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National Treasure (Japan)

national treasure in japan, national treasure swords of japan
A National Treasure 国宝: kokuhō is the most precious of Japan's Tangible Cultural Properties, as determined and designated by the Agency for Cultural Affairs a subsidiary of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology A Tangible Cultural Property is considered to be of historic or artistic value, classified either as "buildings and structures" or as "fine arts and crafts" Each National Treasure must show outstanding workmanship, a high value for world cultural history, or exceptional value for scholarship

Approximately 20% of the National Treasures are structures such as castles, Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, or residences The other 80% are paintings; scrolls; sutras; works of calligraphy; sculptures of wood, bronze, lacquer or stone; crafts such as pottery and lacquerware carvings; metalworks; swords and textiles; and archaeological and historical artifacts The items span the period of ancient to early modern Japan before the Meiji period, including pieces of the world's oldest pottery from the Jōmon period and 19th-century documents and writings The designation of the Akasaka Palace in 2009 and of the Tomioka Silk Mill in 2014 added two modern, post-Meiji Restoration, National Treasures

Japan has a comprehensive network of legislation for protecting, preserving, and classifying its cultural patrimony1 The regard for physical and intangible properties and their protection is typical of Japanese preservation and restoration practices2 Methods of protecting designated National Treasures include restrictions on alterations, transfer, and export, as well as financial support in the form of grants and tax reduction The Agency for Cultural Affairs provides owners with advice on restoration, administration, and public display of the properties These efforts are supplemented by laws that protect the built environment of designated structures and the necessary techniques for restoration of works

Kansai, the region of Japan's capitals from ancient times to the 19th century, has the most National Treasures; Kyoto alone has about one in five National Treasures Fine arts and crafts properties are generally owned privately or are in museums, including national museums such as Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nara, public prefectural and city museums, and private museums Religious items are often housed in temples and Shinto shrines or in an adjacent museum or treasure house


  • 1 History
    • 11 Background and early protection efforts
    • 12 Ancient Temples and Shrines Preservation Law
    • 13 Extension of the protection
    • 14 Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties
    • 15 Recent developments in cultural properties protection
  • 2 Designation procedure
  • 3 Categories
    • 31 Castles
    • 32 Modern and historical residences
    • 33 Structures related to industry, transportation and public works
    • 34 Shrines
    • 35 Temples
    • 36 Miscellaneous structures
    • 37 Ancient documents
    • 38 Archaeological materials
    • 39 Crafts
    • 310 Historical materials
    • 311 Paintings
    • 312 Sculptures
    • 313 Writings
  • 4 Preservation and utilization measures
  • 5 Statistics
    • 51 Geographical distribution
    • 52 Age
  • 6 Notes
  • 7 See also
  • 8 References
    • 81 Bibliography
  • 9 Further reading
  • 10 External links


Background and early protection effortsedit

Okakura Kakuzō

Japanese cultural properties were originally in the ownership of Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and aristocratic or samurai families3 Feudal Japan ended abruptly in 1867/68 when the Tokugawa shogunate was replaced by the Meiji Restoration4 During the ensuing haibutsu kishaku "abolish Buddhism and destroy Shākyamuni" triggered by the official policy of separation of Shinto and Buddhism and anti-Buddhist movements propagating the return to Shinto, Buddhist buildings and artwork were destroyed456 In 1871, the government confiscated temple lands, considered symbolic of the ruling elite Properties belonging to the feudal lords were expropriated, historic castles and residences were destroyed,46 and an estimated 18,000 temples were closed6 During the same period, Japanese cultural heritage was impacted by the rise of industrialization and westernization As a result, Buddhist and Shinto institutions became impoverished Temples decayed, and valuable objects were exported789

In 1871, the Daijō-kan issued a decree to protect Japanese antiquities called the Plan for the Preservation of Ancient Artifacts 古器旧物保存方, koki kyūbutsu hozonkata Based on recommendations from the universities, the decree ordered prefectures, temples, and shrines to compile lists of important buildings and art49 However, these efforts proved to be ineffective in the face of radical westernisation9 In 1880, the government allotted funds for the preservation of ancient shrines and templesnb 1474 By 1894, 539 shrines and temples had received government funded subsidies to conduct repairs and reconstruction4810 The five-storied pagoda of Daigo-ji, the kon-dō of Tōshōdai-ji, and the hon-dō of Kiyomizu-dera are examples of buildings that underwent repairs during this period9 A survey conducted in association with Okakura Kakuzō and Ernest Fenollosa between 1888 and 1897 was designed to evaluate and catalogue 210,000 objects of artistic or historic merit48 The end of the 19th century was a period of political change in Japan as cultural values moved from the enthusiastic adoption of western ideas to a newly discovered interest in Japanese heritage Japanese architectural history began to appear on curricula, and the first books on architectural history were published, stimulated by the newly compiled inventories of buildings and art4

Ancient Temples and Shrines Preservation Lawedit

First of the scrolls of Frolicking Animals and Humans owned by Kōzan-ji

On June 5, 1897, the Ancient Temples and Shrines Preservation Law 古社寺保存法, koshaji hozonhō law number 49 was enacted; it was the first systematic law for the preservation of Japanese historic art and architecture49 Formulated under the guidance of architectural historian and architect Itō Chūta, the law established in 20 articles government funding for the preservation of buildings and the restoration of artworks9 The law applied to architecture and pieces of art relating to an architectural structure, with the proviso that historic uniqueness and exceptional quality were to be established article 29 Applications for financial support were to be made to the Ministry of Internal Affairs article 1, and the responsibility for restoration or preservation lay in the hands of local officials article 3 Restoration works were financed directly from the national coffers article 3

A second law was passed on December 15, 1897, that provided supplementary provisions to designate works of art in the possession of temples or shrines as "National Treasures" 国宝, kokuhō The new law also provided for pieces of religious architecture to be designated as a "Specially Protected Building" 特別保護建造物, tokubetsu hogo kenzōbutsu411 While the main criteria were "artistic superiority" and "value as historical evidence and wealth of historical associations," the age of the piece was an additional factor2 Designated artworks could be from any of the following categories: painting, sculpture, calligraphy, books, and handicrafts Swords were added later The law limited protection to items held at religious institutions, while articles in private ownership remained unprotected12 Funds designated for the restoration of works of art and structures were increased from 20,000 yen to 150,000 yen, and fines were set for the destruction of cultural properties Owners were required to register designated objects with newly created museums, which were granted first option of purchase in case of sale4 Initially, 44 temple and shrine buildings and 155 relics were designated under the new law, including the kon-dō at Hōryū-ji412

