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Tuesday, 1st November 2016
In General Japan News,

UNESCO to approve 33 Japanese festivals for heritage list

A preliminary review panel of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recommended that 33 Japanese festivals be honoured. If the process is completed, the traditional events will be added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage list, the Cultural Affairs Agency announced.

UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee will meet later this month and is expected to make the move official. It is very rare that the international body doesn’t follow the recommendations of the panel, which ensures all criteria are met.

Many of the festivals have been celebrated since the Edo Period in Japan, which ran from 1603 to 1868. They are split across 18 prefectures and noteworthy for the incredibly floats that are paraded through the streets. These vehicles feature traditional woodwork and metalwork techniques, as well as dyed fabrics and lacquered items.

Among the reasons for staging the festivals are hopes for a strong harvest, peace and security in the future. Each one has its own individual stories and traditions, but it is widely thought they should be preserved for the future.

Back in 2009, UNESCO added the Yamahoko Parade portion of the Gion Festival in Kyoto and the Hitachi Furyumono Parade in Ibaraki Prefecture to the list. The idea is to group another 31 festivals in with the original two and list them all together.

Daisaku Kadokawa, the mayor of Kyoto, told the Japan Times: “This will help others better recognise the value of festivals. 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 in Aomori Prefecture, added to the sentiment, saying he felt that his city had made 33 friends. A selection of other officials also praised the news, marking a step forward in preserving the tradition.

The prefecture with the most festivals included in the bid is Aichi, which has had five of its events recommended to UNESCO. If all goes to plan, Japan will have a total of 21 items on the Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

Hirokazu Matsuno, the education minister, expressed the hope that the listing would help attract foreign visitors to the more rural areas of Japan. He summarised: “Culture is the biggest resource for tourism policy.”

Related news stories:
Japan hopes to add Fukuoka ancient monuments to UNESCO list (29th July 2015)
UNESCO supports heritage listing for Tokyo museum building (18th May 2016)
Japanese industrial sites added to UNESCO list (6th July 2015)
Japanese alps get UNESCO recognition (12th June 2014)