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

Donation of Materials related to SEIMIYA Naobumi

Still Life in Early Spring by SEIMIYA Naobumi, 1977, owned by the Museum of Modern Art, Ibaraki
Some of SEIMIYA’s materials donated to TOBUNKEN

 SEIMIYA Nobumi (1917 – 1991) was a renowned artist who expressed his world of calm and poetic imagery into woodblock prints and reverse glass paintings. Many viewers might be enchaned by his lyrical artworks.
 Recently, materials left by SEIMIYA including his notes, diaries, and photos, were donated to the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) by his bereaved family. Among them, handmade notebooks titled “Notebook,” “Thought Records,” and “Subjects of Paintings” are included. These notebooks were created and written as a break between his artworks. They reveal his skillful and meticulous qualities. Furthermore, they are important primary source materials for tracing the journey of his thoughts hidden behind his artworks. They will be available for public view after we finish organizing them. We believe that the donated materials will greatly contribute to the progress of research on SEIMIYA Nobumi.

Participation in WordCamp Kansai 2024
TOBUNKEN Research Collections built with WordPress(

 In 2014, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) developed a database of cultural property information using WordPress(, a web content management system, which is still in operation( WordPress was developed as a blog management system, but at TOBUNKEN it is used as a system for publishing databases, because of its flexibility in development and operation.

 WordCamp(, which was started in 2006 as a conference for WordPress developers and users to get together, has since been held more than 1,200 times in 65 countries. In this conference, WordCamp Kansai 2024(, held in Kobe on February 24, 2024, Mr. OYAMADA Tomohiro, Senior Researcher of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems, gave a presentation titled “Renewal of WordPress Contents and Selection of Adoption System,” about the challenges that have arisen during the 10 years of WordPress operation at TOBUNKEN and the requirements for its renewal. After the presentation, the following questions and impressions were raised, leading to a lively exchange of opinions:

  • Outsourcing to a development company is difficult.
  • What kind of organizational structure does WordPress operate under?
  • Do any problems occur when WordPress is upgraded?

 Now that it is commonplace to disclose information on the Internet, we believe that issues and operational know-how regarding information systems can be shared widely across disciplines. We will continue to create opportunities to share knowledge gained through the dissemination of such information.

Raw Materials Essential to Intangible Cultural Heritage – Joining in the Cutting of Common Reed (Phragmites Australis) in the Kanmaki and Udono Areas

Common reed to use for rosetsu of hichiriki
Common reed tied into batches.

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage (hereafter, “the Department”) is conducting investigations and research into the tools (e.g., musical instruments including their parts, stage properties, and costumes,) and raw materials that are essential for intangible cultural properties.

 Common reed (Phragmites Australis) grown on a riverbed in the Kanmaki and Udono areas of Takatsuki City, Osaka Prefecture, has been known to be suitable for the rozetsu (mouthpiece) of hichiriki, a traditional Japanese flute used in gagaku, classical Japanese court music. Though it is necessary to annually burn the riverbed to maintain a suitable environment for common reed growth, the burning could not be done for two consecutive years due to unsuitable weather conditions and the COVID-19 pandemic. This resulted in an overgrowth of wild vines, which forced the common reed to almost disappear from the area by around September 2021.

 To improve the situation, the Udono Association for Common Reed Riverbeds Preservation and Kanmaki Working Union cooperated with local residents, Takatsuki City administrative staff, parties interested in gagaku, and others to regularly burn the riverbed and remove vines. The Department has been investigating the growing environment and characteristics of the common reed in the areas. As a part of our investigation, we joined in the cutting of common reeds on February 2 and 3, 2024, and collected information about the current situation regarding the common reed and its usage. This public occasion was planned to cut the thin common reed not suitable for rozetsu to produce other products such as paper and towels made of common reed, after the Kanmaki Working Union cut the common reed suitable for rozetsu of hichiriki. Enterprises trying to expand the demand for common reed and individuals and groups trying to understand the natural environment of common reed fields also gathered on those two days. More than 60 people worked each day. This year the condition of the common reed in the area was better than last year, but the supply yield was not sufficient to meet the demand for rozetsu.
 It is essential for succeeding gagaku that local people and enterprises better understand the common reed itself and that involved parties interested in gagaku gain a better understanding of common reed as a raw material of rozetsu for hichiriki.
 The Department is continuing its investigation of the characteristics of common reed itself and its suitability for rosetsu for hichiriki. Furthermore, we are carefully monitoring the local environment where the raw materials grow.

