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Villagers in Higashi-Chichibu, Saitama Prefecture, are riding high.

Just one step out of its nearest train station and visitors are clued in to the fledgling celebratory mood that has taken hold of this rather obscure village with a population of about 3,000. There are signs and flags everywhere that read, triumphantly: “Congratulations! Washi paper-making to be added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list!”

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