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

About the Yakushi Triad Enshrined in the Kondo of the Yakushiji Temple – The 6th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

The author at the seminar.

 The origin of the Yakushi Triad (consisting of Yakushi Nyorai, the Healing Buddha, flanked by two attendants, the Bbodhisattvas Nikko and Gakko) enshrined in the Kondo (Main Hall) of the Yakushiji Temple in Nara remains uncertain. Opinions are divided as to whether it was made at the end of the 7th century or the beginning of the 8th century. To this end, it cannot be said that the issue of the background of the construction, such as how an example that shows excellent formality such as this statue was realized in Japan at the time, was not sufficiently examined.
 In this regard, as an associate fellow of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems, I conducted a presentation titled “About the Yakushi Triad Enshrined in the Kondo of the Yakushiji Temple: A View from the Relationship between Yakushiji Temple and the Shitennoji Temples in Gyeongju, South Korea on November 28, 2023.”
 The Yakushiji Triad has attracted attention not only for its realistic physical expressions, but also for the various patterns on the box-shaped pedestal on which the central statue sits. This presentation focused on the deformed figures with curly hair and fangs, and on the similarity with demonic figures attached to the Wall Tile with the Guardian Deity Motif Covered in Green-glaze from the site of the Shitennoji Temple in Gyeongju, South Korea. Since the Shitennoji Temple was founded at the end of the 7th century, I assumed that the Yakushiji Triad was also produced at the end of the 7th century, and examined the background of the creation of the Yakushiji Triad by examining the relationship between the temples of Silla, a former kingdom within present-day Korea and Yakushiji in the same period.
 The seminar was held in a hybrid on-site/online format. Experts on the history of Buddhist art from outside the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) also participated. They pointed out the need for further comparison with other objects of the same age. In the future, I would like to take a broader perspective and deepen my consideration of what concepts the pedestal was based on.

The 17th Public Lecture Held by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage: Exploring the Charms of Miyazono-bushi

Ms. MIAYAZONO Senroku (round table talk) 
Ms. MIYAZONO Senkazuya (round table talk)
Short talk about shamisen by Mr. TAKEUCHI Yasuo
Exhibition of kendai (book holder), shamisen, and materials.

 The 17th Public Lecture Held by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage: Exploring the Charms of Miyazono-bushi was held on November 22, 2023 in the seminar room and the lobby on the first basement floor of TOBUNKEN.

 The first half of the lecture began with an explanation of the purpose of this lecture by Ms. MAEHARA Megumi, the head of Intangible Cultural Properties Section, Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Presentations were then conducted with audio and video documentations by Mr. FURUKAWA Ryota (doctoral student, the University of Tokyo); Ms. HANDO Aya (Shokei-kan, Historical Materials Hall for the Wounded and Sick Retired Soldiers); Mr. IIJIMA Mitsuru, Senior Fellow of the Department, Dr. KAMATA Sayumi, Researcher of the Department, and Ms. MAEHARA.

 In the latter half of the lecture, a round-table-talk titled Talk with Ms. MIYAZONO Senroku and Ms. MIYAZONO Senkazuya was held. Both are individuals certified as Holders of Important Intangible Cultural Property. Ms. MIYAZONO Senroku and Ms. MIYAZONO Senkazuya talked about the characteristics of Miyazono bushi, and presented some episodes on how to learn it, and about the relationship of this genre with other types of hogaku (Japanese traditional music) genres. In addition, they answered pre-submitted questions from the participants. After that, an excerpt from the Live Performance recording of Miyazono bushi play, “Yugiri” was screened.

 In this lecture, several attempts were made to help the audience to understand Miyazono-bushi from several perspectives: through hands-on experience of Miyazono bushi Shamisen; a short explanation by Mr. TAKEUCHI Yasuo, shamisen craftsman; a small exhibition of materials and musical instruments borrowed from General Incorporated Foundations Kokyoku-kai, Ms. MIYAZONO Senroku, and Ms. MIYAZONO Senkazuya, and related materials owned by TOBUNKEN; and a poster exhibition of the Live Performance recordings of Miyazono bushi, which TOBUNKEN is currently working on.

 A questionnaire survey conducted after the lecture made us realize that this lecture became a meeting point for the traditional performing arts, based on answers such as “it is the first time to know TOBUNKEN,” and “it is the first time to listen to Miyazono bushi.”
We at the Department will continue our efforts to spread the charms of intangible cultural properties with the latest research outcomes. An edited video recording of this lecture will be broadcasted during a limited period. A report will be published both in paper and digital (pdf) formats in FY 2024, including each presentation and material introduction.

Video Recordings of Intangible Traditional Culture Donated by the POLA Foundation of Japanese Culture Are Now Viewable at the TOBUNKEN Library

Booth for video watching in the TOBUNKEN Library
Video recordings donated by the POLA Foundation of Japanese Culture

 Video recordings of intangible traditional culture produced by the POLA Foundation of Japanese Culture were donated and became available at the TOBUNKEN Library from December, 2023. The POLA Foundation produced three series of video recordings: “Masters of Traditional Craftsmanship,” “The Sophistication of Traditional Performing Arts,” and “The Heart of Folk Entertainment.” ( (Japanese only))

 Below is a list of the 26 titles donated in FY 2023.