Recording Live Performances of Heike: the Sixth Session

Staff responsible for recording techniques

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been recording live performances of the instrument “Heike” or “Heike Biwa,” which faces the crisis of not being inherited by the next generation because of the recent absence of sufficient successors. This series of recordings has been conducted since 2018 with the cooperation of the Heike Narrative Research Society, led by Prof. KOMODA Haruko, Musashino Academia Musicae, and other members of the society, including Mr. KIKUO Yuji, Mr. TANAKA Naoichi, and Mr. HIYOSHI Shogo.
 The sixth recording session of the performance of ‘Suzuki’ (Japanese sea bass) was held in the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) Performing Arts Studio on February 8, 2024. In the ‘Suzuki’, an episode in which Japanese sea bass jumps into the boat of Taira no Kiyomori is narrated as a harbinger of the prosperity of the Heike clan under the patronage of Kumano Gongen. Because of its lyrics, ‘Suzuki’ is a favorite celebratory piece. The piece is also often used as an instructional (introductory) piece, as it contains a short but basic set of melodic patterns. For this recording of live performances, Mr. KIKUO, Mr. HIYOSHI, and Mr. TANAKA shared the performance, and the session was recorded.
 This recording was assisted by students studying studio recording techniques under Prof. KAMEKAWA Toru, Tokyo University of the Arts, and thereby provided an opportunity to put into practice the sound techniques essential to the recording live performances. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continue to record live performances, refining the skills involved in recording traditional performing arts with like-minded people.

Publication of the First to Ninth Video Recordings of Live Performance of Miyazono bushi (the Opening Parts Only)

Published video (from left, Mss. MIAYAZONO Senyoshie, Senroku, Senkazuya, and Senkoju)

 Miyazono bushi is one of Japan’s Important Intangible Cultural Properties; however, it is not often performed these days. Therefore, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage (hereafter, “the Department) has been recording its live performances since 2018. Recently, we published the opening parts of these video recordings on the TOBUNKEN homepage (

The original recordings of the Miyazono bushi were performed by Mss. MIYAZONO Senroku and Senkazuya both are individuals certified as Holders of Important Intangible Cultural Property, so-called “living national treasures.” The whole traditional pieces were recorded and archived in full. The full versions are available at video booths at the TOBUNKEN Library. Due to the limited number of booths, contacting us regarding availability beforehand is highly recommended. A guide to the library is available here.

The Department plans to publish as much more audio and video recordings as possible.

Second Research Recording of the Azuma School Nigenkin, a Two-Stringed Zither

Preparation for the recording
Recording scene (left: TOSHA Rosen IX and right: TOSHA Rokou)

 On February 16, 2024, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducted the second research recording of the Azuma school two-stringed zither called a nigenkin, in the recording room of the Performing Art Studio of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.

 The Azuma school nigenkin is a type of Japanese two-stringed zither, an instrument in which two silk strings are stretched over a wooden body and played with a plectrum. The Azuma school nigenkin was founded in Tokyo in the early Meiji era by TOSHA Rosen I (1830-1889) and has been transmitted mainly in Tokyo. However, as there are now only a few people carrying on the tradition and only a limited number of pieces have been recorded on publicly available audiovisual material, we are producing new research recordings.

 The first recording highlighted six pieces composed by Rosen I, but the tradition also includes works composed by performers in later generations. The second recording featured six pieces: ‘Kishi no fujinami (lit. Riverside Wistaria Trellis)’, ‘Yatsu no hana (Eight Flowers)’, ‘Kiku no kotobuki (Chrysanthemum Festival)’, ‘Hana no ame (Flower Rain)’, ‘Matsukaze no kyoku (Pine Breeze)’, and ‘Funaasobi (Boating)’. The first piece is said to have been composed by Rosen IV (1869-1941) and the second by Rosen III (?-1931). The fourth piece is a work for which only the lyrics of Rosen I have survived, and later performers had supplemented the melody and resumed the transmission. The recordings, selected from a wide range of periods, demonstrate the diversity of performance techniques and compositions in the repertoire. They were performed by TOSHA Rosen IX and TOSHA Rokou, members of Azuma-kai, the performing group of the Azuma school of two-stringed zither music.

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage plans to continue recording rare performances and precious full-length performances.

Newly introduced instruments at the Center for Conservation Science in FY2023

 In FY2023, the Center for Conservation Science introduced a microtome, a biological microscope (with polarized light, phase contrast, and differential interference observation functionality), and an infrared microscope (Fig. 1). The following is an introduction of these newly introduced instruments.

