29.11.2010 - ODG

Kyoto: Tangible and Intangible Heritage in Harmony with Nature

© UNESCO/Cynthia Guttman - UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova exchanging with students from the Kyoto Institute of Technology in Kyoto on 27 November 2010, during her first official visit to Japan

“There is no contradiction between being a technologically advanced society and preserving heritage and other deep cultural traditions,” said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova during an exchange with students from the Kyoto Institute of Technology on 27 November 2010, the last day of her official visit to Japan. “It is important that young people take pride in their intangible heritage. Preserving our cultural diversity, our intangible and tangible heritage, helps people to be more confident in this globalized world.”

The Kyoto Institute of Technology runs a project to preserve and revitalize cultural heritage within Japan. Decorative metal and gold crafts, scrolls and ceramics made by students were among the pieces on display in a traditional guest house.

Harmony reigns between nature and heritage in Kyoto, the imperial capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years. The historic monuments of Ancient Kyoto, comprising 17 properties, were inscribed on the World Heritage list in 1994. Accompanied by the Mayor of Kyoto, the Director-General visited Nanzen-ji temple, one of the most well-known Rinzai Zen temples in Japan, set in the midst of autumn’s red maple leaves. She went on to Nijo castle, the 17th century official residence of the first Tokugawa Shogun, one of the finest examples of the early Edo period in Japan, graced with gold leaf mural paintings and famed for its ‘nightingale floors’ that squeak to protect the occupants from unwanted assailants.

The beauty of the landscape was reflected in the kimonos of Kunihiko Moriguchi and of his late father Kako, both considered ‘national living treasures’ in Japan. Mr Moriguchi welcomed the Director-General in his traditional Japanese home and explained the subtle nature of his traditional art of silk dyeing, known as Yuzen, which dates back to the 17th century. From tracing the kimono’s intricate motifs, to starching, painting, steaming and dying the fabric, the elaborate art involves a master and several craftsmen. Over the centuries, designs have evolved towards more abstract motifs, while preserving age-old techniques.  “It is a wonderful example of preserving heritage while expressing modernity and passing onto the next generation,” said the Director-General.

Japan will host the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention in 2012.

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