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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 18th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties: Handing Down Mingu Folk Implements-To Prevent Them from Being Mindlessly Discarded

 In recent years, there have been an increasing number of cases throughout Japan in which collected Mingu* have to be reorganized. It is always best to properly preserve and pass on collected materials in their original form. However, local museums and public organizations with limited storage space, personnel, and budgets are forced to consider reorganization, including disposal of their Mingu collection.

 On December 8, 2023, the 18th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties, Handing Down Mingu Folk Implements-To Prevent Them from Being Mindlessly Discarded, was held at the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN).

 More than 200 people, far exceeding expectations, attended the conference, indicating the high level of interest in the subject. The results of the survey also strongly indicated how urgent the issue of organizing Mingu has become, and how those in charge are struggling alone.

 To share and discuss these issues, four presenters gave case reports on the collection, organization, removal, and utilization of Mingu. This was followed by a general discussion among all the speakers, including two commentators. The discussion focused on how to protect as many Mingu as possible and pass them on to future generations. Various viewpoints and opinions were presented, but an important premise was that Mingu as cultural properties are very different from other cultural properties in terms of their meanings and characteristics. For example, it is a common viewpoint among researchers of Mingu that it is necessary to collect multiple examples of the same types of materials for comparative study, and that the value of Mingu can only be determined by combining them with ethnographic information (which region, when, and by whom they were used, etc.) that accompanies the materials. However, it was pointed out that this is not well understood or well known within government agencies or the general public, and that this is a part of the background to the various problems surrounding Mingu in recent years. The commentators and floor participants also reiterated the significance of “not discarding” such items, saying that some seemingly mundane tools have important meanings and that it is important to preserve as many of them as possible for comparison purposes.

 Mingu are the crystallization of wisdom and skills nurtured by our ancestors in their daily lives, and are extremely important and eloquent materials for understanding the way of life, history, and culture of the people of each region, as well as the changes in such history and culture. At the conference, we shared anew the sense of crisis that these extremely useful materials are on the brink of disappearance. It was a great achievement for us to recognize and share the need for new measures to protect the Mingu. For the protection of Mingu, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage plans to set up a study group next year to continue discussions with all concerned parties.

 A full report of the conference will be compiled by the end of the fiscal year, and a PDF version will be made available on the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage website.

*Mingu, or folk implements, is a collective term for tools and fabricated objects made or used out of needs in life. It includes implements related to people’s living, such as tools related to production and livelihoods (farming and fishing tools, etc.), items related to everyday life (pots, clothing, etc.), and religious instruments. It does not include objects that are generally mass-produced by modern machine industries.

Fern Basket-making Techniques

Cutting and lining kosida at a place where collected
Weaving the bottom of a basket

 On December 25, 2023, a survey was conducted in Ono, a township of Hatsukaichi City, Hiroshima Prefecture, on techniques of basket-making using koshida (Dicranopteris linearis).
 It is said that fern basket-making was introduced to the Ono area in the 1890s by craftsmen from Shizuoka as a new side business (some say it was introduced from the Shikoku area). Because the topography and climate were suitable for the growth of koshida, good quality materials were abundantly available in Ono. For this reason, fern basketry developed into an important industry in Ono during the Taisho and Showa periods. After the 1960s, the production of fern baskets declined rapidly due to the rise of plastic products, but since 1997, workshops have been held to preserve the traditional techniques, and these techniques have been handed down to the present.
 A petiole (stem) of the koshida is used for basket weaving. From October to March, petioles that have grown to about 1 meter in length are cut from the root with a sickle. After boiling in a special pot for about two hours and then thoroughly softening by rubbing, the petioles can be used for basket weaving. The treated petioles make an excellent material in the sense that they do not need to be split or torn like bamboo or most vines, but can be used as is, and they are strong and durable against water.
 Fern baskets used to be produced in many parts of western Japan, but as far as we know, the technique is still handed down only in Ono and in Nakijin Village, Okinawa Prefecture. The most common type of basket made in Ono is the “chawan mego,” a basket to hold a rice bowl in, which takes about two hours to weave. The techniques of making braided products like baskets still exist in many parts of Japan, and a variety of plants have been selected and skillfully used as materials for the baskets in accordance with the natural environment of each region. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continue its research on braided products made of various materials, and record this folk knowledge and techniques of using nature to pass them on to future generations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Recordings of Intangible Traditional Culture Donated by the POLA Foundation of Japanese Culture Are Now Viewable at the TOBUNKEN Library

Booth for video watching in the TOBUNKEN Library
Video recordings donated by the POLA Foundation of Japanese Culture

 Video recordings of intangible traditional culture produced by the POLA Foundation of Japanese Culture were donated and became available at the TOBUNKEN Library from December, 2023. The POLA Foundation produced three series of video recordings: “Masters of Traditional Craftsmanship,” “The Sophistication of Traditional Performing Arts,” and “The Heart of Folk Entertainment.” ( (Japanese only))

 Below is a list of the 26 titles donated in FY 2023.