 The microtome is a device used to precisely cut samples to facilitate observation. For example, when analyzing what kind of material a piece of paper or cloth is made of, a sample is sometimes cut and its cross section is observed under a microscope. Conventionally, samples are cut with razor-sharp blades or embedded in resin and polished. However, these methods can present problems such as deformation of the specimen and difficulty in observing the specimen because it is embedded in resin, and they require skillful manipulation. The microtome solves these problems and makes it easier to identify paper and cloth materials. Figure 2 shows an example of actual cross-sectional observation results. The microtome can be applied to all cultural assets made of organic materials such as wood and lacquerware.

Biological Microscope
 Polarized light observation, phase-contrast microscopy, and differential interference microscopy are effective for observing crystal structures, microstructures, and cells and biological tissues, respectively. For example, they are effective for observing mold and bacteria on cultural properties, fibers of paper and textiles, and starch glue and other glues used for cultural properties.

Infrared microscope
 Infrared cameras are often used to observe cultural properties. This type of microscope can be used to clearly see ink lines and certain types of dyes used in calligraphy and paintings, and to identify materials and observe the underlying surface of paintings.

 We will continue to analyze cultural properties using these devices.

Figure 1. Photographs of newly introduced instruments

Biological microscope
Infrared microscope

Figure 2. Cross section of Najio Gampi paper

Cross-section produced using a scalpel
Cross-section produced using a microtome

 When a scalpel is used to produce a cross section, a large amount of clay minerals are pressed down by the blade, covering the gampi fibers and causing them to lose their original shape. When the cross section is produced with a microtome, the gaps between fibers can be confirmed, and the hollow structure of the fibers remains intact.

Technical exchange program inviting Cambodian experts

Visiting the Historic Sites: Korokan Historical Museum

 Under a cooperative project between the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA) and Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), restoration work of the East Gate of Ta Nei Temple in Angkor in Cambodia was completed in November 2022.
 To commemorate the completion of the restoration, a technical exchange program* was organized by TOBUNKEN, including the invitation of three experts from Cambodia to Japan: Mr. Kim Sothin (Deputy Director General, APSARA), Mr. Som Sopharath (Director of Department of Conservation of Monuments and Archeology, APSARA), and Mr. Sea Sophearun (Technical Officer, National Authority for Sambor Prei Kuk).
 Following an open seminar, “Seminar commemorating the completion of the Restoration of the East Gate of Ta Nei Temple,” held on February 14 at TOBUNKEN, a study tour was conducted from February 15 to 18, in which the following conservation sites of the nationally designated Important Cultural Properties and Historic Sites were visited: the former Alt residence, the former British council, Shofukuji-Temple in Nagasaki city, and Korokan Historical Museum in Fukuoka city.
 Experts from both countries who are engaged in heritage conservation research and fieldwork participated in enthusiastic discussions during the seminar and study tour. This proved to be a valuable opportunity for deepening mutual understanding of various areas, including heritage value, preservation techniques, presentation methods, and more.
*This program was partially funded by the Foundation for Cultural Heritage and Art Research, Japan.

3-Dimensional Measurements of Historical Islamic Tombstones in Bahrain (Second season)

Research at the Abu Anbara Cemetery
Reused tombstones in Abu Anbara Cemetery

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been cooperating with an excavation survey and the maintenance of historical sites in the tombs of Bahrain for many years. When we visited the site in July 2022 and met Salman Al Mahari, Director of the Bahrain National Museum, he asked us to help protect the historical Islamic tombstones that remained in the mosques and cemeteries. Currently, approximately 150 historical Islamic tombstones remain in the country, but they are deteriorating due to salt damage and other factors.
 As cooperative activities in response to this request, in 2023 we conducted photogrammetric surveying using SfM-MVS (Structure-from-Motion/Multi-View-Stereo), a technology for creating 3D models from photographs, and completed 3D measurements of 20 tombstones in the collection of the Bahrain National Museum and 27 in the collections of the Al-Khamis Mosque. The models created were published on Sketchfab, a platform widely accessible both domestically and internationally, and are being used as a database of the tombstones.
 From February 9 to 15, 2024, we again conducted a 3D survey of other cemeteries in Bahrain. Photogrammetric surveying was completed for 47 tombstones in Abu Anbara Cemetery, 2 in Al Maqsha Cemetery, 11 in Jebelat Habshi Cemetery, and 3 in Jidhafs Al-Imam Cemetery. Unlike in previous years, these tombstones were located within Muslim cemeteries, and some were reused in modern tombs.
 A database of more than 100 tombstones with 3D models combining information on their dimensions, shapes, and inscriptions is unprecedented, and in addition to preserving records of tombstones, the results of this research are expected to be useful in the study of Islamic tombstones.

