National Treasures and Cultural Properties in Japan
Cultural assets are precious cultural treasures of Japan. Beginning in the Paleolithic Age, Nara, Heian, Kamakura, Edo, and Meiji in the long history of about two thousand years, the ancestors made and protected them. Among Japan’s cultural assets, the most important things are designated as "important cultural properties," and those of particular importance are designated as "national treasures."
Selection and designation are decided by the National Institution / Agency for Cultural Affairs by Act on Protection of Cultural Properties. There are things with shape such as paintings, sculptures, crafts, books and writings, ancient documents, archaeological materials, historical materials and architecture, and things without shape such as theater, music, and craft techniques. The former is called tangible cultural property and the latter intangible cultural property. Persons with excellent skills are sometimes designated as "Living National Treasures," another type of intangible cultural property.
In fact, the cultural properties also include animals, plants, scenic spots, rural landscapes of rice terraces, etc. Including tangible and intangible cultural assets, there are 6 categories designated by the Act on Protection of Cultural Properties: folk cultural properties, monuments, cultural landscapes, and traditional building groups.
As of 2018, 1,110 national treasures of tangible cultural properties have been designated. There are many cultural assets lost due to war, disasters, Haibutsu Kishaku (the move to abolish Buddhism) of the Meiji government, etc., but many others still exist all over the country. Todaiji Temple has one of the largest national treasures, "Hall of the Great Buddha," and possesses more than 30 national treasures. By just visiting Todaiji Temple, a treasure trove of cultural assets, you will be able to enjoy the aesthetic sense of Japanese people. There are also foreign national treasures such as 'Letter from the viceroy of Portuguese India' and the Chinese Emperor's masterpiece 'Pigeon on a peach branch,' giving you a feel of the diplomacy and friendship between ancient Japan and foreign countries.
In recent years, scribbling or damage on cultural property has been found in various parts of Japan, and this is regarded as a problem, and has become nationwide news. It may be just because the perpetrators are fooling around, but be really careful as it actually is a criminal act of violating the Act on Protection of Cultural Properties. Also, in order not to accidentally contaminate or damage cultural assets, basic manners include not eating, drinking or smoking while watching, or not touching the exhibition.
Buddha statues, the bodies of kami (deity), the shrines, and temples designated as national treasure were originally created as objects of faith. They were not made as works of art, and there was also a "secret Buddha" that was not normally exposed to the eye of commoners. There are people who still have faith in the present, so let's quietly appreciate it. I would like you to perceive the spirit and aesthetic sense of the Japanese people, which have been continuously handed down.