The spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been continually causing a serious impact on the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage at in Japan and abroad.
For example, in the field of traditional performing arts, performances face forced cancellation or postponement, or the reduction of the number of seats even if performances resume. The production of musical instruments and costumes to support traditional performing arts also has been suffering from a serious impact caused by the decline in demand. In the area of traditional craftsmanship as well, we can observe negative effects like restrictions on holding exhibitions, which serve as the occasions to present work, and limitation on opportunities and venues for sales. Furthermore, we know these traditional performing arts and craftsmanship are, in most cases transposed to the next generation through face-to-face training and skill transfer, facing serious diminution of such opportunities.
We can also observe serious impacts on folk performing arts, customs, and techniques handed down in local regions. Regarding these intangible folk cultural properties, it is true that the aging and declining population had already made it difficult for many of them to survive in local areas, It is concerned that this COVID-19 pandemic spurs them to further deterioration, now leading a number of them to face possible annihilation.
When it comes to international affairs, there are concerns that the existence of intangible cultural heritage handed down by ethnic groups is at stake in countries and regions already facing challenges in the medical system and sanitary environment.
Although the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are generally widespread on tangible and intangible cultural heritage, we believe that the effect on so-called living heritage including intangible cultural heritage is very serious. This is because such heritage is supported by the activities of living humans, and activities by humans are exactly what the COVID-19 pandemic restrains most.
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been widely collecting information on the effects of the COVID-19 on intangible cultural heritage in Japan and overseas since April 2020. Among them are information on cancellation and postponement of performances, exhibitions and festivities, information on their resumption, information on support (benefits, subsidies etc.) by the government, local public organizations and private organizations, information on new attempts including online distribution and disclosure of performances and exhibitions, information on situations in each country and attempts by international organizations including UNESCO.
We are also working to disseminate some of the collected information. For example, we launched the webpage of “COVID-19 and Intangible Cultural Heritage” (https://www.tobunken.go.jp/ich/vscovid19) on the website of the department. This webpage provides information on supports by the government, local public organizations and private organizations as well as discloses the analytic results of statistical information on postponement, cancellation and resumption of related businesses regarding the effects of the COVID-19 disaster on traditional performing arts. We also launched Facebook Groups “COVID-19 and Intangible Cultural Heritage” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/3078551232201858) on the Facebook page of the Institute to provide information on supports as well as information on new attempts and information on international trends. Anyone who has a Facebook account can join the group as a member and receive information on a regular basis. Also, anyone who has a Facebook account can read articles even without becoming a member.
We are also working to disseminate information through holding forums. In September, we are going to hold “Traditional Performing Arts and Novel Coronavirus” as the forum 1 of “Series Forum: COVID-19 and Intangible Cultural Heritage.” In December, we plan to hold “Intangible Folk Cultural Property in Novel Corona Virus Pandemic (tentative title)” as the forum 2. From the viewpoint of preventing the infectious disease, we have to limit the number of participants and have some presenters participate by recording or remote call. We plan to upload the videos of the forum online for a certain period of time. We will release the details of these forums in our future activity report.
The situation of the COVID-19 disaster is changing from moment to moment, making it already difficult even at present to obtain information on the preceding situation. Therefore, we are going to continuously collect information and comprehensively analyze the data including information not published on websites and in forums so that we will be able to effectively utilize them to contribute to the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage.
The Biological Science Section of the Center for Conservation Science has been promoting basic research on a new technology useful for detecting cultural property pests or pest identification methods that use DNA analysis. In order to specify the type of a cultural property pest, we generally identify the species by comparing the characteristics of the external morphology of the pest with information described in pictorial books and specialized guides. The similar external morphology of some pests will make type specification difficult and require specialized knowledge, including dissection and comparison of body details. In addition, we frequently experience a situation that allows us to obtain only limited parts of their bodies. Therefore, we have been analyzing some specific regions of DNA of cultural property pests, creating a unique database of base sequence information specialized for cultural property pests, and attempting to apply the “DNA barcoding” method to conduct type specification by using DNA obtained from unidentified samples.
We conducted a field survey from August 6th to 7th, 2020, in the historical wooden structures in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, in an attempt to capture several species of Anobiidae not registered in the database. With no effective traps available to capture target Anobiidae during the field survey, we conducted persistent research, checking every detail of the damaged wooden structures, which resulted in the capture of several species of Anobiidae.
To date, we have determined the DNA base sequences of about 40 major cultural property pests, including the individuals obtained from this field survey, and are now proceeding with the creation of the database. Included in it are many types unregistered in the public database. We can safely say that it is a matter of great importance to build a database specializing in cultural property pests.
Hereafter, we plan to develop technology to identify the pests from their body parts such as legs and wings, extract DNA from molting shells and manure left in damaged parts, and identify the “criminal” that has harmed cultural properties.
