Washington International Law Journal


Since the late 19th century, Japan has enacted a series of measures to protect its cultural heritage, most importantly the 1950 Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. With subsequent amendments, the law today provides for the protection of both individual and groups of historical structures, landscapes, traditional crafts and skills, as well as national treasures. While these laws have saved many of the nation's foremost cultural resources, a substantial number of important historic structures, especially from the Meiji Period (1868) onward, have fallen through this legal safety net. This Article summarizes the evolution of Japan's cultural properties protection legislation, and details some of the recent losses of important properties and challenges facing the current legal protection system. It then examines the 1996 amendment to the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, which authorized the registration of tangible cultural properties. This new initiative is intended as a fast-track means of providing recognition and limited protection to a greater number of historic structures. The Article ends by acknowledging the benefits and critiquing the weaknesses of the current state of legal protection for cultural properties in Japan, due to a lack of coordination among governmental agencies with conflicting interests.

First Page