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


Facility Tour in April

Saudi Arabian experts who are being given an explanation in the Performing Arts Studio

Six Saudi Arabian experts

 The party visited the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties as it wanted to make an inspection of a variety of institutes that represent Japan. The Head of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage gave them an explanation of our work.


Joint Research on Buddhist Paintings in the Heian Era with the Tokyo National Museum

A highly detailed color digital image filming of the Painting of “Sahasrabhuja” or “Senju-kannon”

 The Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) has continuously conducted joint research with Tokyo National Museum (TNM) on Buddhist paintings in the Heian era housed by the TNM to date. We have taken pictures of a piece of work a year by employing highly detailed digital image technology that the TNRICP has and accumulated data that allow you to identify techniques in details. Starting in this fiscal year, the parties signed a memorandum titled “Joint Research on Buddhist Art through Optical Surveys” to launch a joint research project anew. In the new project, we will employ multiple optical methods ranging from near infrared image to luminescence image, to X-ray fluorescence spectrometry of pigments and X-ray image. These data enable you to identify unexpected techniques that have yet to be noticed visually from various perspectives and researchers of both institutions will jointly look into how they are associated with sophisticated painterly expressions represented by Buddhist paintings in the Heian era. On April 27th, 2017, we performed a color split filming of the whole picture of the national treasures: the Painting of “Mahamayuri” or “Kujaku-myo-o” and the Painting of “Sahasrabhuja” or “Senju-kannon.” The image data obtained thereby will be shared with researchers of the TNM and both parties will study its significance in an art historic sense and make preparations for making it pubic down the road.


Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems organizes a workshop – “Oishii seikatsu”: Look at Japanese culture in the transitional stage to the tertiary industry

A scene of the venue of the Japan World Exposition (Osaka, 1970)

 “Oishii seikatsu” (delicious life) is an advertising catchphrase hammered out by Seibu Department Store in 1982. While a high-speed growth era in which people sought material affluence was brought to end, in an era represented by this catchphrase where people try to build an individualistic lifestyle, how did artists respond to the trend? At a workshop organized by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) on April 25th, 2017, Ms. Midori YAMAMURA (Special Researcher of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science) gave a presentation titled “‘Oishii seikatsu’: Look at Japanese culture in the transitional stage to the tertiary industry,” which was an attempt to explore the society and the origin of culture in the 1980s.
 According to Ms. YAMAMURA, artists who emerged from the end of the 1980s to the 1990s were greatly influenced by the Japan World Exposition held in Osaka in 1970. Artists participated in the World Expo, which excited enthusiasm in a great many Japanese people, through designing pavilions or exhibiting a piece of art. Meanwhile, those contemporary artists who were critical of the event’s stance of accepting the information industry or urbanization ended up becoming further alienated from people at large. A younger generation of artists, however, began conducting production activities by snuggling up to an everyday sense of ordinary people in the city. It is safe to say that the “Saison culture” based on a cultural strategy spelled out by the Saison Group, a distribution powerhouse centered on Seibu Department Store, which disseminated art, music, play or cinema that was in the forefront of the era between the 1970s and 1980s, played a role in fostering those artists’ flexible sensitivity.
 The workshop invited Mr. Yuji MAEYAMA of the Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, who made a remark on the cultural context in the 1970s to 1980s. Due in part to the fact that many participants underwent the same era, opinions and views were exchanged passionately, going beyond the framework of specialty. The content of the presentation is scheduled to be complied in the First Chapter of the book titled Japanese Contemporary Art After 1989 to be published by REAKTION BOOKS.


“Intangible Cultural Heritage and Disaster Prevention – Risk Management and Restoration Support” published

Intangible Cultural Assets and Disaster Prevention – Risk Management and Restoration Support

 A report by the 11th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties organized on December 9th, 2016 was published at the end of March. This year’s subject is “Intangible Cultural Heritage and Disaster Prevention – Risk Management and Restoration Support.” We shared efforts and initiatives and discussed what preparations are effective to protect intangible cultural heritages from disasters that have occurred frequently in recent years, or what support can be provided after they are hit by these natural disasters.
 Even without disasters, intangible cultural heritages are constantly at risk of extinction. These disaster prevention efforts and initiatives can be expected to lead to preparations for day-to-day risks of extinction or decline due in part to the falling birthrate and the aging of population or the modernization of lifestyles.
 the PDF version can be downloaded from the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.