1. Utilizing Lacquer in the Current Life – AKAJI, Yusai, Magewa Zukuri (hoop-built technique)
2. Women Weaving Bashōfu – Cooperative Handwork
3. Niino Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival) – Festivals with Gods and Villagers
4. Shujo Onie Festival in Kunisaki – a Night When Oni (Devils) Visit
5. Osauchi (weaving) – OGAWA Zenzaburo, Kenjo Hakata Ori
6. Hammer Forming, SEKIYA Shiro – Making Tomorrow
7. Full of GOSU – the world of KONDO Yuzo
8. The World of Beauty – SERIZAWA Keisuke , textile designer
9. MIYAKE Tokuro, Kyōgen performer
10. Nagahama Hikiyama Festival, Lake Biwa
11. Topography of a Local Windup Doll – Toro Doll of Yame Fukushima
12. The Moon and Big Tug of War
13. Chichibu no Yomatsuri (Chichibu Night Festival) – Voice of Mountains
14. Wajima Nuri, Important Intangible Cultural Properties
15. Zeami’s Noh
16. Furukawa Festival in Hida – Night with Drums
17. Like dancing, Like Flying – Flower Festival in Oku Mikawa
18. Protean Lacquer – TAGUCHI Yoshikuni, the beauty of Maki-e
19. Nebuta Festival – the Summer of Tsugaru People
20. Oni in Michinoku – the Village of Oni Kenbai (Devil’s Sword Dance)
21. Wood Life Revived – Wood Craft by KAWAKITA Ryozo
22. Shino Ware – SUZUKI Osamu
23. Living with Gods – Toya System Supporting Festivals in Japan
24. Kiraigo – the Village Where Both Oni (Devils) and Budha Live Together
25. Maki-e, MUROSE, Kazumi, the Beauty Over the Time
26. From NOMURA Mansaku to Mansai, and Yuki

 To view a video, please contact the counter of TOBUNKEN Library during opening hours. ( We plan to expand the available titles. Please refer to this page (Japanese only) for the latest information.
We hope you will visit the TOBUNKEN Library.

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

Recording scene (from left to right: TOSHA Rosen IX and TOSHA Rokou)

 On November 29th, 2023, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducted the first research recording of the Azuma school two-stringed zither nigenkin in the recording room of the Performing Art Studio of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.

 The Azuma school nigenkin is a school of the Japanese two-stringed zither, an instrument in which two silk strings are stretched over a wooden body and played with a plectrum. The school was founded in Tokyo in the early Meiji era by TOSHA Rosen I, based on the two-stringed zither yakumogoto used in Shinto rituals. It is said that the Azuma school nigenkin became quite popular in the mid-Meiji era, as a female master of the instrument appears in NATSUME Soseki’s novel I am a Cat.

 In March 1973, TOSHA Rosui (later Rosen VI) and TOSHA Rosetsu (later Rosen VII) were selected by the government as holders of ‘Intangible Cultural Properties that need measures such as making records,’ and in March 2002, TOSHA Rosen VIII was registered as a holder of Intangible Cultural Property designated by the Taito Ward. However, as there are now only a few people carrying on the tradition and only a limited number of pieces have been recorded on publicly available audiovisual material, we decided to make new research recordings.

 The first recording included six pieces: ‘Mado no tsuki (lit. The Moon at the Window),’ ‘Hototogisu (Lesser Cuckoo),’ ‘Hatsuaki (Early Autumn),’ ‘Kinuta (Fulling Block),’ ‘Shiki no En (The Beauty of the Four Seasons),’ and ‘Sumidagawa (Sumida River).’ All the pieces were composed by Rosen I and their lyrics were included in Azuma-ryū Nigenkin Shōgashū published in 1885. They are performed by TOSHA Rosen IX and TOSHA Rokou, members of Azuma-kai, the performing group of the Azuma school of two-stringed zither music.

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

Participation in the 58th Autumn Conference of the Korean Society of Conservation Science for Cultural Heritage

A presentation by a participant
Kongju National University, the venue of the event

