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Capacity Building on Nature-Culture Linkages: The experience of the UNESCO Chair at the University of Tsukuba, Japan

Session 4 with Maya Ishizawa

The UNESCO Chair on Nature-Culture Linkages in Heritage Conservation was established at the University of Tsukuba in Japan with the aim of bringing together natural and cultural heritage practitioners from Asia and the Pacific to explore on a comprehensive approach to landscapes’ conservation.

The Capacity Building Workshops on Nature-Culture Linkages in Heritage Conservation (CBWNCL) gathered Asia-Pacific heritage professionals with the aim of creating a platform of mutual-learning and exchange between the culture and nature sectors. In four workshops on Agricultural Landscapes (2016), Sacred Landscapes (2017), Disasters and Resilience (2018) and Mixed Cultural and Natural Heritage (2019), 57 heritage practitioners from 17 different countries in Asia and the Pacific and 6 practitioners from other regions have shared their work in 29 World Heritage Sites, 8 sites in Tentative Lists, 12sites protected under national legislations, 9 sites protected under other type of system (e.g. community-based, Ramsar site, Biosphere Reserves). 22 graduate students from the University of Tsukuba have participated as observers.

In this dialogue session, Maya will share the lessons learned from this project that run from 2015-2019, and the next potential steps.

After last week’s title the nature of our DNA, Maya’s talk was certainly a confirmation of some of Diane’s thoughts.  Maya’s ‘DNA’ reflects Peruvian-Japanese links, married to a German that finds herself in Kigali, Rwanda. With this said she knows six languages of which she speaks three of them well. In her talk she speaks of how people understand value, and how this relates back to the issue of language. From this background she could ask the question “What kind of skills do we need to build on the skills of the participants” in the nature-culture linkages workshops. 

57 Heritage practitioners from different backgrounds, and conservation sectors partake in these capacity building workshops together with 20 graduate students from the University of Tsukuba in total. They were mostly from the Asia-pacific region. Maya and her colleagues looked at comparing different systems of protection in Japan, in the region and beyond, in cooperation with ICCROM, IUCN, ICOMOS, and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, in the assessing and managing of both natural and cultural heritage. 


Maya Ishizawa (MI)

Marike Franklin (MF)

Nupur Prothi (NP)

Steve Brown (SB)

Ana Bajcura (AB)

Nancy Pollock Elwand (NPE)


Jane Lennon (JL)


