Cultural Properties (文化財)

The meanings of "cultural properties" are as follows:

In the broad sense, it refers to any tangible or intangible cultural product invented through human cultural activity. It is basically synonymous with the term "cultural heritage." Please refer to the section "Cultural Heritages" for details.

"Cultural properties" as stated in treaties or ordinances such as agreements concerning protection of cultural properties at armed conflict, prohibition agreements on illegal import or export of cultural properties, and restrictions on illegal import or export of cultural properties. Please refer to "System for the Protection of Cultural Heritages."

"Cultural properties," are defined in Article 2 of the Law for Protection of Cultural Properties and the Ordinance for the Protection of Cultural Properties of Japan.

This section explains point 3 in detail.

Summary

Under the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, Article 2, Clause 1, cultural properties are defined as follows:

This law specifies that a so-called "cultural property" should belong to one of the categories listed below:

1. Tangible items (such as buildings, paintings, sculptures, crafts, calligraphies, literatures, ancient documents and other tangible cultural products) that are highly valued in our nation, either historically or artistically (including all the auxiliary parts or land attached to such value)
Highly valued archaeological resources or historical resources (hereinafter referred to as 'tangible cultural properties')

2. Intangible cultural products (such as plays, musical pieces and craft technologies) that are highly valued in our nation, either historically or artistically (such products being hereinafter referred as intangible cultural properties)

3. The indispensables in order for our nationals to appreciate the flow of life (such as food, clothing, housings, industry or livelihood, beliefs, folk customs about festivals, public entertainments, and traditional skills with the associated costumes, tools and stages) (such indispensables being hereinafter referred to as folk cultural properties)

4. Buildings and structures (such as shell mounds, ancient tombs, citadel-type castle sites, castle sites and old residences) which are highly valued in our nation, either historically or academically; landscapes (such as gardens, bridges, canyons, coasts, mountains and other places of scenic beauty) that are highly valued in our nation for their artistic or visual merit; animals (including their habitats, their breeding areas, and their stopovers), plants (including their habitats), and geological minerals (including the landscapes produced by natural phenomena) that are highly valued academically in our nation (such natural features being hereinafter referred to as 'monuments')

5. The indispensables in order for our nationals to appreciate the life and livelihood of a local region (such as the scenes formed by the customs of the region that reflects the locals’ lives and livelihoods) (such indispensables being hereinafter referred to as cultural landscapes")

6. Highly valued traditional architecture (hereinafter referred to as "classic architecture") that merges harmoniously with the surrounding environment to represent historical scenic beauty

In other words, the six categories that are highly valued historically, artistically, academically or visually are "tangible cultural properties," "intangible cultural properties," "folk cultural properties," "monuments," "cultural landscapes" and "classic architecture"; regardless of whether they are designated or not, they're classified as cultural properties. The Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology can designate, approve, determine, register the important ones from among the cultural properties, and place them under protection. However, for the purpose of designation or the cancellation of designation, the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology should consult the Council for Cultural Affairs beforehand (Article 153).

Tangible Cultural Properties

Tangible cultural properties are defined as being such things as buildings, art crafts (paintings, sculptures, traditional crafts, calligraphies, literature), ancient documents and other tangible cultural outcomes or products (including all the auxiliary parts, tools or land attached to its value), as well as archeological or historical resources. Among the tangible cultural properties, the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology can designate the ones judged to be especially important as "important cultural properties" (Article 27, Clause 1). Moreover, among the important cultural properties he can designate as national treasures those that are of high cultural value from the world's perspective (Article 27, Clause 2).

In 1996, according to the revision (Article 57) of the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, a registration system was established for those whose tangible cultural properties have not been designated by the nation or a local public entity but at the same time need necessary preservation and proper usage; this revision was mainly aimed at protecting heritages from modernization. Initially, the scope of registration was limited to the buildings, but with the revision of the law in 2004 the coverage was expanded to other tangible cultural properties.