 Mr. CHIBA Tsuyoshi, Researcher of the Center for Conservation Science, participated in the 58th Autumn Conference of the Korean Society of Conservation Science for Cultural Heritage held at Kongju National University, South Korea, on November 10-11, 2023.
 In recent years, interest in the protection of modern cultural heritage has been increasing in South Korea. At the conference, a special session entitled “Research on Establishment of Standard Specifications for Conservation Treatment of Nationally Registered Cultural Properties (Movable Property) (1st round)” (hosted by the Cultural Heritage Administration and chaired by Dr. KIM Gyu-Ho, Kongju National University) discussed what kind of systems and conservation methods should be used to protect modern cultural heritage.
 Under the title of “Overview and Examples of Modern Cultural Heritage Protection in Japan,” Mr. Chiba reported on the current status of modern cultural heritage protection in the Japanese cultural property protection system, and outlined the characteristics of modern cultural heritage and the technical, theoretical, and institutional issues involved in its preservation.
 The modern era (Meiji era of Japan; late 19th to early 20th century) was a time of internationalization in many parts of the world, and in Japan, cultural heritage produced during this period often incorporates new materials and techniques brought from abroad. In addition to the diversification of materials and techniques, there are many unique aspects of modern cultural heritage, such as the “large number of industrial products,” and “many items still in use today.
 In addition to domestic research, international exchange is also important for the preservation of modern cultural heritage, which uses many common materials that transcend national borders, in contrast to traditional materials and techniques that are based on regional characteristics. We would like to continue to learn from each other’s efforts in both countries and deepen our research and exchange.

Conclusion of Agreement on Collaboration and Cooperation on Production of Raw Materials to Conserve Cultural Properties with Shibetu Town, Hokkaido Prefecture

Mr. Saito and Mr. Yamaguchi at the agreement signing ceremony
An exhibition on noriutsugi with panels and a documentary movie

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) and the government council of Shibetsu Town, Hokkaido Prefecture, concluded an agreement on collaboration and cooperation, and conducted a conclusion ceremony on November 2, 2023. Though production of noriutsugi* was almost lost, the people of Shibetsu Town is now working on its revival, as an official town project. This agreement is aims to promote discussion on appropriate ways to preserve and store produced noriutsugi; interaction for scientific identification of the characteristics of neri (dispersant) extracted from noriutsugi barks and exchange and provision of any related information. Noriutsugi is a material used in the manufacture of uda washi paper, and is essential to conserve hanging scrolls. Success of the project in Shibetsu Town will lead to a sustainable and stable supply of the material.

 Four members from TOBUNKEN, including the Director General, Mr. SAITO Takamasa, participated in the ceremony. The Mayor of Shibetsu Town, Mr. YAMAGUCHI Shougo, and Mr. SAITO each provided greeting remarks and signed the agreement.

 After the ceremonial signature, the lecture session was conducted. Dr. TATEISHI Toru, Director of the Center for Conservation Science, TOBUNKEN, conducted a lecture titled The Important Role of Shibetsu Town on Cultural Property Protection in Japan about the tight relationship between cultural property protection and Shibetsu Town, including the management of the Ichani Karikariusu Historical Site. Afterwards, Dr. HAYAKAWA Noriko, Head of the Restoration Materials Section of the center, spoke about the importance of Shibetsu Town for noriutsugi-neri production in a lecture titled Cultural Property Restoration and Noriutsugi.

 At the venue of the lectures, an exhibition related to noriutsugi and uda washi paper with related materials, panels, and documentary movies used for TOBUNKEN lobby exhibition was held. Many participants attended across the Town.

 We also visited the noriutsugi planting site before and before the ceremony. We expect that further research and exchange with the people involved at the site will lead to an outcome beneficial to cultural property restoration.

*Noriutsugi-neri, a component used as a neri (dispersant), for traditional papermaking (uda washi), has been produced by barking and extracting from wild noriutsugi plants (Hydrangea paniculate); however, it has become difficult to keep producing it in the traditional way. Therefore, an attempt to produce a sustainable supply of noriutsugi-neri product by systematically harvesting noriutsugi for barking, and scientific studies are on-going.

Architectural survey on vernacular stone masonry houses in Central Bhutan

Survey scene at an old house
A vernacular house in which rammed earth and stone masonry structures coexist.

 Since 2012, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been continuously engaged in research on vernacular houses in Bhutan, in collaboration with the Department of Culture and Dzongkha Development (DCDD), Ministry of Home Affairs, Royal Government of Bhutan. The DCDD promotes a policy of preserving and utilizing vernacular houses by integrating them into the legal protection framework of cultural heritage, while TOBUNKEN supports the initiative from academic and technical aspects.

 Following the previous survey conducted in the eastern region from April to May 2023, the second field survey mission of this year was implemented from October 29 to November 4. Four staff members of TOBUNKEN, one from Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (NABUNKEN), and two external experts were dispatched, and the team was joined by two staff members from DCDD. We jointly carried out a field survey in the two provinces of the central region, namely Bumthang and Wangdue Phodrang.

 Most of the target houses had been identified in our preparative survey conducted in 2022. Eleven houses in total, including those newly found, were investigated this time in a detailed manner that included taking measurements and interviewing the residents. Two houses among them were rammed earth houses commonly seen in the western area of the country, and six were stone masonry houses widely located in the eastern area, while both construction techniques were combined in the other three houses. Especially in the eastern part of Wangdue Phodrang province, a tendency had been observed that the rammed earth technique was exclusively used further in the past, and stone masonry has gradually become dominant over time. However, our analysis of the transitional history of each house suggests that things were not so simple, and present more complex pictures.