The laws of 1897 are the foundation for today's preservation law11 When they were enacted, only England, France, Greece, and four other European nations had similar legislation5 As a result of the new laws, Tōdai-ji's Daibutsuden was restored beginning in 1906 and finishing in 191311 In 1914, the administration of cultural properties was transferred from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to the Ministry of Education today MEXT13

Extension of the protectionedit

At the beginning of the 20th century, modernization transformed the Japanese landscape and posed a threat to historic and natural monuments Societies of prominent men such as the "Imperial Ancient Sites Survey Society" or the "Society for the Investigation and Preservation of Historic Sites and Aged Trees" lobbied and achieved a resolution in the House of Peers for conservation measures Eventually these efforts resulted in the 1919 Historical Sites, Places of Scenic Beauty, and Natural Monuments Preservation Law 史蹟名勝天然紀念物保存法, shiseki meishō enrenkinenbutsu hozonhō, protecting and cataloguing such properties in the same manner as temples, shrines, and pieces of art8

By 1929, about 1,100 properties had been designated under the 1897 "Ancient Shrines and Temples Preservation Law"2 Most were religious buildings dating from the 7th to early 17th century Approximately 500 buildings were extensively restored, with 90% of the funding provided by the national budget Restorations during the Meiji period often employed new materials and techniques4

In 1931 Himeji Castle became a National Treasure under the National Treasures Preservation Law of 192914

In 1929 the National Treasures Preservation Law 国宝保存法, kokuhō hozonhō was passed and went into effect on July 1 of that year The law replaced the 1897 laws and extended protection for National Treasures held by public and private institutions and private individuals in an effort to prevent the export or removal of cultural properties1012 The focus of protection was not only for old religious buildings but also for castles, teahouses, residences, and more recently built religious buildings Many of these structures had been transferred from feudal to private ownership following the Meiji restoration Some of the first residential buildings to be designated National Treasures were the Yoshimura residence in Osaka 1937 and the Ogawa residence in Kyoto 19444 The designation "National Treasure" was applied to objects of art and to historical buildings2415 The new law required permits to be obtained for future alterations of designated properties4

The restoration of Tōdai-ji's Nandaimon gate in 1930 saw improved standards for preservation An architect supervised the reconstruction works on-site Extensive restoration reports became the norm, including plans, results of surveys, historical sources, and documentation of the work done4 During the 1930s, about 70–75% of restoration costs came from the national budget, which increased even during the war4

In the early 1930s Japan suffered from the Great Depression In an effort to prevent art objects not yet designated National Treasures from being exported because of the economic crisis, the Law Regarding the Preservation of Important Works of Fine Arts 重要美術品等ノ保存ニ関スル 法律, jūyō bijutsuhin tōno hozon ni kan suru hōritsu was passed on April 1, 1933 It provided a simplified designation procedure with temporary protection, including protections against exportations About 8,000 objects were protected under the law, including temples, shrines, and residential buildings4 By 1939, nine categories of properties consisting of 8,282 items paintings, sculptures, architecture, documents, books, calligraphy, swords, crafts, and archaeological resources had been designated as National Treasures and were forbidden to be exported12

During World War II many of the designated buildings were camouflaged, and water tanks and fire walls were installed for protection Nonetheless, 206 designated buildings, including Hiroshima Castle, were destroyed from May to August 19454 The ninth-century Buddhist text Tōdaiji Fujumonkō, designated a National Treasure in 1938, was destroyed by a fire in 1945 as a result of the war16

Law for the Protection of Cultural Propertiesedit

Kon-dō and five-storied pagoda at Hōryū-ji, two of the world's oldest wooden structures, dating to around 7001718

When the kon-dō of Hōryū-ji, one of the oldest extant wooden buildings in the world and the first to be protected under the "Ancient Temples and Shrines Preservation Law," caught fire on January 26, 1949, valuable seventh-century wall paintings were damaged The incident accelerated the reorganization of cultural property protection and gave rise to the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties 文化財保護法, bunkazai hogohō, which was drafted on May 30, 1950, and went into effect on August 29 of that year3131519 The new law combined the laws of 1919, 1929, and 1933 The scope of the previous protection laws was expanded to cover "intangible cultural properties" such as performing and applied arts, "folk cultural properties," and "buried cultural properties"1519 Before the enactment of this law, only intangible cultural properties of especially high value at risk of extinction had been protected2315 Even by international standards, a broad spectrum of properties was covered by the 1950 law15 The law was the basis for the establishment of the Committee for the Protection of Cultural Properties, a precursor of today's Agency for Cultural Affairs20 It allowed the selection of the most important cultural properties; set restrictions on the alteration, repair and export of cultural properties; and provided measures for the preservation and utilization of such properties21

The regulations implementing the law specified three broad categories of properties: tangible/intangible cultural properties and "historic sites, places of scenic beauty, and natural monuments"1520 Tangible cultural properties were defined as objects of "high artistic or historic value" or archaeological materials or other historic material of "high scholarly value"15 Designated buildings were required to be outstanding in design or building technique, have a high historic or scholarly value, or be typical of a movement or area15

A system for tangible cultural properties was established with two gradings: Important Cultural Property and National Treasure1519 The minister of education designates important cultural properties as National Treasures if they are of "particularly high value from the standpoint of world culture or outstanding treasures for the Japanese people"15 All previously designated National Treasures were initially demoted to Important Cultural Properties Some have been designated as new National Treasures since June 9, 195115 Following a decision by the National Diet, properties to be nominated as a World Heritage Site are required to be protected under the 1950 law22

Recent developments in cultural properties protectionedit

National Treasures have been designated according to the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties starting from June 9, 195115 This law, which is still in force, has since been supplemented with amendments and additional laws that reorganized the system for protection and preservation and extended its scope to a larger variety of cultural properties Some of these changes indirectly affected the protection of designated National Treasures

