1. Form and Origin

On its face, this definition of a "naka-naka" heritage site may not instantly reveal its exact meaning, and requires further elaboration. Broadly speaking, we can speak of four aspects of a "naka-naka" heritage site: 1) its form and origins, 2) its value, 3) its benefits, and 4) its potential for the future.

First, the part of the definition to the effect of "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 that a person will let out a small chuckle when they first see it" refers to 1) the form and origins of the site.

Sometimes necessity causes some built structures to come into existence somewhat abruptly after an inadequate period of gestation. Those slightly "rushed" origins will lend a certain oddness to the structure's form. Instead of achieving an overall harmony, the structure will "stick out' in part to address a certain need. For that reason, the structure will never achieve designation as a World Heritage site, or as an important cultural property of the nation (for which candidate sites face many hurdles), which is given to honor more fully-fledged universal values.

2. Value

The "but" serves as a pause before introducing the second part of this definition: 2) "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, [it] causes that Japanese person upon seeing it to utter the Japanese expression "naka-naka~!."

A built structure in and of itself does not have value. Nor does it exist in and of itself. People with architectural training are prone to visualize a building only in terms of its physical structure or internal functions, and they tend to conclude wrongly that the mere existence of a building, even one that stands alone, is of inherent value.

That, however, is not the case with a "naka-naka" heritage site. As a result of the factors that led to how it came to look, of how it was used and observed by many people once it was completed and of the role it has in people's memories, the site comes to fulfill a diverse range of roles in the form of ties that strongly link together visual spectacle, the natural environment, the community, and objects and artifacts. It is this that we declare to represent the value of a "naka-naka" heritage site.

3. Benefits of "naka-naka" heritage sites

What sort of benefits are to be had from a "naka-naka" heritage site having as it does this kind of value? Our definition states that "it generates a variety of benefits for people," and borrowing the language of ecosystem services, we will list here the benefits to people from having access to an ecosystem where biodiversity is maintained.

  • "Cultural services": Letting slip a small chuckle the moment you see a "naka-naka" heritage site represents a kind of small emotion. These sorts of emotional responses raise local pride, bringing educational, tourism, and other cultural benefits. This is first and foremost the greatest appeal of a "naka-naka" heritage site, and is called a "cultural service."
  • "Provisioning services": Since "naka-naka" heritage sites are mainly built structures, basically they create the function of a "space" within them. Accordingly a basic benefit generated by a "naka-naka" heritage site is providing a space for people in the form of a residence, or a base for conducting particular activities.
  • "Regulating services": The activities associated with preserving and maintaining a "naka-naka" heritage site regulate the bonds between people in both the larger and local community. We would like to call this the "regulating services" that "naka-naka" heritage sites provide.
  • "Preserving services": Through the maintenance and similar activities concerning a "naka-naka" heritage site, people come to acquire "naka-naka" heritage siteliteracy. As people become more skilled in this literacy, it can advance the preservation of not just built structures in their community but also the natural environment. We would like to call this the "preserving services" that "naka-naka" heritage sites provide.

4. Potential for the future

The final part of the definition presents a timeline meaning: 4) "'naka-naka' heritage sites are a community asset that 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." A World Heritage site instantly commands and dominates people's attention, and for that reason it can have the adverse effect of impoverishing the relevant building or local community where it is located. That is not the case with a "naka-naka" heritage site. Its value is recognized slowly and little by little, and with each generation both many people and the community receive its benefits on an enduring basis. To use the expression of the day, our interest lies in the "sustainability" of these heritage sites. Finally, since a "naka-naka" heritage site is a community asset, our definition also incorporates an expectation that the local community will want to preserve it as part of its commons.

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