Important Cultural Properties of Japan   重要文化財

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Nihonbashi bridge

Summer and autumn flowers by Sakai Hoitsu


Protecting Japanese heritage

After the Second World War Japan, like many Western countries, incorporated regulations for the protection of its national heritage. Among the various categories created by the founding law of 1950 was that of "Important Cultural Property", which aims to protect a number of cultural objects that aren't classed as "national treasures".

The Cultural Protection Law of Japan

The law on the protection of cultural property was introduced by the Ministry of Education on May 30th, 1950. It established different categories of Japanese heritage (Intangible Cultural Property, Folk Cultural Property, Cultural Landscapes etc ...) and within the category of Tangible Cultural Property, the two sub-categories of Important Cultural Properties and National Treasures.

The category includes heritage objects of historical or artistic interest in areas as diverse as historic buildings, painting, sculpture, crafts,

Headquarters of the Agency for Cultural Affairs

handicrafts, calligraphy, books, old documents or archaeological pieces. Those of particularly high value among them get the label of National Treasure.

Certification, under the auspices of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, can be carried out at community, prefectural or national level, and sometimes at several of these levels.


A significant number of cultural properties

In 2016, Japan had 15,268 Important Cultural Properties, compared with 1,143 National Treasures, the latter accounting for 7% of all tangible cultural property in the country. Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, castles, private residences and civil engineering buildings make up the majority of the "architectural works" category, the most important sub-category of these Tangible Cultural Properties.

Read also : Japan's UNESCO sites

The list includes a wide variety of well-known sights, such as Seiganto-ji Buddhist temple, which acts as the gateway to Nachi Falls in Wakayama Prefecture, or the famous Nihonbashi Bridge in Tokyo. Works such as "Summer and Autumn Flowers" by the Rinpa School Painter Sakai Hoitsu (1761-1829) have also been awarded the official stamp of Important Cultural Property.

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