 On the other hand, although we had been focusing on such aspects as building type, construction technique, and transitional history of the houses, this time during the interviews we started to pay more attention to ethnographic factors such as oral traditions about houses and how each room is used. By adding information about villager’s lifestyles, which reflected on the transition and locality of the housing type, into our consideration, hopefully diverse values of the Bhutanese traditional houses as cultural heritage will become clarified.

 The survey was implemented with the financial support of a JSPS Grant-in-aid for Scientific Research (B), “Vernacular stone masonry houses of Bhutan: study on the architectural characteristics and the suitable approach for protection as cultural heritage” with TOMODA Masahiko as the principal researcher.

Field Activities for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of Ta Nei Temple in Angkor, Cambodia (Part XIV) – Excavation Survey of the Terrace on the West Embankment of the East Baray

Excavation of the Terrace on the West Embankment of the East Baray
The newly installed (left) and the existing (right) supports at hazardous spots inside the East Tower of the Central Complex

 Ta Nei Temple is located facing the East Baray, one of the huge reservoirs that used to supply water for the Angkor capital. The terrace at the eastern end of Ta Nei Temple was built on top of the West Embankment of the East Baray, being not only significant as the main entrance of the temple, but also connected to the other temples through the Embankment. However, due to the extremely poor condition of the terrace, its construction period and structural features have remained uncertain.

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has so far conducted excavation of the terrace in three periods: November 2017, March 2018, and August to October 2018, aiming to delineate the plan of the terrace and consider the intention of construction. These previous surveys revealed plans of the terrace, especially the structure of the west wing. In this term, four staff members were dispatched from November 5 to 30, 2023 to carry out archaeological and architectural studies to understand the northern and the southern sections of the terrace as well as the construction process, in cooperation with Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA).

 Although traces of the stone masonry structure at the northern and southern sections of the terrace were scarcely identified, the excavation provided some clues to enable estimation of the original construction process of the terrace based on stratigraphical analysis of the mound structure. Additionally, a structure made of stones and bricks, which appears to be the foundation of a wooden pillar, was discovered on the surface of the terrace. Those remains indicate that a wooden structure was presumably built on the terrace at a certain time of its history. A level directly below where many roof tile fragments were unearthed by this excavation is thought to be the ground surface at the time when the wooden structure was built on the terrace. The details of the structure of the terrace still have not been ascertained, requiring further investigation.

 In addition to the above-described investigation of the terrace, we conducted minor repair work on the East Gate that had been completed last year, and continued its documentation. Moreover, we installed additional supports at hazardous spots inside the East Tower of the Central Complex, and held on-site meetings to discuss future collaborative activities at the temple.

Participating in the 4th Intergovernmental Conference for the Safeguarding and the Development of Angkor

Remarks of His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia
Reporting on the conservation and sustainable development project of Ta Nei Temple

 On November 15, 2023 Ms. KUROIWA Chihiro, Associate Fellow of the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation, attended the “4th Intergovernmental Conference for the Safeguarding and the Development of Angkor” held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France.
 In 1992 following the end of the Cambodian Civil War, Angkor Monuments were inscribed on the World Heritage List, but at the same time, they were also placed on the List of World Heritage in Danger. At the first intergovernmental conference held in Tokyo in 1993, co-chaired by Japan and France and attended by 30 countries and 7 international organizations, the “Tokyo Declaration” was adopted calling for international cooperation towards safeguarding the monuments and sustainable development of the surrounding area. In the same year, the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Sites of Angkor (ICC-Angkor) was established to formulate technical guidelines and evaluate the activities of international conservation teams.  
 The Intergovernmental Conference takes place every 10 years to review and evaluate the ICC-Angkor and to discuss the policies for future conservation and sustainable development. The second conference was held in 2003 (France), the third in 2013 (Cambodia), and the fourth was held this time in Paris. In the past 30 years, numerous international projects for restoration and conservation have been implemented at the Angkor Monuments and Sambor Prei Kuk, another World Heritage Site.
 His Majesty Preah Bat Samdech Preah Boromneath Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia, H.E. Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director General of UNESCO, H.E. Ms. Rima Abdul-Malak, Minister of Culture of the French Republic, Mr. KOMURA Masahiro, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, and other international members attended the conference. During the technical session, presentations were made by teams from various countries involved in the conservation of Angkor and Sambor Prei Kuk monuments. We also reported on the collaboration with APSARA for the conservation and sustainable development of Ta Nei Temple.

Workshop on 3D Digital Documentation for Overseas Research: Intermediate/Advanced Course

The workshop

 3D documentation using Agisoft Metashape and iPhone Scaniverse has been rapidly introduced recently. The introduction of this technology can not only reduce the working time, but also make it possible to document cultural heritage with very high precision.

 Following a beginner course held in July, the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation arranged an intermediate/advanced course on 3D digital documentation for experts who are working abroad, held on November 26 2023. Dr. NOGUCHI Atsushi from Komatsu University was invited as the lecturer. The main aim of this workshop was for the Japanese experts to learn 3D documentation and then to spread their knowledge among foreign experts.