Women in Modern Korean Art – The 8th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems in FY 2023

Presentation by Dr. Kim Soyeon
Discussion with Dr. Kim Soyeon

 In the Art World, it is widely known that fewer female artists actively worked in the male-dominated society in the past, while female artists work very actively today. Recently, however, research has been gradually revealing previously little-known activities of female artists in the modern period of Japan. However, how female artists worked in the modern Korean art world remained unknown to us.

 On January 17, 2024, Dr. Kim Soyeon of Ewha Womans University conducted a presentation titled, Female Arts in Modern Korean Art History – Why were there no Female Artists in Modern Korea?” at the 8th Seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems. This presentation showed the latest outcomes of research on female artists in Modern Korean Art history.

 Dr. Kim explained that Kisaeng (Korean Geisha) occupied outstanding positions as the first receivers of the benefits of the art education available for females in Korea in the first half of the 20th century. However, the arts that kisaeng created did not go beyond the traditional art categories such as Korean traditional calligraphy and Sagunja (the four gentlemen paintings or the Four Gracious Plants: Korean traditional paintings depicting bamboo, plum blossoms, chrysanthemums and orchids, as metaphors of noble gentlemen). On the other hand, female artists such as Jeong Chanyeong, who adapted the way of modern Japanese-style painting, appeared in that period. Dr. Kim also talked about Japanese female painters in Korea who worked as art teachers or trained disciples in their own private painting schools in colonial Korea. Based on these outcomes, she stressed the necessity of research collaboration between Japan and South Korea.

 After her presentation, Mr. TADOKORO Tai of Kosetsu Memorial Museum, Jissen Women’s Educational Institute, talked about the current research on modern female artists in Japan, especially Japanese-style painting artists. After his talk, discussions were held that included the audience.

 This seminar focused on areas in which further research is needed both in Japan and Korea. We believe that it was a precious opportunity for research exchange to further historical investigation.

 This seminar was held in both Japanese and Korean, and Dr. TASHIRO Yuichiro of the department interpreted the seminar.

About Two Christian Lecterns ‘discovered’ in Portugal: New Materials that Show the Historical Relationship between Japan and Portugal and the Actual Situation of the Christian Ban in the Momoyama and Early Edo Periods - the 9th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

Research scene at TOBUNKEN
Presentation at the seminar
Observation of the lecterns by the attendees

 On January 23, 2024, Mr. KOBAYASHI Koji, Senior Fellow of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems, and Dr. Ulrike Körber, Researcher of the IHA-NOVA FCSH / IN2PAST, Lisbon, Portugal, conducted research and made a presentation titled as above at the 9th seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems.
 Two portable lecterns that had been used by Christian missionaries and served to uphold the mass books were reported as new materials discovered in Portugal in recent years. One lectern, with a Luso-Asian style, has been referred to as having a strong relationship with the Ryukyu Islands or with Macau, the latter having been a Portuguese base in China at the time, and many Chinese characters are written in black ink on the wooden substrate underneath the decorative lacquer coating. The other lectern is of Nanban lacquer, made in Kyoto in the 1630s, and had been exported to Europe. Curiously, the center area, with the IHS insignia of the Jesuits on almost all such lecterns, is thickly recoated with a black lacquer pine tree pattern on it on this lectern. It was considered that these lecterns with the above characteristics must be important, previously unknown historical materials, and thus we have been preparing to conduct various research studies at the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties in Tokyo and Nara or other facilities and to have this presentation.
Based on the research of the two presenters and that conducted at this time, we could obtain the tentative results that the lectern having the Luso-Asian style was made around 1600, and that the Nanban lectern produced in Japan during the same period had a close relationship with Macau, because we can see characters that can possibly be read as ‘difficult to leave from Macau’ in a Chinese poem on the lectern. Also, on the other lectern, we could discover the IHS insignia trace underneath the pine tree lacquer recoating layer by X-ray CT conducted at Nara National Museum. We can infer that the involved party at that time stripped the original shell pattern (raden) off completely and recoated the area to totally hide the Christian symbol under the imminent pressure of the strict Christian ban imposed by the Tokugawa Shogunate.
 We reported on the above ongoing very new findings quickly based on in this presentation, and it became an opportunity for the attendants to observe these two lecterns. We intend to deepen our research further and to make an official report of this research as soon as possible.

(NHK news report web link in Japanese:

The Second Korean Art History Colloquium at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties

The seminar room on January 26.

