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

Performance Recording of Heike the Fourth, Resumed After Two Years

From the left: Mr. TANAKA Naoichi, Mr. KIKUO Yuji, Mr. HIYOSHI Shogo

 A Japanese traditional performing art Heike or Heike Biwa faces the crisis of not being inherited by the next generation because of the recent absence of sufficient successors. Given these circumstances, the department of intangible cultural heritage has been recording the performance since 2018, with the cooperation of the Heike Narrative Research Society, which was founded under the initiative of Prof. KOMODA Haruko, Musashino Academia Musicae, including its members comprising Mr. KIKUO Yuji, Mr. TANAKA Naoichi, and Mr. HIYOSHI Shogo. We could not make it happen last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic but managed to resume recording the performance at the Performing Arts Studio of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), on February 4th, 2022 after a two-years gap.

 Sotoba Nagashi, a traditional piece transmitted in Nagoya, was recorded. This piece, which is regarding the priest, Taira no Yasuyori, who was exiled to the Kikaijima Island, narrates the story in which Taira no Yasuyori made a thousand Sotoba (Buddhist wooden objects), and wrote two waka, Japanese poems on two sotoba. After he threw them to the sea, one of them was washed up to the seashore in the Itsukushima Shrine. It was brought to Taira no Kiyomori through other hands. He was very touched by the poem. The highlight of the piece is the part where it is told how wonderful waka is, referring to Kakinomoto Hitomaro and Yamanobe no Akato, who were the poets of Man’yōshū, an ancient collection of waka This part requires to be narrated in high voice tone. This time, it was recorded by the rengin (group reciting) comprising Mr. KIKUO, Mr. TANAKA, and Mr. HIYOSHI.

 The Heike Narrative Research Society is characterized by not only learning the traditional pieces but also reconstructing lost pieces of Heike. We will continue recording the traditional and reconstructed pieces of “Heike” to create the archives.

Raw Materials Essential to Intangible Cultural Heritage –Starting the Survey on Common Reed (Phragmites Australis) in the Riverbed from Udono to Kanmaki in Osaka

Survey on slashing and burning common reed riverbeds in Kanmaki and Udono
A Reed(mouthpiece) of hichiriki

 Raw materials of reeds (mouthpieces) of hichiriki (a Japanese flute), is common read (Phragmites Australis; Genus:Phragmites, Family:Poaceae). Especially common reeds growing on the land near the rivers and the lakes are said to be suitable for hichiriki’s reeds. Udono and Kanmaki areas of the Yodo River riverbeds in Takatsuki City, Osaka Prefecture, are well known as a production area of the good quality common reeds grown in the land. For long time, Udono Association for Common Reed Riverbeds Preservation and Kanmaki Working Union have been working to slash common reads and burn the reed riverbeds there to preserve reed riverbeds and exterminate harmful weeds and insects during every February. However, due to the unsuitable weather condition and the COVID-19 pandemic, this work could not be carried out for two consecutive years. We were concerned about the common reeds growing environment. From September 2021, the information was spread that the common reeds in that area were almost extinct.

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been engaged in the surveys on conservation techniques to transmit traditional performing arts, and the tools and raw materials for these arts. The common reeds are mandatory as raw materials to support gagaku (a Japanese classical music, which are mainly played in courts and shrines.) Therefore, we documented and studied reed riverbeds burning held on Feb 13th, 2022, first time in two years.

 They plan to improve the environment for common reeds growing under the initiative of Udono Association for Common Reeds Riverbed Conservation and Kanmaki Working Union by stripping vines which coil around and blight reeds. The department continues to closely monitor the activities as an important attempt to secure the raw materials, which are mandatory for the conservation for cultural properties.

A Seminar “Archeology and International Contribution – Archaeology and Cultural Heritage in Israel”

Program of the seminar “Archeology and International Contribution – Archaeology and Cultural Heritage in Israel”

 An online seminar was held on February 20th, 2022, centering around the conservation, restoration, maintenance, and opening of archeological sites to the public in Israel. This seminar was the first in the series of annual seminars planned for the succeeding five years. We chose Israel for the first seminar as they have a wide variety of researchers in cultural heritage, and possess well organized cultural heritage protection system.

 For the seminar, we invited two researchers from Israel Nature and Parks Authority who designate and manage the historic sites; Dr. Zeev Margalit, Architect and Director of Conservation and Development, and Dr. Dror Ben-Yosef, North District Archaeologist. Dr. Margalit took a lecture on the various challenges related to archeological site management. Dr. Ben-Yosef, in his lecture, talked about their onsite projects and how to exhibit other archaeological remains on sites known in the historical documents.