 In total, 18 specialists with a variety of backgrounds such as archaeology, conservation science, and conservation architecture joined this workshop and studied how to make orthographic projections, cross-sections, contour maps, and tiered color maps from 3D models using Cloud Compare.

Research study on the conservation and restoration of trowel paintings on the earthen storehouse of the former Kina-Saffron-shu-Honpo

Cleaning of adhering materials
Treatment of detached finish layers

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been conducting research and surveys investigating stucco decorations since fiscal year 2021 as part of the “International Research on Technology for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage” program.
 From October 25 to November 16, 2023, a research survey on the conservation and restoration of trowel paintings on doors and under eaves of the earthen storehouse of the former Kina-Saffron-Shu-Honpo in Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture was conducted. This work was carried out as part of the “Conservation and restoration research of trowel paintings in the earthen storehouse of the former Kina-Saffron-Shu-Honpo” commissioned by Nagaoka City, with the aim of establishing conservation and restoration methods for trowel paintings in Japan from the perspective of cultural property conservation studies.
 In recent years, the value of trowel painting in Japan as a cultural asset has been increasing, and the importance of an intervention method called “conservation and restoration” that can be advanced with clear evidence that it is compatible with existing materials is therefore also increasing. In this research study, conservation and restoration experts on stucco decoration were invited from Europe to discuss how to deal with the various types of damage found on trowel paintings. As a result, we were able to establish appropriate conservation and restoration methods for the removal of dust and other adherents and for damaged areas such as peeling and flaking, and achieved a certain level of success.
 In the future, the state of the wall paintings after conservation and restoration will be monitored, and methods for reinforcing the plaster, which has deteriorated over time, will be studied further.

The 57th Public Lecture: Look at Form, Read Form

Lecture by Ms.HARUKI Shoko
Lecture by Mr. OKAMURA Yukinori

 The “Public Lectures” organized by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems, are held every autumn and present the research outcomes of the researchers to the public. From 2020 to 2022, to prevent the spread of the COVID-19, the lectures were held on a small scale with limited audiences and presented only by internal researchers on a single day. However, this year the lectures returned to the program design of four years ago, with external lecturers invited and the lectures held for two days.
 On the first day, October 20, 2023, lectures titled Nishinoto’in Tokiyoshi’s garden: a study of the Hasegawa school’s wisteria screens by Ms. ONO Mayumi (Head, Japanese and East Asian Art History Section of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems) and Wish to protect the nation in the Ishūretsuzō depictions of Ainu chieftains by Ms.HARUKI Shoko (Curator, Tokyo Metropolitan Edo-Tokyo Museum) were presented, demonstrating the latest knowledge and interpretations of Edo period paintings.
 On the second day, October 21, the lectures were How to preserve and utilize art gallery materials, presented by Mr.KIKKAWA Hideki (Head, Archives Section of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems) and Connecting the history of Hiroshima Panels to the future, presented by Mr. OKAMURA Yukinori(Curator, Managing Director of Maruki Gallery for the Hiroshima Panels). These lectures provided concrete examples of how modern and contemporary materials and works should be passed down.
 There were 139 participants from the public on both days. As a result of a survey of the audience, 86% of the respondents answered that they were “very satisfied” or “generally satisfied.”

International Cooperation on Safeguarding Living Heritage in Sudan

UNESCO Experts Meeting in Cairo, September 2023

 Since 2022, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been conducting research exchanges on the safeguarding of living heritage with the National Ethnographic Museum of the Republic of Sudan, as part of a research project called ”Heritage studies for realization of cultural diversity and peacebuilding in post-conflict countries,” funded by a Grant-in-Aid for Challenging Research (Exploratory), the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Principal Investigator: Dr. ISHIMURA Tomo, Director of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage, TOBUNKEN; Co-Investigator: Dr. SHIMIZU Nobuhiro, Associate Professor, Faculty of Engineering, Hokkai Gakuen University; Collaborate Investigator: Ms. SEKIHIRO Naoyo, Instructor, Kyoto City Archaeological Research Institute).
 Sudan has been in political turmoil for many years, due to civil war and dictatorship; however, the dictatorship that had lasted for thirty years recently collapsed, an interim democratic government was established, and the country has since been rebuilding. Under these circumstances, the significance of cultural heritage as an expression of Sudan’s history and cultural diversity, in particular, living heritage, including intangible cultural heritage, is receiving increasing attention.
 In May 2023, we planned to invite Dr. Amani Noureldaim, Director, and Mr. Elnzeer Tirab, Deputy Director of the National Ethnographic Museum to Japan to sign a memorandum of understanding on joint research with TOBUNKEN. However, on April 15, 2023, a clash occurred between the Sudanese National Army and the Rapid Reaction Support Force (RSF), a paramilitary organization, and Sudan was placed in an armed conflict. As a result, the invitation scheduled for May was postponed at the last minute.

