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This week’s featured article

KYODO, JIJI, AFP-JIJI

Thirty-three traditional festivals from across Japan have been added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, the international body said.

The festivals, most of which date back to the Edo Period (1603-1868), are held in 18 prefectures and feature parades involving floats made with traditional woodwork and metalwork techniques and decorated with lacquered products and dyed fabrics.

Listing of the festivals was officially approved on Wednesday at a meeting in Ethiopia of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Intergovernmental Committee. Among the 33 festivals are the Yamahoko parade portion of the Gion Festival in Kyoto and the Hikiyama float parade portion of the Karatsu Kunchi festival in Saga Prefecture.

Noting that the festivals have been handed down over generations in various regions, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a statement, “We would like to pass them on to future generations and promote them domestically and internationally with pride.”

“I could not be any happier,” he said.

Local government leaders in the regions with festivals that made the list also expressed their joy.

“It is very delightful and we are filled with pride,” said Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura. “We would like to further engage in developing the float culture from now on,” he added.

Aichi Prefecture in the center of the nation boasts five cultural properties, the most among the prefectures whose festivals were selected for the honor.

“It will support our disaster recovery,” said Ikuo Kabashima, the governor of Kumamoto Prefecture, which is recovering from a powerful series of earthquakes that struck in April.

The 33 festivals will be registered under a single entry, raising the total number of Japanese assets on the intangible cultural heritage list to 21. Previously entered Japanese registrations include washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine), and the performing arts of Kabuki and noh.

Meanwhile, Cuba’s sensual rumba dance and Belgium’s thriving beer culture also made the UNESCO list. UNESCO said the rumba sprang from poor communities where the dance is an enduring “expression of resistance and self-esteem.”

First published in The Japan Times on Dec. 2.

Warm up

One-minute chat about “your favorite festival.”

Game

Collect words related to festivals; e.g., music, crowd, fireworks.

New words

1) intangible: not capable of being touched or otherwise detected by the senses; e.g., “The soul is intangible.”

2) float: a decorated exhibit on a mobile platform pulled or driven in a parade; e.g., “The float was decorated in the shape of a ship.”

Guess the headline

UNESCO h_ _ _ _ _ _ _ list adds 33 Japanese f_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ as single entry

Questions

1) How many traditional festivals were newly registered as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO?

2) How many UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list entries does Japan have now?

3) What else was registered by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage at the same time as the Japanese festivals?

Let’s discuss the article

1) Do you go to Japanese festivals?

2) What impact might the registration have on these festivals?

3) What should be done to keep Japanese festivals and other intangible culture alive?

Reference

ユネスコの世界無形文化遺産として和食が登録されたニュースも記憶に 新しいところですが、日本の祭りが新たに登録されました。国はもとより、祭りを開催し続けてきた各地元にとっては大きなインパクトを与えそうです。

無形文化とはその名の通り形のないものです。何世紀にも渡り受け継ぎ遺産と呼ばれるようになるまでには、有形文化財とはまた違うたくさんの人の努力や想いが必要でしょう。この登録を機に、祭りがますますの盛り上がりを見せ今後も何百年と続くものにとなるでしょうか。

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