 The Archives Section at the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems currently organizes Korean painting research materials, such as prewar glass plates and mounted photographs.* In organizing the data, we exchange opinions with both Japanese and Korean researchers. As a part of the project, Dr. Mok Soohyun (Director, Institute of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, at the Association of Korean Modern & Contemporary Art History), a leading researcher on modern art history in Korea, was invited to the institute. In conjunction with a review meeting on materials, a colloquium titled, Korean Art History Colloquium was held on January 26 in the institute’s basement seminar room, where the first colloquium was held in November. The colloquium was designed as an opportunity for researchers and students in Japan to come into contact with the recent trends and current state of Korean art history. The event, titled stablishment of Museums in Korea, was hosted and translated by Mr. TASHIRO Yūichiro, a researcher at the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems. The colloquium was attended by researchers and graduate students from related fields, including Professor KIDA Emiko of Ōtani University and Professor Lee Mina of Tokyo National University of the Arts, and full and frank academic discussions were held. The Archives Section hopes that we can continue to organize the data accumulated by the institute and serve as a bridge between researchers from overseas and Japan.

*Funded by the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation. “Photographs of Korean Paintings at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties” (September 2023 – August 2024, research representative: TASHIRO Yūichiro)

A Lecture at SOAS

Ms. Maizawa, presenting at SOAS

 Ms. MAIZAWA Rei (Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems) has been a visiting researcher at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC) in Norwich, UK, since last October, where she has been working on research of art works and studies
( As a part of these activities, on January 25, 2024, she gave a lecture in English titled “The Arhat painting at Kōmyōji Temple: Iconography, Style, and the Worship of Buddha in East Asia” at SOAS (University of London, The School of Oriental and African Studies), Center for the Study of Japanese Religions. SOAS is world-renowned as an academic institution for the studies of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. It also has been a leading center for the study of Japan in Europe.
 In the lecture, Ms. MAIZAWA explained about the style and iconography in detail, and then discussed its religious background of the Arhat painting. Professor Lucia Dolce of SOAS chaired the lecture, which was attended by around 70 people, including SOAS alumni and researchers and students of Japanese religious studies. The lecture was followed by a question-and-answer session, during which experts in Chinese and Korean art also gave their opinions, providing an opportunity for a meaningful exchange of views. The lecture hall was almost full on the day, indicating the high level of interest in the study of Buddhist painting in the UK.

Open seminar: “Preservation and Utilization of Aerial Heritage”

Panel discussion

 On January 23, 2024, the Center for Conservation Science of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) held an open seminar, titled Conservation and Utilization of Aerial Heritage, in cooperation with the Japan Aeronautic Association (JAA).
 Aerial heritage, including materials related to aviation history such as drawings and photographs, are irreplaceable cultural properties in Japan’s modern and contemporary history. However, there are many differences from conventional cultural properties in terms of materials and scale, and new methods are often required for their conservation and utilization as cultural properties. The purpose of this open seminar was to rethink the current status and issues of aviation materials as cultural assets and cultural heritage.
 The opening remarks were made by Mr. SAITO Takamasa, Director General of TOBUNKEN, and Mr. SHIMIZU Shinzo, Vice President of the JAA, followed by an explanation of the purpose of the seminar by Mr. NAKAYAMA Shunsuke, Senior Fellow of the Center for Conservation Science. Mr. NAKAYAMA, Mr. KANDA Shigeyoshi of JAA, and Ms. NAKAMURA Mai, Associate Fellow of the Center for Conservation Science, gave a presentation titled “Preservation of Aviation Historical Materials and Challenges” on the results and challenges of the joint research project, “Study on the Preservation of Aviation Heritage,” that the JAA and the TOBUNKEN have been carrying out since FY2004. Mr. NAGASHIMA Hiroyuki, a former member of the JAA, gave a detailed case study report on the repair of the fabric coverings of the Type 3 Fighter “Hien,” owned by the JAA and exhibited at the Gifu-Kakamigahara air and space museum. Mr. YAMAKI Satoshi of the Chiran Peace Museum for Kamikaze Pilots in Minamikyushu City reported on the history of the Type 4 Fighter “Hayate (No. 1446),” owned by the museum, and the research activities being undertaken to preserve it. In addition, Mr. CHIBA Tsuyoshi, Researcher of the Center for Conservation Science, and Ms. HAGA Ayae Researcher of the Center for Conservation Science, gave a presentation on the status of the designation of aircraft as cultural properties in Japan and introduced the research that has been conducted as part of the “MoU for Research on Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Properties Designated by Minamikyushu City.” Following these lectures, a panel discussion was held with Mr. KANDA, Mr. NAGASHIMA, Mr. YAMAKI, and Mr. NAKAYAMA, with Mr. TATEISHI Toru, Director of the Center for Conservation Science, as a facilitator, in which participants actively exchanged opinions on the current status and issues surrounding aviation materials as cultural properties. The event ended on a high note with closing remarks by Mr. TATEISHI.
 In the foyer of the venue, we exhibited materials related to the joint research between the JAA and TOBUNKEN, including a horizontal stabilizer of a Yamazaki Type 1 “Wakamoto” glider, the vertical stabilizer of an Ito Type A2 glider, an oil painting called “Asakaze” by YAMAJI Shingo, and a Siemens-Schuckert D.IV fuselage panel.
 In all, 77 people participated in the seminar, and the post-event questions showed that there are high expectations for research and study on the preservation and utilization of modern cultural heritage, including aircraft. A report on this seminar will be published in the next fiscal year.