 Even under these difficult circumstances, Sudan’s cultural heritage stakeholders are making efforts to continue their activities to safeguard their cultural heritage. Museums in Khartoum, such as the National Ethnographic Museum and the National Museum of Sudan, have been forced to close; however, related personnel, including staff of the National Corporation of Antiquities and Museums (NCAM), have been evacuated outside of the country or to safe areas within the country while continuing operations. For example, from June 3 to 5 and July 6 to 10, emergency workshops and forums were held both face-to-face and online, mainly by people who had evacuated to Egypt, under the initiative of the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM). Project members were also invited to the meeting by Sudanese experts and participated online in some parts of the workshops.

 In response to these circumstances, we have revised the objective of this project to “safeguarding of cultural heritage in times of conflict,” and we have decided to respond to these movements as far as possible. In August, we visited the British Museum in the United Kingdom and exchanged opinions with Dr. Julie Anderson, Mr. Michael Mallinson, and Dr. Helen Mallinson, who have been involved in the protection of cultural heritage in Sudan for many years. We participated in the UNESCO conference “Expert Meeting on Living Heritage and Emergencies: Planning the Response for Safeguarding Living Heritage in Sudan,” held at the Child Museum of Cairo from September 10 to 13, where we held discussions with international experts. At the same time, at the Embassy of Japan in Sudan, which has a temporary office in Cairo, we held a meeting with the Sudanese cultural heritage personnel who had evacuated to Egypt (nine people, including Prof. Ibrahim Musa, Director of NCAM) and staff members of the Embassy and JICA, including Mr. HATTORI Takashi, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Sudan, and Mr. KUBO Eiji, Director of JICA Sudan Office, to exchange information and discuss the possibility of international cooperation with Japan on the protection of cultural heritage in Sudan.

 Currently, the security situation in Sudan is still unstable; however, those involved in cultural heritage protection who remain in Sudan are still engaged in activities to safeguard the cultural heritage in local museums and other locations. We will make every effort to keep in touch with them and continue our research exchanges.
 Additionally, a 90-day campaign titled “#OurHeritageOurSudan” has been underway since November 1, led by Mr. Michael Mallinson and Dr. Helen Mallinson from the UK. The purposes of this event are to learn about Sudan’s living heritage, to share it, and to support Sudan’s recovery and the people working for it. On the website for this campaign, the purpose of which we agree with and are cooperating with, you can view photos and videos of Sudan’s rich and diverse cultural heritage. Please take a look: [External website]

Ninth Recording of the Live Performance of “Miyazono-bushi”

Preparation for the live recording.
Live recording being filmed (from left: MIYAZONO Senyoshie, MIYAZONO Senroku, MIYAZONO Senkazuya, and MIYAZONO Senkoju).

 On October 31, 2023, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducted the ninth recording of Miyazono-bushi at the Performing Arts Studio of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN).

 Miyazono-bushi, one of the Important Intangible Cultural Properties of Japan, originated in the Kamigata (Kyoto-Osaka) area in the mid-Edo period and has since been handed down mainly in the Edo area. Today, Miyazono-bushi is collectively referred to as ‘kokyoku’ (lit. old music) along with other voice genres Icchū-bushi, Katō-bushi, and Ogie-bushi, and there are not many opportunities to hear it performed. The department has continued our attempts to record the live performances of Miyazono-bushi since 2018, archiving the target pieces in their entirety, without omission.

 For this recording, two of the ten pieces in the Miyazono-bushi repertoire classified as ‘modern pieces’ were selected: “Sonoo no Haru” (Garden Spring) and “Wankyū.” The former was composed in 1888 to commemorate the official recognition of the Miyazono-bushi genre by the Meiji Government in 1884 and includes flamboyant kaede (another melody played in coordination with the basic melody) in the shamisen part, which is unusual for Miyazono-bushi compositions. The latter is a more recent work, composed in 1949. It tells the tragic love story between Wanya Kyūbē (also known as ‘Wankyū’), a wealthy merchant in the Osaka Shinmachi area, and Matsuyama, a courtesan in Shinmachi, and depicts a scene in which Wankyū falls into insanity. The roles were performed by MIYAZONO Senroku (lead jōruri voice performer: an individual certified as a Holder of Important Intangible Cultural Property or what is called a “Living National Treasure”), MIYAZONO Senyoshie (supporting jōruri voice performer), MIYAZONO Senkazuya (lead shamisen player: an individual certified as a Holder of Important Intangible Cultural Property, commonly called a “Living National Treasure”), and MIYAZONO Senkoju (supporting shamisen player).

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continue to make live recordings of classical and rarely performed modern pieces of Miyazono-bushi.

