A relative of Emperor Akihito is spearheading a campaign to preserve Japanese culture and arts for children out of a concern that aspects of traditional life are passing into oblivion.
“I hope giving a new lease of life to traditional culture will revitalize Japan, including quake-hit areas,” said Princess Akiko, 30, of the group she set up with friends.
Members of Shinyusha will visit the Tohoku region devastated by last year’s earthquake and tsunami, including the town of Yamada, Iwate Prefecture, later this month as part of the push to preserve traditional arts.
Akiko is the eldest daughter of Prince Tomohito, a cousin of Emperor Akihito, who died of cancer on June 6.
It is rare for an imperial family member to set up a private-sector group and serve as a key member.
Akiko became concerned about a loss of traditional culture and arts while studying at Oxford University. She said she was frequently asked about Japanese culture and arts.
“Culture can come into its own only when it breathes in day-to-day life,” she said. “I wanted to help children come in touch with genuine culture.”
Akiko has staged activities in temples and shrines, which once served as centers of culture, as part of the effort.
Since Shinyusha was set up in April, members and children have produced traditional sweets at a kindergarten in the Dazaifu Tenmangu shrine in Fukuoka Prefecture and ceremonial flowers of Japanese "washi' paper at the Iwashimizu Hachimangu shrine in Kyoto Prefecture.
Prince Tomohito gave her an encouragement on Shinyusha’s activities even as he battled with cancer.
Akiko said she used to think she was very different from her father, who was assertive in all activities that engaged him.
“As it turned out, I have become a coordinator at Shinyusha. He grinned when I told him about that,” she said. “It may be proof that I am his daughter.”
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