 Following the two speakers, KANSHA Hiroo from TOBUNKEN, Dr. OKADA Mayumi, associate professor, the Center for Advanced Tourism Studies (CATS) of Hokkaido University, and Dr. HASEGAWA Shuichi, professor, College of Arts, Rikkyo University, conducted the lectures. KANSHA presented an overview of the Japanese archeological surveys in Israel since 1960, and. Dr. OKADA presented a discussion on how cultural heritage management has been developed in Israel through the years. Dr. HASEGAWA conducted a lecture on the challenges related to the conservation and utilization of the heritage sites through the case studies of the archeological sites in Israel where he has been engaged in its excavation.

 In the latter half of the seminar, a panel discussion with all lecturers was held, facilitated by Dr. HASEGAWA. We all recognized that Israel and Japan have common challenges, such as the issue of what should be kept and what not through conservation and management of archeological sites, and the dilemma that people in charge of the conservation and management face through the panel discussion.

 We would like to enhance our international cooperation projects more effectively by sharing the challenges with other countries through similar seminars targeting West Asian countries.

Report on Kumano Honjibutsu Mandala and Rokudō-e of Medieval Japan– the 7th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

Presentation in the seminar
Kumano Honjibutsu Mandala owned by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (before restoration)

 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been conducting the projects to restore the Japanese artworks located outside of Japan through the Cooperative Program for the Conservation of Japanese Art Objects Overseas for a long time. Since FY2021, we started restoring the Kumano Honjibutsu Mandala and Byōbu Screens Featuring the Thirty-six Poetesses owned by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Please refer to the article on our website:

 Kumano mandala is suijaku mandala (Shintō-buddhist syncretic mandala), picturing the Shintō and Buddhist deities enshrined in Kumano Sanzan (Kumano three main shrines) in Wakayama Prefecture, and representing their own religious vision. Around 50 kumano mandala have survived both in and outside of Japan. At the 7th Seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on January 25th, 2022, MAIZAWA Rei of the department reported on the Kumano Honjibutsu Mandala owned by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and introduced its composition, design and style in detail. Several paintings are known to have the similar composition with hachiyōrenge (a design after lotus flower with eight petals) in the center and the deities inside its petals. The one owned by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is considered to have been painted in the 14th century, at the end of the Kamakura period. It is precious, because it was painted at an earlier stage than the other kumano mandala.

 Following MAIZAWA’s presentation, Dr. YAMAMOTO Satomi from Waseda University and Dr. ABE Mika from Nagoya University made presentations, respectively, titled Representation of Ashura in the Six Realms Paintings of Medieval Japan and A New Interpretation of the Six Realms Paintings in the Shōjuraikōji Temple with Rokudōshaku. The Rokudō-e(illustrations of Six Realms)owned by the Shōjuraikōji Temple in Shiga Prefecture is known as a masterpiece of the paintings describing Buddhist tales in the medieval age. It is considered to be made based on Ōjōyōshū (a Buddhist text which means ‘the essentials of rebirth in the pure land’) written by the Japanese Buddhist monk, Genshin, in 995, as a core but also on various texts and images. Dr. YAMAMOTO focused on the Ashura described on it. She pointed out that it is reflected on the image of Ashura described in battle paintings, war chronicles, as well as Rokudōshaku (preach text used in Buddhist ceremonies) made in the same period. Dr. ABE compared the contents of Rokudōshaku books with the composition and the expression of the Shōjuraikōji Temple painting in details and then suggested a possibility that this painting can be a ceremonial principal image of Nijūgozanmai, a ritual for rebirth in the pure land, paradise. Both suggested new interpretation of the foundation and history of the Shōjuraikōji Temple one. Therefore, the following Q&A session was very active.

 These three presentations will be published in the Bijutsu Kenkyu for the coming fiscal year or after.

Digital Imaging of the Manuscripts of Traditional Japanese Music Notations Transcribed by Mr. ASADA Masayuki, known as Asada-fu

Asada-fu manuscripts, organized by piece.