Lacquer toiletry case with cart wheels in stream design

In the 1960s, the spectrum of protected buildings was expanded to include early examples of western architecture15 In 1966, the Law for the Preservation of Ancient Capitals was passed It was restricted to the ancient capitals of Kamakura, Heijō-kyō Nara, Heian-kyō Kyoto, Asuka, Yamato present day Asuka, Nara, Fujiwara-kyō Kashihara, Tenri, Sakurai, and Ikaruga, areas in which a large number of National Treasures exist101022 In 1975 the law was extended to include groups of historic buildings not necessarily located in capitals2192223

The second significant change of 1975 was that the government began to extend protection not only to tangible or intangible properties for their direct historic or artistic value but also to the techniques for the conservation of cultural properties23 This step was necessary because of the lack of skilled craftsmen resulting from industrialization23 The techniques to be protected included the mounting of paintings and calligraphy on scrolls; the repair of lacquerware and wooden sculptures; and the production of Noh masks, costumes, and instruments1923

The Akasaka Palace is the only National Treasure in the category of modern residences Meiji period and later

The two-tier system of "National Treasures" and "Important Cultural Properties" was supplemented in 1996 with a new level of Registered Cultural Property for items in significant need of preservation and use Initially limited to buildings, the newly established level of importance functioned as a waiting list for nominated Important Cultural Properties and as an extension for National Treasures19 A large number of mainly industrial and historic residences from the late Edo to the Shōwa period were registered under this system24 Compared to Important Cultural Properties and National Treasures, the registration of Cultural Property entails fewer responsibilities for the owner24 Since the end of the 20th century, the Agency for Cultural Affairs has focused on designating structures built between 1868 and 1930 and those in underrepresented regions15 The insufficient supply of raw materials and tools necessary for restoration works was recognized by the agency23 In 1999 protective authority was transferred to prefectures and designated cities19 As a result of the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake, 714nb 2 cultural properties including five National Treasure buildings suffered damage25 The affected National Treasures are Zuigan-ji Main Hall and Priest's Quarters,nb 3 Ōsaki Hachiman-gū,nb 4 Shiramizu Amidadōnb 5 and the Buddha Hall of Seihaku-jinb 625

Designation procedureedit

Priest Mongaku's 45-article rules and regulations, a National Treasure in the category ancient documents

Cultural products with a tangible form that possess high historic, artistic, and academic value for Japan are listed in a three-tier system Properties in need of preservation and use are catalogued as "Registered Cultural Properties"nb 721 Important objects are designated as "Important Cultural Properties"3

Important cultural properties that show truly exceptional workmanship, a particularly high value for world cultural history, or an exceptional value to scholarship can be designated as "National Treasures"1221 In order to achieve the designation, the owner of an important cultural property contacts or is contacted by the Agency for Cultural Affairs for information regarding the registration13 In the latter case, the agency always asks the owner for consent beforehand, even though not required by lawnb 815 The agency then contacts the Council for Cultural Affairs, which consists of five members appointed by the minister of education for their "wide and eminent views on and knowledge of culture" The council may seek support from an investigative commission and eventually prepares a report to the Agency for Cultural Affairs If they support the nomination, the property is placed on the registration list of cultural properties, the owner is informed of the outcome, and an announcement is made in the official gazette13151921 The designation policy is deliberately restrained, keeping the number of designated properties low26 In this respect the South Korean protective system is similar to that of Japan27 In the 21st century, up to five properties were designated every year28


The Agency for Cultural Affairs designates tangible cultural properties as National Treasures in thirteen categories based on type The agency generally distinguishes between "buildings and structures" 建造物, kenzōbutsu and "fine arts and crafts" 美術工芸品, bijutsu kōgeihin Each main category is divided into subcategories21 The 222 structural cultural properties are separated into seven categories, and the 874 fine arts and crafts cultural properties are separated into seven categories28


Matsumoto Castle For a more comprehensive list, see List of National Treasures of Japan castles

The category "castles" 城郭, jōkaku includes nine designated National Treasures located at five sites Himeji Castle, Matsumoto Castle, Inuyama Castle, Hikone Castle, and Matsue Castle and comprises eighteen structures such as donjons, watch towers, and connecting galleries Himeji Castle, the most visited castle in Japan and a World Heritage Site, has five National Treasures; the other castles each have one29 The designated structures represent the apogee of Japanese castle construction, and date from the end of the Sengoku period, from the late 16th to the first half of the 17th century30 Built of wood and plaster on a stone foundation,31 the castles were military fortifications as well as political, cultural, and economic centers They also served as residences for the daimyō, his family, and retainers3032 The oldest structure in the category is a Bunroku-era secondary donjon called the Northwest Small Tower, which is located at Matsumoto Castle28

Modern and historical residencesedit

Ninomaru Palace at Nijō Castle For a more comprehensive list, see List of National Treasures of Japan residences

Residential architecture includes two categories: "modern residences" 住居, jūkyo from the Meiji period onward and "historical residences" 住宅, jūtaku, which date to before 1867 Presently, the only modern residential National Treasure is the Akasaka Palace in Tokyo, which was built in 190933 Fourteen National Treasures, dating from between 1485 and 1657, are listed in the historical residences category Ten are located in Kyoto The structures include teahouses, shoin, and guest or reception halls2128

Structures related to industry, transportation and public worksedit

In 2014, the former Tomioka Silk Mill, Japan's oldest modern model silk reeling factory was designated as the only National Treasure in the category of "structures related to industry transportation and public works" 産業・交通・土木, sangyō kōtsū doboku Established in 1872 by the government, this is—after the Akasaka Palace—the second modern post-Meiji structural National Treasure The designated property includes several buildings such as the silk reeling mill and the East and West cocoon warehouses2834


Worship hall haiden of Ujigami Shrine For a more comprehensive list, see List of National Treasures of Japan shrines