Interim Report on the Investigation of “Yongzibifu(用字避複)” about Guodian Chujian(郭店楚簡)- The 7th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

Q&A Session

 When investigating cultural properties, it is essential to decipher related materials from the past. However, the materials are often deteriorated, and the meanings of scripts at the time of their usage were often different from their modern meanings, and therefore caution is required when reading the materials.

 At the 7th Seminar, held on December 11, 2023, Mr. KATAKURA Shumpei (Tohoku University Archives) gave a presentation titled Interim report on the investigation of “Yongzibifu(用字避複)” about Guodian Chujian(郭店楚簡) on excavated materials from Upper Ancient China. “Yongzibifu” has been considered as a kind of rhetoric, a phenomenon in which variants are used when the same Chinese characters would be repeated within a certain range. The reason for its occurrence is not clear. Mr. KATAKURA reported that in order to discuss this phenomenon objectively, in his investigation he has been organizing the characters in the documents into a table, one by one, to determine the intervals and proportions at which “Yongzibifu” is occurring.

 Although the presentation was given at an intermediate stage of the research, with no conclusion yet reached, there was a lively discussion led by Mr. MIYAJIMA Kazuya of Seikei University on how to interpret the expressions and use of script described in the materials.

 Mr. KATAKURA has published the character data on the Chinese excavated materials he has created in the course of his research as a data paper ( The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) will also consider constructing a database focusing on data of scripts obtained through the process of reading various materials.

Eighteenth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage

Warthog parent and offspring just outside the venue
Video of a Bangladeshi rickshaw shown at the venue
Traditional Saudi food served as a side event
Side event of Malaysian traditional theater Mek Mulung song and dance

 The eighteenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage took place in Kasane, Republic of Botswana, from December 5 to 8, 2023. Two researchers from the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), Ms. MAEHARA Megumi (Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage) and Ms. FUTAGAMI Yoko (Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems), attended the session. The Republic of Botswana is located in the northern area of the Republic of South Africa. Kasane is known as the northern gateway to Chobe National Park, and is a small town rich in nature and home to many wild animals. The venue was a temporary pavilion built for this meeting, and the atmosphere was idyllic, with a family of warthogs and their offspring grazing outside. As if in harmony with this peaceful atmosphere, the agenda proceeded peacefully under the chairmanship of H.E. Mr. Mustaq Moorad, Ambassador of the Delegation to UNESCO (Republic of Botswana), who often lightened the atmosphere with his humor.

 This committee decided to inscribe six elements on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding (Urgent Safeguarding List) plus 45 elements on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (Representative List), and to select four programs as the Programmes, The Evaluation Body, made recommendations to the committee, and recommended the inscription and selection of all of these elements and programs, which also greatly contributed to creating a peaceful atmosphere at the venue. Ms. FUTAGAMI will report on the details in the forthcoming “Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage” volume 18, to be published in March 2024; however, below we mention three impressions that we felt through the meeting.

 First, many elements were nominated as multi-national nominations by multiple State Parties. Although the State Party of Japan has not yet had the experience of multi-national nomination, 12 of the 45 elements decided to be inscribed on the Representative List were multinational nominations. This trend has been noticeable for the past few years and is likely to continue.

 Second, a common trend was observed in the videos shown at the meeting. Once the committee decided to inscribe an element, a short video introducing the element of intangible cultural heritage was often shown on the screen at the front of the venue, and many of these videos included the implications for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In particular, keywords such as “gender,” “education,” and “marine and terrestrial resources,” were shown in the video story, and it was emphasized that intangible cultural heritage is built on SDGs efforts, or inheritance of intangible cultural heritage is directly linked to SDGs initiatives.

