Those women and men in recognized fields who have been designated by the Japanese government as "Bearers of Important Intangible Cultural Assets" are often referred to as "Living National Treasures" or "Ningen Kokuho" coined from the term "national treasure" which was found in a 1929 law referring to the preservation of important objects. Since the first person was named a Living National Treasure in February of 1955, by 1990, a total of 97 individuals in the fields of Noh, Bunraku, Kabuki, traditional music, and dance had been chosen from the performing arts. And in the field of traditional crafts, 92 people received the title for their work in ceramics, weaving, stenciling, dyeing, lacquer, metal, wood and bamboo, dolls, and paper. According to a list compiled by the Agency of Cultural Affairs in September 1996, there are presently 42 traditional craft (still) Living National Treasures in Japan.

This is a very wonderful institution.

All nations have parks, architecture, artworks and other objects that they have categorized as national treasures, as resources that enrich and benefit the cultural life of the nation and the world.

But the ultimate cultural resource is the skill and artistry that comes about through deep training and long experience. Making available this richness is the aspiration of every artist. Honouring and enabling that commitment through public recognition and support is the intention of the Ningen-Kokuho program. Certainly, there are politics involved, certainly there are those that are over-looked. But the institution itself encourages the recognition of the sagacity of our elderly artists and the importance of viewing all of us as resources for each other.

Shanoyu, I agree.

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