 The music notations, transcribed by Mr. ASADA Masayuki (1900-1979), are widely known as a source for describing the melodies of voice (jōruri or uta) and shamisen accompaniment in shamisen music. His notations span a variety of genres, primarily Kiyomoto-bushi, but also Icchū-bushi, and Miyazono-bushi, among others. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been organizing and preserving the valuable manuscripts, which were collectively donated by the bereaved families when the department was known as the Department of Performing Arts. The outline of the material is reported as “Scores of Japanese Music Transcribed by ASADA Masayuki” [in Japanese] in Vol. 5 of “Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage.”

 The bound versions of Asada-fu (copied and bound from the original manuscripts) are held by various institutions and are available for viewing. In addition, we have been working on digital imaging of the manuscripts, which have only remained at the Institute to ensure their availability for long-term use. We have recently completed the digital imaging of the manuscript of Kiyomoto-bushi genre.

 Documenting intangible cultural properties based on oral/aural traditions, especially vocal music with various verses, remains a difficult task. This was even more so in the period when Asada-fu was created, that is before technological developments made it easier to record sound and edit images. From the manuscript, two types of traceable revisions were found: manuscripts revised by cutting and pasting of papers and those rewritten from scratch by destroying the previous version. The use of digital images allows future research into the revision process to be conducted without damaging the original manuscript, which calls for careful handling.

 The list of manuscripts in our collection [in Japanese], which includes the progress of digital imaging, was posted on the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage on February 1st, 2022. The list will be updated based on the progress of our research.

Analytical Survey Using Hyperspectral Camera at the Baijōsan Kōmyōji Temple

Preparation for the survey
Discussion about the investigation parts

 Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems has been engaged in a series of surveys on Rakan-zu (a painting of Arhat, an enlightened Buddhist high priest) painted in the Yuan Dynasty, owned by the Baijōsan Kōmyōji Temple in Minato Ward, Tokyo. Please refer to our online monthly report for this survey. (

 Near-infrared imaging and fluorescence imaging produced by optical survey suggested that the new artificial iwa-enogu (mineral pigment used in paintings) could have been used to add colors on several parts of this painting.

 It is expected that, in addition to the observation on the imaging data including high-definition imaging, scientific analysis survey can provide additional data from the different approaches. Then, we, INUZUKA Masahide, CHI Chih lien, TAKAHASHI Yoshihisa from the Center for Conservation Science, and EMURA Tomoko, YASUNAGA Takuyo and MAIZAWA Rei from the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information System conducted a survey on Rakan-zu by reflectance spectrometry at the Baijōsan Kōmyōji Temple on January 19th, 2022.

 Reflectance spectrometry can identify the kinds of coloring materials used in the work by reflectance spectrometry formation, how the reflectance of the surface against wavelength of light. Furthermore, hyperspectral camera, which we used this survey, shows the distribution of the same reflectance spectra in two dimensions simultaneously.

 We plan to identify the materials and places for adding color by analyzing the data which we have gathered in this survey.

Field Activities for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of Ta Nei Temple in Angkor, Cambodia (Part X) – Survey for Planning Future Activities

Onsite survey after the restoration of the East Gate
Survey for the risk parts of the central building complex

 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been engaged in technical cooperation for the conservation and sustainable development project of Ta Nei Temple by the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA) in Cambodia. While it had been difficult to visit the site due to the COVID-19 pandemic, from January 9th to 24th, 2022, TOBUNKEN dispatched three staff experts responding to the request by APSARA for the first time after almost two years. We conducted the field survey and discussion on the points necessary for immediate consideration onsite including the East Gate under restoration as well as the parts of the central complex of the temple that are considered at risk.

 The APSARA team have continued the restoration project of the East Gate started in 2019 by discussing the specific restoration direction online with us after April 2020. In January 2021, the reassembly work of the superstructure was completed up to the top. We checked the details onsite including the accuracies of the construction and the finishing details, which had not been well grasped remotely, and provided advice for improvement. Some retouching and additional works are planned based on the further discussion.

 The central building complex of the temple requires immediate measures to secure visitors’ safety and prevent further damage to the ruins due to multiple risk factors including the collapse of unstable stone materials, aging of temporary timber reinforcements, and impacts by growing trees. Considering the given situation, we conducted a joint survey with the APSARA risk map team and discussed the main direction for countermeasures and the priority of temporary measures. We also recorded the current status of the towers by checking the upper part using a drone and creating 3D models from the photos taken.

