Cooperation with International Organizations (UNESCO,UNU)

Intangible Cultural Heritage

January 9, 2019
Japanese

Cultural Heritage is not a term that refers only to so-called tangible cultural heritage such as ruins and buildings. Just like tangible Cultural Heritage, intangible culture such as traditional music, dance, performing arts and craftsmanship are also important forms of Cultural Heritage that are closely linked together with each country's history, culture and lifestyle customs.

The threat of the disappearance of this intangible Cultural Heritage as a result of the progress of globalization has been pronounced around the world. There has been discussion within UNESCO in response to this situation, leading to the adoption of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2003 at the UNESCO General Assembly. This Convention came into effect in 2006 and as of January 2019 the number of States Parties had reached 178 countries. Through this Convention, a framework has been prepared to protect intangible Cultural Heritage at the international level, in addition to the tangible Cultural Heritage and Natural Heritage that is protected through the proceeding Cultural Heritage Convention.

Japan has been protecting its own domestic tangible and intangible Cultural Heritage from an early period, through the Law for Protection of Cultural Properties enacted in 1950. There are few countries that have such a system for protecting intangible Cultural Heritage and so it might be said that Japan's efforts have led the way for other countries in this regard. Harnessing the abundant knowledge within the country, Japan demonstrated initiative in the creation of the Convention, and at the First General Assembly of the State Parties held in 2006 it was chosen as a State Member of the Intangible Cultural Heritage Committee that would deliberate in substance the actual implementation of the Convention. The Second Intergovernmental Committee meeting was held in Tokyo in 2007, and Japan, as the Chair, took part in setting down the rules crucial to applying the Convention.

Japan was re-elected as a member state of the Intergovernmental Committee during 2018-2022.

  • The Second Intergovernmental Committee (September 2007 in Tokyo)

As January 2019, 430 items are inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, including Japan's 21 items such as "Nogaku theatre", "Washoku, traditional dietary cultures of the Japanese, notably for the celebration of New Year", "Washi, craftsmanship of traditional Japanese hand-made paper", "Yama, Hoko, Yatai, float festivals in Japan" and "Raiho-shin: ritual visits of deities in masks and costumes".

In accordance with the purpose of the Convention, International Research Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific RegionOpen a New Window was established as a UNESCO Category 2 centre, to encourage investigation research on intangible cultural heritages in the Asia-Pacific region.