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

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.

Symposium: Dance, Soul! ― How to Enjoy the Furyu-odori Dance ―

Audience participating in the Bon Odori dance
Bon Odori performance of Nishimonai

 A symposium titled Dance, Soul! ― How to Enjoy the Furyu-odori Dance* ― was held at the auditorium of the Heiseikan in the Tokyo National Museum on June 24, 2023. The Tokyo National Research Institute of Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) and the Pola Foundation of Japanese Culture co-hosted this symposium. Members of the Nishimonai Bon Odori Preservation Society were also on the stage.

 The symposium started with lectures on the appreciation of Furyu-odori dance. KUBOTA Hiromichi, the Head of the Intangible Folk Cultural Properties Section of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of TOBUNKEN, talked about its history; Dr. KAWASAKI Mizuho, part-time lecturer at the University of the Sacred Heart, Tokyo, talked about its music; Dr. HYOKI Satoru, a Professor at Seijo University, talked about its costumes; and Mr. MORIMOTO Sensuke of the Cultural Property Protection Division, Nara Prefecture, talked about the cases of West Japan. Discussion followed, in which all presenters talked about the charms of Furyu-odori dance from various aspects.

 After a short break, Dream of Hanui – Nishimonai Bon Odori Dance, a documentary film made by the Pola Foundation of Japanese Culture was screened. Ms. SATO Ikuko and Ms. WAGA Yasuko of the Nishimonai Bon Odori Preservation Society provided explanations about the dance, and then Society members performed the dance, and the audience joined-in, led by Ms. SATO. At the end of the symposium, the majority of the audience stood up, danced, and enjoyed the time together.

 The Pola Foundation of Japanese Culture produced many documentary films of various intangible cultural properties. Most of the films were kindly donated to TOBUNKEN. We will make them available for a wider audience.

* Furyu-odori dance: Various ritual folk dances, characterized by eye-catching costumes and lively dances and music in Japan. Inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2022.

Holding of a Meeting for Presentation of Results of the Japan-Korea Intangible Cultural Heritage Research Exchange Project

Participants of the Meeting

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been conducting research exchanges with the National Institute of Intangible Heritage of the Republic of Korea since 2008. As part of this project, we held a meeting for presentation of results of the Japan-Korea Intangible Cultural Heritage Research Exchange Project at our institute on May 24, 2023. At this meeting, the results of the project conducted from October 2016 to March 2023 were presented.
 Four staff members (Mr. Yang Jinjo, Ms. Choi Sukkyung, Ms. Kang Kyunghye, and Ms. Ryou Hansun) visiting from the National Intangible Heritage Center, and three members (ISHIMURA Tomo, MAEHARA Megumi, and KUBOTA Hiromichi ) from the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage each made presentations. After the presentations, FUTAGAMI Yoko from the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information took part in a discussion held among all the participants.
 During the discussion, comments and suggestions were exchanged on issues and prospects for the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage. There was a lively discussion on “culture of everyday life” as intangible cultural heritage (such as culinary culture), which has been attracting attention in recent years. Regarding the safeguarding of this type of intangible cultural heritage, the Republic of Korea started to take measures to safeguard it earlier than Japan; however, both of our groups learned that there are common and different issues between the two countries. The discussion turned into a heated one that lasted for two hours.
 This project had been temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, it was fortunate that we were able to resume it last year. In April 2023, our institute and the National Institute of Intangible Heritage signed a new agreement, and the project is now continuing until March 2030. We hope that this research exchange project will promote further understanding and cooperation between the two countries regarding the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage.

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.

Symposium 2022: “Intangible Cultural Heritage and Disaster Prevention-Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Based on the Experience of the Disaster”

