Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties Center for Conservation Science
Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation
Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage

A Research Survey into Stucco Decorations

A Kote-e by Chohachi Irie (Zenpuku-ji Temple, Tokyo)
Stucco decoration in the Ticino style

 Stucco decorations are distinct in their form and purpose, and they can be found in various parts of the world. The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation began research and surveys investigating stucco decorations in fiscal 2021 as part of a the “International Research on Technology for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage” program, which offers grants for research expenses. The purpose of this program is to track how stucco decorations have been propagated to different regions as they repeatedly evolve and deteriorate in quality, and to understand and verify how efforts are being made to conserve and restore these decorations in different countries today. On May 29, experts involved in the conservation of stucco decorations, mainly in Europe, participated in an online discussion.
 In an exchange of opinions, the topic of stucco decorations in the Ticino region of Switzerland were introduced, which laid the foundation for stucco decoration in Europe from the Mediterranean coastal regions and from the 16th to 18th centuries. From Japan, we introduced what we have learned from our research so far, including kote-e (plaster relief paintings) made using traditional plaster, the stucco techniques and materials that were popularized alongside pseudo-Western-style architecture, which imitated Western architecture from the end of the Edo period to the Meiji period, and also the current maintenance status of these works.
 Participating experts expressed surprise that many common points can be found in techniques and materials across different countries and time periods. They also agreed to jointly study methods for conservation and restoration aimed at improving the current situation, as there are many similarities regarding maintenance and management issues.
 In the future, while continuing with our research surveys in Japan, we will recruit overseas research collaborators, and expand the scope of our research domains. In addition, we would like to accumulate information through exchanges of opinions and the sharing of research results, deepen understanding of stucco decorations, and opening a forum for the consideration of how to both conserve them and pass them down to future generations.

The Last Lecture by TOBUNKEN Deputy Director General YAMANASHI Emiko – The 9th Seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

The lecture
The satellite venue

 YAMANASHI Emiko, Deputy Director General at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) gave a lecture entitled “The project of compiling the Year Book of Japanese Art as a legacy of the Hakuba-Kai” on March 25th, 2021. Currently, the Year Book of Japanese Art (the Year Book ) that TOBUNKEN publishes compiles annual developments in the Japanese art world two years ago, which is made up of “annals,” “art exhibitions,” “bibliography of art literature,” and “the deceased.” We have published the Year Book since 1936, which was not disrupted by the difficult times during and after the war and has continued up until today. Its unique composition was invented by IWAMURA Tōru (1870 – 1917), an art critic who maintained close relations with KURODA Seiki and KUME Keiichiro. Regarding how it has developed and changed thereafter, she delivered a lecture from her viewpoint as a researcher of modern Japanese art history and based on a wealth of experience that she had accumulated. As the number of art exhibitions has risen and the scope of “art” has widened in recent years, there are various challenges. She concluded her lecture by emphasizing the importance of sharing common awareness of the issues to continue with its publication and the significance of a public institution like TOBUNKEN continuing to publish the Year Book. In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the lecture was conducted online while participants viewed her presentation from the seminar room at TOBUNKEN, which served as a satellite venue, their respective workplaces or homes. Further, the video of the lecture was published via TOBUNKEN’s YouTube channel for a limited period of time until April 30, 2021. Yamanashi resigned as Deputy Director General as of the end of March 2021 and assumed a role as a visiting researcher starting in April 2021 and continues to provide cooperation to our activities at TOBUNKEN.

Publication of KUME Keiichiro’s Diary in Database Format—As a result of TOBUNKEN’s collaboration with Kume Museum of Art

Database of KUME Keiichiro’s Diary, Accounts on January 4th, 1899
The Portrait of SANO Akira by KURODA Seiki Possessed by the Tokyo National Museum

 Western-style painter KUME Keiichiro (1866 – 1934) is known as an artist who strove to revamp Japanese modern western-style painting along with his close colleague KURODA Seiki (1866 – 1924). At Kume Museum of Art in Meguro, Tokyo, which is designed to praise his achievements as a painter, Kume’s diary titled “KUME Keiichiro’s Diary” is kept and was already published (by Chuo Koron Bijutsu Shuppan in 1990). As part of a collaborative project between the museum and Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), we began publishing the content of the diary online in database format using WordPress Content Management System (CMS) via the following URL as of March 25:

 The diary was written in part in French and the database contains the French text written until 1892 and its Japanese translation by visiting researcher SAITO Tatsuya. Further, it is linked with the database of KURODA Seiki’s diary, which had already been published online, and as for descriptions with the same dates, the two diaries can be cross-referenced. For instance, Kuroda and Kume celebrated the New Year in Numazu, Shizuoka, in 1899. In Kume’s diary on January 4th, he noted that “Kuroda portrayed Sano,” while Kuroda mentioned in his diary that “I portrayed Sano.” Sano is SANO Akira (1866 – 1955), a sculptor who enjoyed a close friendship with Kuroda and Kume.
 The portrait of Sano painted by Kuroda is a collection that was housed in the Kuroda Memorial Hall (Tokyo National Museum) in 2019. It can safely be described as an interesting example in which Kuroda and Kume’s accounts in their respective diaries are linked with the existing piece of art.
 For your information, also as a result of our collaborative study with Kume Museum of Art, we published an article, “Exchanges between KURODA Seiki and KUME Keiichiro Seen in Letters (I),” by SHIOYA Jun, ITO Fumiko (curator at Kume Museum of Art), TANAKA Jun (visiting researcher), and SAITO Tatsuya in The Journal of Art Studies Vol. 433. We compiled the letters exchanged between Kuroda and Kume as a comprehensive list to allow you to view its summary. It will be a real pleasure for us if it provides a means of looking at Japan’s modern western-style painting along with the database of Kume’s diary.