1. Utilizing Lacquer in the Current Life – AKAJI, Yusai, Magewa Zukuri (hoop-built technique)
2. Women Weaving Bashōfu – Cooperative Handwork
3. Niino Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival) – Festivals with Gods and Villagers
4. Shujo Onie Festival in Kunisaki – a Night When Oni (Devils) Visit
5. Osauchi (weaving) – OGAWA Zenzaburo, Kenjo Hakata Ori
6. Hammer Forming, SEKIYA Shiro – Making Tomorrow
7. Full of GOSU – the world of KONDO Yuzo
8. The World of Beauty – SERIZAWA Keisuke , textile designer
9. MIYAKE Tokuro, Kyōgen performer
10. Nagahama Hikiyama Festival, Lake Biwa
11. Topography of a Local Windup Doll – Toro Doll of Yame Fukushima
12. The Moon and Big Tug of War
13. Chichibu no Yomatsuri (Chichibu Night Festival) – Voice of Mountains
14. Wajima Nuri, Important Intangible Cultural Properties
15. Zeami’s Noh
16. Furukawa Festival in Hida – Night with Drums
17. Like dancing, Like Flying – Flower Festival in Oku Mikawa
18. Protean Lacquer – TAGUCHI Yoshikuni, the beauty of Maki-e
19. Nebuta Festival – the Summer of Tsugaru People
20. Oni in Michinoku – the Village of Oni Kenbai (Devil’s Sword Dance)
21. Wood Life Revived – Wood Craft by KAWAKITA Ryozo
22. Shino Ware – SUZUKI Osamu
23. Living with Gods – Toya System Supporting Festivals in Japan
24. Kiraigo – the Village Where Both Oni (Devils) and Budha Live Together
25. Maki-e, MUROSE, Kazumi, the Beauty Over the Time
26. From NOMURA Mansaku to Mansai, and Yuki

 To view a video, please contact the counter of TOBUNKEN Library during opening hours. ( We plan to expand the available titles. Please refer to this page (Japanese only) for the latest information.
We hope you will visit the TOBUNKEN Library.

First Research Recording of the Azuma School Two-Stringed Zither Nigenkin

Recording scene (from left to right: TOSHA Rosen IX and TOSHA Rokou)

 On November 29th, 2023, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducted the first research recording of the Azuma school two-stringed zither nigenkin in the recording room of the Performing Art Studio of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.

 The Azuma school nigenkin is a school of the Japanese two-stringed zither, an instrument in which two silk strings are stretched over a wooden body and played with a plectrum. The school was founded in Tokyo in the early Meiji era by TOSHA Rosen I, based on the two-stringed zither yakumogoto used in Shinto rituals. It is said that the Azuma school nigenkin became quite popular in the mid-Meiji era, as a female master of the instrument appears in NATSUME Soseki’s novel I am a Cat.

 In March 1973, TOSHA Rosui (later Rosen VI) and TOSHA Rosetsu (later Rosen VII) were selected by the government as holders of ‘Intangible Cultural Properties that need measures such as making records,’ and in March 2002, TOSHA Rosen VIII was registered as a holder of Intangible Cultural Property designated by the Taito Ward. However, as there are now only a few people carrying on the tradition and only a limited number of pieces have been recorded on publicly available audiovisual material, we decided to make new research recordings.

 The first recording included six pieces: ‘Mado no tsuki (lit. The Moon at the Window),’ ‘Hototogisu (Lesser Cuckoo),’ ‘Hatsuaki (Early Autumn),’ ‘Kinuta (Fulling Block),’ ‘Shiki no En (The Beauty of the Four Seasons),’ and ‘Sumidagawa (Sumida River).’ All the pieces were composed by Rosen I and their lyrics were included in Azuma-ryū Nigenkin Shōgashū published in 1885. They are performed by TOSHA Rosen IX and TOSHA Rokou, members of Azuma-kai, the performing group of the Azuma school of two-stringed zither music.