The Consultation Desk for Virus Removal and Disinfection Work at Museums to Deal with the Novel Coronavirus Infection
In 2020, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection spread all over the world. On April 7, the Japanese government issued a state of emergency to seven prefectures, and on April 16, they expanded the target areas to all prefectures. Facilities possessing cultural properties also found it necessary to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 infection and then they encountered the concerns about the impact disinfection might cause to cultural properties. The Agency for Cultural Affairs issued an administrative contact on April 23, “Regarding the measures for virus removal and disinfection work to be taken by cultural property owners and administrators of facilities for the conservation and public display of cultural properties.”
The Agency warned the departments responsible for cultural properties across the country that disinfecting chemicals could cause deterioration of cultural properties, therefore some cases would require cautions in using those chemicals; and when any department faced the necessity of engaging in disinfection work for cultural properties and needed professional advice, it should consult the Agency beforehand. They asked the following three organizations — the Agency for Cultural Affairs, the National Center for the Promotion of Cultural Properties, and the Center for Conservation Science of Tokyo Cultural Properties Research Institute — to cooperate and provide the service as the consultation desk to respond to the situation. Our Institute has posted on its website that it is available to accept technical consultations regarding disinfection. (http://www.tobunken.go.jp/info/info200424/index.html).
So far, we have received a wide range of consultations including not only on disinfection in museums, art museums, exhibition rooms and storage of archives, but also on the disinfection of buildings as well as folk cultural properties used for festivals. In response to these consultations, our Institute has advised to minimize the usage of chemicals for disinfection and instead employ other infection prevention countermeasures. Even in cases absolutely requiring disinfection, we have advised on how to respond or on how to ventilate in the best possible manner according to each situation. Hereafter, while constantly examining the need for disinfection, we are going to keep responding to the situations as a consultation desk.
The 30th Public Exhibition of the Conservation Facility for Mural Paintings of Takamatsuzuka Tumulus, a National Treasure
The 29th Public Exhibition of the Conservation Facility for Mural Paintings of Takamatsuzuka Tumulus, a National Treasure, was canceled because the number of the cases with novel coronavirus was so increasing. With sufficient infection prevention supervised by public health specialists, the 30th Public Exhibition was held from July 18th to July 24th, 2020. Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural properties sent four researchers as expositors for the visitors.
In this public exhibition, the azure dragon painted on the east wall, the black tortoise on the northern wall, female figures on the east and west walls, which were restored last year, were placed near the visitor corridor.
Before viewing these wall paintings, we asked visitors to measure their body temperature, report their health condition in the last two weeks, and disinfect their hands frequently. The number of daily visitors were restricted to 100 in the viewpoint of avoiding crowded in the corridor for visitors. While face to face instructions have been done previously, we installed audio guides and answered the questions from visitors outside to protect them against droplet infection. We also ventilated the corridor with a blower, and cleaned the surface inside with alcohol.. As specialists of conservation science, we offered technical supports to insure visitors’ safety, such as monitoring the concentration of carbon dioxide as the index of ventilation and measuring the number of droplet particles with a particle counter to check the air quality.
The application for public exhibition in this coming winter is available form the link below:
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Library of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been temporarily closed since February 28th, 2020, like other facilities of the Independent Administrative Institution, National Institutes for Cultural Heritage. We apologize for any inconvenience. Since the government declared a state of emergency, many staff members of this Institute have been staying home. Thus, countless numbers of people have been forced to suspend their studies at school or at work throughout the world.
Under the circumstances, you can make full use of databases or open access materials via the Internet. The Institute has been working on digitalizing its collection and promoting their further utilization. Through the joint project with Getty Research Institute, we opened to the public more than 900 art exhibition catalogs issued from the Meiji period to the early Showa period on the Internet in October 2019. We are now digitalizing almost 730 titles (1,700 issues) of books printed from woodblocks in the Edo period, which are owned by the Institute, to guarantee their open access. These books will be searchable for browsing from the Getty Research Portal in 2020.
You can browse the digital collection through the joint project with Getty Research Institute from here:
You can access “Journal of Art Studies,” “Science for Conservation,” “Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage,” “Yearbook of Japanese Art,” and other publications from the repository of the Institute:
In addition, you can search for a wide variety of research materials stored in the Institute’s databases through “Tobunken Research Collection”:
We will continue to provide access to free research materials from anywhere, at any time, for the convenience of more researchers.
Publication of the Art Catalog Digital Archive and Its Future Prospects–Toward New Utilization of Art Catalogs–The 10th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has provided its collection of 2,565 art catalogs issued from the Meiji period to the Showa period for public reading for many years. Due to the poor condition of the original art catalogs, we started their digitization jointly with the Tokyo Art Club in 2015 (refer to the April 2015 monthly report: https://www.tobunken.go.jp/materials/ekatudo/206112.html), and they were opened to the public as the Art Catalog Digital Archive in May 2019 (refer to the April 2019 monthly report: https://www.tobunken.go.jp/materials/ekatudo/817176.html).
