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(4)The Protection of Cultural Properties

Of the various areas of cultural administration, the protection of cultural properties was given special attention from the earliest years of the Meiji era. In July, 1871, two months prior to the formation of the Department of Education, the Grand Council initiated a system of protecting cultural properties as part of its Plan for the Preservation of Antiques and Old Properties. The policy was offered with the hopes of preserving Japan's historical and traditional cultural heritage in the wake of the anti-Buddhist movement that had already led to the destruction of many Buddhist temples. The administration of these cultural properties was placed under the jurisdiction of the Department of Home Affairs. Succeeding laws in this area included the Old Shrines and Temples Preservation Law of June, 1897, the Law for the Preservation of Historic Sites, Places of Scenic Beauty and Natural Monuments of April, 1919,and finally, the National Treasures Preservation Law of March,1929, which extended the protection of cultural properties top laces other than shrines and temples.

By 1928 protective custody of cultural properties was transferred from the Ministry of Home Affairs to the Ministry of Education: first, in 1913, the administration of items specified in the Old Shrines and Temples Preservation Law and then, in 1928, those falling under the Law for the Preservation of Historic Sites, Places of Scenic Beauty and Natural Monuments.

In the years after World War 2 renewed emphasis was placed on the protection of cultural properties. In May of 1950, the following year of the tragic destruction by fire of the Mural of the Golden Pavilion (Kondo) at the H5ryuji Temple, the Law or the Protection of Cultural Properties was enacted by the Diet's initiative, which was promulgated in that same month and put in force in August, 1950. This legislation synthesized existing laws and orders concerning the protection of cultural properties into a comprehensive system, ensuring a great advance in the administration of the protection of cultural properties. This Law also provided for the establishment of the National Commission for the Protection of Cultural Properties as an external agency of the Ministry of Education responsible for the execution of the provisions of this Law.

The original provisions of the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties included three categories of cultural properties - i.e., 1) tangible cultural properties, 2) intangible cultural properties, 3) historic sites, places of scenic beauty and natural monuments. To ensure the protection of cultural properties the Commission designated many important items selected out of categories 1) and 3). A revision of this Law promulgated in May, 1954, reclassified the former three categories of cultural properties into the following four categories: 1) tangible cultural properties, 2) intangible cultural properties, 3) folk materials (newly separated from former category 1)) and 4) monuments (former category 3) renamed), and completed the designation system of cultural properties of four categories with additions of intangible cultural properties and tangible folk materials. This 1954 revision also added an independent chapter on buried cultural properties. However, the rapid increase in the number of land development projects from the late 195Os brought to the fore the need to protect historic sites, buried cultural properties and other cultural items that would be intruded upon, and a number of administrative countermeasures have been taken.

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((C)COPYRIGHT Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)

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