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage plans to continue recording rare performances and precious full-length performances.

International Cooperation on Safeguarding Living Heritage in Sudan

UNESCO Experts Meeting in Cairo, September 2023

 Since 2022, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been conducting research exchanges on the safeguarding of living heritage with the National Ethnographic Museum of the Republic of Sudan, as part of a research project called ”Heritage studies for realization of cultural diversity and peacebuilding in post-conflict countries,” funded by a Grant-in-Aid for Challenging Research (Exploratory), the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Principal Investigator: Dr. ISHIMURA Tomo, Director of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, TOBUNKEN; Co-Investigator: Dr. SHIMIZU Nobuhiro, Associate Professor, Faculty of Engineering, Hokkai Gakuen University; Collaborate Investigator: Ms. SEKIHIRO Naoyo, Instructor, Kyoto City Archaeological Research Institute).
 Sudan has been in political turmoil for many years, due to civil war and dictatorship; however, the dictatorship that had lasted for thirty years recently collapsed, an interim democratic government was established, and the country has since been rebuilding. Under these circumstances, the significance of cultural heritage as an expression of Sudan’s history and cultural diversity, in particular, living heritage, including intangible cultural heritage, is receiving increasing attention.
 In May 2023, we planned to invite Dr. Amani Noureldaim, Director, and Mr. Elnzeer Tirab, Deputy Director of the National Ethnographic Museum to Japan to sign a memorandum of understanding on joint research with TOBUNKEN. However, on April 15, 2023, a clash occurred between the Sudanese National Army and the Rapid Reaction Support Force (RSF), a paramilitary organization, and Sudan was placed in an armed conflict. As a result, the invitation scheduled for May was postponed at the last minute.

 Even under these difficult circumstances, Sudan’s cultural heritage stakeholders are making efforts to continue their activities to safeguard their cultural heritage. Museums in Khartoum, such as the National Ethnographic Museum and the National Museum of Sudan, have been forced to close; however, related personnel, including staff of the National Corporation of Antiquities and Museums (NCAM), have been evacuated outside of the country or to safe areas within the country while continuing operations. For example, from June 3 to 5 and July 6 to 10, emergency workshops and forums were held both face-to-face and online, mainly by people who had evacuated to Egypt, under the initiative of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM). Project members were also invited to the meeting by Sudanese experts and participated online in some parts of the workshops.

 In response to these circumstances, we have revised the objective of this project to “safeguarding of cultural heritage in times of conflict,” and we have decided to respond to these movements as far as possible. In August, we visited the British Museum in the United Kingdom and exchanged opinions with Dr. Julie Anderson, Mr. Michael Mallinson, and Dr. Helen Mallinson, who have been involved in the protection of cultural heritage in Sudan for many years. We participated in the UNESCO conference “Expert Meeting on Living Heritage and Emergencies: Planning the Response for Safeguarding Living Heritage in Sudan,” held at the Child Museum of Cairo from September 10 to 13, where we held discussions with international experts. At the same time, at the Embassy of Japan in Sudan, which has a temporary office in Cairo, we held a meeting with the Sudanese cultural heritage personnel who had evacuated to Egypt (nine people, including Prof. Ibrahim Musa, Director of NCAM) and staff members of the Embassy and JICA, including Mr. HATTORI Takashi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Sudan, and Mr. KUBO Eiji, Director of JICA Sudan Office, to exchange information and discuss the possibility of international cooperation with Japan on the protection of cultural heritage in Sudan.

 Currently, the security situation in Sudan is still unstable; however, those involved in cultural heritage protection who remain in Sudan are still engaged in activities to safeguard the cultural heritage in local museums and other locations. We will make every effort to keep in touch with them and continue our research exchanges.
 Additionally, a 90-day campaign titled “#OurHeritageOurSudan” has been underway since November 1, led by Mr. Michael Mallinson and Dr. Helen Mallinson from the UK. The purposes of this event are to learn about Sudan’s living heritage, to share it, and to support Sudan’s recovery and the people working for it. On the website for this campaign, the purpose of which we agree with and are cooperating with, you can view photos and videos of Sudan’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. Please take a look: [External website]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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