According to MI the links in the landscape are the people living in the place. Nature-culture linkages are place specific, and working with individuals in their context should be done with respect. Through the capacity building workshops participants were able to mimic what they’ve learnt from the interaction on site and the other participants from different backgrounds, and case-study assignments to their own practice. Participants were encouraged to explore linkages between nature and culture in a week of field visits. These workshops were divided under specific categories that stretched over four years: agricultural landscapes (2016), sacred landscapes (2017), disasters and resilience (2018), and mixed cultural and natural sites (2019).MI, MF
Lessons Learnt (by MI):1.    Nature-Culture Heritage practitioners shall keep their own identity (cultural, sectorial & disciplinary). The Nature-Culture approach invites heritage practitioners to facilitate dialogue among stakeholders from different levels of the practice, different backgrounds and different roles in the heritage places. Nature-Culture heritage practitioners shall foster openness to different understandings, disciplinary/sectoral languages and different perspective over heritage places and landscapes.PRINCIPLE OF IDENTITY PRINCIPLE OF OPENNESS2.    Japanese traditional worldview (at community level) does not see a divide between nature and culture. Yet, the Japanese conservation system is strongly divided at institutional levels, with each sector holding a specific mandate. PRINCIPLE OF UNDERSTANDING LOCAL INSTITUTIONS3.    For applying a nature-culture approach in conservation, heritage practitioners need to respect local understandings of landscape and place and learn from the existing nature-culture linkages through languages, values and practices. PRINCIPLE OF NATURESCULTURES PLACE-SPECIFICITYPRINCIPLE OF RESPECT TO LOCAL NATURESCULTUREMI
SB: Where did the divide between nature and culture conservation come from in Japan’s legislative and administrative heritage system? Was it an entirely Western influence?MI: Yes, these are influences that came after the ‘opening’ of Japan in the Meiji period. Before, the important cultural heritage of Japan was related to religious objects, temples and shrines (mostly Shinto and Buddhist) which were administrated and taken care by communities, religious groups or individuals that owned them. During the Meiji period, Buddhist art was disregarded, looted, exported, but some influential people (intellectuals, scientists, politicians) who had been influenced by European systems, recognized the value of these religious objects and promote the development of a law for their protection. Later on a law was established for historic sites and buildings, places of scenic beauty, and later on these laws became one and integrated also intangible cultural heritage and much later, cultural landscapes. The Law for the protection of Cultural properties (1950 -post WWII) is enforced by the Agency for Cultural Affairs that belongs to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). The Law of National Parks and later Natural Parks was also influenced by the development of North American National Parks. At the highest level, these institutions work separately, but at local levels they are connected at the Municipality level, with education boards in charge of cultural heritage and other local programs of nature conservation also working in local institutions.SB: Do you think the heritage system might change in the future in Japan if it is recognised that these systems were imposed?MI: No, not in the near future. It is a very large bureaucratic apparatus and embedded in the system. There are potentials to work at local level with both sectors and institutions (Ministry of the Environment and Agency for Cultural Affairs). (Addendum after the talk: These systems were not really imposed in Japan, but it was Japanese people who built these systems, influenced by European and North American trends, but adapted to their own local and cultural needs. Hence, I would not think people feel that this system is imposed, and in their own areas of influence, they are quite effective. Yet, more collaboration would be beneficial, especially at site levels.SB, MI
NPE: When you talk about this connection of nature and culture. It is so fundamental in Education and institutional system. Do you anticipate any change in this perspective? This monolithic idea is so en-grained in our perspective. MI: Change from the local level, but we still need specialists. Not eliminating disciplines, but learn how to work together. More interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary exercises would contribute. We need widened perspective without knowing all, but recognise different roles each has to play. NPE, MI
NP: How are we bringing all these efforts together with connecting practice that includes ICOMOS and IUCN.MI: We are working with similar aims (connecting nature and culture sectors and practitioners, promote exchange), but Connecting Practice is related to the World Heritage evaluation process, whereas the CBWNCL is a capacity building exercise that is not only focusing on World Heritage but heritage places in general, and mostly oriented to management. Resource persons of the CBWNCL are also part of the Connecting Practice Project, we work together at that level, and have exchanged in that way.NP (Proposal): Connecting practice used different site and findings around the world. Perhaps these could be used as case studies, because these different aspects could be stronger together.NP, MI
SB: An intended output of the four Tsukuba workshops is a ‘facilitation guide’. What might this look like? Will the audience be more than students? What is the timeframe for its production?MI: The facilitation guide will need to include students because we work with the university. The facilitation guide is still an idea, and not yet defined how it will look at the moment. It should be produced during the year 2020, and we envision it more as a tool than a manual at the moment. We plan to start proposing an outline in IUCN 2020 and see what is the feedback of audience and colleagues.SB,MI
SB: Do you think it would be useful to have a workshop in Sydney as part of the ICOMOS GA2020 Scientific Symposium on the Tsukuba workshops? I would be pleased to discuss the possibility with you. See: <https://icomosga2020.org/abstracts/>.MI: Now that we merge our session in IUCN 2020, I am not sure how this will work as a workshop, but we were planning to have a session in Marseille and one other in Sydney with the ICOMOS colleagues, and collect feedback from both sides. So definitely to have or participate in a session in ICOMOS GA is the goal. NPE: Isn’t that a logistical problem. People coming from the cultural side. We need to be deliberate to invite individuals from the IUCN side. Not to only talk to the converted’s side.SB: Any paper session proposed for this nature-culture session will have to have representation of both IUCN and ICOMOS (as a prerequisite) and potentially ICCROM.SB, NPE, MI



1. Divide of Nature and culture 

a) A summary of the history of the divide between Nature and Culture (to include as a 10 min feedback in the next talk)?