For the 10th seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on February 25th, 2020, we invited three presenters, who introduced examples of utilization of art catalog digital archives in various fields under the title “Publication of the Art Catalog Digital Archive and Its Future Prospects–Toward New Utilization of Art Catalogs.” The first presentation titled “Utilization of Art Catalogs in the Studies of Buddhist Statues and the Significance of Their Publication” was delivered by Dr. YAMAGUCHI Ryusuke (Senior Researcher of Buddhist Sculpture at the Nara National Museum), the second one titled “Utilization and Development of Art Catalogs in the Exhibition of HIJIKATA Torei (at the Tottori Prefectural Museum)” was presented by Ms. YAMASHITA Mayumi (Curator at the Hosomi Museum), the third one titled “How to Utilize the Art Catalog Digital Archive in the Studies of Craftwork and Its Examples” was delivered by Ms. TSUKIMURA Kino (Curator at the Fukuyama Museum of Art), and the fourth one titled “Problems of Early modern Paintings from the Art Catalog Digital Archive” was presented by YASUNAGA Takuyo from the Institute. The seminar attracted an audience of around 50 people, including curators and researchers from all over Japan. After the presentations, the four presenters held an active discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of the digital archive, as well as its issues and problems. The presenters also answered questions from the audience. The questionnaire conducted at the venue showed that 87% of the audience was “very satisfied” with the seminar.
At the International Terminology Working Group (ITWG) Meeting held in the Getty Center located in Los Angeles, the United States, on February 6th and 7th, 2020, we delivered a presentation titled “Japanese artists, TNRICP”. This presentation reported on the development process of our providing Japanese artists’ name data for the Getty Vocabularies, as part of the joint project between Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) and the Getty Research Institute. The ITWG, led by the Getty Research Institute, aims to discuss the common topics on Getty Vocabularies (getty.edu/research/tools/vocabularies/), the controlled vocabularies comprising Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT), Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN), Union List of Artist Names (ULAN), Cultural Objects Name Authority (CONA), Getty Iconography Authority (IA), and other programs. The meeting generally takes place every two years. This meeting attracted about 35 people from the United States, Taiwan, Belgium, Germany, Brazil, Israel, Croatia, the UAE, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and other countries. Persons in charge of Getty Vocabularies programs reported their current situations and progress in function enhancement, while the institutions involved delivered presentations on pioneering practices in providing data for Getty Vocabularies. During the discussions about issues common to the Getty Research Institute and the institutions concerned, in response to these reports and presentations, useful advice was provided by participants from other countries.
International technical terms and biographical dictionaries are essential in introducing Japanese cultural properties to overseas in local languages. Getty Vocabularies find another way by focusing on today’s technologies and the alliance among the institutions concerned. By providing Japanese artists’ name data accumulated by TNRICP for many years, we aim to disseminate Japanese cultural properties, and support international studies on Japanese cultural heritage.
On Thursday, February 6th, 2020, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties held the 13th public lecture, titled “Technology in Kusatsu Supporting the Textile Technology: Spiderwort-dyed Paper-Blue Made from Flower Petals.”
In the morning session, records on spiderwort-dyed paper were examined by watching films: a documentary film of craft techniques by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, titled “Yuzen – The Textile Art of MORIGUCHI Kako –“ (1988, Sakura Motion Picture),” and a film, titled “Asiatic Dayflower, the Flower of Kusatsu City: Handing Down of Spiderwort-dyed Paper,” produced by Kusatsu City in 1999.
In the afternoon session, there was a lecture describing the outcomes of a joint research on the spiderwort-dyed paper production technique of Kusatsu City, Shiga Prefecture, and Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, conducted from 2016 through 2017. The joint research report has been published (refer to the April 2019 monthly report: https://www.tobunken.go.jp/materials/ekatudo/817676.html).
During the course of the lecture, explaining the main points, a documentary film was shown, titled “Recording Process of the Spiderwort-dyed Paper Production Technique” (produced in 2018 by Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties), which was shot and edited in the joint research. This was followed by a report on a survey by KIKUCHI Riyo from the Institute that explained how both the natural spiderwort blue and its alternative, synthetic spiderwort blue, are now used. The report was in the form of a presentation, titled “Current Situation of Spiderwort-dyed Paper Use – Through a Listening Survey on Textile Technicians.” Adding to this, Ms. OKADA Yumi from the Kusatsu-juku Kaido Koryukan made a presentation titled “Kusatsu City and Spiderwort-dyed Paper – Toward the Preservation of the Spiderwort-dyed Paper Production Technique,” which highlighted the relationship between Kusatsu City and the technique of producing spiderwort-dyed paper as clarified through the joint research, in addition to the present situation. Since the joint research was conducted two years ago, the circumstances surrounding the three farmers producing spiderwort-dyed paper have changed. To hand down the traditional technique to the coming generation, seminars for producers-to-be are now being implemented in Kusatsu City. The report on the current efforts unveiled the need for considering spiderwort-dyed paper as local culture and for protecting this cultural form. ISHIMURA Tomo, Head of the Audio-Visual Documentation Section of the Institute, made a presentation, titled “Spiderwort-dyed Paper as Cultural Heritage,” focusing on how the technique to produce such material should be positioned for protection of cultural properties.
