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


Workshop in September by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

Heated discussions over the information of canvas silk and silk yarn between Mr. Shimura/Ms. Akimoto and the audience

 In the monthly workshop held on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems, Mr. Akira Shimura of the Silk Fabric Research Institute, Katsuyama Textile Corporation made a presentation under the title of “Conventional Techniques in Silk Production” as part of our research project, “Research on art expression, techniques and materials.” Ms. Noriko Akimoto of the Silk Fabric Research Institute also attended the workshop as a commentator. Mr. Shimura has been working on the restoration of traditional silk fabrics produced before the modern age. As a base material for Japanese paintings, canvas silk, the theme of this workshop, is very familiar not only to researchers of art history but also to Japanese art restorers. The attendees were engaged in diverse areas, including art history researchers and Japanese art restorers, which shows their strong interest in this field.
 For this workshop, Mr. Shimura told us about a variety of findings on canvas silk and silk yarn he accumulated during the process of technical restoration based on field research for canvas silk of various ages left until today. At the beginning, Mr. Shimura presented basic information on silk yarn. Then, receiving useful comments from Ms. Akimoto from time to time, the audience asked questions, and Mr. Shimura answered the questions. During the Q&A session, we, researchers, realized that some of our knowledge on canvas silk and silk yarn perceived as common sense resulted from misunderstandings or misperceptions. Thus, this workshop was a good opportunity for us to revise our understanding, such as the unit, “d (denier),” which is not related to the thickness (diameter) of silk yarn but to the volume of silk. The relations between back coloring and the density of the texture produced with warp and woof (space between threads) were also revealed through detailed observation of the canvas silk produced with traditional techniques and restored.
 The workshop, which proceeded in a Q&A session style, took more than two hours. However, the information and knowledge about canvas silk and silk yarn Mr. Shimura presented were very fresh to us. We also had a good opportunity to feel beneath our fingertip the real texture of canvas silk produced in different fabric thickness and density by Mr. Shimura and Ms. Akimoto, as well as glossed silk beaten with a wooden block (silk cloth). These precious experiences will surely assist us in our art research in the future.


Donation of Lectures’ Texts by Takeshi Kuno for the Hakuho Society

 The late Mr. Takeshi Kuno (1920-2007) was engaged in research on the sculpture of Buddhist sculptures for 38 years from his entrance into the precursor of this institute, the Institute of Art, in 1944 until his retirement in 1982. After retirement, he established the Research Institute for Buddhist Art next to his residence. As the head of the Institute, he provided valuable materials collected over many years for researchers. After he passed away, the bereaved family donated his research notebooks with his handwritten comments, photographic materials, and so forth to our Institute. These materials, which total 7,480 items, mainly relate to Buddhist statues located in Japan and overseas. Since March 2015, they have been open to the public as “materials donated by Takeshi Kuno” at the library of our Institute.
 Mr. Kuno organized the Hakuho Society for Buddhist art lovers in his Institute for Buddhist Art, and devoted himself to on-site observation tours and lectures for its members. The invitation notices inserted in his research notebooks reveal these activities. However, the details of his lectures were unknown. Under these circumstances, Mr. Hisamori Takahashi, who had helped the operation of the Hakuho Society, offered to donate the listed lectures, which we accepted in September. This is a list of lecture records distributed to the members each time Mr. Takeshi Kuno gave a lecture to the Hakuho Society. The members transcribed taped lectures in turns, and Mr. Kuno checked the transcriptions before distribution. This has enabled us to understand the details of his lectures for the Hakuho Society. These listed lectures will be released as part of the “materials donated by Takeshi Kuno” after registration.


Video Record Producing Project for Folk Technique – Kizumi’s Technique for Making Wisteria Winnowing Baskets as a Model Case

 Video recording is very effective for smoothly disseminating folk techniques to the coming generations. Particularly after the Great East Japan Earthquake, the importance of such records as tools for restoring and reproducing lost techniques has been recognized anew, attracting attention as a measure for ameliorating the effects of disasters as well.
 However, the existing videos produced for research and popularization took about one hour each to record, and only a few focused on the acquisition of skills or nurturing of new craftsmen. Therefore, clarifying what to record and how to record it will help learners acquire skills that have not been sufficiently verified in terms of the approach as well. This is an urgent issue because in the front line those with the knowledge and skills are aging, and proper recordkeeping is becoming an increasingly important task in ensuring that these techniques are passed on to future generations.
 Accordingly, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage started a project to produce records of images for folk techniques by focusing on Kizumi’s technique for making wisteria winnowing baskets in Sosa City, Chiba Prefecture (intangible folk cultural properties designated by the national government) as a model case in September 2015 as part of the disaster prevention program. We will proceed with the production through consultation with both predecessors and successors regarding at which angles we should shoot the film and which information we should pick up to support the successors in the series of technical processes from the collection and processing of raw materials to making wisteria winnowing baskets. The project is expected to last for two years, and we will also consider how the recorded videos will be released for utilization.