 In addition, the analysis of soil specimens taken in the previous archaeological survey at the front causeway was made with the assistance by Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation (KCHF), which also continues the restoration support in the Angkor archaeological site. In the APSARA Laboratory developed with Korea’s support, we conducted tests including grain size analysis and color measurement, which provided data related to the soil layer comprising the foundation of the causeway. We would like to express our gratitude to the generous support provided by KCHF.

 We renewed our recognition of how important the onsite cooperative activities are, including interaction with the teams from different countries onsite and at research meetings. The mission also implemented the excavation survey of the outer enclosure and the survey on the stored sculptures from Ta Nei, which are reported separately.

Field Activities for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of Ta Nei Temple in Angkor, Cambodia (Part X) – Excavation Survey of the Outer Enclosure Remains

The East Gate in the rainy season
The foundation of the outer enclosure and the land surface at Angkor Period unearthed

 As part of the project mission from January 9th to 24th, 2022, we conducted an excavation survey of the outer enclosure remains of Ta Nei temple Under restoration of the East Gate implemented in cooperation with APSARA, the reassembly work has already been finished. However, due to the lower land surface than the surrounding area, it has been problematic in that the rain water accumulates around the gate in the rainy season. We assumed that this could hardly happen with the original setting when the temple was built, in which it was believed to have been equipped with some form of water drainage system. With this assumption, we conducted an excavation survey to understand the land surface level and terrain status at that time to plan a water drainage system around the East Gate area.

 We conducted an excavation survey at the three points along the base remains of the wall that used to connect to the south and north sides of the gate (no information on the time and reason for removing the wall structure): its northeast corner and two locations where laterite blocks of the wall base are exposed up to the corner. The survey revealed that the land surface at these points in the Angkor period was about 30 centimeters below the current surface. This means that it was almost flat land without particular height difference from the surface around the East Gate. We did not find any remains such as drainage channels, so we consider that the drainage at that time depended on the natural drainage system including percolation.

 The area to the north of the Gate is currently elevated, which prevents water evacuation. We will therefore remove the topsoil in that area and check if the rainwater can be discharged better. We plan to reorganize the surrounding area as well as the restoration of the temple buildings.

Field Activities for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of Ta Nei Temple in Angkor, Cambodia (Part X) – Survey of Statues in Storage

Damaged Dvarapala statue
Onsite survey

 As part of the onsite survey mission from January 9th to 24th, 2022, the survey was conducted on the current location and status of the stone statues found in Ta Nei Temple and stored in other places. The French School of the Far East (L’Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient, EFEO) compiled the records of the discovery of the artifacts from different monument sites in Angkor. However, the systematic survey for the current status of these artifacts had not been conducted.

 With the cooperation of the Angkor Conservation Office (ACO) under the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, we conducted a verification survey of the artifacts stored at that office against the records. There are a total of 30 plus artifacts from Ta Nei Temple on the inventory list created by the EFEO, among which, 16 items were identified at the storages of ACO this time. Most of the rest whose location remains unknown are small pieces such as hands or feet of divine statues. Among the massive statues of the gate guardian Dvarapala, which are about 2 meters high, three have lost their heads that were visible in the previous photographs. In addition, one of the Lokesvara (Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva) statues was found to be heavily damaged. These damages are considered to be made by illegal diggings or destruction during the civil war period. The information from a French researcher onsite helped us to determine that at least two statues on the inventory, apart from the 16 items identified in the ACO, are currently stored in the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.

 We also found that a group of statues collected from the monument sites by ACO around in 1993 and 1994, when illegal diggings were most frequent, includes ones moved from Ta Nei Temple. We then identified seven Seated Buddha statues, seven Naga balustrades, and two Sinha statues. We will further investigate where they were originally located in the temple and where the rest of the artifacts are stored.

 On the other hand, part of the head of a Lokesvara statue found inside the East Gate of Ta Nei during its dismantling in 2019 is stored in the Preah Norodom Sihanouk-Angkor Museum. We photographed it again for 3D model creation. The accompanying body parts have unfortunately not yet been found. It could still remain undiscovered on the site avoiding people’s eyes.

 We plan to take the opportunity to conduct further surveys in the other facilities.

Symposium 2021 Maritime Network and Cultural Heritage -People and Objects connected by Oceans- Held by the Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage (JCIC-Heritage)

Poster of the Symposium the Oceans and Cultural Heritage - the Oceans Have Connected People and Products
Forum the World Connected through the Oceans by Presenters

 Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage (JCIC-Heritage), which the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) is commissioned as its secretariat by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, held the webinar Maritime Network and Cultural Heritage -People and Objects connected by Oceans- on November 28th, 2021.

