The Arts of the Living Treasures

The Living National Treasures of Japan [人間国宝] are individuals who represent entire artistic traditions through their dedication, passion and achievement of perfection in their craft or performing art. The objective of declaring such people as living treasures is an attempt to preserve disappearing crafts. There are currently 114 men and women who carry this honour.

Hiro recently showed me a moving article in The May edition of the Monocle that spoke about a few such living treasures with accompanying portraits. I was struck by how much presence these people have and how this could reach out to me from the pages of a magazine so far away from Japan.

I wanted to share a few treasures with you.

Sakata Tojuro the Kabuki actor

Yamase Shoin VI the Koto player

Fukuda Kiju the Embroiderer

Akiyama Nobuko the Doll maker

Nomura Mansaku the Kyogen performer

Katayama Yusetu the Noh performer

I wish that I could have a chance to learn a craft under the tutelage of one of these treasures. If I were given the opportunity then I would choose to learn from Kazumi Murose the Urushi artist.

His work is astoundingly beautiful and elegant.

I can never realistically hope to own anything by Murose-san so instead I have my heart set some Wajima nuri, perhaps a visit to Ishikawa is in order on the next trip to Japan.

[Photos taken from the May 2011 Issue of the MONOCLE]


  1. I have missed reading your blog missy!

    I too would have loved to have learnt a skill. My great great great grandad made little wooden boxes for all his daughters when they got married and each of these boxes have a pattern on top which incorporates their names (in Punjabi of course). The daughters got married and passed them down to their daughters and so forth. I have one of these boxes which was passed down to me (only a few weeks ago) and whenever I see it, it fills me with a sense of pride and it is definitely the one thing I'd save if I was ever in that situation.

  2. I love how Japan honours it's people!

  3. They are beautiful people and portraits. Xxxx

  4. That is such a great idea - I think every country should adopt a Living Treasure law.

  5. they look so special and were beautifully shot.

  6. wonderful! It is SO important to perpetuate ancestral traditions and statecraft. japonese refinement is very admirable.


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