The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

Seminars, Symposia, and Academic Conferences

Friday, March 11 ~Sunday, March 13, 2016
《International Symposium》Authentic Change in the Transmission of Intangible Cultural Heritage

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  • Date: Friday-Sunday, 11-13 March 2016
  • Venue: Conference Room 4, National Museum of Ethnology
  • Language: English; with simultaneous interpretation in Japanese
  • Inquiries: heritage[at]
         *Please replace 'at' with @ and send.


European and Japanese governments, since the late 19th century, have developed regimes to protect their own cultural properties principally by keeping their form constant. Such regimes are based on the idea that maintaining the forms over generations also maintains its “authenticity.” This idea applies especially to artistic styles and architectural forms.  However, it should be remembered that components are not necessarily identical even if a form is kept unchanged. To preserve paintings and buildings whose materials easily deteriorate, for example, they should be repaired with parts replaced, or should be rebuilt regularly in extreme cases.
The balance between change and consistency is an especially important issue for intangible cultural heritage (ICH), which is not maintained by physical repair but through repetition of performance (or the practice of making in the case of craft skills). The settings change over time, so details must be modified to maintain the form. ICH, whose transmission cannot avoid modification, is also known as “living heritage” because all living things change over time. It is common for ICH to appear in situations different from the original.
Performance in a novel situation sometimes has a positive effect that conventional repetitions lack: recruitment of new appreciators, or refinement of the performance. On the occasion of the Great East Japan Earthquake, there were many sufferers performing what had been local rituals in other locations all over Japan. Their aim was to restore the local economy and social relations. Change or modification in tradition is often expected of favored.
However, change must not fall into disorder. If a performance is profoundly different from the original, the intended meaning and audience appreciation may be lost. For example, changing the location of a sacred performance in order to entertain new outside visitors may negate spiritual significance for the community. Similarly, commercialization of home craft may lead to a loss of quality in the work. Drastic modification that preserves no sign of the original form is obviously a serious issue if the new form is claimed to be old.
There is no need to assume that a trade-off must exist between authenticity and change.  On the contrary, change may be an authentic attribute of many traditions. Recall the familiar fact that competitive innovation does not necessarily contradict the quality control.
What do the heirs of heritage want or need in order to maintain its identity and vitality under contemporary conditions? If we understand the contemporary problems around intangible cultural heritage, can we also help to solve them? In this symposium, researchers who have worked closely with the heirs will discuss these issues in relation to ritual and musical performance and craft making.


1st day (Friday, 11 March) Intangible Heritage of Japan
13:00 – 13:10 Opening remarks: Ken'ichi Sudo (National Museum of Ethnology)
13:10 – 13:30 Introduction: Taku Iida (National Museum of Ethnology)
13:30 – 16:40 Session 1 Officially-designated intangible culture assets in Japan
- Inheriting Cultural Preservation: Six Decades of Japanese System for Protection of Intangible Cultural Properties: Mariko Okada (J. F. Oberlin University, Tokyo)
- Artist and Artisans in the Living National Treasure (Craft Making) System: Takuji Hamada (Nanzan University)
(15 min. break)
- Practical Turn in Understanding Folk Performing Arts as Cultural Heritage / Properties: Satoru Hyoki (Seijo University)
- Mastering Craftsmanship: An Analysis in Studies of Folk Technology Transfer: Ryusuke Kodani (Tohoku History Museum)
- Comments: Hideyuki Onishi (Doshisha Women's College of Liberal Arts)
16:40 – 18:20 Session 2 Tradition in modern Japan
- Between Designation and Support: Unotori Kagura after the Great East Japan Earthquake: Hiroyuki Hashimoto (Otemon Gakuin University)
- Modern Industrialization of Traditional Crafts by Japanese Government around the Late-20th Century: Toru Toyama (Meiji University)
- Comments: Makito Kawada (Seijo University)
2nd day (Saturday, 12 March) Balance between symbolic stability and artistic creativity
10:30 – 12:10 Session 3 Cultures to live and to manipulate
- Rituals Transplanted from the Living Space to the Stage: An Analysis from the Perspective of Intangible Cultural Heritage: Zhengai Liu (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences)
- What Is "Crafts for Life" in Japan?: Takashi Kurata (Meiji University)
- Comments: Takeshi Matsui (Professor Emeritus, The University of Tokyo)
13:40 – 15:10 Session 4 Diversification of heirs
- Key Players of the "Kalbelia Dance" in India: An Innovator Called Gulabi Sapera and the Cultural Heritage of a Community: Ayako Iwatani (Kyoto University)
- What Distinguishes Professional Tattooists from Amateurs in the Case of Contemporary Tahitian Tattooing: Makiko Kuwahara (Kinjo Gakuin University)
- Comments: Masami Iwasaki-Goodman (Hokkai Gakuen University)
15:25 – 17:05 Session 5 Systemic notion of heritage
- The Apprenticeship Approach: Interventions in Safeguarding Musical Traditions, 'Authenticity' and Change at Maryland Traditions (Maryland, USA): Michelle Stefano (Maryland State Arts Cuncil)
- Regenerative Medicine of Culture: A Perspective Based on the Woodcrafting Knowledge of the Zafimaniry, Madagascar: Taku Iida (National Museum of Ethnology)
- Comments: Rumi Umino (Ochanomizu University)
3rd day (Sunday, 13 March) Heritage for community and heritage for humanity
10:30 – 12:10 Session 6 Role of outside participants
- Intangible Cultural Heritage of Cambodia: Khmer Performing Arts: Sam-Ang Sam (National Museum of Ethnology)
- The Role of "Outsiders" in the Reconstitution of "Authentic" Dayak Ikat Weaving Traditions: Christina Kreps (University of Oregon)
- Comments: Shota Fukuoka (National Museum of Ethnology)
13:40 – 15:10 Session 7 Intellectual property rights for intangible heritage
- Cultural Continuity and Change: Community Control of its Music: Marilyn Truscott (immediate past president of ICOMOS International Committee for ICH)
- Copy or Acquirement: Authenticity on the Taiwan Indigenous Craft in the Different Domains of the Intellectual Property: Atsushi Nobayashi (National Museum of Ethnology)
- Comments: Sachiko Kubota (Kobe University), Shigemi Inaga (International Research Center for Japanese Studies)
15:25 – 17:00 General Discussion
Kiyoshi Hasegawa (Bunkyo University)
Koji Kato (Tohoku Gakuin University)
Taku Iida (National Museum of Ethnology)