Important Intangible Cultural Property (重要無形文化財)
Juyo mukei bunkazai' refers to 'intangible cultural properties' designated by the Japanese Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology under 'the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties' in Japan.
The Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties' stipulates that intangible cultural properties include 'performance, music, craft techniques and the like with particularly high historical or artistic value for Japan'. The law prescribes that among them, the important things are allowed to be designated as important intangible cultural properties. It also stipulates that if something is designated as an important intangible cultural property, it can receive public funds that can be used for part of the cost of preservation, keeping records and cultivating successors.
Before World War Ⅱ, although the System of Imperial Arts and Crafts Experts established in 1890 existed, there was no modern system that protected and designated intangible cultural properties. The Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties enacted in 1950 firstly defined intangible cultural properties legally. However, it was a passive protection measure, because under the law, something had to be in danger of extinction without government's protection in order to be selected as an an intangible cultural property. With the amendments of the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, the system of the selected intangible cultural properties was abolished. The amendment of the law allowed important things to be designated as important intangible cultural properties based on their particularly high historical or artistic value, not on 'the possibility of the extinction'.
Designation of Cultural Properties and Recognition of Individual holders or Group holders
The subject of designation for important intangible cultural property is the intangible 'skills' themselves. Intangible skills such as performing art including 'ningyojoruri' (Japanese traditional puppet show) and 'nogaku' (classical Japanese musical drama) or technique of arts and crafts including 'bizen yaki' (Japanese pottery produced in Okayama Prefecture) and 'chokin' (metalworking technique) are designated as important intangible cultural properties. An individual or a group that has attained and sharpened these skills is recognized as a holder or a holder group respectively.
(Note the difference between designation and recognition.)
There are three types of recognition as follows;
1. "Kattko nintei" refers to giving a holder recognition to an individual who attains high skills. 2. "Sogo nintei" refers to giving a general recognition to all members of a group, when more than one people demonstrate their high skills unitedly. 3. "Hojidantai nintei" refers to giving a group holder recognition to a group, when all members corporate to create intangible cultural property, bringing their individual skills altogether, rather than emphasizing each individuality.
Ningen kokuho' (living national treasures), in general, refers to individuals designated as a holder of important intangible cultural property. The examples of "general recognition" include the members of Shikibushoku Gakubu (Music Department) of the Imperial Household Agency due to their playing 'gagaku' (ancient Japanese court dance and music) and the members of The Association for Japanese Noh Plays due to their performing of 'Noh' (classical Japanese musical drama). The examples of "holder group recognition' include Wajimanuri Gjutsu Hozonkai (Wajima-nuri Technique Preservation Society), 'Honba Yukitsumugi Hozonkai' (Preservation Association for Yuki silk fabric) and Hon Minogami Hozonkai (Hon Mino Paper Preservation Society).
In addition, if measures such as the keeping of records by the government are deemed to be necessary for an intangible cultural property that is not designated as an important intangible cultural property, this property can be selected (not designated) to be a 'selected intangible cultural property'.