Saturday, August 5

Speech by Minister of Foreign Affairs Taro Aso in Hollywood Digital University

28 April 2006

On the Entry into Force of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

I've thought for some time that I would like to come to Digital Hollywood University. I plan to touch on a number of topics concerning the new cultural diplomacy that Japan is now pursuing, and for that I have to say that I couldn't have found a better place to present my thoughts. I want to extend my thanks to all the people here at the school who have made great efforts to provide such a setting and welcome me today.
In the area of cultural diplomacy, we've had one very good thing happen recently. A new international convention has just entered into force, one which Japan has taken the lead in promoting over the years.

The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was adopted in 2003 at the urging of UNESCO. Recently the number of signatories reached the required 30-nation mark, bringing about its entry into force on April 20.
As you can imagine from the name, this Convention promotes at a global level safeguards very similar to a framework already existing in Japan, through which our intangible cultural heritage and our living national treasures have been protected.
For decades since the end of World War II, Japan has been protecting the intangibles of skills, techniques, and master craftsmen themselves, which must exist before any tangibles can be created. In this way it has protected heritage such as Joruri puppet theater and Bizen ware. And now, the goal is to get those same protections in place around the globe.
Much of the intangible cultural heritage in need of safeguarding, such as traditional performing arts and other such skills, can be found in Asia or in developing nations. We can say that in looking to preserve those valuable assets, this new Convention found some significant points of inspiration from Japan's ideas on this issue.
Japan has been, for this to happen, an active partner of UNESCO since 1993, and there have been numerous areas in which Japan has taken the lead to produce positive results, such as in creating a map of the languages of the world which are in danger of dying out.
Now we have protections in the form of a convention, with these safeguards existing in the form of formal rules governing international society. This particular form of Japan's cultural diplomacy may indeed be “intangible,” but it represents a tremendous contribution to the world, in my opinion.

The rest of speech is here. Interesting read about Japanese Minister thinks of cultural imports of Japan and how it can promote Japan to the world.