Akiu no Taue Odori
Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
In the Akiu no Taue Odori, residents of the town of Akiu in northern Japan pray for a good harvest by simulating in dance the actions involved in transplanting rice. Performed since the end of the seventeenth century in communities throughout the region, the Akiu no Taue Odori today takes place during festivals in the spring or autumn. Ten female dancers dressed in colourful kimonos and floral headdresses, assisted by two to four male dancers, perform a repertoire of six to ten dances. Holding fans or bells, the women align themselves in one or two rows and perform movements designed to evoke the gestures of the rice cycle, particularly taue, the transplantation of seedlings into a large rice field filled with water. Once believed to ensure an abundant crop, the performances have lost their religious significance as attitudes and beliefs have changed, and as modern agricultural techniques have replaced rituals such as the Akiu no Taue Odori as guarantors of plenty. Today, the dance is a cultural and aesthetic event, connecting townspeople to their agricultural heritage, to Japan’s tradition of reliance on rice, and to a group identity transmitted across centuries through folk performance.
Decision 4.COM 13.46
The Committee (…) decides that [this element] satisfies the criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, as follows:
- R.1: The ritual dance for rice cropping has been transmitted from generation to generation and is constantly recreated, reflecting respect for nature and the importance of ancestral techniques of cultivation to ensure a bountiful harvest;
- R.2: Inscription of this element on the Representative List would motivate transmitting bodies to continue practising their heritage as well as garner greater attention for similar agricultural rituals in Japan and worldwide, increasing respect for cultural diversity;
- R.3: The nomination identifies practical measures that have sustained the element until now and cites specific safeguarding measures by the communities, expert groups, and the State including research, documentation and elementary education to ensure its transmission to future generations;
- R.4: The nomination includes evidence of the free, prior and informed consent of the community concerned;
- R.5: The element is inscribed as an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property on the national inventory maintained by the Agency for Cultural Affairs.
© 2008 by Sendai City Board of Education
These videos (and many more) can also be consulted through the UNESCO Archives Multimedia website