Intangible Cultural Properties

Intangible cultural properties are defined as the intangible cultural products or outcomes such as plays, musical pieces and craft skills. Among the intangible cultural properties, the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology can designate the ones judged to be especially important as "important intangible cultural properties" (Article 71, Clause 1). At the same time, the holders or the maintenance bodies of such important intangible cultural properties are recognized (Article 71, Clause 2). The holder recognition is divided into personal recognition (which recognizes a person individually as a holder) and integrated recognition (which recognizes multiple holders as a body). A holder who has received personal recognition is called a "living national treasure." Among the intangible cultural properties other than the important intangible cultural properties, those that merit measures aimed at compiling, preserving or disclosing their recording documents are selected as "intangible cultural properties that deserve measures of documentation" (Article 77). They are called "selected intangible cultural properties."

Folk Cultural Properties

Folk cultural properties are defined as being the folk customs, public entertainments and traditional skills, and the associated costumes, tools and stages related to the indispensables such as foods, clothing, housings, livelihoods, beliefs and annual events.

Among the tangible folk cultural properties such as costumes, tools and stages associated with the intangible folk cultural properties, the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology can designate the ones judged to be especially important as "important tangible folk cultural properties" (Article 78, Clause 1). In accordance with the 2004 revision (Article 90, Clause 1) of the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, a registration system was established for those tangible folk cultural properties that have not been designated by the nation or a local public entity but at the same time need necessary preservation and proper usage as annual events. The first three cases to be registered were the "wakasa agate grinding tools," the "grape cultivation tools and winemaking tools of Katsunuma" and the "Unshu abacus-making tool," as announced in the official gazette on March 15, 2006.

Among the intangible folk cultural properties (such as folk customs, public entertainments and traditional skills), the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology can designate the ones judged to be especially important as "important intangible folk cultural properties" (Article 78, Clause 1). Among the intangible folk cultural properties other than the important intangible folk cultural properties, those that merit measures aimed at compiling, preserving or disclosing their recording documents are selected as "intangible folk cultural properties that deserve measures for documentation" (Article 87, Clause 1). They are also called "selected intangible folk cultural properties."

Monuments

Historical sites (such as shell mounds, ancient tombs, citadel style castle sites, castle sites and old residences), famous places of scenic beauty (such as gardens, bridges, canyons, coasts and mountains), and natural creations (such as animals, plants and geological minerals) are collectively called monuments. Among such monuments, the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology can designate the ones judged to be important as "historical spots, places of natural scenery and natural monuments" (Article 109, Clause 1). The Minister can designate those of the monuments listed above that are judged to be especially important as "special historical spots, special places of natural scenery and special natural monuments" and place them under special care (Article 109, Clause 2).

In accordance with the 2004 revision (Article 132, Clause 1) of the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, a registration system was established for monuments that have not been designated by the nation or a local public entity but at the same time need necessary preservation and proper usage as registered monuments. The first three cases to be registered were Hakodate Park (Hakodate City, Hokkaido), Futatabi Park (Kobe City) and Sorakuen Garden (Kobe City), as announced in the official gazette on January 26, 2006.

Cultural Landscapes

A cultural landscape is defined as being the local life and livelihood of a region, as well as the scenes formed by the customs of that region that reflect the local people's lives and livelihoods. In accordance with the 2004 revision in the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, this genre of cultural properties was established; the so-called "original scenery of Japan" such as tanada (terraced rice fields) and satoyama (outskirts of the country) fall within this genre. As part of the project for the preservation and usage of the Cultural Landscapes, the Advisory Committee for the Preservation and Maintenance of Cultural Landscapes of the Agency for Cultural Affairs identified 180 important regions in its third investigation. The Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology can select, from among the cultural landscapes that deserve to have preservation measures from the prefecture or the municipality, the especially important ones as "important cultural landscapes" (Article 134, Clause 1). The first selected case of an "important cultural landscape " was the "scenery of the Omi-hachiman lakeside region" in Omi-Hachiman City of Shiga Prefecture, as announced in the official gazette on January 26, 2006. The second selected case was the "farm village scenery of Ichinoseki Hondera Temple" in Ichinoseki City of Iwate Prefecture, as announced in the official gazette on July 28, 2006.

