Some years ago I attended a workshop on sacred heritage in Japan hosted by Aike Rots and Mark Teeuwen at the University of Oslo. The result of the workshop is now published: Sacred Heritage Japan edited by Rots and Teeuwen, published as part of the Routledge series on Museums and Heritage in Asia. I contribute with the chapter “An introduction to multilateral heritage politics – Japan and the World Heritage Convention”.

The chapter explores Japan’s late ratification of the World Heritage Convention and its early success in expanding the notion of authenticity through the Nara conference thereby laying the foundation for numerous World Heritage Committee tenures. Moving on from Japan’s early World Heritage history, the chapter examines the relationship between Japan’s Committee tenures and its World Heritage nominations, its Committee representation and finally how Japan in recent years has rebranded its international sense of self from a cultural nation to a great technological powerhouse through its World Heritage nominations.

Blurb of the book:

Sacred Heritage in Japan is the first volume to explicitly address the topics of Japanese religion and heritage preservation in connection with each other. 

The book examines what happens when places of worship and ritual practices are rebranded as national culture. It also considers the impact of being designated tangible or intangible cultural properties and, more recently, as UNESCO World or Intangible Heritage. Drawing on primary ethnographic and historical research, the contributions to this volume show the variety of ways in which different actors have contributed to, negotiated, and at times resisted the transformation of religious traditions into heritage. They analyse the conflicts that emerge about questions of signification and authority during these processes of transformation. The book provides important new perspectives on the local implications of UNESCO listings in the Japanese context and showcases the diversity of “sacred heritage” in present-day Japan. 

Combining perspectives from heritage studies, Japanese studies, religious studies, history, and social anthropology, the volume will be of interest to scholars and students who want to learn more about the diversity of local responses to heritage conservation in non-Western societies. It will also be of interest to scholars and students engaged in the study of Japanese religion, society, or cultural policies.” Source: Routledge

Image: Nara. Source: Wikipedia