Publication of “Research Report on Passing Down Intangible Cultural Heritage (Traditional Techniques)”

“Research Report on Passing Down Intangible Cultural Heritage (Traditional Techniques)”

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage started a research project on passing down intangible cultural heritage (traditional techniques) in FY 2014. In this project, we conducted joint research of dyeing ateliers under an agreement concluded with the Kumagaya Municipal Government in Saitama Prefecture, which had been conducting a pioneering program on tools related to dyeing techniques. This report summarizes the outcomes of our joint research.
 This report also introduces challenges and suggestions in passing down dyeing and weaving techniques from the perspective of each craftsman who cooperated in our field study. As complementary data, this report includes interviews in the joint research, floor and elevation plans of the ateliers, and videos shot during the research. In addition to these, a round-table talk on the “Current Situations of People and Tools Supporting Dyeing and Weaving Techniques” during the workshop on passing down intangible cultural heritage (traditional techniques) held on February 3, 2015.
 The video material attached to this report as the first attempt of the Institute is also a repository of “skills and techniques” as intangible cultural assets. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continually promote comprehensive recordkeeping including image and other data, in addition to literal and photographic recordkeeping. The “Research Report on Passing Down Intangible Cultural Heritage (Traditional Techniques)” will be released later on our department’s page of the Institute’s website.


International Course on Conservation of Japanese Paper – JPC 2015

Watching the Restoration Process

 International Course on Conservation of Japanese Paper took place from August 31 through September 18, 2015. This workshop has been held jointly by the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo and the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) for more than 20 years since 1992. This workshop aims to disseminate techniques and knowledge on preservation and restoration of cultural properties made of paper in Japan so they can be applied for conserving valuable cultural properties in other countries. In 2015, among 87 applicants from every part of the world, we invited 10 specialists in conservation, one person from each country: Australia, Belgium, Romania, Brazil, Sri Lanka, Austria, Ireland, Russia, the Netherlands and the United States.
 The lectures covered the overview of how to restore Japanese paper objects, basic science for restoration materials, paper objects from an aspect of art history, and manufacture and handling of tools. Through the practical training, participants learned the process to restore paper objects and mounted art work into a hand scroll. They also produced a Japanese-style book binding. In addition, they learned about the structure of a folding screen and a hanging scroll as representative forms of Japanese cultural properties, and practiced to handling such objects. The participants visited Mino City and Kyoto City as a field study, although the schedule was slightly changed due to a typhoon. In Mino, they learned how to manually produce Japanese paper, as well as its ingredients and historical background. In Kyoto, they visited a traditional restoration studio and tools and materials stores. On the last day, a discussion was held as a summary of this course, and useful information was exchanged, such as how Japanese paper is used in each country.
 We expect Japanese techniques and approaches will be useful for conservation and restoration of cultural properties overseas.


Investigation of Damage Situation of Cultural Heritage in Nepal

Meeting at the Department of Archeology
On-site Investigation by Using Endoscopy
Festival of Bara Barse Jatra

 On April 25, 2015, an earthquake occurred measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale centered in Middle Nepal, tremendously damaging a wide area, including the capital Kathmandu, together with many cultural heritages.
 Being commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo sent a specialized team to conduct the first on-site investigation from September 14 to 28, 2015 within the framework of “Project for International Contribution to Cultural Heritage Protection(Exchange of Experts).”
 In this investigation, we held discussions with major institutions involved in the protection of the historical heritage, including the Nepalese Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, and the UNESCO Office in Kathmandu. We also conducted a field survey by visiting the old royal palaces in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur listed as World Heritage Sites, as well as Sankhu, Kirtipur, Khokana and other suburban villages included in the Tentative List. Then, we examined the properties and areas subject to the full-scale investigation to come, as well as its approach. In addition, we had a good opportunity to observe Indra Jatra, the largest festival in Kathmandu, where Kumari as a Living Goddess paraded with a chariot, and Bara Barse Jatra, a festival held every 12 years, which had been suspended due to the earthquake disaster. We felt that these festivals worked as incentives to re-create ties among the people at this time of reconstruction.
 Under this project, in cooperation with other institutions and universities in Japan, we will study proper protection and conservation approaches for the damaged cultural assets through multifaceted research on “traditional building techniques,” “structural planning,” “urban design” and “intangible cultural heritage.” Based on this research, we will technically support the authorities in Nepal to preserve the value of the cultural heritage during the reconstruction process to be promoted rapidly from now.


A survey of Selected Conservation Techniques: Tapping Urushi and Manufacture of Tools for Tapping Urushi

Tapping Urushi
Manufacturing of knife for Tapping Urushi

 The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation conducts surveys of Selected Conservation Techniques and disseminates them overseas as traditional techniques protecting and supporting the cultural properties in Japan. In September 2015, we researched tapping Urushi and the manufacture of tools for tapping Urushi.
 Urushi (Japanese lacquer) trees used to be grown throughout the country for tapping. However, due to an increase in the number of relatively inexpensive Urushi produced overseas, the domestically produced Urushi available in Japan now accounts for only a few percent. The largest production area in Japan is Joboji Town, Ninohe City, Iwate Prefecture and its neighboring areas. From the beginning of the rainy season to autumn, around twenty skilled tappers annually collect Urushi from the trees. The conservation, handing-down and utilization of the techniques are being promoted mainly by the Japan Association for the Techniques to Tap Urushi.
 Uniquely shaped sickles, knife, spatulas and other tools are used for tapping Urushi. Their main parts are made from metal, and these tools are specially produced for tapping Urushi. Mr. Fumitoshi Nakahata, who holds Selected Conservation Techniques to manufacture of tools for tapping Urushi, produces each tool by fine-tuning it according to the technical features of each tapper. Handing down the skills and techniques required for the manufacture of tools for topping Urushi is indispensable for the production and utilization of Urushi produced in Japan.
 The outcomes achieved in this survey will be finalized as a report, while the photos taken as visual data will be utilized as calendars for overseas.


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