At the end of the lecture, Mr. SUZUTA Shigeto was invited for a round-table-talk, titled “Spiderwort-dyed Paper as a Textile Material.” He was certified as the holder of the Mokuhanzuri Sarasa (wood-block) dyeing technique that was designated an intangible cultural property. The talk reinforced the fact that spiderwort-dyed paper works as a material supporting an important process even in producing works with the technique although it is considered a material to draw designs for Yuzen dyeing and tie-dyeing.
Transfer of technique to produce spiderwort-dyed paper is now at a milestone. One must always bear in mind that protection of intangible culture involves some alteration and hence, there should be scope for a compromise. The lecture was a good opportunity for the audience to understand the dilemma concerning spiderwort-dyed paper and whether it could become a sustainable material.
Publication of a Brochure Titled “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts V: Shirabeo by YAMASHITA Yuji”
The fifth brochure of the series addressing “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts” has been published. This brochure focuses on Mr. YAMASHITA Yuji, manufacturer of “shirabeo” (also called “shirabe”). Shirabeo is a special hemp rope used to tie the front and back leather of small hand drums, large hand drums, and drums used for noh and kabuki plays and in festivals held all over Japan. Mr. Yamashita has been working on the production of shirabeo, nurturing the younger generations, and disseminating production techniques as the fourth head of a long-established store called Yamashita Keishudo (Kyoto), which has been dealing in shirabeo for generations. The brochure mentions a part of the secret technique involved in producing shirabeo as “firmly yet softly twist the rope.” The survey on Mr. Yamashita’s technique in producing shirabeo was conducted prior to the publication of the brochure. The outline of the survey is available in the “Investigation Report on Techniques for Preserving Cultural Properties with Focus on Musical Instruments 2” (MAEHARA Megumi & HASHIMOTO Kaoru, “Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage” 13, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, 2018). Please refer to the report along with the brochure. (Access here to download the report: https://www.tobunken.go.jp/ich/maehara-hashimoto-2)
The series of brochures is available to those who require it for any non-commercial purpose. It will be delivered by Yu-Pack parcel post for COD. (Please note that the brochure may be out of stock.)
If you require any of the brochures, please send us details of 1. Your name, 2. Postal code & address, 3. Phone number, 4. The brochure you need (I-V) and the number of copies, by e-mail to email@example.com (Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage).
• “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts I: Biwa by ISHIDA Katsuyoshi”
• “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts II: Koma (Bridge of Shamisen) by OKOUCHI Masanobu”
• “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts III: Futozao Shamisen (Three stringed lute with thickest neck) by ISAKA Shigeo”
• “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts IV: Wind Instruments for Gagaku music by YAMADA Zenichi”
• The latest “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts V: Shirabeo (Tension ropes for drums) by YAMASHITA Yuji”
We will continue to publish brochures focusing on techniques to produce/repair musical instruments as skills to conserve cultural properties.
Investigation of the Former Japanese Navy Fongshan Communication Center Designated a National Ancient Monument in Taiwan
The Old Sasebo Wireless Transmission Facility (Hario Transmitting Station) standing on a hill overlooking the Harioseto Strait, which divides Sasebo City and Saikai City, Nagasaki Prefecture, is the remains of a long-wave telecommunication base built by the Navy in 1922. The construction of this group of buildings was undertaken by the Architecture Department of Sasebo Naval District led by MASHIMA Kenzaburo (1874-1941), a naval engineer known for pioneering concrete construction in Japan. The quality reinforced concrete constructions are represented by three huge radio towers 136 m in height. These buildings, which reflect the cutting-edge concrete technology of the day, were designated as important cultural properties in 2013.