“A Guidebook for Selected Conservation Techniques” published

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) has conducted survey research on selected conservation techniques since fiscal 2014. In fiscal 2016 we published “A Guidebook for Selected Conservation Techniques” as the fruits of our activities.
 Selected conservation techniques are designated by the government as those needed to be preserved of traditional techniques and skills that are essential in order to conserve cultural assets. They include techniques and skills for “building reconstruction” to repair historical buildings and structures, “wooden sculpture restoration” to repair wooden sculptures, including Buddhist statues, and “karamushi plant (choma) production and fiber extraction” designed to produce raw materials for Ojiya-chijimi and Echigo-jofu, ramie fabric, an important intangible cultural property and UNESCO intangible cultural heritage.
 These techniques can be safely referred to as intangible cultural heritage per se in the broad sense, but compared with “important intangible cultural properties,” “important intangible folk cultural properties” or “UNESCO intangible cultural heritage,” they are practically unknown among the general public and many of them face a number of issues, such as the succession of techniques. Also overseas, the notion of preserving these techniques to conserve cultural assets by means of a national system is not known widely as yet.
 Against this background, this guidebook gives a summary of selected conservation techniques designated as of fiscal 2016 and incorporates information about their owners and conservation bodies as well. On top of these, in order to publicize these selected conservation techniques both at home and abroad, it is written in both Japanese and English.
 We sincerely hope that this guidebook will be of help in preserving cultural asset conservation techniques at home and overseas. For your information, the PDF version of this publication will become available via the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.


“Research on Intangible Cultural Heritages in Korea and Japan II” published

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) has promoted research-related exchange with the counterpart of the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage (NRICH) of the Republic of Korea since 2008. In 2013 NRICH’s intangible cultural heritage research department was reorganized as the National Intangible Heritage Center but research exchange between the parties has continued as is and the third research exchange was launched in 2016. This publication is a report that compiles the results of the second research exchange from 2011 through 2015 and contains the following seven research theses:

  • – “A memorandum on Buddhist protocols in Korea” (Izumi TAKAKUWA)
  • – “The actual situation of the succession, instruction and education of performing arts as part of intangible cultural heritage in Japan – Centered on Kyogen and Shinto music and dance numbers” (Myung Jin LEE)
  • – “Raw materials and tools for preserving dyeing techniques” (Riyo KIKUCHI)
  • – “The reality of the Japanese system for conserving intangible cultural heritage and its management – Centered on efforts to explore research subjects to produce the results of future policy research” (Ban So Young)
  • – “‘Folk techniques’ as intangible folk cultural properties and their conservation” (Migiwa IMAISHI)
  • – “Research on selected conservation techniques in Japanese intangible cultural heritage – Centered on a case of karamushi (ramie) production technique” (李釵源)
  • – “Several issues associated with the Lunar New Year or daeboreum – To raise a question about the designation of intangible folk cultural properties” (Hiromichi KUBOTA)

 All the theses are written in Japanese and Korean so that readers in the two countries can share the results of these research activities.
 While Japan and Korea share a lot in the content of intangible cultural heritage and systems for its conservation, there are also differences in their approaches for research and conservation as well. By comparing the respective nations’ issues mutually, we believe that we will be able to understand our own cultural assets better. We hope that this publication will be used by as many of those involved in intangible cultural heritage as possible in the two countries. For your information, the PDF version of this publication will become available via the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.


Publication of 『Report of the Optical Study for the Ryukyu Paintings 』

『Report of the Optical Study for the Ryukyu Paintings』

 The 『Report of the Optical Study for the Ryukyu Paintings』was published by the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties in March 2017. The Ryukyu paintings refer to paintings drawn in the Ryukyu islands during the Ryukyu dynasty era, although they have not been definitively defined. The paintings were largely influenced by Chinese and Japanese paintings, but the depiction and coloring are different from those paintings. Many of the Ryukyu paintings disappeared during World War II, and sufficient research has not been performed.
 We have conducted an optical study of the Ryukyu paintings located inside and outside Okinawa Prefecture since 2008. In this report, high-resolution color images and the results of coloring materials by X-ray fluorescence spectrometry were analyzed for eleven paintings held by the Okinawa Prefectural Museums and the Okinawa Churashima Foundation.. It is the first time that an optical study of Ryukyu paintings has been conducted, and we believe that publishing the results of the study is of great help in deepening the understanding of the Ryukyu paintings. We hope that this report will be widely used for research on the painting and art history of Japan. Although this report is not for sale, it can be viewed at prefectural libraries throughout the country.