National Treasures in the category of "shrines" 神社, jinja include main halls honden, oratories haiden, gates, offering halls heiden, purification halls haraedono, and other structures associated with Shinto shrines Presently there are 40 National Treasures in this category, dating from the 12th century late Heian period to the 19th century late Edo period According to the tradition of Shikinen sengū-sai 式年遷宮祭, the buildings or shrines were faithfully rebuilt at regular intervals, adhering to the original design In this manner, ancient styles have been replicated through the centuries to the present day353637 The oldest designated extant shrine structure is the main hall at Ujigami Shrine, which dates from the 12th century late Heian period About half of the designated structures are located in three prefectures: Kyoto, Nara, and Shiga, all of which are in the Kansai region of Japan Nikkō Tōshō-gū has five National Treasures2128


Great Buddha Hall Daibutsuden at Tōdai-ji For a more comprehensive list, see List of National Treasures of Japan temples

Structures associated with Buddhist temples such as main halls butsuden, hon-dō and kon-dō, pagodas, belfries, corridors, and other halls or structures are designated in the category "temples" 寺院, jiin Presently 155 National Treasures have been designated in this category, including two of the oldest wooden structures in the world—from the 6th century, Hōryū-ji and Tōdai-ji's Daibutsuden, the largest wooden building in the world38394041 The structures cover more than 1,000 years of Japanese Buddhist architecture, from the 6th century Asuka period to the 19th century late Edo period About three quarters of the designated properties are located in the Kansai region, with 60 National Treasure temple structures in Nara Prefecture and 31 in Kyoto Prefecture The temple Hōryū-ji has the largest number of designated National Treasure buildings, with 18 structures2128

Miscellaneous structuresedit

Auditorium of the former Shizutani School

There are three "miscellaneous structures" その他, sono hoka that do not fall into any of the other categories They are the North Noh stage in Kyoto's Nishi Hongan-ji, the auditorium of the former Shizutani School in Bizen, and the Roman Catholic Ōura Church in Nagasaki The North Noh stage, dating to 1581, is the oldest extant structure of its kind, consisting of a stage, a side stage for the chorus 脇座, wakiza, a place for musicians 後座, atoza, and a passageway to enter or exit the stage 橋掛, hashigakari42

Built during the mid-Edo period in 1701, the Auditorium of the Shizutani school, an educational institute for commoners, is a single-story building It has a hip-and-gable irimoya tile roof composed of flat broad concave tiles and semi-cylindrical convex tiles that cover the seams The 194 m × 156 m 64 ft × 51 ft structure is built of high-quality woods such as zelkova, cedar, and camphor43

Ōura Church was established in 1864 by the French priest Bernard Petitjean of Fier to commemorate the 26 Christian martyrs executed by crucifixion on February 5, 1597, at Nagasaki The façade of the church faces Nishizaka hill, the place of their execution It is a gothic structure and the oldest extant wooden church in Japan212844

Ancient documentsedit

Testament of Emperor Go-Uda with handprints For a more comprehensive list, see List of National Treasures of Japan ancient documents

Valuable Japanese historical documents are designated in the category "ancient documents" 古文書, komonjo There are 60 items or sets of items in this category, ranging from letters and diaries to records One National Treasure is a linen map, and another is an inscription on stone4546 However, all other objects in the category were created with a writing brush on paper and in many cases present important examples of early calligraphy The oldest item dates from the late 7th century and the most recent from the 19th century late Edo period Approximately half of the entries in the category are located in Kyoto284647

Archaeological materialsedit

Suda Hachiman Shrine Mirror For a more comprehensive list, see List of National Treasures of Japan archaeological materials

The category "archaeological materials" 考古資料, kōkoshiryō includes some of the oldest cultural properties, with 46 designated National Treasures Many of the National Treasures in this category consist of large sets of objects originally buried as part of graves or as offering for temple foundations, and subsequently excavated from tombs, kofun, sutra mounds, or other archaeological sites The oldest items are flame-shaped pottery and dogū clay figurines from the Jōmon period that reflect early Japanese civilization4849 Other items listed include bronze mirrors and bells, jewellery, ancient swords, and knives The most recent object, a hexagonal stone column, dates to the Nanboku-chō period, 136150 Most of the materials 28 are located in museums, with six National Treasures in the Tokyo National Museum28


The category "crafts" 工芸品, kōgeihin includes 253 National Treasures, of which 122 are swords and 131 are other craft items28


For a more comprehensive list, see List of National Treasures of Japan crafts: swords Katana with a gold inlay inscription by Masamune

Swords are included in the crafts category, and either the sword itself or a sword mounting is designated as a National Treasure Currently 110 swords and 12 sword mountings are National Treasures The oldest designated properties date to the seventh century Asuka period5152 However, 86 of the items are from the Kamakura period, with the most recent object from the Muromachi period53 The designated items are located in Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, museums, and private collections28


Buddhist ritual gong with peacock relief For a more comprehensive list, see List of National Treasures of Japan crafts: others

The crafts category includes pottery from Japan, China and Korea; metalworks such as mirrors and temple bells; Buddhist ritual items and others; lacquerware such as boxes, furniture, harnesses, and portable shrines; textiles; armor; and other objects These items date from classical to early modern Japan54 —and are housed in Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, and museums Also included in this category are sacred treasures that worshippers presented to Asuka Shrine, Tsurugaoka Hachimangū, Itsukushima Shrine, Kasuga-taisha, and Kumano Hayatama Taisha The treasures were dedicated to the enshrined deity of the respective shrine They comprise garments, household items, and other items2855565758

Historical materialsedit

Hasekura Tsunenaga in prayer

Three National Treasure sets are catalogued in the category "historical materials" 歴史資料, rekishi shiryō One set consists of 1,251 items related to the Shō family, the kings of Ryūkyū, who ruled over most of the Ryukyu Islands between the 15th and 19th century The designated items date to the second Shō Dynasty between the 16th and 19th century, and are located in the Naha City Museum of History Within this set are 1,166 documents or records, including construction plans or registers of funeral items; 85 are craft items including articles of clothing and furniture2859

