Cultural properties are invaluable national assets that have been created, fostered and passed on to the current generation. They are essential for accurately understanding of Japanese history and culture, and form the foundation of the improvement and development of culture in the future. Japan has been engaged in the protection of cultural properties for a long time, ever since the launch of the protection system in the Meiji period, all the while repeatedly revising the administration of this protection to reflect changing social environments. As the scope of protection has expanded, protection methods have been carefully modified. Now, the national and local governments, owners, and citizens are working closely together to preserve cultural properties, pass them on to the next generation, and actively publicize and utilize them.

Major Roles of the National Government, Local Governments, and Owners

Agency for Cultural Affairs

National government

  • − Legislation for the protection of cultural properties
  • − Designation and selection of important cultural properties, registration of familiar cultural properties
  • − Instructions, orders, and recommendations regarding management, restoration, and public display to owners of designated cultural properties
  • − Regulations of alteration of the current state of designated cultural properties and similar actions, export restrictions, and injunctions to restore their original form
  • − Assistance for owners regarding the management, restoration, public display, etc. of designated cultural properties
  • − Assistance for local governments regarding the transfer of cultural properties to public ownership
  • − Establishment of special tax measures regarding designated cultural properties and related matters
  • − Establishment and operation of facilities open to the public such as museums and theaters and of research institutes for cultural properties

Local governments

  • − Regulations for the protection of cultural properties
  • − Designation, selection, and preservation of important cultural properties (excluding those designated by the national government)
  • − Instructions and recommendations regarding the management, restoration, and public display of designated cultural properties and restrictions of alternation of the current state of designated cultural properties to their owners
  • − Assistance to owners regarding the management, restoration, public display, etc. of designated cultural properties
  • − Establishment and operation of facilities for the conservation and public display of cultural properties
  • − Promotion of local activities to promote the protection of cultural properties, such as activities for the study, protection, or passing on of cultural properties
  • − Serving as the administrative organization for the administration, restoration, etc. of cultural properties designated by the national government

* These may change according to the local government.


  • − Notification of transfer of ownership, loss, destruction, damage, change in location, and so forth concerning cultural properties designated by the national or local government
  • − Administration and restoration of cultural properties
  • − Public display of cultural properties
  • − Notification to the national government in the event of any transfer of ownership of Important Cultural Properties or other cultural properties

* These may change according to the local government.


  • − Cooperation with national and local governments’ activities for the protection of cultural properties
  • − Notification of finding remains
  • − Notification of excavation at a well-known site containing a buried cultural property
  • − Notification upon excavation for a survey on buried cultural properties

(1) Measures and Budget of the Agency for Cultural Affairs

The fiscal 2005 budget of the Agency for Cultural Affairs was 101,605 million yen and represented 0.12% of the total general account of 82,182.9 billion yen. The budget for reinforcing cultural properties protection was 57,979 million yen and represented 57.1% of the total Agency's budget.
The items of the budget for cultural properties protection are as follows.

Measures for the preservation and utilization of cultural properties

Measures Overview
1. Maintenance and utilization of cultural properties
(1) Preservation and utilization of Important Cultural Landscapes Inclusion of important cultural landscapes and folk techniques in the protection target through partial amendment of the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. The expanded coverage of the cultural properties registration system now includes arts and crafts, monuments, and tangible folk cultural properties. They must be properly preserved and used.
(2) Urgent preservation and utilization of tumulus murals Urgent preservation action for the National Treasure, Takamatsuzuka Tumulus Mural and the Special Historic Site, Kitora Tumulus Mural.
(3) Subsidy for public ownership of historic sites Subsidy to local governments taking emergency action for public ownership of historic sites, so that they are protected from urban development and receive assistance for maintenance and utilization.
(4) Project for maintenance and utilization of historic sites Subsidy for projects that maintain and use historic sites, natural monuments, habitats for protected species, and historical streets that have been severely damaged or that have deteriorated over the years.
(5) Investigative excavation of Buried Cultural Properties Subsidy for the following projects:
- a distribution survey of an Area Known to Have Buried Cultural Properties, required for coordination with urban development
- survey to check the contents of important archaeological sites for protection purposes
- investigative excavation for documentation and preservation, and
- projects for the preservation and public use of artifacts
(6) Restoration of cultural properties Subsidy for planned restoration projects to properly preserve National Treasures, Important Cultural Properties (structures, arts and crafts), Groups of Traditional Buildings, and registered cultural properties.
(7) Facilities to protect cultural properties from disasters Subsidy for the expansion and upgrading of facilities for protecting National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties (structures, fine arts and crafts) from fire, theft and other threats.
(8) Developing and passing on Intangible Cultural Properties to the next generation Subsidy to Important Intangible Cultural Properties holders (so-called Living National Treasures) and organizations, as well as individuals or organizations that hold techniques to preserve cultural properties, for their work in passing on the tradition and improving their techniques. Production of films to document Intangible Cultural Properties is part of this support program to make the tradition more universally known.
2. Promoting international cooperation for cultural properties
(1) International contributions for protecting cultural properties The Agency sends and receives experts, and documents field research and restorations upon request from overseas. The Agency also discusses hosting international conferences or developing a continuous international cooperation framework for cultural properties.
(2) Emergency cooperation for protecting cultural heritage in West Asia Technical support and training is provided for restoration as part of emergency cooperation aimed at protecting cultural properties in Afghanistan and Iraq.

(2) Measures and budget of local government

Cultural properties exist universally and public administration in protecting cultural properties must be pursued comprehensively with national and local governments. Cultural properties by nature have a close relationship with local culture, and preserving and utilizing them is quite important for the development of local culture. Thus, the protection of cultural properties is an essential responsibility of local governments as they exist in their jurisdiction.
A number of local governments make ordinances to protect cultural properties that exist in their jurisdiction but are not designated by the national government. Local governments designate cultural properties based on their value according to the ordinances to preserve and utilize them. Some local governments offer assistance to owners of cultural properties for their efforts to manage, repair, and display them. Local governments also engage in raising public awareness, by founding art museums, museums, and history and folk museums to display and study cultural properties, performing investigative excavation of Buried Cultural Properties, offering learning opportunities on cultural properties through social and school education, and promoting activities for the protection of cultural properties.
They also conduct basic preliminary research before the national government's designation of cultural properties and offer training programs for organizations that protect Intangible Folk Cultural Properties. Many local governments are guardians of cultural properties themselves, and are engaged in the protection of cultural properties designated by the national government.

Cost of protecting cultural properties at a local level

Unit (100 million yen)
  Prefecture Municipalities Total
1991 421 860 1,281
1992 425 819 1,244
1993 502 876 1,378
1994 516 826 1,342
1995 566 875 1,441
1996 615 779 1,394
1997 562 820 1,382
1998 557 785 1,342
1999 523 831 1,354
2000 464 845 1,309
2001 445 672 1,117

(3) Taxation

Taxation for cultural properties includes tax breaks for the transfer of income or inheritance to promote national or public ownership, preservation, and utilization of cultural properties.