Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties Center for Conservation Science
Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation
Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage


An optical study of Kasuga Gongen Genki E [“Legends of Kasuga Shrine”] in the collection of the Imperial Household Agency

 Kasuga Gongen Genki E is a massive work from the dawn of the 14th century consisting of 20 scrolls in total featuring paintings by TAKASHINA Takakane, head of the court atelier, at the behest of SAIONJI Kinhira, Minister of the Left at the time. All of the scrolls have survived. The work is extremely valuable in terms of the history of Japanese paintings, and it features a style that is unrivaled in its elaborateness and resplendence. Currently curated by the Imperial Household Agency, the work is being completely disassembled and restored as a part of a 15-year plan that began in 2004. As part of joint research with the Imperial Household Agency, the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo has optically studied and photographed the work prior to restoration. As of last year, 12 scrolls of the 20 total scrolls had been studied.
 This year, high-resolution digital photography of scroll 4 and scroll 15 was done with visible light, fluorescence, and 2 types of infrared waves (reflected and transmitted). Photography took place from December 3 to 6, 2012 and involved SHIRONO Seiji, KOBAYASHI Koji, and KOBAYASHI Tatsuro from the Institute’s Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems. From December 10 to 20, HAYAKAWA Yasuhiro of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques used X-ray fluorescence of the 2 scrolls to collect data on paints.
 Use of the reams of data that have been obtained thus far will be examined with the Imperial Household Agency once conservation and restoration are complete.


An optical study of the Taima Mandala

Study and photography of the Taima Mandala

 The Taima Mandala is a pictorial depiction of the teachings of Japanese Pure Land Buddhism showing primarily the Pure Land Paradise of Amida based on the Commentary on the Meditation Sutra by the monk Shandao from Tang Dynasty China. The work has been passed down by the Taima-dera temple in Nara, leading to its name. Vast numbers of works depicted the same images even in later ages and can be found around the country, but the basis for these works is the Taima Mandala, which the Institute studied. The massive work has been designated a National Treasure and extends more than 4 meters in width and height. The work is thought to have been produced in the 8th century, though some believe it to have been produced in Tang China while others think it was produced in Nara. A major feature of this key mandala is that scenes are depicted by weaving, i.e. figured brocade, rather than pictures painted on silk canvas, as was normally the case. However, the work has unquestionably deteriorated over a span of more than 1000 years. Massive restoration in the Kamakura and Edo periods only just managed to keep the work intact. Scenes are apparent as a result of patching that was done during those periods, but the ground weave has been severely damaged. The extent of original figured brocade that remained and the features of that brocade were somewhat unclear.
 The mandala had long been out of public view, but the mandala was slated for exhibition during a special exhibition, Taima-dera Temple, by the Nara National Museum starting on April 6 of this year. Prior to exhibition, the Institute’s Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems conducted an optical study of the mandala from December 17 to 21, 2012 at the Nara National Museum as part of a joint research project with the Nara National Museum. SHIRONO Seiji, KOBAYASHI Koji, SARAI Mai, and KOBAYASHI Tatsuro of the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems participated in the study. A railed platform was crafted for extensive photography. The work was placed on the platform and then photographed with a high-definition digital camera. The total surface of the work was divided into close to 150 segments, allowing viewing of the extremely elaborate weaving of the mandala. High-definition digital images were taken with visible light, and sections were photographed in greater detail with fluorescence and infrared light. During the study, macro-photographs were taken on portions where the original figured brocade appeared to have survived. Very few portions were found to have the original weave of the figured brocade, providing a key springboard for future studies. This study also helped to facilitate exhibition of the work at the Nara National Museum.