 On March 7, 2023, the symposium of the Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management Center, Japan entitled “Intangible Cultural Heritage and Disaster Prevention-Disaster Prevention and Mitigation Based on the Experience of the Disaster” was held at the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN). The event was co-sponsored by TOBUNKEN and implemented as a project of the Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management Center, Japan.
 The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011 has brought attention to the important role that intangible cultural heritage plays in the recovery process and the need for protecting it from disasters. While the unprecedented disaster certainly caused much damage to intangible cultural heritage, it also served as a reminder of the value such heritage brings to local communities.
 This symposium was planned to showcase the work done by the National Institute for Cultural Heritage, present examples of damage caused by disasters, and discuss ways of working together with everyone who is involved in caring for intangible cultural heritage throughout Japan. The symposium was attended by 87 people, including government officials, researchers from universities and specialized institutions, and community members who carry on intangible cultural heritage.
 In the morning, TOBUNKEN described the work done by them in the past, and the Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management Center, Japan presented research results related to disaster prevention of intangible cultural heritage. In the afternoon, reports were shared by local government officials, leaders, and researchers on three examples of folk events affected by recent disasters “Tokakuji no matsue” (Tokakuji area of Kanda Town, Fukuoka Prefecture), “Ogatsu Houinkagura” (Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture), and “Hikiyama Parades of Nagahama Hikiyama Festival” (Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture), focusing on disaster response and the process of resuming the events. In the final general discussion, based on the reports, presentations, and discussions of the day, five experts who have been actively involved in this subject at the Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management Center, Japan gave a summary.
 The presenters also provided an opportunity for active discussion and sharing of ideas on specific methods of disaster prevention and mitigation in the future. The Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management Center, Japan and TOBUNKEN will continue to further develop the discussions at the symposium and work to propose concrete measures in cooperation with both institutions.

The 17th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties: Food Cultures as Cultural Property – New Expansion of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties

General Discussion

 The 17th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties: Food Cultures as Cultural Property – New Expansion of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties was held on February 1st, 2023. Approximately 90 people from within and outside of TOBUNKEN participated, which was limited to participants in charge of public administration roles due to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. Those who have been working on food culture safeguarding presented their projects and discussed from their various standpoints.

 Food cultures have been gaining increasing interest among a wider society year by year since “Washoku, traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese, notably for the celebration of New Year” was inscribed on the UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. However, measures to safeguard “Food Cultures as Cultural Property” have just started, triggered by the amendments of the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties in 2021. Therefore, more discussion needs to be accumulated on how its targets should be set and how they should be safeguarded (protection and utilization). Hence, this conference aimed to share various challenges around “Food Cultures as Cultural Property” and to discuss its potential.

 Food has huge diversity and transformation by ages, regions, and households because every single person is a practitioner and bearer of food. This fact enhances its charm, and at the same time brings difficulties in identifying the representative types and protection targets as cultural property. In addition, selling local food could activate regional societies, thus, it provides positive aspects of good effects on “utilization.” On the other hand, another challenge is balancing between utilization and protection, for example, how to evaluate the potential changes and transformations happening through its commercialization and distribution. Furthermore, various related parties, including related ministries and agencies such as the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries of Japan, and private sectors and corporations, have already been engaged in various promotional activities of food cultures. Therefore, how to collaborate with these on-going promotional activities and what values we should add as the administration of cultural property is an important challenge.

 In the general discussion, various opinions and viewpoints on these unique challenges to food cultures were presented; for example, the importance of food education for children, the necessity of protecting not only making and cooking activities but also eating activities, food materials and tools, and the balancing functions between commercially treated food and food at home. A new viewpoint was presented. That is, newly engaging in protection and promotion of food cultures as cultural property can add significant value and is indispensable roles to target the food cultures reflecting the regional lives and histories and to protect them, not just from the viewpoints of “marketable” or “Instagrammable” food.

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage keeps a close watch on the movement related to food cultures. This conference was compiled as a report at the end of March 2023 and is available on the department website.

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.

Status Survey of the Tsumori Shrine’s Ohoshi Festival: Recommencement of the Intangible Folk Cultural Property Impacted by the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake

Mikoshi (portable shrine) tumbled dramatically
Ritual in front of the temporary shrine

 On October 29th and 30th, 2022, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducted a performing status survey of the Tsumori Shrine’s Ohoshi Festival (the Festival), which has been passed down in Mashiki Town, Kamimashiki County; Nishihara Village, Aso County; and Kikuyo Town, Kikuchi County, Kumamoto Prefecture.

 The Festival is one of the rituals of the Tsumori Shrine located in Jichu, Mashiki Town, held every October 30th. A total of 12 areas across Mashiki Town, Nishihara Village and Kikuyo Town, in turn, build an “Okariya” (temporary shrine) in their own area and enshrine Ohoshi, a deity, in it for one year. This festival is famous for the activities of violently shaking and throwing in the air the mikoshi (portable shrine), which holds the deity in it, during the procession to the next area.