Since their designation as important cultural properties, Sasebo City, which manages the Old Sasebo Wireless Transmission Facility (hereinafter Sasebo), has been making arrangements for the conservation and utilization of these buildings as cultural properties. On February 12th and 13th, 2020, the former Japanese Navy Fongshan Communication Center, located in a suburb of Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, was investigated as part of the activities by the Maintenance Examination Commission, for which the author serves as a member. Fongshan Communication Center (hereinafter Fongshan ) is a long-wave telecommunication base built by the Sasebo Naval District, and it was completed in 1917, five years earlier than Sasebo. Fongshan was used as a guest house or as a training center for the Taiwanese Navy until the 2000s. Fongshan , which is now a facility open to the public, was designated a national ancient monument in 2010. Fongshan was designed by the same organization as Sasebo, and reinforced concrete was used everywhere except in the radio tower, which was a steel tower, an icon of the day (now demolished). A circular road of 300 m radius that surrounds Fongshan and the layout of the central facilities are similar to those in Sasebo. This investigation confirmed that Fongshan, which was consistently used as an educational facility, did not require any large-scale renewal or modification after the war, and still maintains its appearance as in the Japanese Navy period due to the relatively few alterations made to the major buildings. Particularly the communication room located at the center of the facility is built in the same style as in the Sasebo. Fittings such as steel doors and upper and lower window frames, as well as interior wooden floors and staircases, still maintain their original appearance although they were partly damaged in a fire. The transmission room in Sasebo was renovated periodically when Sasebo was used by the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Japan Coast Guard, in addition to the modifications made for explosion resistance at the end of World War II. Therefore, Fongshan can be an effective reference in studying conservation and restoration principles for Sasebo.
However, Fongshan is considerably different from Sasebo due to the uniqueness of its buildings, which have heavy architectural features, locally called a “cross-shaped radio station,” and give an impression of a combat operations center. For the maintenance of Fongshan, relevant people consider the fact that it was a place to reform political prisoners during the White Terror period (the suppression of political dissidents by the Chinese Nationalist Party government). Its occupation by the Japanese Navy does not attract much attention, leading to several unattended matters. For sharing the issues involved in protecting cultural properties, interactions between Sasebo and Fongshan should be promoted. This would contribute to the development of conservation principles and restoration approaches in the modernization heritage of Japan and Taiwan.
Important Cultural Property “Yojinsogakuzu Byobu” in the Eisei Bunko Museum’s collection: Digital Content Released
The Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems creates digital contents of any artworks investigated and studied at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, to release it for the Library. We have released the digital content of “Yojinsogakuzu Byobu” (Scenes of European Ways of Life; Important Cultural Property), owned by the Eisei Bunko Museum—it is one of the early Western-influenced works in Japanese painting, where Western people, manners and customs, and landscapes are depicted with Western-influenced techniques. A careful examination of this work shows that unique techniques, different from those of ordinary Japanese paintings, are used for the folding screen, a typical painting format in Japan. We created this digital content according to the report issued by the Institute in 2015. The dedicated computer in the Library shows the research results, such as the high-resolution color image, near infrared image, and the results of the analysis of coloring material using X-ray fluorescence technologies. This computer may only be used for academic or research purposes, and copying or printing the digital content is prohibited. However, you may freely access the large amount of artwork information containing a variety of digital images. The dedicated computer is available during the Library’s opening hours. Please refer to the following URL for the instructions on use:
Wat Rajpradit, which was built in 1864 as per the wish of King Rama IV, is a first-grade royal Buddhist temple located in Bangkok, Thailand. For the entrances of its ordination hall (ubosot), Japan-made door panels, created by employing the “mother-of-pearl with underpaint” technique, were used. Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties is providing technical support to restore these panels at the request of the temple and the Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture of Thailand. The restoration work is also an opportunity to better understand this cultural property. Even in Japan-exported lacquerwork, there are few instances of research being pursued into works produced in the 19th century, and the background of the door panels is unclear. Therefore, we conducted detailed investigation of the Japan-made lacquerwork, including the works of mother-of-pearl with underpaint, in Bangkok from January 12th through 18th, 2020.
During the mission, we checked the condition of the door panels at Wat Rajpradit, and exchanged ideas on the restoration plan to be implemented proactively from the Thai side, in the presence of the Director of the Fine Arts Department. Having an opportunity to do research at Wat Pho, one of the most prestigious first-grade royal Buddhist temples, we observed in detail a pair of long cover plates (to protect palm leaf manuscripts on which sutras or other documents are written) decorated with mother-of-pearl and lacquer. This year, we also scrutinized part of the cover plates of the palm leaf manuscripts created during the reigns of King Rama I through V, which are stored at the National Library of Thailand. In addition to those already known, we found a piece of cover plate decorated with mother-of-pearl and lacquer.
Furthermore, we researched a toolbox used by Mr. MIKI Sakae (1884–1966), who had arrived in Thailand in 1911 and worked as a craftsman and educator in the field of lacquer art. We feel that our investigation reveals that the communication between Japan and Thailand has spread further through the Japan-made lacquerwork, including the works of mother-of-pearl with underpaint created from the late Edo period to the Meiji period.