 Cultural heritage related to the oceans exists in many locations worldwide. It is a witness to people’s living, society, history, and culture at that time. Although in the past, there were scarce ways of knowing where the products transported by oceans had come from, latest technologies and analysis methods have made it possible to locate the original source of these products. This symposium aimed to introduce the international trends and case studies on the protection of cultural heritage related to the maritime network, share Japanese researchers’ contributions in this area, and consider the potential roles of Japan in facilitating international collaboration in this field.

 ISHIMUMRA Tomo from TOBUNKEN briefed on the purpose of the symposium, followed by five lectures: The Appeal and Significance of Research on Sunken Ships – Time Capsules of the Sea- by Dr. SASAKI Randall from the Maritime Archaeology Lab; Opening the Sea Route, Voyages, and Shipbuilding by Dr. KIMURA Jun from Tokai University; Glass Beads Brought across the Oceans-East-West Trade and the Road of Glass by Dr. TAMURA Tomomi from the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties; People Crossing the Maritime World – Islamic merchants, including the merchants of Hormuz by Dr. YOKKAICHI Yasuhiro from Rikkyo University; and Places where the Sea and Land Meet- Port Cities of Asian Waters: Shophouse & Courtyard House by Dr. FUNO Shuji from Nihon University.

 Following these lectures, the forum entitled the World Connected through the Oceans was conducted with two more commentators: Dr. SUTO Yoshiyuki and Dr. ITO Nobuyuki from Nagoya University. The forum consisted of four sessions with the following perspectives: Exchange between the West and the East via the Oceans and the Lands; Ships, and their Technologies; Ocean Network in the Mediterranean World and the New Continental World; and Japan’s International Cooperation related to the Maritime Network and Cultural Heritage.

 At the end of the symposium, Prof. YAMAUCHI Kazuya from Teikyo University made a closing remark. He emphasized the importance to protect and conserve cultural heritage related to the maritime network, which are witness to the fact that human beings have connected the world via their ocean explorations.

 Although it was JCIC-Heritage’s first attempt to conduct an online symposium, it was successful with about 200 participants from 11 countries. The JCIC-Heritage will continue to collect and disseminate the relevant information.

 Please visit the following webpage for the further details.

Cooperation to Set Up and Display for the Special Exhibition: POMPEII

Displaying a wall painting “Macedonian prince with a philosopher”

 The Tokyo National Museum is currently holding the Special Exhibition: POMPEII from January 14th to April 3rd, 2022. The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) cooperated on the condition survey of the artifacts for the exhibition (wall paintings, mosaics and marble statues) at the display setting prior to the opening of this exhibition.

 Pompeii is a city built in the Roman period, located about 23 km southeast of Naples, a city in the south of Italy. In 79 AD, a major eruption of Mount Vesuvius, located between Naples and Pompeii, buried the city with volcanic ash and pumice in a twinkle. Time has passed; the city of Pompeii was rediscovered in 1748. Full-scale excavation was started then. Many buildings, wall paintings, and artifacts of that time have been unearthed. About 150 pieces came to Japan from the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, which holds a vast collection of artifacts excavated from Pompeii. These attract many museum visitors.

 We had a chance to watch the set-up process at the exhibition venues, which we rarely experience during our usual work. In usual cases, experts from the museums owning these artifacts accompany them. However, they could not come to Japan due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thereafter, the entire exhibition set-up was left to the staff members of the Tokyo National Museum, and the experts in fine art transportation and display. The operation is far from easy, since special attention has to be paid, not to damage the pieces while simultaneously considering exhibit conditions best tailored to audiences. There is a wall painting weighing several hundreds of kilograms amongst the pieces listed for the exhibition. It was a very good opportunity for us to realize that the exhibitions we usually visit without giving them special attention can only be accomplished due to the sincere efforts of many people.

