Washington International Law Journal


Japan's Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties has been heralded as one of the most sophisticated and complete statutes of its kind and has been viewed as a model for other countries considering means to protect their ethnographic and cultural treasures. This Article examines the social, cultural, political, and legal influences antecedent to the promulgation of the statute and discusses the complexities inherent in composing legislation of this sort. The specific Japanese legislative and administrative efforts undertaken to protect national treasures prior to promulgation of the statute, and the political environment contemporaneous with its passage, are compiled, analyzed, and provided to the western audience. Perhaps of greater significance, however, the influence of the West, and particularly the United States and its citizens, upon the Japanese efforts to protect cultural property is examined through the use of archival U.S. Government documents of the Arts and Monuments Division of the Supreme Commander Allied Powers composed during the occupation of Japan. Finally, from a pragmatic perspective, this Article analyzes and explains the legal reasons why it is currently difficult for Japan to join in the international efforts of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization ("UNESCO") and International Institute for the Unification of Private Laws ("UNIDROIT") in the global protection of cultural treasures, the strong domestic protection of such properties notwithstanding.

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