 Third, we experienced the real thrill of side events. A number of small pavilions were temporarily erected adjacent to the venue, where a cultural aspect of each country was showcased and reports on safeguarding activities were made. Dance and musical performances, craft technology demonstrations and workshops, and activities of related NGOs were also presented. Intergovernmental Committees are attended by people who are highly interested in intangible cultural heritage from all over the world, not only from the committee member countries, but also from cultural property administrations, research institutes, and NGOs. Side events are very effective in appealing to their interests.

 We felt that while the Intergovernmental Committee meeting was important for establishing international cooperation and assistance for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, it was also a good opportunity to understand how each country views intangible cultural heritage.

The 18th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties: Handing Down Mingu Folk Implements-To Prevent Them from Being Mindlessly Discarded

 In recent years, there have been an increasing number of cases throughout Japan in which collected Mingu* have to be reorganized. It is always best to properly preserve and pass on collected materials in their original form. However, local museums and public organizations with limited storage space, personnel, and budgets are forced to consider reorganization, including disposal of their Mingu collection.

 On December 8, 2023, the 18th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties, Handing Down Mingu Folk Implements-To Prevent Them from Being Mindlessly Discarded, was held at the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN).

 More than 200 people, far exceeding expectations, attended the conference, indicating the high level of interest in the subject. The results of the survey also strongly indicated how urgent the issue of organizing Mingu has become, and how those in charge are struggling alone.

 To share and discuss these issues, four presenters gave case reports on the collection, organization, removal, and utilization of Mingu. This was followed by a general discussion among all the speakers, including two commentators. The discussion focused on how to protect as many Mingu as possible and pass them on to future generations. Various viewpoints and opinions were presented, but an important premise was that Mingu as cultural properties are very different from other cultural properties in terms of their meanings and characteristics. For example, it is a common viewpoint among researchers of Mingu that it is necessary to collect multiple examples of the same types of materials for comparative study, and that the value of Mingu can only be determined by combining them with ethnographic information (which region, when, and by whom they were used, etc.) that accompanies the materials. However, it was pointed out that this is not well understood or well known within government agencies or the general public, and that this is a part of the background to the various problems surrounding Mingu in recent years. The commentators and floor participants also reiterated the significance of “not discarding” such items, saying that some seemingly mundane tools have important meanings and that it is important to preserve as many of them as possible for comparison purposes.

 Mingu are the crystallization of wisdom and skills nurtured by our ancestors in their daily lives, and are extremely important and eloquent materials for understanding the way of life, history, and culture of the people of each region, as well as the changes in such history and culture. At the conference, we shared anew the sense of crisis that these extremely useful materials are on the brink of disappearance. It was a great achievement for us to recognize and share the need for new measures to protect the Mingu. For the protection of Mingu, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage plans to set up a study group next year to continue discussions with all concerned parties.

 A full report of the conference will be compiled by the end of the fiscal year, and a PDF version will be made available on the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage website.

*Mingu, or folk implements, is a collective term for tools and fabricated objects made or used out of needs in life. It includes implements related to people’s living, such as tools related to production and livelihoods (farming and fishing tools, etc.), items related to everyday life (pots, clothing, etc.), and religious instruments. It does not include objects that are generally mass-produced by modern machine industries.

Fern Basket-making Techniques

Cutting and lining kosida at a place where collected
Weaving the bottom of a basket

 On December 25, 2023, a survey was conducted in Ono, a township of Hatsukaichi City, Hiroshima Prefecture, on techniques of basket-making using koshida (Dicranopteris linearis).
 It is said that fern basket-making was introduced to the Ono area in the 1890s by craftsmen from Shizuoka as a new side business (some say it was introduced from the Shikoku area). Because the topography and climate were suitable for the growth of koshida, good quality materials were abundantly available in Ono. For this reason, fern basketry developed into an important industry in Ono during the Taisho and Showa periods. After the 1960s, the production of fern baskets declined rapidly due to the rise of plastic products, but since 1997, workshops have been held to preserve the traditional techniques, and these techniques have been handed down to the present.
 A petiole (stem) of the koshida is used for basket weaving. From October to March, petioles that have grown to about 1 meter in length are cut from the root with a sickle. After boiling in a special pot for about two hours and then thoroughly softening by rubbing, the petioles can be used for basket weaving. The treated petioles make an excellent material in the sense that they do not need to be split or torn like bamboo or most vines, but can be used as is, and they are strong and durable against water.
 Fern baskets used to be produced in many parts of western Japan, but as far as we know, the technique is still handed down only in Ono and in Nakijin Village, Okinawa Prefecture. The most common type of basket made in Ono is the “chawan mego,” a basket to hold a rice bowl in, which takes about two hours to weave. The techniques of making braided products like baskets still exist in many parts of Japan, and a variety of plants have been selected and skillfully used as materials for the baskets in accordance with the natural environment of each region. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continue its research on braided products made of various materials, and record this folk knowledge and techniques of using nature to pass them on to future generations.