A Hands-on Seminar on “Documentation and Database Compilation of Cultural Properties An Introductory Guide to Photographing of Cultural Properties—A Practical Course of Photographing for Documentation of Cultural Properties Organized at the Tohoku History Museum

Explanation of the point of attention in taking a picture of ishari
Hands-on practice of shooting spouted pottery
Hands-on practice of shooting shimacho

 Documentation of cultural properties aims to obtain information needed to conduct research on cultural properties, and to protect or utilize them. In particular, photographs convey detailed information that words alone are unable to express fully, and by setting the appropriate shooting conditions, more information can be conveyed.
 We organized a seminar on practical photographing for documentation of cultural properties with the title above, which was targeted at the staff of member museums of the Liaison Council of Museums in Miyagi Prefecture, at the Tohoku History Museum (Tagajo City, Miyagi Prefecture) on March 12th, 2021. Co-hosted by the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), the Tohoku History Museum, and the liaison council, the seminar was the liaison council’s second workshop during fiscal year 2020. During the seminar, measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19 were taken, such as requiring participants to wear masks and ensuring social distancing and ventilation.
 Following a lecture in the morning, hands-on practice of taking pictures of a variety of objects in the collection of the Tohoku History Museum, such as spouted pottery in the Late Jomon Period, ishari, a traditional lure for catching octopuses, and shimacho (a swatch book of stripe-patterned kimono fabrics), was conducted under the guidance of SHIRONO Seiji, an artificer at TOBUNKEN. All participants in the hands-on practice were requested to bring a camera with them and other equipment, such as lights and reflector boards, was provided by the museum. In the practice, we emphasized the importance of handling light. All the techniques were applicable using an existing or inexpensive device; one example was eliminating deep shadows that inhibit observation by illuminating the target object by projecting the light on a reflector board, which was hand-made by the staff at the museum. Participants worked on the practice with keen interest and many of them commented that they hoped to share what they learned with their colleagues or to use the techniques acquired in their work.
 Let us take this opportunity to express our heartfelt thanks to everyone at the co-host organizations and all the participants that provided us with many useful suggestions. We hope to continue to organize seminars by taking advantage of this experience.

Postponement of the Exhibition: “The Appeal of Japanese Art: Japanese Works of Art Restored Overseas” and Launch of the Special Website

Special website
Production of Uda paper (video)
Production of a paper for repair and conservation (video)

 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has carried out the Cooperative Program for the Conservation of Japanese Art Objects Overseas since 1990. To date, it has conserved 385 pieces of paintings and crafts owned by art museums in many parts of the world, including Europe, North America, and Australia. According to the initial plan, the conserved works of art in this program were supposed to return home in fiscal 2020 and an exhibition was due to be organized, wherein restoration techniques, materials, and tools would also have been presented; we had accordingly made preparations. In order to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus infectious disease (COVID-19), however, we decided to postpone the exhibition.
 Instead, we have recently launched a special website as something we can do even under constraints on the moves of people and goods. On this website, we introduce works of Japanese arts and crafts that we planned to exhibit, museums that own them in Europe and the U.S., and a list of works that have been conserved in searchable database format. As for those of which reports have already been published, you can read the text online as well. Further, there are a wide variety of traditional materials necessary to restore cultural properties. Moreover, a video is posted to explain, among others, Uda paper, which is used for the final and the backmost lining of a hanging scroll and a paper to be used to repair or restore the honshi (the paper on which a painting or calligraphy is drawn). These are designated as the national selected preservation technique for cultural properties. This video allows you to understand that various kinds of wisdom and ingenuity are brought together to hand down traditional techniques from generation to generation and conserve cultural properties amid Japanese traditional culture and natural environment. Let us take this opportunity to encourage you to visit the site. For your information, the preparations for the exhibition and production of the website were carried out as part of the Japan Cultural Expo.