Classic Architectures

Classic architecture is defined as being the highly valued traditional architecture that merges harmoniously with the surrounding environment to form a scene of historical beauty. A post town or a castle town (such as a community, settlement, village or an old row of houses) would fall within this category. Unlike other systems, in order to preserve historical villages and towns the municipality first determines the districts for preservation of classic architecture, doing so in accordance with city planning or regulations (Article 143, Clause 1). Among the preservation districts of classic architecture, the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology can designate the ones judged to be especially important as preservation districts of "important cluster of classical buildings protection area." (Article 144 Clause 1).

Buried Cultural Properties

Buried cultural properties, unlike other cultural properties, are cultural properties that exist in such a state that they're buried underground. To conduct an investigative excavation of a buried cultural property, it is necessary to report beforehand to the director-general of the Agency for Cultural Affairs (Article 92, Clause 1). As for the land that contains a buried cultural property, the public is to be notified by means of a site map, etc. (Article 95). Similarly, if one wants to carry out engineering work on such a well-known place containing a buried cultural property, it is necessary to report to the director-general of the Agency for Cultural Affairs (Article 93, Clause 1).
When it is realized that the item buried in the ground is a cultural property, the chief of police must submit the item to the prefectural or municipal board of education for an inspection in order to determine whether or not the item is a cultural property.(Article 102)

Selected Techniques for Preservation

Although the material production, repair, restoration and traditional skills indispensable for the preservation of cultural properties aren't "cultural properties," they are within the scope of protection under the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. The Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology determines the selected preservation techniques (Article 147, Clause 1) and recognizes the holders or the maintenance bodies of such techniques (Article 147, Clause 2).

Preservation and Usage of Cultural Properties

The owner of a cultural property can be a person, a foundation, a local public entity (a prefecture, municipality, city, district, town or village), or the nation; besides preserving the cultural property for the public, the owner or parties concerned must do their utmost to put it into proper cultural use and open it to public as much as possible. Particularly in regard to a designated cultural property, the owner must maintain the designated cultural property in observance of the ordinances from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and the instructions from the director-general of the Agency for Cultural Affairs (Article 31); in the case when the management by the owner is noticeably insufficient, the director-general of the Agency for Cultural Affairs can assign a local public entity as the management body in lieu of the owner (Article 31, Clause 2).

To change the current state of a designated cultural property, it is necessary to obtain permission from the director-general of the Agency for Cultural Affairs (Article 43). Particularly, the export of designated cultural properties is, as a rule, prohibited (Article 44). Moreover, the director-general of the Agency for Cultural Affairs can recommend the public opening of a designated cultural property (Article 51). On the other hand, when an enormous expenditure is required for the management or repair of a designated cultural property, a subsidy is granted to the owner or the management body (Article 35). Compared with the laws concerning designated cultural properties, regulations concerning registered cultural properties are more flexible; for example, a change from the current state may involve a system for the submittal of written reports (Article 64, Clause 1).

Cultural Properties in the Ordinances

The Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties (Article 182, Clause 2) provides the following:

Apart from the "important cultural properties," "important intangible cultural properties," "important tangible folk cultural properties," "important intangible folk cultural properties" and "historic spots, places of natural scenery, natural monuments," a local public entity can designate the important ones among the cultural properties within its territory so as to legislate on behalf of the necessary preservation measures and their proper usage.