The second set comprises paintings, documents, ceremonial tools, harnesses, and items of clothing Hasekura Tsunenaga brought back from his 1613 to 1620 trade mission Keichō Embassy to Europe Sent by Date Masamune, Lord of the Sendai Domain, Hasekura traveled via Mexico City and Madrid to Rome before returning to Japan Located in the Sendai City Museum, the designated set of items consists of 47 objects: a Roman citizenship document dating from November 1615; a portrait of Pope Paul V; a portrait of Hasekura in prayer following his conversion in Madrid; 19 religious paintings; pictures of saints; ceremonial items such as rosaries; a cross and medals; 25 items of harnesses and clothing such as priests' garments; an Indonesian and Benjamin Tenze kris; and a Ceylonese dagger2860

A third set consists of 2,345 Edo period items related to the Japanese surveyor and cartographer Inō Tadataka The designated objects are in custody of the Inō Tadataka Memorial Hall in Katori, Chiba, and include 787 maps and drawings, 569 documents and records, 398 letters, 528 books, and 63 utensils such as surveying instruments2861


Wind god and Thunder god folding screen by Tawaraya Sōtatsu For a more comprehensive list, see List of National Treasures of Japan paintings

Japanese and Chinese paintings from the 8th-century Classical Nara period to the early modern 19th-century Edo period are listed in the category "paintings" 絵画, kaiga The 160 National Treasures in the category include Buddhist themes, landscapes, portraits, and court scenes Various base materials have been used: 91 are hanging scrolls; 38 are hand scrolls or emakimono; 22 are byōbu folding screens or paintings on sliding doors fusuma; and three are albums They are located in museums, Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, private collections, a university, and a tomb Takamatsuzuka Tomb A large proportion of items are housed in the national museums of Tokyo, Kyoto, and Nara The greatest number of National Treasure paintings are located in Kyoto with 51, and Tokyo with 48, and more than half of the Tokyo paintings are located in the Tokyo National Museum28


Amida Nyorai, the principal image in the Phoenix Hall of Byōdō-in and only extant work by Jōchō For a more comprehensive list, see List of National Treasures of Japan sculptures

Sculptures of Buddhist and Shintō deities, or of priests venerated as founders of temples, are listed in the category "sculptures" 彫刻, chōkoku There are 131 National Treasure sculptures or groups of sculptures from the 7th-century Asuka period to the 13th-century Kamakura period Most 101 sculptures are wooden, eleven entries in the list are bronze, eleven are lacquer, seven are made of clay, and one entry, the Usuki Stone Buddhas, consists of a group of stone sculptures The statues vary in size from just 10 cm 39 in to 13 m 43 ft and 15 m 49 ft for the Great Buddhas of Nara and Kamakura6263 Seventy-three of the 131 entries are located in Nara Prefecture while another 38 are in Kyoto Prefecture With few exceptions, the sculptures are located in Buddhist temples Hōryū-ji and Kōfuku-ji are the locations with the most entries, at 17 each The Okura Museum of Art in Tokyo, the Nara National Museum in Nara and the Yoshino Mikumari Shrine in Yoshino, Nara each have a single National Treasure in the sculpture category; one National Treasure that consists of four sculptures of Shinto gods is located at Kumano Hayatama Taisha; and the Usuki Stone Buddhas belong to Usuki city28646566676869


Akihagi-jō attributed to Ono no Michikaze For more comprehensive lists, see List of National Treasures of Japan writings: Chinese books, List of National Treasures of Japan writings: Japanese books, and List of National Treasures of Japan writings: others

Written materials of various type such as sūtra transcriptions, poetry, historical books, and specialist books are designated in the category "writings" 書跡・典籍, shoseki, tenseki The 225 items or sets of items are National Treasures that date predominantly to classical Japan and the Imperial era of China from the 6th century to the Muromachi period Most were made with a writing brush on paper and in many cases present important examples of calligraphy28

Preservation and utilization measuresedit

The Protection of Cultural Properties logo in the shape of a tokyō 斗きょう, a type of entablature found in Japanese architecture nb 919

To guarantee the preservation and utilization of designated National Treasures, a set of measures was laid down in the "Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties" of 1950 These direct measures are supplemented by indirect efforts aimed at protecting the built environment in the case of architecture, or techniques necessary for restoration worksnb 1019

The owners or managers of a National Treasure are responsible for the administration and restoration of the work21 Should the property be lost, destroyed, damaged, altered, moved, or ownership be transferred, they must advise the Agency for Cultural affairs1321 Alterations to the property require a permit, and the agency is to be notified 30 days in advance when repairs are conducted§ 43151921 If requested, owners must supply information, and report to the commissioner of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, regarding the condition of the property § 5415 If a National Treasure is damaged, the commissioner has the authority to order the owner or custodian to repair the property; if the owner is non-compliant, the commissioner may carry out repairsnb 11 If a National Treasure is to be sold, the government retains the first option to buy the item § 461570 Transfers of National Treasures are generally restrictive, and export is prohibited26

Hōryū-ji's Shakyamuni Triad is a work of Tori Busshi

If subsidies were granted to the property, the commissioner has the authority to recommend or order public access or a loan to a museum for a limited period§ 51152170 The requirement that private owners must allow access or cede rights to the property has been considered a reason that the properties under supervision of the Imperial Household Agency have not been designated as a National Treasure, with the exception of the Shōsōin27 The Imperial Household Agency considers that Imperial properties have sufficient protection, and do not require additional protection provided by the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties15 The government satisfies scientific and public interest in cultural properties by a system of documentation, and through the operation of museums and centres for cultural research19

Protection measures are not limited to the responsibilities of ownership Apart from the prestige gained through the designation, owners are entitled to advantages such as local tax exemption, including fixed assets tax, special property tax, and city planning tax, as well as reduction of national taxes applied to the transfer of properties192171

Collection of 36 poems by Emperor Go-Nara

The Agency for Cultural Affairs provides owners or custodians with advice and guidance on matters of administration, restoration, and the public display of National Treasures1321 The agency promotes local activities aimed at the protection of cultural properties, such as activities for the study, protection, or transmission of cultural properties21 A custodian can be named for a National Treasure usually a local governing body if the following circumstances exist: the owner cannot be located, the property is damaged, adequate protection of the property has not been provided, or public access to the property has not been allowed70