Senior Statesman INOUE Kaoru and the Meiji Culture—The 9th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems
INOUE Kaoru (1835–1915) was a politician with tremendous influence in the political and business circles during the Meiji period. During the disturbances before the Meiji Restoration, he emerged as a leader of the anti-foreigner movement in his native Choshu domain, and served in several important positions in the new Meiji government, such as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Home Affairs. He is well known for leading the Westernizing policies, including Rokumeikan diplomacy, and was also a man of refined tastes who enjoyed the tea ceremony with tea masters from the business world, such as MASUDA Takashi (called MASUDA Don-oh). He collected masterpieces of oriental art, including “Momohato-zu (Pigeon on a Peach Branch)” presumedly painted by Emperor Huizong of Song. The presentation titled “Meiji Culture and INOUE Kaoru,” delivered by Dr. YODA Toru (Chief of Curators’ Section, Toyama Memorial Museum) for the 9th seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on January 21st, 2020, highlighted Inoue’s significance in cultural history.
It is said that Inoue started collecting antiques in the early Meiji period. During the 1880s, he acquired “Jūichimen Kannonzō (Eleven-Headed Kannon, Skt. Ekadasamukha),” an excellent Buddhist artwork from the Heian period, presently owned by the Nara National Museum. He sometimes acquired masterpieces in an ungentlemanly manner as well, and published a catalog of his collection tilted “Segaian Kanshō (Appreciation of Segaian)” in 1912. Earlier, he also had invited Emperor Meiji home in 1887, and played an important role in entertainment history by showing him a Kabuki program performed by ICHIKAWA Danjuro IX as well as interacting with the comic storyteller SANYUTEI Encho.
After the presentation by Dr. Yoda, which revealed Inoue’s involvement in Japanese culture from diverse perspectives, Mr. SAITO Yasuhiko (Professor Emeritus at the University of Yamanashi), Mr. TANAKA Sendo (Director of Santokuan), and Dr. TSUKAMOTO Maromitsu (Associate Professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, the University of Tokyo) joined the discussion. How Inoue developed his aesthetic sense while working hard as a politician is still not known though. Future research is expected to focus on his various aspects veiled in mystery.
During the seven days between January 18th and January 24th, 2020, the mural paintings conservation room of the Takamatsuzuka Tumulus was opened to the public.
Beginning in 2008, this was the 28th time the mural paintings were opened to the public. During this period, four researchers from Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) worked as staff.
In this exhibition, the black tortoise drawn on the north wall, the northern divine creature that symbolizes “winter,” the female figures painted on the west and east wall, and the male figures drawn on the west and east wall were placed to the side of the walkway for visitors. Many visitors have confirmed the current state of all mural paintings.
In recent years, the difference in the condition of the murals post cleaning became increasingly evident and many visitors were amazed by the difference between the mural paintings and the photos of them displayed on the wall in the conservation room. Additionally, there were those who compared the drawn black tortoise to that in the Kitora tumulus mural paintings exhibition, which was held at the same time at the Center for Preservation of Kitora Tumulus Mural Paintings.
A series of projects related to mural paintings of the Takamatsuzuka Tumulus are being conducted by the Agency for Cultural Affairs under the overarching project entitled “Research in relation to permanent preservation measures of the National Treasure Takamatsuzuka Tumulus.” In addition, the TNRICP has been centrally involved in the work for many years. The murals paintings have been taken out of the mound alongside the stone material from the mounds in 2007. After that, the conservation treatment of the painting or plain surfaces contaminated with mold and biofilm occurs and plaster with advanced porosity is consolidated and stabilized at the temporary conservation facility near the tombs. In this 12th year since the start of the conservation project, it will reach a break once. Research of conservation and utilization of the mural paintings will have continued by the time it exhibits in a new museum.
Cultural Exchange Project for the Conservation and Utilization of Historic Buildings in Bhutan (Part III）
From this Fiscal Year, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) has started an Exchange Project for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs to provide technical support and capacity building for the preservation and utilization of historic buildings in Bhutan. In 16th January 2020, as part of this project, TNRICP dispatched a team of six experts including three outside experts to participate the Workshop on Conservation of Lham Pelzom house organized by the Division for Conservation of Heritage Sites (DCHS), Department of Culture, Ministry of Home and Culture Affairs.
Lham Pelzom house, located in Kabesa near the capital of Thimphu, is considered to be one of the oldest surviving farmhouses in the country, and is the top candidate for designation as historic farmhouses under Bhutan’s first comprehensive basic law on cultural heritage (New Law) which the government aims to pass. On the other hand, the house has been vacant for a long time, and its deterioration has been remarkable recently. Consequently, the need for preliminary consensus among stakeholders, such as the government, owners and local communities, on the potential for preservation and utilization is growing. Given this awareness, DCHS invited house owners, representatives of local communities, government officials from the Ministry of Work and Human Settlements, and Tourism Council to the workshop, for sharing various views on the conservation of the Lham Pelzom house. TNRICP joined the workshop for giving advice from the theoretical and technical point of view regarding heritage conservation.
