyed paper; and a study on the positioning of spiderwort-dyed paper as a cultural heritage. The data obtained from this joint project is being stored in cooperation with Kusatsu City and can be applied in future research.
Beginning from this year, Kusatsu City is implementing measures to safeguard the spiderwort-dyed paper production technique. Techniques for producing materials used in intangible cultural heritage are sometimes appraised as techniques to safeguard cultural heritage (Selected Conservation Techniques). In addition, spiderwort-dyed paper will likely be appraised as a regional folk cultural asset of Kusatsu. We hope that this report will inform many more people about the spiderwort-dyed paper production technique and will engender lively discussion toward its safeguarding.
Council held at the Kyoto Art Center
The Liaison Council for “Disaster Prevention of Intangible Culture Heritage” for the Kansai Area was held on February 3rd, 2019 as part of the “Project to Build a Comprehensive Database for Cultural Assets and Establish a Network.” This project is an initiative undertaken by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems as part of the promotion program of the National Taskforce for the Japanese Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Mitigation Network (Agency for Cultural Affairs’ subsidized project). This council has been ongoing since 2016 for sharing information among nationwide prefectural representatives responsible for folk cultural properties.
This council was co-organized by the Kyoto Art Center in Kyoto City where representatives from six prefectures and one city in the Kansai Area assembled. Representatives from the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP), included Hiromichi KUBOTA, Megumi MAEHARA, Tomo ISHIMURA, and Riyo KIKUCHI.
At the council, participants shared their opinions on the significance of creating a database, and gave presentations on the current state of intangible cultural assets in their respective prefectures. Issues ranging from natural disasters, the various risks that intangible cultural assets face to transmitting preservation techniques and applications were discussed. The current state of intangible cultural assets and issues in each region were shared as valuable information.
On March 1st, a second council was held at TNRICP with participation from the representatives of 10 prefectures.