The government provides grants for repairs, maintenance, and the installation of fire prevention facilities and other disaster prevention systems21 Subsidies are available to municipalities for purchasing land or cultural property structures19 Designated properties generally increase in value132170 The budget allocated by the Agency for Cultural Affairs in fiscal 2009 for the "Facilitation of Preservation Projects for National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties" amounted to 12,013 million yen or 118% of the total budget of the agency Enhancements of Cultural Properties Protection, including the former contingent, were allocated 62,219 million yen, or 610% of the total budget71


The Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan publishes the list of National Treasures and other designated Japanese cultural artefacts at the Database of National Cultural Properties28 As of November 23, 2016, there are 878 National Treasures in the arts and crafts category, and 223 in the buildings and structures category The total number of arts and crafts items, as well as the total number of structures, is actually higher because related objects are sometimes grouped under a common name28

About 89% of structural National Treasures are religious in nature Residences account for 8% of designated buildings; the remaining are castles and miscellaneous structures More than 90% are wooden buildings, and about 13% of designated buildings are in private ownership15 Of "fine arts and crafts" category, more than 30% of National Treasures are written materials such as documents, letters, or books Swords, paintings, sculptures, and non-sword craft items each account for about 15% of National Treasures in this category28

Geographical distributionedit

For more details on this topic, see National Treasures of Japan statistics Distribution of arts and crafts National Treasures over the prefectures of Japan Distribution of building and structural National Treasures over the prefectures of Japan

The geographical distribution of National Treasures in Japan is highly uneven Remote areas such as Hokkaido and Kyushu have few designated properties, and most prefectures may only have a couple of National Treasure structures Two prefectures—Miyazaki and Tokushima—do not have any National Treasuresnb 1228

Four prefectures in the Kansai region of central Honshū each have more than ten National Treasure structures: Hyōgo 11, Kyoto 51, Nara 64, and Shiga Prefecture 22 Together they comprise 148 or 66% of all structural National Treasures in Japan Three sites have 90 structural National Treasures: Kyoto, the capital of Japan and the seat of the imperial court for more than 1,000 years; Hōryū-ji, founded by Prince Shōtoku around 600; and Nara, capital of Japan from 710 to 784287273

Fine arts and crafts National Treasures are distributed in a similar fashion, with fewer in remote areas, and a higher concentration in the Kansai region The seven prefectures of the region harbor 489, or 56%, of all arts and crafts National Treasures Tokyo, which has only two National Treasure buildings, has an exceptionally high number of cultural properties in this category Of the 206 properties located in Tokyo, 88 are at the Tokyo National Museum2874


The designated items provide an overview of the history of Japanese art and architecture from ancient to modern times, with the earliest archaeological National Treasures dating back 6,500 years, and the Akasaka Palace dating from the early 20th century33484975 Items from any one of the categories of National Treasures may not represent the entire interval of time, but rather a shorter period of time determined by historical events, and coinciding with the time in which the specific artistry or type of architecture flourished28

Temple National Treasures cover the time from the late 7th century—about 150 years after the introduction of Buddhism to Japan in the mid-6th century—to the 19th century early modern Japan76 The history of Shinto shrines in Japan is even older than that of temples However, because of the tradition of rebuilding shrines at regular intervals, known as Shikinen sengū-sai 式年遷宮祭, the oldest designated shrine structures date to the late 12th century77 The archetypical Japanese castles are a product of a period of 50 years that began with the construction of Azuchi Castle in 1576, which marked a change in style and function of castles Castle construction ended in 1620; the Tokugawa shogunate destroyed the Toyotomi clan in 1615 and subsequently prohibited the building of new castles28787980

In Japan, the first indications of stable living patterns and civilization date to the Jōmon period, from about 14,000 BC to 300 BC Clay figurines dogū and some of the world's oldest pottery, discovered at sites in northern Japan, have been designated as the oldest National Treasures in the "archaeological materials" category8182 Some of the earliest items in this category are objects discovered in sutra mounds from the Kamakura period2883

The starting date of designated "crafts", "writings", and "sculptures" is connected to the introduction of Buddhism to Japan in 552 A proportion of the oldest designated National Treasures of these categories were directly imported from mainland China and Korea After the Kamakura period, the art of Japanese sculpture, which had been mainly religious in nature, deteriorated84 Consequently, there are no National Treasure sculptures from after the Kamakura period28


  1. ^ Under the policy of State Shinto, shrines had been receiving funds since 1874
  2. ^ 704 items suffered damage Since some of them have multiple designations, the total count is 714
  3. ^ Cracked walls and pillars, some broken sculptures
  4. ^ Slightly broken walls, lacquering and sculptures
  5. ^ Slightly broken wall
  6. ^ Broken ranma
  7. ^ This applies primarily to works of the modern period such as houses, public structures, bridges, dikes, fences, and towers threatened by land development and cultural shifts Registration is a means of preventing the demolition of such structures without requiring an evaluation of their cultural value Protection measures are moderate and include notification, guidance, and suggestions As of April 1, 2009, there are 7,407 registered structures
  8. ^ It is usually difficult to obtain consent from state properties and private firms
  9. ^ The three stacked elements symbolise the continuity in time of cultural property protection: the past, the present, and the future19
  10. ^ These supplemental measures were added as amendments to the 1950 "Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties"
  11. ^ For important cultural properties, the commissioner's authority is only to recommend repairs
  12. ^ A gilt bronze harness from the Saitobaru kofun in Miyazaki prefecture has been designated as National Treasure It is now located at the Gotoh Museum in Tokyo