In the first half of the workshop, from the standpoint of promoting heritage protection, TNRICP proposed conservation policies and restoration methods based on field research, and DCHS reported on how government support should be provided, including financial aspects. Contrary, from the standpoint of the bearer of actual preservation, house owners strongly requested the need to secure economic benefits through common adaptive use, and local communities emphasized the need for the active involvement of the government in preservation. However, they all understood and welcomed a high reputation as a cultural heritage in general. Subsequently, in the second half of the workshop, meaningful mutual discussions unfolded in the latter half of the workshop, based on opinions, aspirations, and grievances of each participant in the first half. Finally, participants agreed to promote the conservation of Lham Pelzom house as the following conditions.
(1) ACCELERATE procedures for value valuation as cultural heritage, such as designation under the new law,
(2) CLARIFY protection frameworks, including administrative support for restoration works and the house owner’s obligations to the preservation,
(3) CONSIDER a proposal for utilization that is appropriate as a cultural heritage and takes into account the house owner’s demand.
TNRICP will cooperate with DCHS and continue research activities and field surveys to realize the conservation of traditional farmhouses in Bhutan as cultural heritage.
Mission for the Project “Technical Assistance for the Protection of the Damaged Cultural Heritage in Nepal” (Part 13)
As part of the above-mentioned project commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) continues to support the building of an administrative network to conserve historic settlements in Nepal. On September 23rd and December 1st, 2019, workshops were organized in Kirtipur municipality with participation of engineers in charge of conservation of historic settlements from relevant municipalities. In response to their outcomes, “the third Mayors’ Forum on Conservation of Historic Settlements in Kathmandu and Kavre Valley” was held on January 5th, 2020, under the joint auspices of Kirtipur municipality and TNRICP.
The first Mayors’ Forum was held in 2018 in Panauti municipality for sharing the initiatives and issues related to preservation of historic settlements among the municipalities, followed by Lalitpur Metropolitan City in 2019.
Kirtipur municipality, whose old city area known as “a medieval settlement in Kirtipur” was listed as a UNESCO tentative list for World Heritage site, has been working on establishing its own rules for conservation. Therefore, the theme of this Forum was set as “regulatory framework for conservation of historic settlements,” and through two engineer workshops, the current issues pertaining to the systems were clarified and discussed while sharing information. As a result, the following were spotlighted as issues of administrative organizations and such systems: the existing framework for preservation of historic settlements is not effective since the policy for protection of cultural heritage of monumental nature is not linked with that for urban planning under national administration; some pioneering municipalities preserve their streetscapes under their original regulations, while others are formulating their regulations or criteria by focusing on completely different issues in municipal administration.
Accordingly, at the Forum, an officer in charge of national policy to protect cultural heritage and the one for urban planning reported about their respective conservation systems, and engineers from five municipalities delivered presentations on their legislation and issues to mutually share the tasks under national and municipal administration. Professor NISHIMURA Yukio of Kobe Design University gave a keynote speech titled “Effective Integration between Methods of Urban Planning and Preservation of Historic Settlements” while KANAI Ken, Head of the Conservation Design Section of the Institute, introduced some case studies on the Japanese system for important preservation districts of historic buildings. The Forum was attended by around 120 people, including State Minister of Urban Planning, five mayors and four deputy mayors, as well as engineers and researchers, who proactively exchanged opinions at the end.
Each municipality has several issues on conservation of historic settlements due to lack of financial and human resources, without sufficient support from the national government. Another reason for the ineffective functioning of the existing systems is insufficient basic research on historic settlements or lack of cooperative systems involving researchers and experts.
Consideration to lay the foundation to operate the network for conservation of historic settlements involving research institutions has just begun. It is anticipated that the autonomous and continuous cooperation among the persons concerned is strengthened to achieve a better environment around the historic settlements as well as its preservation.
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties is providing technical support and human resource training to restore wall paintings and the exterior walls of brick temples at the Bagan Archaeological Site in Myanmar. The decision to register Bagan as a world cultural heritage site was made at the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee in 2019. In response to this decision, the “Bagan International Coordinating Committee (BICC)” was set up to work on improving the conservation system. The Committee is making arrangements for holding an international conference annually for information sharing and mutual adjustment so as to better utilize the initiatives taken in each support-providing country.
To collect information on such changes in local situations, we visited the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture of Myanmar (Naypyidaw) and the Bagan branch of the Department of Archaeology and National Museums from January 15th through 31st, 2020, and exchanged opinions on the direction of the future cooperative project. Responding to expectations of further technical assistance to local experts, we agreed to continue with our support activities.
In addition, research on the folklore pertaining to wall painting iconography was conducted following the previous one in July 2019. On-site investigation was also carried out to evaluate the state of wall paintings damaged by pests and to discuss countermeasures. With respect to the iconographic research, we gathered information showing the relation between the acceptance of Buddhism and an indigenous belief specific to Myanmar from local intellectuals. Also, to find the influence of the indigenous belief on wall paintings, we collected detailed examples primarily from Bagan. We now plan to expand the scope of this research beyond Bagan. Furthermore, the investigation of wall paintings damaged by pests revealed their destruction by termites and potter wasps. Therefore, we plan to conduct detailed research to establish countermeasures suitable to the local environment.
