Committee formed in order to inscribe Okinawa Karate on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Asset List

Committee formed in order to inscribe Okinawa Karate on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Asset List

Committee Chair Morio Higaonna (3rd from the right) and other committee members in the Committee for Okinawa Karate UNESCO Listing at the Okinawa prefectural office press club July 10

July 11, 2019 Ryukyu Shimpo

The Committee for Okinawa Karate UNESCO Listing was recently formed with the goal of getting Okinawa Karate registered as an intangible cultural asset with the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). The committee members gathered July 10 at the Okinawa Prefectural Office’s press club in Naha to hold a press conference, where they announced that they were planning on developing a plan to have Okinawa Karate inscribed on the list as a “ritual.”

The committee’s chair, Morio Higaonna, emphasized, “Okinawa Karate is designated as an intangible cultural asset by Okinawa Prefecture, and is an Okinawan treasure left by our ancestors. Under the leadership of Okinawa’s governor, we have joined Karate-ka from four different schools with the prefecture into a single organization, and we want to see [Okinawa Karate] inscribed [on the intangible cultural assets list].”

Committee manager Masaki Sunagawa said regarding having the martial art listed as a ritual, “The available genres in UNESCO’s Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural Heritage does not include ‘martial arts’ or ‘sports,’ so if we were to apply for it as a martial art it would not be recognized.” He explained that they were applying to have it listed in the “societal custom, ritual, and spiritual festival” category.

The committee chose as its’ slogan, “The spirit of peace; tying the ritual of Okinawa Karate to the UNESCO ring,” and are developing a strategy around martial arts festivals and ritual martial arts demonstrations, as well as an survey of ritualistic Karate literature and locations. While they are still investigating the length of time it will take to get Okinawa Karate inscribed, Higaonna said, “It is necessary that not just Karate-ka but also Okinawans band together to realize the goal.” Here are the members of the committee:

Committee Chair Morio Higaonna (International Gojuryu Karate Organization Grand Master), Director Zenpo Shimabukuro (International Okinawa Syorinryu Seibukan Karate-do Association President), Minoru Higa (Okinawa Shorinryu Karate-do Kyudokan Association President), Tsutomu Nakahodo (Uechi-ryu Okinawa Karate-do Association Senior Advisor), Masakazu Kuramoto (International Gojuryu Karate Organization President), and Dr. Masaki Sunagawa (Nambu Hospital).

(English translation by T&CT and Sam Grieb)

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