The 15th International Conference of the Infrared and Raman Users Group (IRUG)

IRUG group photo
A practical research workshop

 The 15th International Conference of the Infrared and Raman Users Group (IRUG) was held for the first time in Asia, at the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (“Tobunken”) from September 26 to 29, 2023, in collaboration with the Conservation Science Laboratory of Tokyo University of the Arts (“Geidai”).
 IRUG is establishing a forum for the exchange of infrared and Raman spectroscopic information and reference spectra for the study of the world’s cultural heritage. Both FT-IR and Raman spectroscopic analytical methods are very effective for determining material information when surveying cultural properties. In recent years, the investigation of cultural properties using these analytical methods has progressed, and many results have been reported.
 There were 51 oral and poster presentations at the international conference. The keynote talk, covering aspects of the theory and challenges of reflectance-mode infrared spectroscopy, was given by Dr. James A. de Haseth, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at the University of Georgia (USA). A featured workshop covering reflectance infrared spectroscopic techniques, with focus on data acquisition, processing, and interpretation, was led by Dr. Marcello Picollo (Senior Researcher at IFAC-CNR) and aided by Dr. Suzan de Groot (RCE, The Netherlands), Prof. Manfred Schreiner (Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Austria), with sponsorship and other aid from Thermo Fisher Scientific Corporation, and Bruker Corporation.
 Throughout the conference, active discussions were held on methods of analysis and conservation of cultural property materials. The Center for Conservation Science will continue to observe international trends as it works to advance our research projects.

Workshop on Restoration Treatments for Cultural Property – The Modular Cleaning Program Workshop

With participants after the opening ceremony

 The Center for Conservation Science regularly holds workshops inviting leading experts from outside of Japan, having started with Workshop on Restoration Treatments for Cultural Property – Cleaning with Gels and Emulsions in 2019.

 In FY 2023, with the invited guest Mr. Chris Stavroudis, American instructor, painting conservation expert, we cohosted a workshop with the National Center for Art Research on October 25 to 27, 2023, called “The Modular Cleaning Program Workshop.” In this program, the elements necessary for cultural property cleaning are determined using a unique system. This program is now widely used in the Western countries because of its good usability. This workshop was the first of its kind that he has lead in Asia, and attracted many participants.

 The workshop details are now available on the website of the National Center for Art Research:

Overseas Case Study on the Protection and Transmission of Contemporary Architecture II -Field Survey in European Countries-

A sample of an ACR label prepared by the Ministry of Culture for distribution (France)
Auditorium Parco della Musica, designed by Renzo Piano, considered a contemporary architectural work of "cultural properties in progress" (Italy)
Erik Christian Sørensen's own home, being preserved, renovated, and operated as a rental property (Denmark)

 The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation (JCICC) is currently undertaking a research project overseas, specifically concentrating on innovative approaches to conserving modern architectural heritage. This project is part of the “Overseas Case Study on the Protection and Transmission of Contemporary Architecture,” commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. After conducting a field survey in Taiwan in September, we extended our research to include field surveys in France, Italy, and Denmark from October 3 to 13.
 Over the past three decades in Europe, the recognition of modern and contemporary architecture as a valuable social asset has gained widespread acceptance. This was notably encouraged by the Council of Europe in 1991, which recommended that member countries adopt specific strategies to safeguard 20th-century architecture. Furthermore, the guideline on “architectural culture (baukultur)” for social development was emphasized during the meeting of European ministers responsible for culture at the 2018 World Economic Forum in Davos. Amidst these social trends, in 2017 a new law was implemented in France called the “Law on Freedom of Creation, Architecture and Heritage” (LCAP Law). This legislation incorporates the “Remarkable Contemporary Architecture” (ACR) labeling system, designed to promote the conservation and appreciation of modern architecture. In Italy, the Directorate General for Contemporary Art and Contemporary Architecture within the Ministry of Cultural Property and Cultural Activity (which is now the Directorate General for Contemporary Creativity within the Ministry of Culture) was established in 2001. Since its inception, the Directorate has consistently undertaken surveys aimed at identifying contemporary architecture with significant artistic value across the entire territory. In Denmark, while there are no specific administrative initiatives dedicated to conserving modern architectural heritage, a private philanthropic organization called “Realdania” has taken on this responsibility. Established in 2000 as an extension of a real estate financing business, Realdania is actively pursuing initiatives to safeguard Danish architectural heritage through investments. Their efforts also focus on the preservation and development of modern Nordic design masterpieces created by Danish architects.
 During this survey, we conducted visits to the French Ministry of Culture, the Italian Ministry of Culture, and Realdania, engaging in interviews to gain insights into their activities, challenges, and outlook regarding the conservation of modern architecture. The purpose was also to verify the status of the targeted modern architecture on-site. While significant efforts have been made to conserve modern architecture, it remains challenging to assert that modern architecture has fully garnered recognition and status as cultural heritage in each country. It was confirmed that these organizations are seeking new forms of conservation suitable for modern architecture through continuous dialogues with diverse stakeholders and the implementation of experimental trials of conservation and sustainable development.
 The results of this survey, along with the results from our field survey in Taiwan and a bibliographic study into the relevant legal systems in each country or region, will be consolidated into a final survey report in November 2023. This report will be open to public via the Institute’s online repository.

