National treasure

20 Jul

We think we do quite well at preserving stuff in Britain. National Trust and all that. But in Japan they take it to a whole ‘nother level. They don’t just preserve buildings, but also intangible things.

Craftspeople who are part of a great tradition are honoured with the title of Living National Treasure. They’re tasked with keeping their craft alive and passing it on to the next generation. The chap above is a National Treasure candle maker. His smoky, atmospheric shop, walls splattered with layer upon layer of candle wax, was straight out of the seventeenth century. He cheerfully told us at great length, in Japanese, all about how he makes his candles. I managed to catch something about the beauty of the flame and their superiority over western candles.

Intangible cultural assets, like festivals and other traditions are also protected. So men dressed in loincloths, banging giant drums whilst pissed on sake, merit their own museum. I think we’ve a lot to learn from this. First up, Morris dancers…


8 Responses to “National treasure”

  1. Helen 20/07/2011 at 9:06 am #

    Not sure about morris dancers! Lawn bowls?!

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 20/07/2011 at 10:40 am #

      Definitely lawn bowls. Then we could follow the Japanese idea of making foods national treasures and slap a protection order on the tea afterwards. Cucumber sandwiches.

  2. fourgotospain 20/07/2011 at 4:31 pm #

    I’m very impressed with your Japanese skills – I expect a full translation on candle making is the next post? I’m avidly reading all about your views of Japan, somewhere I’ve never really hankered to go to, but I think maybe I will…if only those pesky lottery numbers would come up.

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 21/07/2011 at 7:04 am #

      Ha! It was all achieved by means of sign language…

      Japan is one of my very favourite places in the world. It’s got the mysteriousness of Thailand with the bonus of trains that run on time.

  3. Liz 21/07/2011 at 9:58 am #

    I think that’s such a lovely idea. We have one Eel catcher on the river now and once he’s gone that’s it. I think we should have that here x

    • itsasmallworldafterallfamily 23/07/2011 at 1:01 pm #

      That’s exactly the kind of person who would be given National Treasure status. I think it’s wonderful.

      • Viv Sole 26/05/2014 at 11:40 am #

        just found your photo of the candlemaker,.We have a similar one taken in 1996 of a much older candlemaker who I believe to be the father,…. at the time working alongside this son,
        Truly delightful experience with a charming man who chatted away ,…our japanese was not up to understanding but the message of friendship needed no translation. We were in a small town near Takayama …I think called Fukuwara??

        Where were you?

        • Victoria 03/06/2014 at 12:53 pm #

          We were also near Takayama, stayed there for a few days and got a train to this town, I can’t remember its name. It had a festival floats museum and lots of sake shops. What a coincidence!

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