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Policies and Actions


National level agency/organisation dedicated to preservation and promotion of traditional/folk performing arts

Bunkacho (Agency for Cultural Affairs)

Prominent NGOs working in this field

Chiiki Dento Geino Katsuyo Senta [Center For Promotion of Folk-Performing Arts] (
Minzoku Geijutsu Koryu Zaidan [Ethno-Arts Council] (
Zennihon Kyodo Geinou Kyoukai [Japan Folk Performing Arts Association] (
Akan Ainu Folk Culture Hozonkai (Hokkaido Prefecture)
Ohmiya Odori Hozonkai (Okayama Prefecture)
Owari Manzai Hozonkai (Aichi Prefecture)

Brief chronology-history

Japan has a rich and long history of traditional/folk performing arts. Before Meiji Era (1868-1911) many varieties of such performing arts flourished in a peaceful social atmosphere. In 1879 Ongaku-Torishirabe-Kakari (Music Investigation Division) was established in Ministry of Education, thereafter the introduction of Western music was started. In 1887 this division was renamed as Tokyo-Ongaku-Gakko (the National University of Fine Arts and Music, Faculty of Music since 1949), and took the main role of promotion for Western music in Japan. In contrast with this, traditional/folk performing arts were somehow neglected in the culture-related policies of Japanese government as well as in formal music education curriculum.

The preservation and promotion of traditional/folk performing arts was taken into serious consideration at national level after World War II. Therefore the Cultural Properties Protection Act was enacted on 25 August 1950 and some of traditional/folk performing arts were registered as Important Intangible Cultural Properties. Under this Act, the government can confer a special grant to a tradition-bearer, and help defray some of the costs for their performances. The local governments can incur for public performances or exhibitions and for the training of others to carry on the tradition.

In 1968 Bunkacho was founded from the merge of the Culture Bureau of Ministry of Education and the Cultural Properties Protection Council to be the sole agency for preservation and promotion of traditional/folk performing arts at national level. Since 1952 Tokyo National Research Institute of Cultural Properties, one of the affiliated institutions in Bunkacho, has been conducting researches on many aspects of performing arts in Japan, to accumulate the knowledge on such performing arts and to help in the preservation and promotion of the traditions.

At prefecture level a considerable number of Hozonkai groups (NGOs for the preservation and promotion of respective traditional/folk performing arts) were founded after World War II, and functioning as performers of such traditions.

Legislation in this field

The Fundamental Law for the Promotion of Culture and Arts (enact. 30 November 2001)
To stipulate the fundamental principles concerning the promotion of culture and arts.
To promote the autonomy of entities that conduct cultural and artistic activities.
To ensure the integrated promotion of culture and arts.

The Cultural Properties Protection Act (enact. 25 August 1950)
To define some of such arts as Intangible Cultural Properties, and to designate specially important such arts as Important Intangible Cultural Property.
To preserve Important Intangible Cultural Property.
To designate other intangible cultural properties as intangible cultural properties for which recording and other measures should be taken.

Category/types of performing arts

01. Warabeuta (Songs for children)
02. Minyo (Folk songs)
03. Kagura (Shinto ritual music and dance)
04. Dengaku (Ritual performing arts for Agriculture)
05. Furyu (Folk dance tradition)
06. Shukufuku-gei (Performing arts for festivities)
07. Katarimono (Buddhist preaching)
08. Shishi-mai (Lion's mask dance)
09. Ningyo-shibai (Puppet theatre)
10. Kyogen (Folk theatre)
11. Folk performing arts in Okinawa
12. Folk performing arts of Ainu ethnicity/people


1998 Mukei-bunkazai Minzoku-bunkazai Bunkazai-hozon-shitei-tou-ichiran [Directory of Intangible Cultural Properties, Folk-Cultural Properties, and Cultural Properties to be preserved] (Format: Print)
Kunishitei Bunkazaitou Kensaku Shisutemu [National Cultural Heritage Search System] (Format: Internet at
2004 Bunkaisan Onlain [Cultural Heritage Online] (Format: Internet at

Gifu Prefectural Education Board
1999 Gifuken-Bunkazai-Zuroku [The Pictorial Records of Cultural Properties in Gifu Prefecture] (Format: Print)

Japan Folklore Association
Nihon-no-Minzokugeino [Folk performing arts of Japan] (Format: Print)

National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo
Folk Performance Section Links (English) (Format: Internet at

Society of Folkloric Performing Arts
2004 Minzokugeinou Kenkyubunken Mokuroku [Bibliography of Studies on Folkloric Performing Arts] (ISBN4-87294-317-1 c3073) Iwata Shoin

Audio・visual documentation collection


Aspects of traditional/folk performing arts in education

The aspects of traditional/folk performing arts are included in the formal education curriculum from elementary school level through undergraduate level to some extent.

Since the introduction of Western music in Meiji Era (1868-1911), traditional music and performing arts had been neglected in the formal music education curriculum in this country. It is only after the World War II that the learning of these performing arts started in music curriculum.

At present, in compulsory music classes of elementary school level and secondary school level, some compositions from warabeuta (songs for children) and minyo (folk songs) categories are taught and appreciated, though the time dedicated to learn performing arts of such categories is quite limited. In high-school level, music is one of selective subjects, and the time dedicated to these performing arts is quite limited.

In undergraduate curriculum which leads to acquisition of teacher's license in music, some units for ethnomusicological study of Japanese traditional/folk performing arts are compulsory.

Since 2002, practice of traditional Japanese musical instrument has been included in the formal music education curriculum at elementary and junior high school levels.

Data provider

Mr. Hidetoshi Kobinata
Part-time Lecturer
Kunitachi College of Music
Address: 5-5-1 Kashiwa-cho, Tachikawa-shi, Tokyo 190-8520, Japan

(Revised in July 2004)
Traditional Culture Division
Cultural Properties Department
Bunkacho (Agency for Cultural Affairs)
Address: Kasumigaseki 3-2-2, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan 100-8959