A Study Tour on the Utilization of AR, VR, and Digital Contents in Japanese Museums and Archaeological Sites for Bahraini Specialists

Visit to Ichijodani Archaeological Site, Fukui Prefecture

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been involved with cooperative projects to preserve the cultural heritage in Bahrain for many years. Recently, Dr. Salman Almahari, Director of Antiquities and Museums in Bahrain, and colleagues requested to study the utilization of AR, VR, and digital contents in Japanese museums and archaeological sites, because they plan to introduce them in Bahraini museums and historical sites. Therefore, Dr. Salman Almahari and Dr. Melanie Muenzner, who is in charge of the UNESCO World Heritage Inscription in Bahrain, were invited to Japan from October 10 to 15, 2023 and a study tour was arranged.
 During their stay in Japan, Japanese specialists delivered lectures on several topics, including basics of 3D documentation of cultural heritage, the utilization of AR for tourism promotion in Japan, among others. The Bahraini specialists also visited the Tokyo National Museum, Ichijodani Archaeological Site, Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, NHK and NHK Enterprises to study the latest examples of AR, VR, and digital contents such as ultra-high definition 3DCG.
 The study tour was funded by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan. As a part of the same project, we also plan to organize a workshop, “3D Digital Documentation of Cultural Heritage and Its Applications,” for Bahraini experts to take place in December 2023.

Joint Survey on a Preservation and Utilization Plan for a Historic House in Kirtipur, Nepal

The historic house under investigation in the medieval settlement of Kirtipur

 Almost 8 years have passed since the Gorkha earthquake in 2015 that caused devasting damage in Kathmandu valley. Many historic buildings are undergoing reconstruction, including those with “Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site” status. While the rehabilitation of these recognized heritage sites is being carried out with public attention, the historic buildings that are not legally protected, especially privately owned properties, are decreasing in number due to reconstruction or demolition without any recognition of their heritage value.
 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been working to support the establishment of a network for conservation of historic settlements of Kathmandu valley, in collaboration with experts and governmental officers in Nepal, since just after the Gorkha earthquake and continuously during the pandemic. This series of dialogues led us to launch a new project for the conservation of a damaged historic house in Kirtipur as a cooperative project between Kirtipur municipality and TOBUNKEN.
 Built in traditional Newar style, the target house, a historical landmark of the town, is located within the area of the World heritage tentative listing, “Medieval settlement of Kirtipur.” Although the building is currently being used for residential purpose, it is said that it used to be a part of the former royal palace complex of Kirtipur in old times. A square with a historic pond surrounded by this house and a nearby medieval temple together comprise one of the symbolic historical landmarks of the old town of Kirtipur.
 In the first joint survey, conducted from October 11 to 16, 2023 with the aim of collecting basic information on the building, the project team carried out a measurement survey, investigation on the transition of the building, and interview surveys with residents on the ownership relationship, lifestyle of residents, family history, and intentions for future utilization of the building. Further discussions will be held with related stakeholders regarding the possibilities of the future utilization of the house and issues to be solved to enable its realization.
 Many countries, including Japan, share common challenges on the conservation of historic buildings that are not legally protected. Through this project, together with Nepalese experts, we will exchange knowledge through dialogue with the aim of establishing a process for conservation and utilization of historic buildings that would be compatible with the Nepalese cultural context.

An Exhibition of Japanese Art in Rome in 1930: The 5th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

Exterior of Palazzo delle Esposizioni, where the Roman Exhibition was held.
Exhibited Japanese-style paintings at tokonoma set in the gallery.

 An Exhibition of Japanese Art held in Rome, Italy in 1930 (called the “Rome Exhibition”) can be called a “legacy,” as it influenced the following generations, while at present, exhibitions that introduce Japanese art and culture are more commonly held outside of Japan. This Rome Exhibition, held with full financial backing by Baron OKURA Kishichiro, the second president of Okura Zaibatsu (Okura conglomerate), is highly recognized by its size and uniqueness. It exhibited as many as 168 modern Japanese-style paintings, and had 16 tokonoma of various sizes, recessed spaces in Japanese-style reception rooms to show paintings in an original Japanese manner.
 At a seminar on this Rome Exhibition, held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on September 22, 2023, three researchers made presentations of the outcome of their research, which was conducted under grant by the Pola Art Foundation. Ms. TANAKA Sachiko of the Okura Museum of Art talked about Four Aspects of the Holding the Exhibition of Japanese Art in Rome in 1930, with details about the process of how the decision to hold the Rome Exhibition was made, and the involvement of the Italian contributors. Mr. YOSHII Daimon of the Yokohama History Museum presented Materials Related to the Exhibition of Japanese Art in Rome, owned by Okura Museum of Art, providing an overview of various materials, including minutes and reporting letters, held by the Okura Museum of Art. Mr. SHINOHARA, Satoshi Shinohara, of the Teaching Qualification Center and the Matsumae Commemoration Hall of Tokai University presented Japanese-style Painting Syndrome: Mainly on the works of KABURAGI Kiyokata’s Works discussing how the painters set their strategy to reach outside of Japan based on trend analysis of the painters whose works were exhibited, especially the works of KABURAGI Kiyokata.
 Because of its importance, much previous research has focused on this exhibition. The research presented in this seminar demonstrated great progress in the aspect of the discovery of related materials owned by the Okura Museum of Art. We expect further utilization of these precious materials related to the holding of the Roman Exhibition.

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