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UNESCO add Japan’s ritual visits of deities to List of Intangible Cultural Heritage

25 December, 2018

A UNESCO committee decided to add the 10 festivals of "Raiho-shin, ritual visits of deities in masks and costumes" from eight prefectures to its List of Intangible Cultural Heritage on November 29th.

The Raiho-shin rituals take place annually in rural communities all over Japan, especially in the Tohoku, Hokuriku, Kyushu, and Okinawa regions, typically at the beginning of the year or when seasons change.
In the Raiho-shin ritual, local people dressed in frightening masks and outlandish costumes as certain deities visit neighborhoods or houses to warn lazy residents and bring luck to the locals.

Explaining the reason behind its decision, a UNESCO committee stated on its website, "By performing the rituals, local people – notably children – have their identities moulded, develop a sense of affiliation to their community, and strengthen ties among themselves."

With an aging and decreasing population, traditional culture is in danger of being lost and is unlikely to be passed on to future generations. However, this remarkable announcement is expected to be a good opportunity to create momentum from which more people will collectively perform rituals and promote attractions in the regions.

At present, there are 399 entries from around the world on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Japan already has 21 Intangible Cultural Heritage listings, including Kabuki theatre, inscribed in 2008, Washi (Japanese hand-made paper), inscribed in 2013, and Washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine), also inscribed in 2013.

Japan is now aiming for the registration of ancient wooden architectural craftsmanship on the list in 2020.

The following is a list of "Raiho-shin, ritual visits of deities in masks and costumes" added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

Oga no Namahage of Oga, Akita Prefecture
Yoshihama no Suneka of Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture
Yonekawa no Mizukaburi of Tome, Miyagi Prefecture
Yuza no Koshogatsu Gyoji of Yuza, Yamagata Prefecture
Noto no Amamehagi of Noto and Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture
Mishima no Kasedori of Saga, Saga Prefecture
Koshikijima no Toshidon of Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture Ritual inscribed in 2009
Satsuma-ioujima no Mendon of Mishima, Kagoshima Prefecture
Akusekijima no Boze of Toshima, Kagoshima Prefecture
Miyakojima no Paantou of Miyakojima, Okinawa Prefecture

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