Japan’s architecture techniques recommended as UNESCO heritage


the-japan– A UNESCO evaluation body has recommended the registration of 17 techniques related to conservation, repair and decoration of Japanese traditional architecture as the intangible cultural heritage of humanity, Japan’s Cultural Affairs Agency announced Tuesday.

“The traditional skills, techniques and knowledge for the conservation and transmission of wooden architecture in Japan” are expected to be officially registered at the Intergovernmental Committee meeting to be held in Paris from Dec. 14.

The techniques include “roofing with Japanese cypress bark,” which can be seen on the roofs of the Kiyomizudera temple in Kyoto; “thatching” seen on houses in Shirakawa-go village, Gifu Prefecture; “coloring of traditional structures” applied to temples and shrines in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture; and “conservative restoration techniques for mounts” that are used to preserve pictures on room partitions and other items made of paper and silk.

They are designated as the country’s Selected Conservation Techniques, which are indispensable for the preservation of cultural properties. The techniques have been handed down to 14 present-day conservation groups.

In making its proposal to UNESCO, the government emphasized the value of a structure’s ability to withstand earthquakes and typhoons and the value of the technology used to create architectural spaces that are unique to Japan, using such natural materials as wood, grass and soil. It also emphasized the significance of related efforts for nature conservation, such as the proper management and collection of raw materials such as cypress bark and thatch.

Traditional performing arts, social customs and rituals of various countries, demonstrating cultural diversity and human creativity, are registered as intangible cultural heritage of humanity based on the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage that was adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in 2003. The recognition of intangible heritage also aims to complement the World Heritage sites, which protect tangible heritage such as architecture, landscapes and natural landforms.

There are 21 items of intangible cultural heritage in Japan, including noh, kabuki and washoku cuisine. This year’s listing will mark the first time since Raiho-shin — ritual visits of deities in masks and costumes — were added to the list in 2018.