A UNESCO preliminary review panel has recommended that 33 traditional Japanese festivals be registered on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list, according to the Cultural Affairs Agency.
Granting the status to the 33 festivals is set to be officially approved at a meeting later this month of UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee, and the international body usually accepts the panel’s recommendations.
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, the Cultural Affairs Agency said Monday.
The festivals are held as expressions of hope for peace and security as well as rich harvests in each community, the agency said.
Among the festivals, the Yamahoko Parade portion of the Gion Festival in Kyoto and the Hitachi Furyumono Parade in Ibaraki Prefecture were added to the UNESCO list in 2009.
The government has decided to combine those two with 31 similar festivals to list them as a group.
Communities that host the festivals welcomed the news.
“This will help others better recognize the value of festivals,” Kyoto Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa said. “I’d like to work with other municipalities that have joined this grouping to convey this to the world.”
Makoto Kobayashi, the mayor of Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, praised the news, saying he felt like his city had “made a group of 33 friends.”
“I hope we’ll be able to communicate with each other and work together,” Kobayashi added.
Keisuke Harada, the mayor of Hita, Oita Prefecture, called the listing a much-needed move to help preserve local traditions.
“It’s important to pass along the culture and history developed in local areas,” Harada said.
Aichi Prefecture Gov. Hideaki Omura said he believed the listing presents a golden opportunity for municipalities to show off their traditional festivals.
“We’ll show the world that these kinds of great festivals” are held in Japan, Omura said.
Aichi Prefecture saw a total of five festivals recommended by the UNESCO panel, more than any other prefecture.
The expected registration of the festivals will bring the total number of Japanese items on the intangible cultural heritage list to 21, the agency said.
“Culture is the biggest resource for tourism policy,” education minister Hirokazu Matsuno said, expressing his hope that the listing will bring more foreign tourists to the nation’s rural areas.
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