Publication of “The Auction Catalogue Digital Archive: Exploring the Potential of Auction Catalogues in Art Historical Research”

The front cover of the research report

 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) owns a total of 2,565 auction catalogues published from the Meiji Era to the Showa Era, which is the largest collection among those owned by public organizations. We have digitized them in collaboration with Tokyo Art Club since 2015 (refer to the Research Report for April 2015
) and started publishing them as the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive on May 2019 (refer to the Research Report for April 2019
). Further, in order to publicize this digital archive widely, we organized a seminar titled “The Auction Catalogue Digital Archive: Exploring the Potential of Auction Catalogues in Art Historical Research” on February 25, 2020. In this workshop, four people who participated from and outside of TOBUNKEN made presentations and curators and researchers who participated from various regions nationwide held discussion and question and answer sessions, which received a strong response and good reviews (refer to the Research Report for February 2020
 Against this background, centered on what was discussed in the workshop, we published the results of our five-year efforts at digitizing the auction catalogues in the form of a research report by adding parts on the significance of the auction catalogues that have been offered for review over the years as one of TOBUNKEN’s important collections, and the background of digitization. This contains: “An Overview of the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive” by YASUNAGA Takuyo (senior researcher at TOBUNKEN) as a project overview; and “Research on the History of Sculpture and Auction Catalogues” by YAMAGUCHI Ryûsuke (senior researcher at Nara National Museum), “The Use and Development of Auction Catalogues in the Tôrei Hijikata: A Retrospective Exhibition Held at Tottori Prefectural Museum” by YAMASHITA Mayumi (curator at The Hosomi Museum), “How to ‘See’ and ‘Read’ Auction Catalogues: Decorative Arts as an Example of the Use of the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive by TSUKIMURA Kino (curator at Fukuyama Museum of Art), and “Various Issues Regarding Early Modern Paintings that Emerge from the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive” by YASUNAGA Takuyo as discussions; as well as “The Process of Making Auction Catalogues Available to the Public at the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties” by NAKAMURA Setsuko (former librarian at TOBUNKEN) and “The Function of the Systems Used in the Creation of the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive” By OYAMADA Tomohiro (researcher at TOBUNKEN) as reports.
 We donated copies of the research report to major museums, art museums, libraries, and universities at the end of the last fiscal year. Let me encourage those who are interested to visit a library nearby to view the report.

A Seminar Organized on “Exhibition Environments for Conservation and Utilization” Relationships between Lighting, Colors, and How One Looks

A scene of the seminar

 As part of a research project titled “Exhibition Environments for Conservation and Utilization” by the Center for Conservation Science, a seminar on “Exhibition Environments for Conservation and Utilization” – Relationships between Lighting, Colors, and How One Looks was organized to sum up research on lighting on March 4th, 2021. Reports on cases that put emphasis on ideal lighting for exhibitions at art and other museums while taking into account conservation of cultural properties had been predominant up until then. This time around, however, we asked experts in the area of lighting, which had not been taken up very much in the area of cultural properties, to share their insights into lighting with us from a perspective that was a little different from conservation.
 First of all, Ms. SANO Chie, an honorary researcher at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TBUNKEN), who had taken the initiative in this project, gave a lecture on the flow of research into lighting at the Center for Conservation Science as an introduction. This was followed by lectures that covered a broad range of subjects delivered respectively by Prof. MIZOKAMI Yoko (Graduate School of Engineering, Chiba University), who specializes in vision science, vision engineering, visual information processing, and color dynamics, Prof. YOSHIZAWA Nozomu (Department of Architecture, Faculty of Science and Technology, Tokyo University of Science), who studies evaluation techniques for architectural light environments, and Prof. YAMAUCHI Yasuki (Graduate School of Science and Engineering, Yamagata University), who carries out research on visual information processing, color dynamics, illuminating engineering, and image processing.
 As a state of emergency was issued due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the seating capacity was limited to up to 30 in the seminar room, whose seating capacity is normally 120, but a face-to-face seminar proved extremely productive. Participants commented that the lectures delivered on a face-to-face basis were meaningful and that they were able to deepen their understanding of lighting, indicating that the seminar had a high satisfaction level. Meanwhile, we announced this seminar by limiting the recipients to art and other museums etc. in and around the Kanto region to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Thus, we decided to record the seminar and publish it on TOBUNKEN’s YouTube channel for a limited period of time. Let us encourage those who were unable to participate in the seminar in person to view it on this occasion.
You can view it from May 10th through July 30th, 2021 at:

Japanese Paintings from Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Canada) Carried in

Unpacking the artwork

 A large number of works of Japanese art are possessed by museums overseas. However, most of them have no specialists who can restore works of Japanese art and no appropriate measures have been taken against their deterioration or damage. In the Cooperative Program for the Conservation of Japanese Art Objects Overseas, we investigate Japanese art objects overseas, identify those with high cultural values and needing to be restored more urgently than others, bring them back to Japan through consultation with the museums that possess them, restore them under the thoroughgoing measures in Japan, and send them back to them after the completion of the restoration work.
 Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada’s oldest art museum, currently possesses more than 45,000 works of art after having relocated or expanded since it was inaugurated in 1879. They include a large number of Japanese works. Based on the results of a local survey conducted in 2018, we decided to restore two works: Kumano Honjibutsu Mandala (color on silk; a hanging scroll), and Byobu Screens Featuring the Thirty-six Poetesses (color on paper with gold leaf; a pair of six-panel folding screens) that are housed in the museum.
 Though a museum courier was unable to accompany the works in transit due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were safely imported into Japan in March 2021. We will start a series of the restoration processes from documentation, including a current situation survey and taking a high-definition photo.