See alsoedit

  • Tourism in Japan


  1. ^ Hickman 2002, p 15
  2. ^ a b c d e f Jokilehto 2002, p 280
  3. ^ a b c d Agency for Cultural Affairs ed "Intangible Cultural Heritage" PDF Administration of Cultural Affairs in Japan ― Fiscal 2009 Asia/Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO ACCU Retrieved 2010-05-24 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Enders & Gutschow 1998, p 12
  5. ^ a b Edwards 2005, p 38
  6. ^ a b c Gibbon 2005, p 331
  7. ^ a b Jokilehto 2002, p 279
  8. ^ a b c d Edwards 2005, p 39
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Coaldrake 2002, p 248
  10. ^ a b c d Issarathumnoon, Wimonrart 2003–2004 "The Machizukuri bottom-up approach to conservation of historic communities: lessons for Thailand" PDF The Nippon Foundation Urban Design Lab, Tokyo University Retrieved 2010-05-24 
  11. ^ a b c Coaldrake 2002, p 249
  12. ^ a b c d e Mackay-Smith, Alexander 2000-04-29 "Mission to preserve and protect" Japan Times Tokyo: Japan Times Ltd ISSN 0447-5763 Retrieved 2009-12-02 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Gibbon 2005, p 332
  14. ^ "Advisory Body Evaluation Himeji-jo" PDF UNESCO 1992-10-01 Retrieved 2009-12-16 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v Enders & Gutschow 1998, p 13
  16. ^ Yoshida 2001, p 135
  17. ^ 金堂 in Japanese Hōryū-ji Retrieved 2009-11-23 
  18. ^ 五重塔 in Japanese Hōryū-ji Retrieved 2009-11-23 
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Cultural Properties for Future Generations" PDF Administration of Cultural Affairs in Japan Agency for Cultural Affairs March 2011 Retrieved 2011-08-29 
  20. ^ a b McVeigh 2004, p 171
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r "Preservation and Utilization of Cultural Properties" Administration of Cultural Affairs in Japan ― Fiscal 2009 Agency for Cultural Affairs 2009 Archived from the original PDF on February 12, 2010 Retrieved 2010-05-24 
  22. ^ a b c Nobuko, Inaba 1998 "Policy and System of Urban / Territorial Conservation in Japan" Tokyo: Tokyo National Research Institute of Cultural Properties Retrieved 2009-11-30 
  23. ^ a b c d e Enders & Gutschow 1998, p 14
  24. ^ a b Enders & Gutschow 1998, p 15
  25. ^ a b "Damages to Cultural Properties in "the Great East Japan Earthquake"" PDF Agency for Cultural Affairs 2011-07-29 Retrieved 2011-08-29 
  26. ^ a b Gibbon 2005, p 333
  27. ^ a b Gibbon 2005, p 335
  28. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac 国指定文化財 データベース Database of National Cultural Properties in Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs 2008-11-01 Retrieved 2009-12-15 
  29. ^ Turnbull & Dennis 2003, p 52
  30. ^ a b Deal 2007, p 315
  31. ^ Turnbull & Dennis 2003, p 21
  32. ^ Coaldrake 1996, pp 105–106
  33. ^ a b "State Guest Houses" Cabinet Office Government of Japan Retrieved 2009-12-01 
  34. ^ "All about Tomioka Silk Mill" Tomioka Silk Mill Tomioka 2005 Retrieved 2015-09-08 
  35. ^ Kishida 2008, p 33
  36. ^ Nishi & Hozumi 1996, p 41
  37. ^ Kuroda 2005
  38. ^ 金堂 Golden Hall in Japanese Hōryū-ji Retrieved 2009-11-23 
  39. ^ 五重塔 Five-storied Pagoda in Japanese Hōryū-ji Retrieved 2009-11-23 
  40. ^ "Nomination File" UNESCO June 1997 Retrieved 2009-11-23 
  41. ^ 大仏殿 Great Buddha Hall in Japanese Tōdai-ji Retrieved 2009-11-23 
  42. ^ 北能舞台 North Noh stage in Japanese Nishi Hongan-ji Retrieved 2009-11-14 
  43. ^ "History of the Shizutani School" Bizen city Retrieved 2009-11-14 
  44. ^ "Oura Catholic Church" Nagasaki Tourism Internet Committee Retrieved 2009-11-14 
  45. ^ 額田寺伽藍並条里図 Map of Nukata-dera garan and its vicinity in Japanese National Museum of Japanese History Retrieved 2009-05-11 
  46. ^ a b "那須国造碑" Stone in Nasu County Ōtawara city tourist association Retrieved 2010-11-04 
  47. ^ "The University of Tokyo Library System Bulletin Vol 42, No 4" PDF Tokyo University library September 2003 Retrieved 2010-01-03 
  48. ^ a b 教育ほっかいどう第374号-活動レポート-国宝「土偶」について Education Hokkaidō issue 374 activity report, National Treasure dogū in Japanese Hokkaido Prefectural Government 2006 Archived from the original on 2008-05-05 Retrieved 2009-05-13 
  49. ^ a b 合掌土偶について – 八戸市 Gasshō dogū – Hachinohe in Japanese Hachinohe 2009 Retrieved 2009-11-30 
  50. ^ "普済寺" Fusai-ji Tachikawa Bureau of Tourism Retrieved 2009-05-14 
  51. ^ 日高村文化財 国宝 Hidaka Cultural Properties, National Treasure Hidaka Retrieved 2009-06-04 
  52. ^ Nagayama, Kōkan 1998 The Connoisseur's Book of Japanese Swords Tokyo; New York: Kodansha International p 13 ISBN 4-7700-2071-6 
  53. ^ 広島県の文化財 – 梨子地桐文螺鈿腰刀 Cultural Properties of Hiroshima Prefecture — nashijikirimon raden koshigatana Hiroshima Prefecture Retrieved 2009-09-29 
  54. ^ "Writing box with eight bridges" Emuseum Tokyo National Museum Retrieved 2009-08-27 
  55. ^ 沃懸地杏葉螺鈿平やなぐい かまくら GreenNet Quiver in Japanese Kamakura city Retrieved 2009-05-22 
  56. ^ 沃懸地杏葉螺鈿太刀 かまくら GreenNet Long sword in Japanese Kamakura city Retrieved 2009-05-22 
  57. ^ 厳島神社古神宝類 Old sacred treasures of Itsukushima Shrine Hiroshima Prefecture Retrieved 2009-09-10 
  58. ^ 本宮御料古神宝類 Old sacred treasures Kasuga Taisha Retrieved 2009-09-10 
  59. ^ "琉球国王尚家関係資料" Materials of the Shō family — Kings of Ryūkyū Naha city 2004-02-20 Retrieved 2009-12-12 
  60. ^ "慶長遣欧使節関係資料" Materials of the Keichō Embassy to Europe Miyagi Prefecture 2004-02-20 Retrieved 2009-12-12 
  61. ^ "伊能忠敬記念館" Inō Tadataka Memorial Hall Inō Tadataka Museum Retrieved 2010-07-02 
  62. ^ Ogawa, Seki & Yamazaki 2009, pp 471
  63. ^ Ogawa, Seki & Yamazaki 2009, pp 482–485
  64. ^ Ise Jingu and Treasures of Shinto Tokyo National Museum 2009 
  65. ^ 仏教索引 Buddhism index in Japanese janis Retrieved 2009-06-14 
  66. ^ James M Goodwin; Janet R Goodwin "The Usuki Site" University of California Archived from the original on 2008-12-03 Retrieved 2009-06-16 
  67. ^ Ogawa, Seki & Yamazaki 2009, p 595
  68. ^ Christine Guth Kanda 1985 Shinzō Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Univ Asia Center pp 81–85 ISBN 0-674-80650-6 Retrieved 2009-06-13 
  69. ^ Ogawa, Seki & Yamazaki 2009, pp 199
  70. ^ a b c d Gibbon 2005, p 334
  71. ^ a b "Foundations for Cultural Administration" PDF Administration of Cultural Affairs in Japan ― Fiscal 2010 Agency for Cultural Affairs 2003–2004 Retrieved 2010-11-04 
  72. ^ Sansom & Sansom 1958, p 82
  73. ^ Young & Young 2007, p 44
  74. ^ "Frequently asked questions about the Tokyo National Museum" Tokyo National Museum Retrieved 2011-05-08 
  75. ^ "National Treasure designation" in Japanese Tōkamachi City Museum Archived from the original on 2011-07-21 Retrieved 2009-05-15 
  76. ^ Sansom & Sansom 1958, p 49
  77. ^ Young & Young 2007, p 50
  78. ^ Coaldrake 1996, p 104
  79. ^ Nishi & Hozumi 1996, p 93
  80. ^ Coaldrake 1996, p 106
  81. ^ Habu 2004, p 27
  82. ^ Habu 2004, p 83
  83. ^ "Special Exhibition – The Legacy of Fujiwara no Michinaga: Courtly Splendor and Pure Land Faith" Kyoto National Museum Retrieved 2009-05-15 
  84. ^ Münsterberg 1957, p 117