7th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

7th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage

 The 7th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from December 3 to 7, 2012. The session was attended by 2 experts from the Institute, MIYATA Shigeyuki of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage and FUTAGAMI Yoko of the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems. Grenada had planned to host the session but withdrew in August due to fiscal reasons. Uncharacteristically, the session was held at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. UNESCO’s own fiscal predicament resulted in a number of complaints about logistics, e.g. only limited copies of session documents were available and there was no video streaming of events at the second venue.
 During the session, 4 nominated files were inscribed in the “List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding,” 27 were inscribed in the “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity,” and 2 safeguarding practices were registered as “Best Safeguarding Practices.” Nachi no Dengaku [a religious performing art performed at the Nachi fire festival] had been nominated by Japan for the Representative List but a preliminary review by the Subsidiary Body led to the nomination being referred back to the Submitting State. State members of the Committee deemed the nomination to have satisfied the criteria for inscription, so Nachi no Dengaku was ultimately inscribed. This situation was not unique to Japan. Many nominations were inscribed despite being referred back to the Submitting State. A guideline of 1 nominated file per country has essentially been instituted. To limit the overall number of files to evaluate, Committee Members are scrutinizing each nomination rather carefully. Last year’s 6th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the ICH and the June session of the General Assembly of the State Parties to the Convention for the Safeguarding of the ICH had been marked by a rift in opinions. In contrast, the 7th session featured few sharp disagreements between Committee Members. The session consistently featured a generally accommodating atmosphere. Because of regional divisions, countries in Africa had submitted few nominations, but proposals from those states increased considerably during the 7th session. Capacity building has taken place in the region since the Convention for the Safeguarding of ICH took effect, and those efforts appear to have finally come to fruition. For the first time, Japan has been chosen as a member of the Subsidiary Body to evaluate nominations for inscription on the Representative List in 2013. Given this opportunity, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage hopes to capitalize on its expertise in order to help with the Subsidiary Body’s evaluations.


7th Public lecture of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage

7th public lecture

 On December 8, the Society to Preserve Yamaguchi’s Sagi School was invited to present a public lecture at the Heiseikan. The lecture was entitled “Carrying on Yamaguchi’s Sagi school of Kyogen (traditional Japanese comic theater): Recordings in the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo.” The Department of Performing Arts, the predecessor of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, began recording the Yamaguchi’s Sagi school of Kyogen in 1958. The performer is now deceased, and the recording features many pieces that are no longer passed on. While enjoying and analyzing these pieces, attendees discussed the future preservation of Yamaguchi’s Sagi school of Kyogen. Attendees also enjoyed Miyagino and Busu, both of which have been passed on. The Sagi School is a style that disappeared from central Japan during the Meiji Era, and its pieces are seldom performed in Tokyo. Attendees expressed great thanks for this meaningful opportunity.


Report on the “36th International Symposium on the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Property Microbial Biodeterioration of Cultural Property: Recent Topics on the Investigation of and Countermeasures for Biodeterioration of Outdoor/Indoor Properties and Disaster-affected Objects”

Keynote speech by Dr. Piero TIANO from Italy
Poster presentations

 Growth of microbes causes substantial deterioration of cultural properties, regardless of whether they are outdoors or indoors. Memories of the Great East Japan Earthquake are still fresh. The effects of water damage can soon lead to microbial deterioration of cultural properties that have been damaged by a disaster like an earthquake or tsunami. Surveys to ascertain the extent of damage and countermeasures against that damage are crucial. Thus, the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques hosted a symposium on the Microbial Deterioration of Cultural Properties at Heiseikan of the Tokyo National Museum from December 5 (Wed.)–7 (Fri.), 2012. Different departments of the Institute take turns hosting a symposium each year, and this year’s symposium marked the 36th International Symposium on the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Properties.
 The opening day of the symposium featured two keynote speeches by foreign experts, followed by a session on the biodeterioration of disaster-damaged cultural properties. The second day of the symposium featured a session on the biodeterioration of stone monuments and wooden structures outdoors. The final day of the symposium featured sessions on techniques to ascertain biodeterioration of cultural properties indoors and environmental factors for deterioration. The 3 days of the symposium featured 15 lectures as well as 23 poster presentations by presenters from Japan and abroad. The symposium encouraged an active discussion among the 232 participants (421 participants in total). The symposium was attended by numerous foreign experts from countries such as Italy, France, Germany, Canada, China, and South Korea. Symposia on the specific topic of microbial deterioration of cultural properties are seldom seen, and many of the experts from Europe who attended did so at their own expense. The symposium was truly an international symposium, allowing a substantial exchange of information. Sincere thanks are extended to the presenters and participants who enthusiastically collaborated with the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques.