/ SHIMIZU Ayako)

A Rakan-zu Formerly Owned by KATANO Shiro: The 8th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

A scene from the seminar

 On February 25th, 2021, the 8th Seminar of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems was held, where MAIZAWA Rei and YASUNAGA Takuyo of the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems each gave their study reports on a Rakan-zu (a painting of Arhat, an enlightened Buddhist high priest) owned by Komyoji Temple (Minato-ku, Tokyo).
 The Rakan-zu was discovered in a survey conducted last year. An article about the painting in “Kokka” No. 74, published in 1895, revealed that it was formerly owned by an art appraiser, KATANO Shiro (1867–-1909).
MAIZAWA introduced the painting with high-definition images and infrared photographs taken by SHIRONO Seiji of the same department, under the title “Rakan-zu, a former collection of KATANO Shiro-Consideration of its design and expressions.” Regarding the design, MAIZAWA reported that it depicts a Rakan and his followers worshipping the image of Tenbu (Deva) in the center, as well as Karyobinga (Kalavinka, an imaginary creature in Buddhism with a human head and a bird’s torso) and Gumyocho (Jivajiva, two-headed bird) that both symbolize the Pure Land of Amida Buddha (Paradise) at the top of the painting. MAIZAWA pointed out that the expressions are thought to have been created in mainland China and that the stylistic examination of the painting suggests the possibility that it was created during the Yuan Dynasty.
 YASUNAGA gave a detailed report on the achievements of the former owner, KATANO Shiro and his father, KATANO Yuhei, and the people who interacted with them, under the title “Modern understanding of the Rakan-zu formerly owned by KATANO Shiro.” KATANO Shiro was born in the Kishu clan’s residence in Aoyana, Edo. He was deeply involved in the earliest days of the administration of cultural properties in Japan, through working in the art department of the Imperial Museum. He was also enthusiastic about collecting antique works. The sales list and comparison with other materials revealed that the Rakan-zu was sold after the death of his father, and then was purchased by Marquis INOUE Kaoru. Furthermore, YASUNAGA pointed out that the Rakan-zu was handed down as a work of KOSE no Oumi, a painter in the Heian period, based on its composition. YASUNAGA also added some consideration on the aspect of the modern understanding of the Rakan-zu, inherited from the early modern period.
 The seminar was also held online, and Ms. UMEZAWA Megumi (Kanagawa Prefectural Kanazawa-Bunko Museum), Dr. TSUKAMOTO Maromitsu (University of Tokyo), and Dr. NISHITANI Isao (Sennyuji Temple) were invited as commentators. They gave valuable comments from their respective professional perspectives, and actively exchanged opinions during the question and answer session. Although there are still some problems related to the preservation state, the place of creation, and the age of the work, the seminar was very fruitful because, in addition to the examination of the design and expressions, various reports about how it came to Japan as well as the modern understanding of Rakan-zu were also given.

Release of “SAITO Tama’s Folklore Research Card Collection”

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage began releasing the “SAITO Tama’s Folklore Research Card Collection” on February 1st. This database is an archive of research cards created by an independent folklore researcher, SAITO Tama (1936–2017).
 Ms. SAITO Tama began traveling and traversing fields all over Japan in the 1970s. She visited at least 2,500 areas from Hokkaido to Okinawa to conduct folk research. The research covers a wide range of genres such as plants, animals, spells, play, words, annual events, and life rituals. The total number of research cards that summarize the interviews is about 47,000. All of them are characterized by targeting often overlooked folklore that is closely linked with people’s daily life. Regrettably, there are many folklore cases that have been lost today.
 These cards were originally kept by Ronsosha, which publishes many books written by Ms. SAITO. In 2017, they were entrusted to Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties through Ms. IWAKI Koyomi, a folklore scholar who has been studying Ms. SAITO. (For more details, please refer to “Document: Research Cards by Saito Tama” by KARINO Moe, published in Volume 12 of “Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage”.)
 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been working on creating a system that allows us to browse the images of the cards and search through them using keywords, classifications, and place names so that we, as the next generation, can make full use of her valuable work. Thanks to the kindness of the bereaved family, we have made it possible to publish some of the achievements. We are still working on organizing the cards and plan to add and update the contents around the 15th of every month.
 Each piece of information on the research card is trivial and small. However, the world that can be perceived when observing them together is extremely rich. We hope that the release of this archive will once again shed light on Ms. SAITO’s achievements and also deepen the understanding of the reality in the abundant world of folklore.

The 2nd Meeting of Tumulus Mural Preservation Project Team in FY2020 Held Online

 On February 16th, 2021, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties and the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties held a meeting of the Tumulus Mural Preservation Project Team. The Tumulus Mural Preservation Project is aimed at the permanent preservation of Takamatsuzuka Tumulus Mural and Kitora Tumulus Mural, both of which are national treasures. The two Institutes have been taking the lead in promoting the project for many years. Currently four teams, namely the conservation and utilization team, the restoration team, the material research team, and the biological environment team are conducting research, respectively. Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, and the Agency for Cultural Affairs held the 2nd meeting online as the state of emergency had been declared to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
 At the meeting, one team explained the creation of a 3D reconstruction model of the excavation and research areas of the tumuli. Other teams reported on the condition of the murals and non-contact optical analysis of the murals. The last team discussed the results of monitoring for microorganisms and the temperature and humidity at the preservation and management facility for Kitora Tumulus Mural as well as at the temporary repair facility for Takamatsuzuka Tumulus Mural. Careful discussion took place based on these reports. The reports consolidated at the meeting were made public at the 28th meeting of the Review Committee on the Preservation and Utilization of Tumulus Mural on March 23rd, 2021. Committee members gave suggestions and advice regarding the direction of future research and activities.
 The handouts and minutes of the meeting are posted on the Agency for Cultural Affairs website. If you are interested, please see the link below.

