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


A joint study of a Painting of Samantabhadra in the Tokyo National Museum

Imaging a Painting of Samantabhadra

 The Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems has conducted joint studies of Buddhist paintings from the Heian Period with the Tokyo National Museum. These studies seek to precisely image paintings in the museum’s collection and explore aspects of their production in further detail than that offered by observation with the naked eye. A Painting of Akasagarbha (a National Treasure) and a Painting of the Thousandarmed Kannon (also a National Treasure) were previously studied. This year, a Painting of Samantabhadra (a National Treasure as well) was imaged on March 26, 2014. This work is one of the most acclaimed Buddhist paintings from the Heian Period. The images obtained will be examined by the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems and researchers from the Tokyo National Museum, and the painting’s significance to art history will be studied in the future.


Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems seminar entitled Research on and Development of an Internet Version of Mizue: Prospects for the Digital Publication of Art Historical Resources and Art Archives

Homepage of the online version of Mizue

 The Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems conducts a monthly seminar to share information on relevant research. A seminar entitled Research on and Development of an Internet Version of Mizue: Prospects for the Digital Publication of Art Historical Resources and Art Archives began at 2 PM on March 25, 2014. During the seminar, presentations were given by TSUDA Tetsuei, Head of the Art Research Materials Section, KIKKAWA Hideki, an Associate Fellow at the Institute, MARUKAWA Yuzo, Associate Professor of the National Museum of Ethnology, and NAKAMURA Yoshifumi and YOSHIZAKI Mayumi of the National Institute of Informatics. The presentations covered Mizue, an art journal that was first published in 1905. The journal subsequently suspended publication in 1992, it resumed publication in 2001, and it then suspended publication again in 2007. Since this journal has been published for almost a century, it has had a profound effect on art in modern Japan, and it clearly has documentary value. Moreover, volumes prior to volume no. 90, which were published in the Meiji Era, are hard to obtain and few institutions have those assembled volumes in their collections. Accordingly, issues of the journal are treated as valuable written works by the Institute. At the same time, there was a growing call for the journal to be made publicly available. Since most of the copyrights to articles and other pieces in the volumes published during the Meiji Era had expired, the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems and the Center for Research and Development into the Informatics of Association of the National Institute of Informatics drew on their extensive know-how to jointly research and develop a way to make those issues available internet. This project started in 2011 and lasted 3 years. With Mizue serving as a test case, this joint research and development looked at one possible way of publishing information on cultural properties primarily in text format. This effort was originally part of a Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems research project on General Research regarding the Publication and Utilization of Research on Cultural Properties. The seminar on March 25 was conducted for the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems to internally share information regarding the results of this research and development. The internet version of Mizue that resulted from joint research and development has been made publicly available as Mizue from the Materials Archive of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo. Please feel free to have a look (http://mizue.bookarchive.jp/).


Survey of the current state of the cultural heritage of Oceanic island nations

Survey of a traditional meeting house in Kiribati
Dancing at a traditional meeting house in Tuvalu

 As part of Japan’s International Contribution to the Conservation of Cultural Heritage (expert exchanges) commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan, a Survey of the Current State of Cultural Heritage that is Likely to be Affected by Climate Change was commissioned by the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation. The survey was conducted from February 18th to March 5th. The areas surveyed were the 3 Oceanic nations of Kiribati, Tuvalu, and Fiji. These nations are threatened by rising sea levels due to climate change.
 The capital and outlying islands of Kiribati and Tuvalu were visited, and the current state of cultural heritage, which includes traditional dances, folk techniques, traditional architecture, and sacred sites, was surveyed. Damage due to rising sea levels was noted. Surveyors talked with administration officials and chieftains on outlying islands. Both countries face real problems in terms of the deterioration and disappearance of cultural heritage as well as the erosion of the country itself due to rising sea level. Sustainable intangible cultural heritage helps to maintain a people’s identity even if they are forced to emigrate overseas; representatives from both countries were cognizant of this fact. One example of cultural heritage is the large meeting houses that are found in villages in both countries. Various observances, such as religious rites and dances, are performed at these meeting houses. The culture related to these meeting houses is intangible and their architecture and building techniques and materials are closely linked to various elements, such as nature. These buildings represent the survival of that culture. At the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, surveyors exchanged opinions with researchers in relevant fields. This survey was significant in terms of considering the future of the cultural heritage of Oceanic island nations.


