Heritage, Volume 8, Number 3, Summer 1990 Page: 18
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Tabayashi performer. Japan Program, 1986 Festival of
American Folklife. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian
traditional artists and artisans from Japan. Among them was Rick
Stewart, a Tennessee cooper, who made friends with a maker of
sake barrels. Since then Stewart has become the first folk artist to
receive a creative artist fellowship for Japan, sponsored by the
National Endowment for the Arts, the Japan-United States
Friendship Commission and Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs.
Such exchanges might allow our countries not only to better
know each other's folk traditions, but also the programs designed
to preserve them.
As the Cultural Conservation report argues, one of the limitations
of current public sector folklore programs in the United
States is that they are not coordinated with those public agencies
that deal with cultural resource management. In fact, folklife is
often not thought of as a cultural resource to be protected and
encouraged. Among the modest proposals suggested by the 1983
report was the coordination of efforts by folklorists and
preservationists on both the federal and state level. While some
progress has been made since 1983 and the American Folklife
Center has published two reports on model interdisciplinary cultural
conservation projects,22 integration of efforts has not been fully
achieved. Particularly on the state level it is not uncommon for
state folklife and preservation offices to work independently of
each other, even when they are in the same department. For better
or worse, Japan has unified its cultural preservation program and
its arts promotion into a single agency. Do the problems of its
Making a rice straw effigy. Japan Program, 1986 Festival
of American Folklife. Photo courtesy of Smithsonian
massive bureaucratic structure outweigh the benefits of a
coordinated preservation effort?
Folklorists and preservationists in the United States could learn
from the successes and failures of the Japanese system. Our discussions
of Japan's cultural preservation program should not begin
and end at the merits of "Living National Treasures." Because Japan's
programs have been in existence longer than those in the
United States, they should be examined in light of some of the
concerns American folklorists have expressed about cultural conservation
programs. Are folk arts, which are inherently dynamic in
nature, made static by programs which purport to "preserve" them?
Do state-sponsored apprenticeship programs work against
traditional methods of learning and teaching, or are they the only
avenue of perpetuating a declining art? Are we creating in these
programs an official government-approved version of traditional
arts, administered by an arts establishment which is at odds with
the esoteric values of the traditional community?23 And, finally,
two questions that are particularly relevant to both the United
States and Japan: Are we artificially preserving a few selected
traditions while permitting their contexts to be destroyed? Are the
problems of preserving traditional culture larger than the
capabilities of cultural agencies?
It has been suggested that Japanese governmental protection of
certain small industries and agriculture, as well as the acceptance
of this policy by the Japanese consumer who often pays dearly for
18 HERITAGE * SUMMER 1990
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 3, Summer 1990, periodical, Summer 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45427/m1/18/: accessed July 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.