 The repair of Takamatsuzuka Tumulus Mural was completed by the end of FY2019. The installation of a new facility that is suitable for public viewing has been under discussion. There are many issues to consider such as the load on the mural and changes in the environment associated with the transfer from the temporary repair facility to a new exhibition facility. Nevertheless, the project team will verify feasibility, taking into account the research on the permanent preservation of both murals conducted so far.

Regarding the Materials Related to UENO Naoteru — the 7th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

UENO Naoteru (left) and KO Yu-seop (early 1930s)
Complete Works of KO Yu-seop 3 (Discussion on the aesthetics of Korean art history) (Seoul, Institute of Eastern Culture, 1993) quote from the illustrations in the volume of illustrations
Scene from the seminar

 UENO Naoteru (1882-1973) successively held important posts such as the Director of Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts and the President of Tokyo University of the Arts. He made huge contributions to the art world in a variety of ways such as teaching at universities, running museums such as art museums and protecting cultural assets, in addition to his research activities as an aesthetic and art historian. After the death of his second daughter UENO Aki (1922-2014), who was a researcher emeritus of the Institute, the materials related to Naoteru were donated to Tokyo University of the Arts, and they are currently managed by the Geidai Archives Center of Modern Art of the university.
 At the seminar of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information System held on January 28th, Ms. ONISHI Junko (part-time lecturer at the Faculty of Cross-Cultural and Japanese Studies of Kanagawa University) and Mr. TASHIRO Yuichiro (curator at The Gotoh Museum), who have organized and researched the materials related to UENO Naoteru, each gave a presentation. Until the last fiscal year, Ms. ONISH worked in the Educational Materials Office, the predecessor organization of the abovementioned center, and her presentation titled “About the materials related to UENO Naoteru: A focus on the relationship with Japanese art history” provided an overview of the materials and presented the broad nature of Naoteru’s personal network as revealed through these materials. Also, Mr. TASHIRO’s presentation titled “Handwritten scripts of KO Yu-seop found in the materials related to UENO Naoteru” introduced the letters and handwritten scripts of KO Yu-seop (1905-1944), who is currently called the father of art history research in South Korea. UENO Naoteru was a professor at Keijo Imperial University from the last year of the Taisho era to the first year of Showa era, and KO Yu-seop studied under UENO while studying at the university. The materials introduced showed the exchanges between the two men and the early period of archaeology and art history research in South Korea. In particular, the presentation by Mr. TASHIRO indicated that the materials related to UENO Naoteru were important for tracking the development process of stone monument research into which KO Yu-seop put great effort.
 Because a state of emergency was declared in response to the spread of COVID-19, the current seminar was held for the first time both in person and online. Researchers living in remote locations, including South Korea, were able to participate in the seminar, and the merits of holding a seminar online were realized.

Opening the Artworks on Japanese Auction Catalogues on TOBUNKEN Research Collections to the Public

Search screen of the auction artworks database

 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been working jointly with Tokyo Art Club to create a digital copies of the auction catalogue (art catalogue) (visit to see the monthly report for April 2015). The result was initially made available from May 2019 only at the Library as Auction Catalogue Digital Archive (visit
to see the monthly report for April 2019). Starting from January 15th, 2021, part of the text data of the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive is now available on the website within the Artworks on Japanese Auction Catalogues page on TOBUNKEN Research Collections (
 The Artworks on Japanese Auction Catalogues makes public the text data of about 337,000 items listed in 2,328 catalogues issued prior to the end of World War II out of a total of 2,565 catalogues owned by TOBUNKEN. It is basically a database of text data from the artwork with pictures. The images of the items are not available, but searches can be done on the abundant text data included in the auction catalogue and are expected to be used for a variety of purposes.
 The TOBUNKEN Library was normally open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, but from the standpoint of preventing the spread of COVID-19, the Library schedule was changed to Wednesdays and Fridays only for visitors with advance reservations from June 10th, 2020. Furthermore, following the state of emergency declaration on January 7th, 2021, the Library is now open only on Fridays since January 15th. Under these circumstances, the number of people who can use the Library is limited, resulting in increased needs for open access to the data. Going forward, we ask you to use both the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive for viewing images and Artworks on Japanese Auction Catalogues for text data accessible from all over the world in accordance with the purposes.

