Accepted Paper:

Renovating tradition without conflict between local government and residents: registering Kyoto's geisha districts as intangible cultural heritage  

Author:

Yukiko Matsuda

Paper short abstract:

Anthropologists focus on conflicts between external national/local governments and internal local residents who take a primary role in preserving culture. This study presents a case where such polarization of interests cannot be easily identified in the process of utilizing culture as resources.

Paper long abstract:

Kyoto's prefectural government is promoting geisha quarters in Kyoto and their unique performance and custom to be registered as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, which the national government is going to endorse in the near future. In 1976, the national government designated streets lined with geisha teahouses in Gion, one of the geisha quarters, to be a "preservation district of historic buildings" under Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. Anthropologists have examined how national and local governments utilize culture as touristic resources. They focus on polarized conflicts between external national/local governments that utilize culture as resources, and internal local residents who take a primary role in preserving culture. By exploring interactions between female managers of teahouses and their customers in Gion, this study presents a case where such polarization of interests cannot be easily identified in the process of utilizing culture as resources. Female managers have played a primary role in preserving the culture of geisha quarters. In response to the external demand to change geisha teahouses into a tourists-friendly space, they are beginning to accept new customers and offer pre-packaged shows performed by geisha. This study examines how the brand value of Gion has been created since the area was designated to be a cultural property in the 1970s, and how such designation has influenced the ways in which female managers utilize the traditional culture of geisha quarters as resources. It ultimately shows how such process of utilization is embedded in their survival strategies in their daily lives.

Panel P074
Anthropology and intangible cultural heritage: new possibilities for traditional topics? (Commission on Intangible Cultural Heritage)