Symposium held on “Wandering Cultural Heritage: 10 Years of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property”

The symposium underway
A panel discussion
A speech by Massimiliano Quagliarella of Italy’s Carabinieri (national military police)

 The Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage hosts a symposium each year for the general public. This year, the symposium was held at Heiseikan of the Tokyo National Museum on December 1, 2012. The symposium was entitled “Wandering Cultural Heritage: 10 Years of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property” (sponsor: Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage, Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan).
 This year marks the 10-year anniversary of Japan’s ratification of the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The symposium introduced Japanese efforts to safeguard cultural properties from illegal exportation and importation pursuant to the Convention and the current state of those efforts, and also described efforts overseas.
 A report on Japan’s national efforts was given by SHIOKAWA Tatsuhiro, Director of the Office for International Cooperation on Cultural Properties, Agency for Cultural Affairs while a report on local efforts was given by Superintendent TSUJIMOTO Tadamasa, an officer of the Nara Prefectural Police Department who deals with crimes against cultural properties. Speaking on the current state of trafficking in cultural properties, KURITA Isao, an art dealer and owner of the Gandhara Antiques specialty shop, described the root of the problem of trafficking in cultural properties in countries where those properties are trafficked from. Foreign examples were described by a member of Italy’s Carabinieri (national military police), Massimiliano Quagliarella, Head of Operations, Carabinieri Cultural Heritage Protection. Quagliarella described safeguarding of cultural heritage by the Carabinieri as well as actual cases of art forgery and detection of illegal exports. Active discussions developed after all of the presentations, with panelists joined by IGARASHI Kazushige Deputy Director of the Enforcement Division, Customs and Tariff Bureau, Ministry of Finance.
 Although the problem of safeguarding cultural heritage is seldom brought up, this problem is actually a familiar one. Examining this problem, the symposium was well-received by members of the general public who were in attendance. The Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage will continue to make opportunities to further understanding for the general public about problems related to cultural heritage.


Myanmar’s cultural officers invited and seminar held

A meeting at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo

 As part of the Project for International Contribution in Protection of Cultural Heritage (experts’ exchange) commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, officers from the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar were invited to visit Japan from December 10 to 14. Invitees were 5 Ministry personnel specializing in archaeology, conservation, cultural anthropology, and fine arts such as U Thein Lwin, Deputy Director General of the Ministry’s Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library. Invitees stayed in Tokyo and Nara, where they exchanged opinions with personnel at the Tokyo and the Nara Institutes, toured museums, and visited sites of archeological excavation as well as repair works of historical buildings. On December 11, a seminar entitled “Protection of Cultural Heritage in Myanmar: Current Situation and Issues” was held at the NRICPT’s seminar hall. Invitees delivered such presentations on archeological surveys, site preservation, and history and the current state of museums in Myanmar, sharing information by responding to questions from the audience. This invitation program provided the latest information on the protection of Myanmar’s cultural heritage and it fostered mutual understanding towards future cooperation. The same project plans to dispatch field study missions, in cooperation with the Nara Institute, in the 3 areas of architecture, art and crafts, and archaeology from the end of January to early February, in order to ascertain the direction of future Japanese cooperation in the protection of Myanmar’s cultural heritage.


11th Expert Working Group Meeting for the Safeguarding of the Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley World Heritage Property

A Meeting at the RWTH Aachen University

 In conjunction with UNESCO and research institutions from at home and abroad, the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo and the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties have long labored to conserve cultural heritage in Afghanistan. Research institutions in different countries and Afghanistan have cooperated specifically to safeguard the Bamiyan Valley site, primarily via UNESCO/Japanese Funds-In-Trust projects for Safeguarding of the Bamiyan Site. Safeguarding of the site is a key component of the Cooperative Projects for the Conservation of Cultural Heritage in West Asia made possible by an Institute fund to cover operating expenses.
 An expert working group meeting is held annually to discuss guidelines for the preservation and use of the site. This year, the meeting was held in Aachen, Germany from December 10 to 11 under the joint auspices of UNESCO and the RWTH Aachen University. The meeting was attended by experts from Afghanistan, Germany, France, and Italy and from international bodies such as UNESCO, ICOMOS, ICCROM, and UNOPS. Japanese experts from the Institute, the Nara Institute, and Mukogawa Women’s University were also in attendance. In addition to the ongoing topics of conservation of wall paintings and preserving fragments of the Buddha statues, the meeting featured reports on the current state of ruins located throughout the valley and road and airport improvement plans. In addition, blueprints for an envisioned museum, facilitated by a research agreement between the Institute and Mukogawa Women’s University, were presented at the meeting. The meeting led to a practical discussion of both tourism development and long-term preservation of the site.


to page top