The Institute will continue providing technical support and undertaking research activities based on the opinions of local experts for comprehensive conservation of cultural properties at the Bagan Archaeological Site.
The Friendship between KURODA Seiki and KUME Keiichiro – The 7th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems
KURODA Seiki (1866-1924) and KUME Keiichiro (1866-1934), who learned oil painting from Raphael COLLIN––an academic painter in France––were close friends and shared an atelier. After returning to Japan, they founded a new fine art association named Hakubakai. Through their involvement in art education and administration, they endeavored to innovate and develop the sphere of Japanese oil painting.
The Kume Museum of Art, which owns and publishes the works and materials of KUME Keiichiro, and Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, which was founded with the inheritance of KURODA Seiki, began joint research in 2016 in order to investigate the materials pertaining to their friendship. The letters exchanged between them particularly attract attention as materials that illustrate their social and professional friendship. The 7th seminar titled “Reading the Letters Written by KURODA Seiki and KUME Keiichiro” was organized by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on December 10th, 2019. SHIOYA Jun of the Institute delivered a presentation regarding the letters written to Kume by Kuroda, while Ms. ITO Fumiko of the Kume Museum of Art addressed the letters written to Kuroda by Kume.
The letters investigated by this research were written from the 1890s until 1925, after they returned to Japan from France. They wrote not in the epistolary style used generally at that time, but in a colloquial style to report their productions’ progress and their travel impressions. They occasionally wrote in French to secretly pour forth their feelings. In 1910 and 1911, Kume visited the UK to do clerical work for the association for exhibits for the Japan-British Exhibition. The letters written during the period¬¬––in which he detailed the exhibition, the reunion with Mr. Collin, and interaction with local painters––represent the network of oil painters of that time.
After the presentation, two Visiting Researchers who helped us reprint the letters, Mr. TANAKA Jun and Mr. SAITO Tatsuya, joined the opinion exchange. We will release the outcomes of this research in “The Journal of Art Studies,” which will be published in the next fiscal year.
Inventories of cultural properties are very important for museums, galleries, and archives, as well as for local governments. It works as a principle source of information not only for the research/study and the conservation/management of cultural properties but also for planning exhibitions and rental schedules. Photos, which record the visual information of cultural properties, also support research and studies. Their management with listed cultural properties enables more appropriate conservation and utilization of cultural heritage and its related information. Thus, the recording of cultural properties and the database compilation of such records are essential to the conservation and utilization of cultural heritage. However, not a few persons concerned have budgetary and technological restrictions, which render them difficult. Therefore, the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems held a seminar for the same on December 2nd, 2019.
At the seminar, we used examples to explicate the significance of recording and compiling the databases for cultural properties. We also introduced a free system that facilitates building a database of cultural properties, which has been worked on by the Cultural Properties Information Section of the department in recent years. In addition, the Image Laboratory of the section presented various types of photography as a means to record information on cultural properties, along with relevant concepts and concrete examples.
Almost 120 people attended the seminar, particularly those who are practically involved in the conservation and utilization of cultural heritage. The participants’ significant number of questions related to routine tasks made us believe that they were quite interested in this topic. Although we organized this comprehensive seminar as a first step, we seek to further transmit diversified information, such as seminars focusing on specific themes and workshops with practical training.
Researching Medieval Glass in Japan – The 8th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems
At the 8th seminar organized by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on December 24th, 2019, HAYASHI Yoshimi––a Part-time Lecturer at Tokai University––delivered a presentation titled “Researching Medieval Glass in Japan – Based on the Outcomes in 2018 and 2019.”
Dr. Hayashi has been researching the history of glass in East Asia for many years. For this seminar, she introduced a part of her outcomes from the collection and observational research of Japanese glass products manufactured between the 13th and 16th century, which she has researched after writing her doctoral dissertation in 2018. The actual state of Japanese medieval glass has been almost unknown due to the rarity of its unearthed products. However, in recent years, glass products manufactured during the aforementioned period have been excavated in Kyoto, Hakata and other areas. An improved understanding of Japanese medieval glass is expected based on these products, which will add to the existing literature and materials. Dr. Hayashi mentioned the following three key aspects in the research of Japanese glass produced between the 13th and 16th century: (1) Getting a whole sketch, (2) Determination of production areas, and (3) Consideration from historical and broad-based viewpoints. Then, she presented her views on the manufacturing technique and origin of the glassware unveiled, through her study of written and excavated materials.
Ms. INOUE Akiko, director of the Association for Glass Art Studies, Japan, also attended the seminar as a commentator so as to facilitate a discussion on various front-line topics pertaining to glass history studies, proceeding step-by-step alongside a few researchers.