A workshop on insect damage to wooden cultural properties organized in Isfahan, Iran

A scene from the workshop
A field survey on the damage situation of a historic building

 Structures of historical buildings in Iran are mainly made of bricks or clay walls. However, wood is also used for making its roof frame, beams, window frames and so on. Damage of termites is found extensively in the central to southeastern parts of Iran, including Isfahan according to a preliminary survey conducted last fiscal year, and it is the major issue of the conservation of historical buildings in these regions. Termites are notorious as an insect pest for wooden materials. Their damage used to be widely found in Japan as well, but preventive measures have been gradually established to date. In order to support for establishing appropriate measures for conserving wooden built heritage and historical objects in Iran by sharing such knowledge, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) and Iranian Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHHTO) co-organized a workshop on insect damage to wooden cultural properties in Isfahan from April 17th through 19th, 2017.
 From Japan, Mr. Masahiko TOMODA and Mr. Hiroki YAMADA of the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation of TNRICP, Mr. Yukio KOMINE of the Center for Conservation Science of TNRICP and Mr. Kazushi KAWAGOE, Senior Researcher of Institute for Environmental Culture, participated in the workshop. From Iran, more than 20 experts got together from various parts of the nation, including Yazd, Tehran and Gilan, as well as Isfahan. On Day 1 and Day 3, presentations were given from both sides on materials and structures of historical buildings in both countries, and actual cases and monitoring surveys of insect pest damage to them. On Day 2, to discuss specific measures and others, all participants visited historical buildings to conduct a survey to identify termite damage and a test to install IGRs (Insect Growth Regulators) that does not affect the environment badly.
 We heard that after the workshop, ICHHTO began preparation for establishing a new laboratory engaged in research on the prevention of termites in Isfahan. We believe that this workshop was able to contribute to conserving Iran’s valuable cultural heritage in any way.


After Returning the Gold Picture Screens

How the screens are being loaded

 In the wake of a gas fumigation incident due to an erroneous agent in 2010, five gold picture screens became discolored. Based on the method that was determined as a result of discussing a policy for addressing the issue among parties concerned, including the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP), these gold picture screens’ surface had been stabilized since 2012. They were finally returned to the Ekingura (Konan City, Kochi Prefecture) on April 17th, 2017 (carried out of the TNRICP on April 14th). With the screens’ safety as top priority, as a treatment to stabilize the surface, the following measures were taken: 1) The screens were dismantled to perform cleaning to remove the agent on the paper; 2) Prevention of the exfoliation of a paint layer, repairing of the paper, mending of a rupture of the paper, replacement of the lining paper and retouching of the repaired places; and 3) replacements of the foundation, osoigi frame support, karakami lining paper and metallic materials and reconstruction into a 2-panel folding screen. Each screen was packaged in order of a gas barrier bag, a screen bag and a cardboard box and delivered by a land vehicle specifically designed to transport art objects.
 In the presence of the Kumamoto Art and Culture Promotion Foundation, to which they were returned, the five screens were stored in a treasure house safely and the Ekingura Management Committee, the Akaoka Gold Picture Screen Preservation Association and those parties concerned in Kochi Prefecture and Konan City appeared to be pleased. Though it was unfortunately rainy, when the truck arrived and the screens were carried in, it stopped raining as if the parties’ wishes came true. The TNRICP will give advice on a preservation environment for the gold picture screens from this point onward.

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Survey on Structures that Have Mural Paintings Affected by the 2016 Central Italy Earthquakes

The state of the damaged Saint Christopher (San Cristoforo) Church (exterior walls)
The state of the damaged Saint Christopher (San Cristoforo) Church (interior mural paintings)

 A 6.2 magnitude earthquake occurred with its epicenter in Norcia, Perugia in the central area of Italy on August 24th, 2016, and caused massive human and material damage in and around the area. Coincidentally, a 6.8 magnitude earthquake hit the central area of Myanmar on the same day, which damaged a large number of Buddhist stupas and mural paintings drawn in the Bagan remains. The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) had formulated ways of conserving and restoring brick structures and mural paintings specifically for the Mae-taw-yat shrine (No. 1205) in the Bagan remains and carried out projects with an eye toward developing human resources up to that time. After the area suffered earthquake damage, however, extra items to be addressed were added, forcing the TNRICP to modify its policy partially.
 Against this background, with the aim of exchanging views and opinions about how to address issues and preservation and restoration philosophy when regarding structures that had mural painting and stucco ornaments as mixed heritage, a party visited the disaster sites in Italy from April 20th through 27th, 2017. According to local experts who were engaged in restoration activities, work was behind schedule due to enormous damage but the inspection survey proved to be productive in a number of ways in terms of how to identify the actual state of damage or establish a procedure for conservation and restoration.
 This survey was primarily targeted at churches that had religious mural paintings that were associated with the Bible. Meanwhile, in the Bagan remains, the main target is temples that have Buddhist mural paintings. Though the era, objective of production and techniques employed are different between the two, they share the same philosophy in moving ahead with efforts to save cultural assets in disaster-stricken areas. We will continue to promote research on how appropriate restoration projects targeting mixed cultural properties should be while leveraging international networks.


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