Toyama torchbearer brings light to minyo folk song tradition

NAKATANI Shinya was born and raised in Gokayama, Nanto City. He lives in Ainokura Gasshozukuri Village, a world heritage site known for its rafter roof houses. It was his dream to pass on the rafter roof tradition to his children and grandchildren, so Shinyai decided to work in the charming local area after graduating from school.

He became the head of the traditional folk performance team of his high school and led the team to the nationals where they received an award for outstanding performance. Shinya's knowledge of other folk traditions served him well as he now coaches young children and teenagers, which contributes to the preservation of minyo folk songs.

"I will continue to devote myself to preserving Gokayama, and I will pursue my dream to promote the attractive minyo folk songs to the world," he said.

What are rafter roofs?

Rafter roof houses are built without using a single nail. They use a traditional building method. There are houses that date back to over 350 years ago, and people still live in them.

What are the difficulties you face living in a rafter roof house?

Thatched rafter roofs have to be replaced every 15 to 20 years. We have to make the dried grass used for the thatched roof ourselves too. We must also follow traditional ways, such as using an open hearth, to preserve the rafter roof.

What is most important to you as you continue to perform and teach minyo folk songs?

It's important for me to pass on the minyo folk song tradition of this area to the next generation and to promote the art of minyo. That is why I joined the Minyo Preservation Society and give lectures as well as teach students.

Tell us about the charm of Gokayama.

You can see the Japanese landscape in its original state such as the village with rafter roof houses which are designated as a world heritage site. There are many traditional industries and culture here, including Gokayama washi (Japanese paper), Gokayama tofu (soybean curd) and minyo folk songs.

What do you hope to do as a torchbearer?

The Olympic Torch Relay that originated in Greece will make its way across the entire nation of Japan. Recognising the importance of the torch relay that will link all the areas and people along the way, I will run with the sincere wish in my heart that the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 will be an exciting spectacle!