Workshop on the HERIe Digital Preventive Conservation Platform

Home page of HERIe website
Professor Łukasz Bratasz giving a lecture
Lecture by Dr. Michal Lukomski
Scene from the workshop

 A workshop on “Sustainable Risk Management for Collection in Museum, Utilization of HERIe Digital Preventive Conservation Platform” was held jointly by the Department of Conservation of the Graduate School of Fine Arts at the Tokyo University of the Arts, the Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management Center, and Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), on December 17, 2023.

 The HERIe Digital Preventive Conservation Platform ( is designed to support the collaboration between museum curators and conservation professionals when assessing the conservation conditions and safety of collections for display. It is a decision-making support platform that provides a quantitative assessment of risks to collections. At the moment, it includes modules that address environmental degradation factors such as air pollutants, lighting, inappropriate temperature, and relative humidity, and modules that allow estimation of fire hazards. The platform is being developed by several institutions with financial support from the European Commission and the Getty Conservation Institute.

 The purpose of this workshop was to give museum conservators and restoration professionals experience with the use of the data of their own museums on the platform. It was a very good opportunity to invite teachers from overseas who are among the developers of this platform to hear directly about its effectiveness and how to use it, and to try it out in a classroom. As an introduction, Prof. Łukasz Bratasz of the Polish Academy of Sciences introduced the platform and explained the concept and structure, and introduced the topic of pollutants and chemical degradation in museums and galleries. Next, Dr. Michał Łukomski of the Getty Conservation Institute talked about modelling mechanical damage and using the tool to assess museum climates. Prof. Boris Pretzel (Invited Professor of Conservation Science at Tokyo University of the Arts) introduced the topic of the light degradation tool and the presentations finished with Prof. Bratasz explaining the tool for fire risk assessment. Other tools, such as the showcase tool, were also introduced and demonstrated during the day, giving all delegates a good introduction of the kind of information each tool can provide.

 Many of the participants commented that they had deepened their understanding of the platform, with remarks such as that they wanted to return to the museum and use it because they learned about a very useful tool, and that they wanted to use it to assess light damage when they brought their collection to the restoration studio.

 Since this platform is provided free of charge, we hope that it will be widely used both by those who participated, and those who could not participate in the workshop.

Field Survey in Türkiye for the Rescue of Museums and Cultural Heritage Damaged in the 2023 Earthquake

A historic building damaged, collapsed, and temporarily closed. (Hatay)
Restoration of the collapsed walls is underway at Gaziantep Castle.
Experts' seminar

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) participated in the Emergency International Contribution Project for Cultural Heritage in FY2023 commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan, which was titled as “Project for supporting the Reconstruction of Damaged Cultural Heritage in Türkiye,” in cooperation with the Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management Center, Japan (CHDRMC).

 The primary objective of this project was to provide relief support for museums and cultural heritage damaged in the 2023 Türkiye–Syria earthquakes that occurred on February 6, 2023. In addition, by sharing Japan’s experience in rescuing damaged cultural heritage and our accumulated knowledge of cultural heritage disaster prevention with Türkiye, the project also aims to support the establishment and enhancement of a cultural heritage disaster prevention system in Türkiye.

 From November 28 to December 7, 2023, a joint team of TOBUNKEN and CHDRMC visited Türkiye to investigate the affected areas, exchange information on cultural heritage disaster prevention in both countries, and exchange opinions with their Turkish counterparts for future collaboration.

 The team visited museums and cultural heritage sites in Hatay, Gaziantep, and Şanlıurfa to ask museum staff about the response to the disaster, the current situation, and other issues, and to survey future support needs. At present, emergency measures are almost completed at the damaged museums, and full-scale work for recovery of the damaged collections and buildings is expected to be carried out in the near future. The museum in Şanlıurfa was flooded by heavy rains in early March, one month after the earthquake.

 The experts’ meeting was held at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, Republic of Türkiye, jointly with the Ministry. The Japanese side provided an overview of cultural property disaster prevention systems in Japan, and reported on activities to rescue cultural properties damaged in the Great East Japan Earthquake and other recent disasters, as well as disaster prevention measurements at museums. The Turkish side reported on the damage to cultural properties caused by the earthquake, presented an overview of the response, and discussed disaster risk mitigation methods at museums. The parties from the two countries are continuing with further discussion regarding the direction of specific mutual collaboration and promotion of joint research on cultural property disaster prevention.

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