Fri, Nov 20, 2020

UNESCO to list Japan’s architectural craftsmanship as intangible heritage

Japanese cypress bark thatching

A UNESCO advisory panel has recommended that Japan’s traditional craftsmanship to conserve and repair wooden structures be registered on the intangible cultural heritage list, Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs announced on Nov. 17. Seventeen specific techniques involved in preserving, repairing and decorating wooden architecture will likely be listed at an intergovernmental committee meeting of the Paris-based international body set to start on Dec. 14.

Coloring techniques

Japanese cypress bark thatching, as seen on the roof of the Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto; grass thatching, used in the gassho-style farmhouses in the historic village of Shirakawa-go (Gifu Pref.); coloring techniques used on temples and shrines in Nikko (Tochigi Pref.); and conservation / restoration techniques used to maintain partition paintings made of paper or silk are among the 17 techniques collectively called “Traditional skills, techniques and knowledge for the conservation and transmission of wooden architecture in Japan.” The government-selected techniques that are said to be indispensable to the conservation of cultural properties have been inherited by 14 organizations in Japan.

Fixing partition paintings

In its proposal to the international body to have the techniques registered, the Japanese government emphasized the efficacy of the techniques that helped create architectural space unique to Japan and earthquake- / typhoon-proof structures using natural materials such as wood, grass and soil. The government also stressed the significance of adopting an environment-friendly approach of appropriately tending and harvesting raw materials such as cypress bark and thatching grass.

Tatami mat making

Nohgaku (noh and kyogen), kabuki, washoku (Japanese cuisine) and washi (Japanese paper) are among the 21 items so far registered as UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage. Raiho-shin ritual visits of deities in masks and costumes was the 21st and registered in 2018.

(Photos courtesy of Agency for Cultural Affairs)

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Nov. 17, 2020, evening edition)



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