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人間国宝 Ningen Kokuhō or the Living National Treasures

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In Japan, the living national treasures are a kind of title granted to some masters both for the manual arts (eg: ukiyo-e, art on paper, manufacture of swords and ceramics), and for those of acting traditions (ex: bunraku, kabuki and various traditional matsuri festivals). 

The title is given to special masters or categories and associative subjects to preserve techniques and artistic skills that may be lost over the time. This would be a great pity not only for Japan but for world culture all.

Before the 1947, in Japanese national law, there was a system of culture related to the imperial "artists and artisans" of the 帝室 技 芸 員 Teishitsu Gigei-in family. Later, in 1950, the new law for the protection of intangible cultural "property" was introduced, such as drama and music, and tangible ones, such as the artifacts of artisans of great historical value.
Individuals or groups that have reached creative levels and mastery of the trade are designated as conservatives of this knowledge by the Japanese government in order to ensure their continuation. This is an important step that helps not only in words, but as we will also see through financial aid.
There are three types of certification:

各个 認定, Kakko Nintei: This certification is reserved for those who "have mastered the mastery" of an art or craft, a kind of individual certification.

総 合 認定, Sōgō Nintei: This certification is reserved for groups of 2 or more, as a working group have achieved a high level of mastery of an art or craft.

保持 団 体 認定, Hoji Dantai Nintei: Certification for Conservation Groups, reserved for large groups who have learned an art or craft where individual character is not underlined.

Of the three types, generally only those who have received "Individual Certification" are called Living National Treasures. Those who work in artistic fields such as drama and music receive individual and collective certifications. Those working in crafts usually receive individual or conservation group certifications.

The Japanese government, with the aim of preserving important intangible cultural assets, provides a special annual subsidy of 2 million yen. In the case of groups, the government helps to cover the cost of public exhibitions and the activities necessary for preservation and conservation of these groups. For example, the Japanese National Theater, to help the new levers, offers training programs directed at the successors in the arts such as Noh, Bunraku and Kabuki. Many artisans also belong to trade associations such as members of the Japanese Kōgei Association.

Living national treasures are subdivided into 16 categories of intangible cultural properties:
Gagaku, Noh, Bunraku, Kabuki, Kumi Odori, Music, Dance and Drama; Japanese Crafts: Ceramics, Textiles, Lacquers, Metal Processing, Doll Makers, Wood Craftsmen, Paper Craftsmen and others.

The principle of living treasures found it interesting, but above all useful for the preservation of trades, arts and knowledge that would normally disappear because they were not preserved by anyone, not even the state.

It is a model that would be interesting to develop more and as Akiba's Order will certainly be one of our future projects with more information on the individual categories mentioned above.


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