Based on this regulation, many local public entities (prefecture or municipality) enact respectively their own ordinances with names such as "Ordinance for the Protection of Cultural Properties "; the Board of Education carries out the prefectural or municipal designations with an attempt to protect those important cultural properties other than the nation designated cultural properties. However, when a prefectural or municipal cultural property becomes nationally designated, the prefectural or municipal designation is canceled.
Although a prefectural or municipal system is mainly based on the national system, it can be established based on its particular traits, as the following examples show:

Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance for the Protection of Cultural Properties
Among the tangible cultural properties, the important ones can be designated as "Tokyo Metropolitan Area-designated tangible cultural properties."

Among the intangible cultural properties, the important ones can be designated as "Tokyo Metropolitan-Area designated intangible cultural properties."

Among the tangible folk cultural properties, the important ones can be designated as "Tokyo Metropolitan Area-designated tangible folk cultural properties"; among the intangible folk cultural properties, the important ones can be designated as "Tokyo Metropolitan Area-designated intangible folk cultural properties."

Among the monuments, important ones can be designated as "Tokyo Metropolitan Area-designated historic sites," "Tokyo Metropolitan Area-designated ancient sites," "Tokyo Metropolitan Area-designated spots of scenic beauty" or "Tokyo Metropolitan Area-designated natural monuments."

Yamanashi Prefecture Ordinance for the Protection of Cultural Properties
Among the tangible cultural properties, those important ones can be designated as "Yamanashi Prefectural designated tangible cultural properties."

Among the intangible cultural properties, the important ones can be designated as "Yamanashi Prefecture-designated intangible cultural properties."

Among the tangible folk cultural properties, the important ones can be designated as "Yamanashi Prefecture-designated tangible folk cultural properties"; among the intangible folk cultural properties; the important ones can be designated as "Yamanashi Prefecture-designated intangible folk cultural properties."

Among the monuments, the important ones can be designated as "Yamanashi Prefecture-designated historic sites," "Yamanashi Prefecture-designated spots of scenic beauty" or "Yamanashi Prefecture-designated natural monuments."

Among the cultural sceneries, those important ones can be selected as "Yamanashi Prefectural selected cultural landscapes."

Among the preservation districts of classic architecture," the particularly valuable ones can be selected as "Yamanashi Prefectural selected preservation districts of "classic architecture."

Gifu Prefecture Ordinance for the Protection of Cultural Properties
Among the tangible cultural properties, the particularly valuable ones can be designated as "Gifu Prefectural important cultural properties."

Among the intangible cultural properties, the particularly valuable ones can be designated as "Gifu Prefectural important intangible cultural properties."

Among the folk cultural properties, the particularly valuable ones can be designated as "Gifu Prefectural important tangible folk cultural properties" or "Gifu Prefectural important intangible folk cultural properties."

Among the monuments, the particularly valuable ones can be designated as "Gifu Prefectural historic sites," "Gifu Prefectural spots of scenic beauty" or "Gifu Prefectural natural monuments."

Yokohama City Ordinance for the Protection of Cultural Properties
Among the cultural properties, those that are kept by local residents or are necessarily known by the locals can be registered as Yokohama City local cultural properties.

Ordinance concerning the preservation of a traditional environment and the formation of a beautiful spectacle in Kanazawa City
The land or zone necessary in order to preserve and cultivate a traditional environment (hereinafter referred as a "traditional environment preservation zone"), or the land or zone necessary in order to create a modern cityscape (hereinafter referred as a "modern urban scenery creation zone") can be designated.

A building or a woody plant can be designated as a candidate for preservation and thereby constitute city scenery.

Kobe City Ordinance concerning the protection of cultural properties and the maintenance of the surrounding cultural environment
Among the cultural properties, the necessary ones can be registered as Kobe City registered cultural properties.

Among the cultural properties, the necessary ones can be registered as Kobe City local cultural properties.

In order to preserve a cultural environment, the necessary district can be designated as a "cultural environment preservation zone."

Among the tangible cultural properties existing in the environmental preservation zones, the important ones can be registered as "historical buildings of Kobe City" or other tangible cultural products.