First Recording of the Live Performance of “Odoriji (Tokiwazu-bushi)

Performance of Tokiwazu-bushi (from left to right: TOKIWAZU Hidemidayu, TOKIWAZU Kikumidayu, TOKIWAZU Kanetayu, TOKIWAZU Mojibei, KISHIZAWA Shikimatu, and KISHIZAWA Shikiharu)
Performance by hayashikata (hayashi ensemble) (from right to left: KATADA Kiyo, KATADA Kiyomi, and UMEYA Tomoe)
Performance by hayashikata (from left to right: KATADA Masahiro and KATADA Takashi)
Performance by hayashikata (HOUSEI Chiharu)

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage recorded a live performance (audio recording) of “Odoriji (Tokiwazu-bushi)” at the Performing Arts Studio of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties on January 29th, 2021. This recording aims at producing an audio recording of kikyoku (rarely performed tunes) “Hidakagawa Mitsuomote (Hidaka River three masks)” and “Tojin (foreign lady)” and preserving it as a joint project co-organized by the Executive Committee for recording Tokiwazu-bushi Hidakagawa Mitsuomote and Tojin and the institute.
 Both tunes that were recorded this time are odoriji, which are performed as accompaniment for dancing, and as the dance pieces came to be rarely performed, the music pieces were practically no longer performed. Although how they were created is not well known, there are hardly any practice books left that appear to have been published in the period spanning the end of the samurai period to the Meiji period (all books are published by Tamasawaya Shinshichi) and a film of performance by “Kikujuro no kai” (30th anniversary of the master registration) (held by a private individual). The practice books revealed that the dance pieces were choreographed by NISHIKAWA Koizaburo I (head of Nagoya Nishikawa School). This time, based on these materials, the performances were reproduced and performed.
 In “Hidakagawa Mitsuomote,” a butterfly vendor performs three roles, i.e., a priest Anchin, Kiyohime (Prince Kiyo), and a shoke (young priest in training) while changing from one mask to another. As the title “Hidakagawa” suggests, the play is based on the Dōjōjimono, that is, tales that are taken up in Noh plays, jōruri (dramatic narrative chanted to a shamisen accompaniment), and kabuki, and this one is a witty dance piece by a vendor who plays three different characters with a sense of humor. Furthermore, part of the Japanese song “Choucho (butterfly)” based on a German folk song with the Japanese lyrics “choucho, choucho, nanoha ni tomare, nanohani aitara, sakurani asobe” is used as a verse, which is interesting.
 “Tojin” is a play made up of Chinese-style music and a dance full of exoticism. It begins with music created from taiko drums and sho bells called Togaku (Tang-era Chinese music) (which is not directly related to Togaku in gagaku (Japanese court music)). A man with his hair shaped in benpatsu (queue) and a woman who piled her hair high on the top of her head dance, and both of them are in Chinese-style costumes. The verses are filled with mysterious words like a spell and are pretty much kuruwa banashi (lovers’ conversation) between the two performers in a comical atmosphere.
 The performers were TOKIWAZU Kanetayu (seventh generation, tategatari or first jōruri performer), TOKIWAZU Kikumidayu (wakigatari or second jōruri performer), TOKIWAZU Hidemidayu (sanmaime or third jōruri performer), TOKIWAZU Mojibei (fifth generation, tatejamisen or first shamisen player), KISHIZAWA Shikimatu (wakijamisen or second shamisen player), KISHIZAWA Shikiharu (uwajōshi or high-tone shamisen player), HOUSEI Chiharu (Japanese flute), KATADA Kiyo (kotsuzumi or small hand drum), KATADA Kiyomi (ōtsuzumi or knee drum), UMEYA Tomoe (taiko or drum), KATADA Masahiro (ōdaiko or big drum), and KATADA Takashi (bell).
 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continue to record plays that get few occasions to be performed and invaluable live performances of an exhaustive list of plays, and carry out joint projects like this as the opportunity arises. The records will be used in Japanese dance performances by the Executive Committee and can be listened as research material at the institute.
 For your information, the recording was carried out in which all performers used masks, similar to those used on the stage of kabuki to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Seminar on Documentation and Database Compilation of Cultural Properties – Session 1: Digital Image Basics – the Series on “Digital Image Compression from the Basics of Images to Moving Images”

Lecture on digital image formats by Dr. Imaizumi

 The documentation of cultural properties is indispensable for acquiring information about cultural properties such as their materials, forms, and colors, and for utilizing the collected information for research activities and preservation/restoration planning. The Cultural Properties Information Section of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems is responsible for communicating information about database compilation necessary for cultural property photographing in the course of documentation as well as data management/utilization. As part of the communication strategy, we held the seminar named in the title above in a seminar room at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties on December 23rd, 2020 (COVID-19 infection control measures were taken).
 We are scheduled to hold three sessions in total in the series on “Digital Image Compression from the Basics of Images to Moving Images,” and the program designed for participants to learn the basics about image compression was offered at the first session. As the first speaker, Dr. IMAIZUMI Shoko, Associate Professor of Graduate School of Engineering, Chiba University explained about the characteristics of digital images such as differences from analog images, file properties, and the amount of information that changes depending on the resolution. Her lecture was followed by a talk by Mr. SHIRONO Seiji, an artificer of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems which mainly discussed how to control light and color when taking a digital photo such as the spectral feature that varies depending on the light source, and the light sources and their appropriate placement for photographing cultural properties.
 Currently, compressed image formats such as JPEG and MPEG-4 are commonly used around the world. However, when planning to photograph cultural properties or saving images in files, one may wonder which information will be lost due to image compression, or if everything will really be okay as long as images are saved in TIFF or RAW formats.
Through the seminars in this series, we will continue to communicate the information that will be useful for you to document and preserve cultural properties using imaging technologies and disseminate information about them.

