"Naka-naka" Heritage Site Manifesto

Shin Muramatsu and Mikio Koshihara 2013.01.29


A "naka-naka" heritage site refers to a community asset with certain idiosyncratic features found nowhere else, but which would not achieve recognition as an important cultural property of the nation or a World Heritage site due to the fact a person will let out a small chuckle when they first see it but which, upon more serious reflection, because they can see that it links the site's locality with cultural currents in the broader world along with people, communities and objects and artifacts, and that it generates a variety of benefits for people, causes that a person upon seeing it to utter the Japanese expression "naka-naka~! (pretty good)". A "naka-naka" heritage site spontaneously evokes a desire in people to save not just the built structure itself for future generations, but all those connections that it embodies in their undiminished form.

The Japanese expression for "naka-naka"

The Japanese expression "naka-naka" used in this manifesto does not have the meaning of "tremendously," or "modest" or "so-so." It means "refined," "subdued," and is used to express praise, as if from somewhere deep within one's heart, for something that exudes a certain presence. "Naka-naka" is normally used as an adverb in negative expressions in Japanese, to mean "far from," or "by no means." But for its use in the expression "naka-naka" heritage sites, we use it as a na-adjective (an "adjective verb"). In Japanese it has certain connotations of a slightly awkward "manner of sticking together," which also conveys the notion of something faintly ridiculous. It is therefore finely suited to describing the gracefulness that these heritage sites possess. The World Heritage Programme, which began in 1972, honors "Outstanding Universal Value," meaning that a World Heritage site will instill wonder in any person regardless of their culture instantly upon seeing it. The exclamation "naka-naka~!" however is not to be found in any Indo-European language, and is only seen in a few languages such as Japanese and Korean, and the Turkic languages. It may therefore be that a "naka-naka" heritage site cannot demonstrate such universal value. Heritage sites falling within our definition, however, ought to exist all around the world, and we believe that they ought to be valued so that they contribute to the future of both local communities and humanity in general. In Polynesian languages "naka-naka" means "to live a satisfied life." That sits well with the aims to be attributed to a "naka-naka" heritage site. "Naka-naka" heritage sites are indeed quite something, "naka-naka~!"

Categories of "naka-naka" heritage sites

You would expect that if there are four aspects to our definition of a "naka-naka" heritage site, then in theory it should be possible to categorize a "naka-naka" heritage site on this fourfold basis. Aspects 2) of value and 3) of potential for the future, however, still represent just wishful thinking, and at the present time any classification based on these two indices would be difficult. Accordingly we will present a total of six categories - five based on aspect 1) of form and origins (in particular of form), and one based on the site's current state. There are bound to be other categories in addition to these six, and we invite the readers of this manifesto to submit any other categories and participate in this campaign to popularize "naka-naka" heritage sites.

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