MF: In one of the readings provided by DMAdams, W. and Mulligan, M. (ed) 2003, Decolonizing Nature: Strategies for Conservation in a Postcolonial Era, Earthscan, London. The text below highlights some of the struggle of difference in world views, and the history thereof, but not yet the core of it (to be answered under b)

In terms of direct political control by European powers, colonial rule was finally brought to an end in much of the world in the third quarter of the 20th century, especially as the result of a string of anti-colonial struggles that emerged in former European colonies in the wake of World War II. In South Asia and sub- Saharan Africa, new post-colonial political structures emerged. The end of direct political control might have been expected to open the way for more independent thinking about the relations between society and nature, perhaps based on non-Western traditions and cultural fusions. This did not happen. From the late 19th century onwards, the decolonization process had involved the creation of ‘modern’ nation states that were built, essentially, on European

models and traditions, and the deep ideological legacy of colonialism endured. Smith (1999) comments that indigenous people have been subjected to ‘the colonization of their lands and cultures, and the denial of their sovereignty, by a Introduction 5 colonizing society that has come to dominate the shape and quality of their

lives, even after it has formally pulled out’ (p7). Modern European colonialism was not monolithic, and the diverse

experiences of decolonization were complicated. In parts of the world where European settlement and land occupation was either complete or very extensive (for example, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the US, Canada and South America), direct imperial control by European political powers ended as the settler societies progressively assumed administrative control (in a relatively painless form of decolonization). But such settler societies had established their own, internal, forms of colonialism in order to dominate indigenous minorities

(for example, in Australia; see Chapter 4), or profoundly suppressed majorities (as in the case of South Africa or Rhodesia [Zimbabwe] before majority rule). In many settler societies, indigenous peoples were herded into isolated fragments of their former terrain, on ‘reservations’, ‘missions’ or ‘tribal lands’, administered with a complex mix of brute exploitation, paternalistic exhortation and racist disdain. In such context’s decolonization has often been piecemeal and is still far from complete. As decolonization reached its peak in terms of the political independence of nation states, new forms of trans-national and global colonization – in the form of cultural and economic engagement – began to gather force, accelerating rapidly during the last part of the 20th century. The process of political decolonization was therefore overtaken by globalization and neo-colonialism,

making the transition to post-colonial societies complex and messy….

b) A list of references in environmental philosophy to reveal the deep root of Western separation (Fran, Steve?)

2. A list of principles starting from the IUCN 2016 Mālama Honua, and ICOMOS. 2017 Yatra aur Tammanah document. 

Mālama Honua: https://www.iucn.org/sites/dev/files/malama-honua-en.pdf

Yatra aur Tammanah: <https://www.icomos.org/images/DOCUMENTS/General_Assemblies/19th_Delhi_2017/19th_GA_Outcomes/ICOMOS_GA2017_CNJ_YatraStatement_final_EN_20180207circ.pdf>

3. List of partners of different perspectives that need to be part of this principle document (IUCN, IFLA etc.)

4. Collect a list of examples of some of the best practice of merging C/N from around the globe. The list should include a summary of those efforts. The focus should be on best practice, although we could learn from both good and bad efforts.

  1.  West Lake, China
  • Organise a talk that covers the concept of ‘Wilderness’ – a concept many countries applied, but suffered by as a conservation model. (Fran, Jane, Nora, Brenda?). Who should we engage with for the Wilderness Congress in India in 2020?


Training for ICOMOS experts, and access to local attitudes in WH review proses (suggestion/check?) 

  • Check for available Anthropological training methods that is available (LJ)?
  • Suggest experts to have access to local attitudes?

Describe and add three principles from this talk to principles document (MF)

Description of each of these terms (AB)

  1. The recognition of the condition of Universal
  2. The regional value, special for every society.
  3. The “chronological time”,
  4. The “regional evolution time”
  5. The “maturation process of each individual from a region”  


Do all of the above! 


Do all of the above, and add the principles by Maya to a principles document?

This meeting: Maya Ishizawa

30 October 2019 1PM GMT

The next meeting: Jane Lennon

January 2019 (date to be confirmed) 10PM GMT