Discussion on Issues Concerning Preservation of Outdoor Sculptures – Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

Scene of the seminar

 On December 21st, 2020, YASHIRO Kyoko, an associate fellow of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems presented her research findings under the title: “Report and Consideration on the Preservation of Art Works Including Outdoor Sculptures That Are Not Recognized as ‘Cultural Properties’ – Aiming to Hold a Symposium”
 Outdoor sculptures can be easily found in public spaces across Japan. Each of them is an important and irreplaceable asset for the community that owns it. However, many of these outdoor sculptures are in a state of neglect due to lack of maintenance, and to make matters worse, some have been removed for good for safety reasons in recent years. Generally speaking, outdoor sculptures are not recognized as “cultural properties.” Therefore, there is no appropriate preservation system in place for them.
 With an aim to solve such problems, the speaker talked about some actual cases and raised issues about the preservation of outdoor sculptures to discuss with participants at this seminar. Also, Dr. TANAKA Shuji, Professor of Oita University, and Mr. SHINOHARA Satoshi, Associate Professor of Tokai University, both of whom have been involved in the maintenance of outdoor sculptures in their communities for many years participated in the seminar as guest speakers this time and talked about the challenges faced by those engaged in preservation work.
 The issues regarding the preservation of outdoor sculptures are entangled with other issues in a wide range of fields such as public administration, education, and history. Therefore, it is not easy to come up with a solution. We are currently discussing the possibility to hold a symposium going forward for the purpose of sharing information and exploring possible solutions for this matter.

First Performance Recording of Tokiwazu-bushi

Scene of Performance Recording of Tokiwazu-bushi (From left to right: Tokiwazu Hidemidayu, Tokiwazu Kikumidayu, Tokiwazu Kanetayu, Tokiwazu Mojibei, Kishizawa Shikimatu, Kishizawa Shikiharu)

 On December 25th, 2020, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage made the first sound recording of Tokiwazu-bushi in the Performing Arts Studio of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.
 Tokiwazu-bushi, an important intangible cultural property of Japan, was created by Tokiwazu Mojitayu in 1747 in Edo. Its rhythm and pace do not change drastically, and it has a moderate depth. Tokiwazu-bushi has been handed down to the present day in connection with Kabuki and Nihon Buyo. Joruri (the voice part) has a good balance of lines and “fushi or bushi” (lines with the melody), and the shamisen part is played on a chuzao-shamisen with a bachi (plectrum), which has a large hiraki (the tip of the plectrum) that imparts a moderate depth to the sound. Another characteristic of Tokiwazu-bushi is that it has a diverse repertoire, including Danmono (works derived from Gidayu-bushi), those based on Noh Kyogen, Shinju-michiyuki, and works with a comical flavor.
 In this session, the entire classical piece “Shinobiyoru Koi wa Kusemono: Masakado” was recorded. Although this is one of the most popular pieces of Tokiwazu-bushi, it is rarely performed in its entirety these days. It is a large piece that takes about 40 minutes to perform, with a clear structure consisting of “Oki” (the part before the appearance of the characters), “Michiyuki” (the appearance of the characters), “Kudoki” (expression of passion), “Monogatari” (narration of the story of the battle), “Kuruwa-banashi” (the red-light district story), “Odoriji” (showpiece of the dance), “Miarawashi” (revelation of the character’s true identity), and “Dankire” (the finale). When performed with the typical characteristics of music, each part of the piece stands out. The performers are the seventh Tokiwazu Kanetayu (the first performer), Tokiwazu Kikumidayu (the second performer), Tokiwazu Hidemidayu (the third performer), the fifth Tokiwazu Mojibei (the first shamisen), Kishizawa Shikimatsu (the second shamisen), and Kishizawa Shikiharu (Uwajoshi, high-pitched melody).
 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage plans to continue to record pieces that are rarely performed as well as valuable full-length performances.
 In keeping with the norms of social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, masks used in Kabuki performances were worn during the recording.

Exhibition: “The Shapes of Mi Japanese Winnowing Baskets ― Japanese Wisdom for Living with Nature”

Exhibits at the Gallery Walk
Fuku-Mi (lucky winnowing baskets) of the Toka Ebisu Festival at Nishinomiya Shrine (Hyogo Prefecture)

 An exhibition titled “The Shapes of Mi Winnowing Baskets ― Japanese Wisdom for Living with Nature” is being held from December 2nd, 2020, to January 28th, 2021, at Gallery Walk on the third floor of the Shiodome Media Tower, the headquarters of Kyodo News. (The exhibition is organized by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage; co-organized by the Graduate School of Engineering, Chiba University and the Gangoji Institute for Research of Cultural Property, and supervised by the Workshop on Winnowing Baskets.)
 Mi (or winnowing) baskets are common, indispensable tools for winnowing rice and other grains. However, the numbers of both users and makers of mi baskets have been declining since the period of high economic growth. The government has made efforts to conserve its weaving techniques by designating three techniques as important intangible folk cultural properties (folk techniques).
 Mi baskets are made of natural materials such as wood, bark, and bamboo. While regular hand-woven baskets are made with one or two types of natural materials, mi baskets are made using four or five types of materials, which makes the technique of weaving mi baskets more complicated and sophisticated. Therefore, the technique is said to be the culmination of weaving techniques. Furthermore, various shapes have been created by reflecting the vegetation of specific regions.
 This exhibition introduces the materials and techniques used for making mi baskets through fourteen panels, focusing on the high level of skill and knowledge in the use of natural materials that have been condensed into the form of a mi basket.
 In conjunction with the exhibition, a webpage has also been launched, displaying a number of videos documenting the production techniques of mi baskets ( mi). This webpage will remain open to the public even after the end of the exhibition for you to visit.
(Admission free/Open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays.)