 The two towns and one village that hold the festival were heavily damaged by the Kumamoto Earthquake that occurred in April 2016. The Tsumori Shrine, which plays a key role in this festival, also suffered extensive damage. Therefore, while this festival was conducted on a smaller scale in 2016, it was canceled consecutively in 2017 and 2018. The Sugido area of Mashiki Town was in charge this year. This area has not yet fully recovered from the damage caused by the earthquake. Some residents have only just moved back to their rebuilt houses from temporary housing.

 At the departure ceremony of this year’s procession, the mayor of Mashiki Town and other related parties explained the recovery and reconstruction status and stated that the festival should be conducted in full scale on behalf of the areas that could not conduct it in the usual way. After the earthquake, people were hesitant to treat mikoshi roughly for some time. This year, people violently shook the shrine and walked around the areas as if people tried to regain the activities before the earthquake. Ohoshi was safely moved into the temporary shrine in the Uryusako area of Nishihara Village, which is in charge of the festival next year.

 Intangible Folk Cultural Properties can be affected by natural disasters in unexpected ways because these are closely tied with local people’s lives. The recovery status of local life could affect the actual activities of the Ohoshi Festival. The Department continues to investigate how natural disasters may impact intangible folk cultural properties.

On-site Investigations on Damaged Cultural Properties (Craft Techniques) – Suzu Ware –

Craftworks that were broken by the earthquake (provided by Suzu City)
Intensity of earthquake in the Noto Region, Ishikawa Prefecture, on June 19th, 2022, and damages to each workshop (created by combining the Suzu Ware map and Japan Real-time Information System for earthQuake)

 Suzu Ware is a type of pottery produced in Suzu City and the east part of Noto Town (formerly Uchiura Town) from the mid-12th to late-15th century. It is characterized by a grayish black color produced in a reductional fire without applying glaze. Its reproduction project was started by Suzu City and its Chamber of Commerce in 1976, and Suzu Ware was designated as the Designated Traditional Crafts of Ishikawa Prefecture in 1989. Currently, around 50 of its potters are working individually or in workshops in Suzu City.

 The earthquake in the Noto Region of Ishikawa Prefecture occurred on June 19th, 2022; damages to some of Suzu Ware workshops were confirmed. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management Center jointly conducted on-site investigations to grasp the extent of the damage and follow-up on September 6th and October 24th and 25th, 2022, respectively. These investigations were conducted in cooperation with the Industrial Promotion Section of Suzu City, Suzu Ware Museum, Suzu Pottery Workshop, and “Suzuyaki Soenkai,” the association of Suzu Ware potters.

 The areas of Shoin, Choku, and Iida were most severely hit by the earthquake. The workshops in these areas suffered from the damage to their craftworks, and wood-fired kilns, which are mandatory for production. The day after the earthquake, the Industrial Promotion Section called each workshop and potter to examine the damages and requested photographs of them. Thereafter, mainly Mr. SHINOHARA Takashi, chairman of Suzuyaki Soenkai conducted detailed questionnaires on the damages. Based on the questionnaire outcomes, the Suzu City staff who oversaw this, visited the damaged workshops, and recorded the necessary information for recovery. Currently, the information has been compiled and the discussion of its application to the “Subsidy for Operational Cost to Support Reconstruction of Business that Suffered from Damages” by Ishikawa Prefecture for repair and reconstruction to some kilns is underway.

 This case study highlights the importance of community “Soenkai” (meaning an association of creating fire) which connects potters horizontally, and significance of promptly understanding and recording the damages in such emergencies.

 The Department and Center will continue the research on disaster risk management for craft techniques through various on-site investigations.

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.

Manuscripts of Traditional Japanese Music Notations Transcribed by Mr. ASADA Masayuki, known as Asada-fu: Digital Images Released

Viewing images on a dedicated computer at the TOBUNKEN Library.
Example of additional revisions to a once-published manuscript ('Sanja Matsuri', Kiyomoto-bushi No.39)

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage organizes and makes available to the public valuable materials that serve research on intangible cultural properties. Digital images of the manuscripts of traditional Japanese music notations, transcribed by Mr. ASADA Masayuki (1900-1979), have been made available for viewing at the TOBUNKEN Library.