Second Conference on the Intangible Cultural Heritage Information Network

The 2nd conference

 Together with cooperating organizations, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage operates the 3/11 Reconstruction Assistance: Intangible Cultural Heritage Information Network [note: the Great East Japan Earthquake struck on March 11, 2011]. The 2nd conference on the Network was held March 5, (Wed.), 2014 in a conference room in the Institute’s basement. This conference follows the 1st conference that took place in March of last year when the Network was created. Attendees shared information and exchanged opinions on restoration of intangible cultural heritage damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake.
 Attendees (37 individuals) spanned a range of fields, from researchers and administration officials to individuals working in affected areas, support organizations, religious representatives, and members of the media. The latter half of the conference featured a report by guest speaker Kei TANAKA (the Tsumugu Project) and a report by Takeshi ABE (Tohoku Institute of Filmed Cultural Properties). Discussion primarily concerned documenting intangible cultural heritage in affected areas.
 “Documenting” intangible cultural heritage is a term that encompasses several aspects. Aims of the 2nd conference included: (1) documenting intangible cultural heritage to facilitate its continuation, (2) documenting intangible cultural heritage that can no longer be handed down, (3) documenting intangible cultural heritage to encourage its transmission to children and young people, and (4) documenting intangible cultural heritage to highlight its widespread existence. The creation of this new Network is anticipated to prove effective in achieving these aims by documenting intangible cultural heritage. Nevertheless, conditions differ in each of the areas affected by Great East Japan Earthquake. The 2nd conference affirmed the approach of fully ascertaining the needs of these areas and then restoring intangible cultural heritage.


Study of conditions for the storage of cultural properties rescued from previously restricted zones of Fukushima Prefecture and implementation of measures to prevent/mitigate radiation damage

An experiment to remove radioactive dust
Course on measurement of radiation levels

 The nuclear accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant resulted in repositories in the towns of Futaba, Okuma, and Tomioka in Futaba County being contaminated with radioactive material. Cultural properties that were rescued from these repositories have ultimately been stored in a temporary repository at Mahoron, the Shirakawa Branch of the Fukushima Cultural Property Center.
 In order to improve storage conditions, the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques is continuing a study in cooperation with curators at Mahoron. From March 25–26th, temperature and humidity were measured and levels of surface contamination on some rescued cultural properties were measured. Most of the items were found to be free of contamination by radioactive material. Wrapping on some of the items that had slight levels of contamination was replaced, and dust was removed and items were cleaned with a conservation vacuum cleaner. Measurements of radiation levels before and afterwards indicated that the cleaning was effective. In addition, curators who will manage rescued cultural properties received a course on methods of measuring surface contamination and they learned procedures for performing those measurements. Mahoron plans to successively measure and record surface contamination on all rescued cultural properties.


The 2013 General Assembly of the Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage convened and the 14th seminar on “International Trends in Safeguarding Cultural Heritage” was held.

Lecture underway

 The 2013 General Assembly of the Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage was convened on March 7th. The Secretariat General reported on Consortium projects in 2013 and projects planned for the coming year. This was followed by the 14th Seminar, which started with a keynote lecture by ANDO Hiroyasu, President of the Japan Foundation, entitled “International Cooperation and Exchange through Culture―In View of Mutual Relationship.” Afterwards, four other lectures described recent trends in the safeguarding of cultural heritage with a focus on discussion at the international conferences that took place last year.
 MOTONAKA Makoto, senior researcher of cultural properties in the Monuments and Sites Division of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, delivered a lecture on the evaluation process prior to the inscription of Mt. Fuji on the World Heritage list along with issues arising after its inscription. FUTAGAMI Yoko, Head of the Research Information Section of the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems, reported on the deliberations that took place at the 8th Session of the Intergovernmental Committee on the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Ms. FUTAGAMI also described issues discussed by the Committee and recent topics concerning the Convention. KURIHARA Yuji, Secretary General of the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, described Japan’s campaign to host the ICOM General Assembly and prospects for the future. Last but not least, MAEDA Kosaku, Vice Chairperson of the Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage, gave a presentation regarding the 12th Expert Working Group Meeting on the Safeguarding of the Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley, Afghanistan. The meeting took place last year in Orvieto, Italy.
 The topic of international trends in safeguarding cultural heritage is usually brought up at seminars each year, and this year’s seminar had more than 100 attendees. Information on recent trends is greatly needed. The Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage will continue its efforts to share information through seminars.


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