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  5. New Designation of Nara Sumi Ink Sticks and Sanshin String Instruments as Traditional Crafts under the Act on the Promotion of Traditional Craft Industries

New Designation of Nara Sumi Ink Sticks and Sanshin String Instruments as Traditional Crafts under the Act on the Promotion of Traditional Craft Industries

November 7, 2018

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) hereby announces that on November 7, 2018, it has newly designated the following two crafts as traditional crafts as defined in the Act on the Promotion of Traditional Craft Industries (hereinafter called the “Act”): Nara Sumi Ink Sticks from Nara Prefecture and Sanshin String Instruments from Okinawa Prefecture.

1. New designation of traditional crafts

Concerning the new designation of the crafts mentioned above, on August 16, 2018, the Traditional Craft Designation Subcommittee of the Manufacturing Industry Committee under the Industrial Structure Council held discussions on the crafts and decided to newly designate them as traditional crafts. On November 7, 2018, this designation was announced by a public notice and the crafts have been listed accordingly as items designated as traditional crafts by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. The number of designated traditional crafts now comes to 232 items.

Along with this designation, METI revised the details of the designation of Takaoka Doki Copper Ware, a traditional craft from Toyama Prefecture designated in 1975, and designated additional techniques for this copper ware under the Act.

2. Outline of the newly designated crafts

(1) Nara Sumi Ink Sticks

Nara Sumi Ink Sticks are traditional crafts produced in Nara City, Nara Prefecture. As crafts created in the Asuka region in Nara in ancient times, Nara Sumi Ink Sticks were necessary tools in the transcription of Buddhist sutras and the study of Buddhism for monks in many shrines and temples in Nara, the capital city, during the Nara Period. Even after the capital city moved to Kyoto in the Heian Period, they were still produced at craft workshops in Nara and have now been produced there for hundreds of years. In particular, Yuenboku, a type of sumi ink stick that is said to have been created in the Muromachi Period by collecting soot from the vigil lights at Nitaibo Branch Temple of Kofukuji Temple, which are temples currently located in Nara City, Nara Prefecture. Yuenboku became famous for their quality and known as Nara Sumi Ink Sticks across Japan, and the tradition has continued since the period.

(2) Sanshin String Instruments

Sanshin String Instruments are a type of musical instrument produced in Naha City and other areas in Okinawa Prefecture. Original models of Sanshin String Instruments came from China to Okinawa during the Kingdom of Ryukyu period. The musical instrument evolved as a courtly musical instrument and then became broadly popular among the people. Now, Sanshin String Instruments are indispensable musical instruments for a variety of music genres, such as Kumiodori (a traditional Okinawan dance listed as a UNESCO World Heritage), Ryukyu Kageki Opera, Minyo folksongs, and pop music.

Reference: Details of the Act on the Promotion of Traditional Craft Industries

The Act aims to provide the public with rich cultural heritage and contribute to the succession of traditional skills and techniques to the next generation, as well as to the economic development and creation of employment in various regions across Japan, through the promotion of traditional craft industries. Traditional crafts that are designated* under the Act are subject to various types of promotion policies under the Act.

*Five requirements must be satisfied to receive the designation: the craft should be: [i] a daily commodity, [ii] handmade, [iii] made using a traditional skill or technique continued for the last 100 years or more, [iv] made of a raw material which has been used traditionally, and [v] created in a particular regional area.


Division in Charge

Traditional Craft Industry Office, Lifestyle Industries Division, Manufacturing Industries Bureau