National Geographic Video: Living Treasures of Japan

"Amid the clamor of technological and economic success, a reverence for age, custom, and tradition endures in Japanese culture. The honorable title, "Living National Treasure", is the highest award that can be achieved in the Japanese arts. Some seventy master craftsmen and performers are bestowed with this title and are charged with passing on the country’s artistic heritage to future generations. "Living Treasures of Japan" takes you into the homes and workshops of the remarkable people who quietly keep Japan’s most precious creative traditions alive." (text taken from Amazon)
Year Released
The National Geographic Society
Average: 4 (3 votes)


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"Living National Treasures of Japan" art instructor review

Field of Interest/Specialty: art
Posted On: 11/08/2011

“Living Treasures of Japan” is a National Geographic presentation featuring nine specific artists of the seventy existing in 1980 who are considered ''Holders of Important Intangible Resources.'' or otherwise known as Living National Treasures. I watched the film in 10 segments available on You Tube, but I am sure that it is available in a single CD format. The film begins with a history lesson making note of the beginning of the two hundred year long isolation of Japan starting in the 1600’s. It then moves to the opening of Japan’s doors in the 1850’s with the arrival of a Matthew Perry expedition to Japan. The selected artists worked in the visual arts, theatre and music. Each segment focuses upon what the artist does and how they do it. It is very evident that each artist has spent their lifetime mastering the craft and has a tremendous pride and joy associated with what they do. In many cases the artist is also preparing to pass the craft on to another family member or dedicated apprentice, so that that tradition will continue.
My particular background in ceramics drew my interest to the potter Toyozo Arakawa who resurrected a 300 year old site for the making of Black Seto and Shino wares using the traditional ancient Japanese methods. The film moves you through the complete creative process from beginning as earth to the final product of beautiful ceramic works of art.
There is a wide range of arts and crafts that should allow each viewer to make a connection to one or more of the artists. You see the weaver making cloth that she developed from indigo seed to beautiful blue fabric as well as, the potter, the doll maker, the musician, the papermaker, the bell maker, the puppeteer, the sword maker and the man who performs as a woman in accordance with Kabuki tradition that keeps women off of its stage.
I would highly recommend the movie for all ages. The film meets the quality and expectations found in other National Geographic movies that have been produced over the years. It is a great fit for many subjects including, but not limited to art, music, science, social studies and history.

Living Treasures

Field of Interest/Specialty: Social Studies
Posted On: 04/26/2009

Although dated at this point in time, this film is extremely valuable to classroom teachers/students. My senior high level classes have viewed it an a variety of ways over the years. I feel the best clips for my World History class to view are the ones on Bunraku and sword making. Students generally comment that they have a greater appreciation for arts in Japan after viewing. The other clips are interesting (indigo, doll making, pottery, theater, etc...) but don't seem to hold students attention as well.

Review Title

Field of Interest/Specialty: Japanese art history
Posted On: 03/17/2009

Although by now rather old, this film is still very useful in a variety of ways. First, Living Treasures introduces the concept of protecting the traditional arts of a country through government support of the people who participate in those arts--a kind of support that is very different from the way that arts are supported in the U.S. Second, the film consists of short segments, any of which can be shown by itself. Third, the film shows a different way of learning, as there are numerous inside glimpses of how many years it takes to learn puppet theater, for example, or how families pass their skills to the next generation. Fifth, the process of making things (how a sword is forged or a bronze bell is cast) is also shown in the segments. All of the segments would be particularly useful for art teachers, but teachers in other fields can bring to life a topic by including one of these short segments in a class (sword making and the history of samurai, for example?). In addition, because the segments are short, I could envision using sections for students from grade school through high school. My only caveat is that the film has an exotic flavor to it (emotional music, tendency to make things more dramatic and mystical than they are in real life, etc.). These "Living Treasures" in real life are not nearly as exotic as we might think, nor do they always regard their art as something secret and exclusive, or even spiritual. I point this aspect out to my college students, and show these valuable clips anyway.