 Asada-fu is the result of Mr. ASADA’s continuous transcription of a wide variety of shamisen music genres, including melodies of voice (jōruri or uta) and shamisen accompaniment. It is estimated that more than 100 notations were privately published over a period of 23 years. Because the original manuscripts require careful handling, only the bound versions (copied and bound from the original manuscripts) were previously available to the public. However, with the completion of the digital imaging of manuscripts (Kiyomoto-bushi in FY2021 and other genres, including Icchū-bushi and Miyazono-bushi in FY2022), image data for all genres have been made available in the TOBUNKEN Library from July 2022. This allowed us to examine at our discretion details not reflected in the photocopies, such as traces of detailed modifications to the voice passages made by cutting the paper out of the manuscript.

 Those interested in viewing materials can refer to the TOBUNKEN Library Visitor’s Guide and reserve a dedicated computer. A list of Asada-fu manuscript holdings is available (Japanese only). We hope that these images will be utilized by a wide range of interested people, including researchers, performers, and enthusiasts.

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.

Survey of the Tokakujinomatsue Performing Status: COVID-19 and the Publication of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties

Rehearsal the day before the event
Reporting to the shrine that prayers are back from Shiokaki (purification with sea water)

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducted a field survey of the “Tokakujinomatsue” of the Tokakuji area of Kanda Town, Fukuoka Prefecture, on April 16th and 17th, 2022. Tokakujinomatsue is a folk event that has been passed down at the Tokakuji area of Kanda Town, Fukuoka Prefecture. The people in that area have been actively making video documentation and reports in cooperation with the Board of Education in Kanda Town while they face the challenges of continuing the event under the pressures of depopulation and the aging of the population.

 Fuchisan Tokakuji, located in this area, was one of the bases for Shugendō called Buzenroppo (six peaks of Buzen) in Kyusu until the Haibutsu kishaku (a movement to abolish Buddhism and destroy Shākyamuni) during the Meiji era. Every early April, people in the area, who are said to be descendants of Shugenja, conduct “Tokakujinomatsue” to pray for good harvests, protection from plagues, and national prosperity. Matsue consists of shinkōretsu (the procession of the shrine god), dedication of shishimai (lion dance), “Tagyōji” (playing mimic activities to grow rice crops), and“Katanagyōji” (playing with masakari (broadaxes) and naginata (long handled swords)). At the end of the event, a person climbs a 12-meter pillar set in the field, reads the kiganbun (optative sentence), and performs “Heikiri” to cut ōnusa (paper-made streamers used for Shinto pray) with a real sword.

 Tokakujinomatsue has been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, much as other folk events nationwide have been. The event was cancelled the last two consecutive years, and this year the event was held but not in the usual way. The Board of Education of Kanda Town contacted us to inquire how to conserve and utilize the videos and photos documented so far, which triggered this survey. In the beginning, we planned to survey the status of the recorded event. However, it was decided to hold the event, even though the event format was to be changed. As the result, this survey led us to think further about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on intangible cultural properties. During the last two years, the department has paid special attention to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on intangible cultural heritage. We will continue to investigate how folk events and folk performing arts that were forced to be cancelled or held in temporary different ways will be passed down in the future.

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.

Publishing Visual Documentation of Ōtsuzumi Drumheads – HATAMOTO Toru (Short Version)

Finished drumheads (front and back)
Recording the production process at the Hatamoto Taiko Workshop

 Ōtsuzumi is not only an instrument used as a musical accompaniment to Nohgaku, Kabuki, Hōgaku and other traditional Japanese musical theater forms but also a crucial element of Japanese traditional performing arts. Its drumheads are roasted dry as preparation before every single play. Therefore, they tend to become severely worn out and torn after every use and need to be replaced after ten uses. As ōtsuzumi drumheads are an integral component of ōtsuzumi the techniques to manufacture ōtsuzumi drumheads (manufacturing nohgaku ōtsuzumi (drumheads)) are considered as important techniques to conserve cultural properties.

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducted a survey, visually documenting the techniques of making ōtsuzumi drumheads in collaboration with Mr. HATAMOTO Toru of the Hatamoto Taiko Workshop in Tokyo. The video is available online We recorded his entire production process, which included softening leather for drumheads and stitching the material using hemp. Mr. HATAMOTO uses his own techniques during some parts of the process, although the whole manufacturing process is based on traditional techniques. Thus, we edited some parts of the video for the public, considering the possible commercial impacts of revealing his own techniques. We also created a long version of the video documentation separately only to maintain a record of the whole process.

 Various conservation techniques supporting intangible cultural heritage are faced with risks for survival due to changing social circumstances and lack of successors. We continue to conduct surveys on conservation techniques to perpetuate and protect them.

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