  • Coaldrake, William Howard 1996 Architecture and Authority in Japan Nissan Institute/Routledge Japanese studies illustrated ed London; New York: Routledge ISBN 0-415-05754-X 
  • Coaldrake, William Howard 2002 1996 Architecture and Authority in Japan London; New York: Routledge ISBN 0-415-05754-X 
  • Deal, William E 2007 1973 Handbook to Life in Medieval and Early Modern Japan illustrated, revised ed New York: Oxford University Press ISBN 0-19-533126-5 
  • Edwards, Walter 2005 "Japanese Archaeology and Cultural Properties Management: Prewar Ideology and Postwar Legacies" In Robertson, Jennifer Ellen A companion to the anthropology of Japan Blackwell Companions to Social and Cultural Anthropology illustrated ed Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell pp 36–49 ISBN 0-631-22955-8 
  • Enders, Siegfried R C T; Gutschow, Niels 1998 Hozon: Architectural and Urban Conservation in Japan illustrated ed Stuttgart; London: Edition Axel Menges ISBN 3-930698-98-6 
  • Gibbon, Kate Fitz 2005 Who Owns the Past: Pultural Policy, Cultural Property, and the Law Rutgers series on the public life of the arts illustrated ed New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press ISBN 0-8135-3687-1 
  • Habu, Junko 2004 Ancient Jomon of Japan Case Studies in Early Societies 4 illustrated ed Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press ISBN 0-521-77670-8 
  • Hickman, Money L 2002 Japan's Golden Age: Momoyama illustrated ed New Haven: Yale University Press ISBN 0-300-09407-8 
  • Jokilehto, Jukka 2002 1999 A History of Architectural Conservation Butterworth-Heinemann Series in Conservation and Museology, Conservation and Museology Series illustrated, reprint ed Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann ISBN 0-7506-5511-9 
  • Kishida, Hideto 2008 Japanese Architecture New York: Read Books ISBN 1-4437-7281-X 
  • Kuroda, Ryūji 2005-06-02 "History and Typology of Shrine Architecture" Encyclopedia of Shinto β13 ed Kokugakuin University 
  • McVeigh, Brian J 2004 Nationalisms of Japan: Managing and Mystifying Identity Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield ISBN 0-7425-2455-8 
  • Münsterberg, Hugo 1957 The Arts of Japan: An Illustrated History illustrated ed CE Tuttle Co OCLC 484789120 
  • Nishi, Kazuo; Hozumi, Kazuo 1996 1983 What is Japanese Architecture illustrated ed Tokyo, New York: Kodansha International ISBN 4-7700-1992-0 
  • Ogawa, Kouzou; Seki, Nobuko; Yamazaki, Takayuki 2009 仏像 Buddhist Images 山溪カラー名鑑 in Japanese 2nd ed Tokyo: Yama-Kei ISBN 978-4-635-09031-5 
  • Sansom, George; Sansom, Sir George Bailey 1958 A History of Japan to 1334 A History of Japan, Sir George Bailey Sansom, Stanford studies in the Civilizations of Eastern Asia 1 illustrated ed Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press ISBN 0-8047-0523-2 
  • Turnbull, Stephen; Dennis, Peter 2003 Japanese Castles 1540–1640 Fortress Series 5 Oxford: Osprey Publishing ISBN 1-84176-429-9 
  • Yoshida, Kanehiko; Hiroshi Tsukishima; Harumichi Ishizuka; Masayuki Tsukimoto 2001 Kuntengo Jiten in Japanese Tokyo: Tōkyōdō Shuppan ISBN 4-490-10570-3 
  • Young, David; Young, Michiko 2007 2004 The Art of Japanese Architecture Architecture and Interior Design illustrated, revised ed Tokyo; Rutland, Vt: Tuttle Publishing ISBN 0-8048-3838-0 

Further readingedit

  • Cluzel, Jean-Sébastien 2008 Architecture éternelle du Japon – De l'histoire aux mythes illustrated ed Dijon: Editions Faton ISBN 978-2-87844-107-9 

External linksedit

  • Tokyo National Museum eKokuho

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