The 15th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties

Video viewing page of the Conference

 The 15th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties was held online based on the theme “Intangible Folk Cultural Properties amid the COVID-19 pandemic.” The video of this event was available for viewing from December 25th, 2020 to January 31st, 2021.
 As the impact of COVID-19 continues, festivals and gatherings that may attract huge crowds are forced to be canceled or scaled back. These restrictions have prevented the successors of intangible folk cultural properties from conducting their activities as usual.
 Considering the situation, an online meeting was held to explore ways of preserving and utilizing intangible folk cultural properties amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Three staff from our Institute, three from the local government and museums, and five successors of intangible folk cultural properties from various regions attended the meeting. They presented videos on the current situation and issues in their respective fields and regions, and on practices that had been newly introduced amid the pandemic. Examples of these practices include infection-control measures, online streaming, and crowdfunding. Following the presentation, KUBOTA Hiromichi from the Institute and the five successors had a general discussion and engaged in a lively debate on whether it is possible to continue or resume festivals amid or post COVID-19. They also discussed the necessary measures to be taken if they would hold festivals
 A full report of the conference will be published in March 2021; this will also be available on the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage on a later date.

Online Observations of the Fifteenth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee on the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO

 The Fifteenth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee on the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO was held from December 14th to 19th, 2020. It was originally to be held in Jamaica but owing to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting of the Committee was held using a fully online modality. The secretariat was at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris; however States Parties as well as the committee member states, including Jamaica, the Chair, participated in the online meeting from their respective locations. The meetings were broadcasted in real time on the UNESCO website, and two researchers from our Institute observed the proceedings.
 The number of agenda items to be discussed was kept to a minimum because it was online, and the session was scheduled from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm local time in Paris (9:30 pm to 0:30 am Japan time) each day. In spite of these constraints, three elements were inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding (Urgent Safeguarding List), and 29 elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (Representative List). Further, three programmes were added to the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices. In addition, one of the elements added to the Urgent Safeguarding List has been approved for international assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund.
 Among them, “Traditional skills, techniques and knowledge for the conservation and transmission of wooden architecture in Japan” was added to the Representative List. This element includes 17 conservation techniques selected by the government. They are “building repair,” “building woodwork,” “roofing with Japanese cypress bark or with wood shingles,” “thatching,” “cypress bark harvesting,” “roof panel production,” “thatch harvesting,” “building decoration,” “building coloring,” “building lacquer painting,” “clay tile roofing (using both round and square tiles),” “plastering (Japanese walls),” “fittings production,” “tatami mat production,” “repair and conservation skills for paintings and calligraphies,” “Japanese lacquer production and refinement,” and “gold leaf production.” Until now, most of the elements nominated by Japan and successfully inscribed on the List are nationally important intangible cultural properties and intangible folk cultural properties. However, the set of nationally selected conservation techniques was inscribed for the first time. Japan is famous for its many great historical wooden structures that have been handed down in good condition to the present generation by the skilled craftsmen and technicians who repaired and maintained them in excellent condition. Therefore, the inscription of traditional building techniques is also significant because it highlights the work of those artisans working “behind the scenes.” It is also an example of the relationship between tangible and intangible cultural heritages, which has received international acclaim.
 Nominations from other States Parties that were newly added to the Representative List include “Hawker culture in Singapore, Community Dining and Culinary Practices in a Multicultural Urban Context” (Singapore), which refers to the popular street food culture in Singapore, and “Taijiquan” (China), which has many enthusiasts in Japan. A large number of nominations for elements related to lifestyle and culture, such as these mentioned above, was one of the international trends. In addition, “Craft techniques and customary practices of cathedral workshops, or Bauhütten, in Europe, know-how, transmission, development of knowledge and innovation” (Germany, Austria, France, Norway, Switzerland) were selected for being registered as Good Safeguarding Practices. These practices are related to Bauhütten, a cooperative of artists and artisans involved in the construction and repair of cathedrals. It is similar to the traditional building techniques nominated by Japan. However, what is interesting is that while Japan nominated them to the Representative List, Europeans proposed inclusion of these techniques to the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices as an example of heritage conservation activities, showing the difference in approaches.
 As Jamaica was the chair country of the session, reggae music, which had been added to the Representative List in 2018, was played in the background of the online broadcast. Unfortunately, there was no scope to experience live reggae music in Jamaica. However, we would like to express our respect to Jamaica, the Chair, as well as the staff of UNESCO, the secretariat, for successfully completing the first online committee session.

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