Online Annual Meeting with the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures

Online discussion
Information about exhibitions for Japanese art held abroad provided by the Sainsbury Institute (TOBUNKEN Research Collections database)
Exhibition Catalog, “Tokyo: Art & Photography,” Ashmolean Museum

 On December 2, 2021, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) held an annual meeting online with the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures in the United Kingdom about our collaborative project, “Shaping the Fundamentals of Research on Japanese Art.” We have been carrying out this joint project with the Sainsbury Institute since 2013. The meeting began with Professor Simon Kaner, Executive Director of the Sainsbury Institute, expressing his gratitude for the ongoing activities during the current challenging period of COVID-19. He also mentioned that this project had been highly valued as an important international collaborative project by the institute’s management board.
 During the past year, in addition to the ongoing updating of databases, we started translating the historical articles from the annals of art where Japanese originals are already included in Nihon Bijutsu Nenkan (Yearbook). The translations are now published as “Art News Articles” on the TOBUNKEN website in a searchable format ( Please refer to the November 2021 monthly report ( The English translations are currently available online for 2013–2015. More articles will be translated and published online in due course to disseminate information on Japanese art globally.
 The Sainsbury Institute has contributed information on exhibitions of Japanese art held abroad to the TOBUNKEN Research Collections database ( As parts of our information sharing and research exchanges for the project, Ms. Miwako Hayashi Bitmead of the Sainsbury Institute has also contributed a review of the exhibition, “Tokyo: Art & Photography.” It is held at the Ashmolean Museum for our periodical, Bijutsu Kenkyū (The Journal of Art Studies), issue 436, to be published in March 2022. Her review provides us with insight into the exhibition as well as the situation outside of Japan, as opportunities to visit overseas art exhibitions have been reduced dramatically. It is highly recommended.
 Recently, more activities can be conducted online, and we all have been taking advantage of these. Yet, presenting at a venue in person is still indispensable for researching artworks, delivering lectures, and exchanging ideas with a wide range of audiences. Though our plans are dependent on the situation, our intention is to resume the research exchanges that were conducted before the pandemic in the coming year or so.

Photographing and Optical Research of KURODA Seiki’s Oil Paintings

Investigation of coloring materials by X-ray fluorescence spectrometry

 The Kuroda Memorial Hall houses and exhibits the paintings of KURODA Seiki and others. His oil paintings, the key collection, now count to 149, and belong to the Tokyo National Museum, of which the Kuroda Memorial Hall is currently a part of.
 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) photographed KURODA’s entire collection of oil paintings housed at the Hall, with high-resolution color, infrared and fluorescence imaging, from October through December 2021, in collaboration with the staff of the Tokyo National Museum. Furthermore, using X-ray fluorescence technologies, we analyzed the coloring materials used for the paintings: “Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment”, “Reading”, “Maiko Girl” and “Lakeside”.
 KURODA Seiki studied oil paintings in France at the end of the 19th century. He learned the academic style, and acquired the Impressionist vision, weighing the sketches from outside. Following his return to Japan, he became a part of the mainstream Japanese modern painting world. His style changed with his position and circumstances – while in France, soon after returning to Japan, and after creating his niche in the Japanese art world. It is significant to have photographed his oil paintings with the same modern methods and lighting, including high-resolution color, infrared or fluorescence images that had never been taken before. We will uncover the techniques he used to actually paint these works, by comprehensively evaluating the information of brush touch, as highlighted by the high-resolution color imaging; the existence of drawings beneath and the color overlap as exposed by infrared and fluorescence imaging; and the details of the coloring materials used, as analyzed by the x-ray fluorescence imaging. The images photographed will prove to be essential in the research to understand the heart of the oil paintings by KURODA Seiki, who was an artistic leader of modern oil art in Japan.
 Some images of his oil paintings have been made public on the TOBUNKEN website (, as well as in the reports including “Kuroda Seiki, Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment, Artwork Archive for Art Studies, volume I” (2002) and “Kuroda Seiki Lakeside, Artwork Archive for Art Studies, volume V” (2008). We plan to publish the outcomes of the latest photographing and research on our website.

Series of Intangible Cultural Heritage and COVID-19 – “Forum 3: Traditional Performing Arts amid COVID-19 Pandemic: Seeking Good Practices for Safeguarding”

The Shakuhachi 5 performed “Space for three Shakuhachi”
Round table session

 Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage held “Forum 3: Traditional Performing Arts amid COVID-19 Pandemic: Seeking Good Practices for Safeguarding” in the seminar room at the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) on December 3rd, 2021.
 In the morning session, ISHIMURA Tomo, MAEHARA Megumi, and KAMATA Sayumi of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage reported on the topics: the UNESCO’s perspective of “Good Practice,” the current situation of traditional performing arts, and various supports for them amid the COVID-19 pandemic. MAEHARA also introduced the technique recently recognized as the nation’s Selected Conservation Technique. The topics on the movements of young and mid-career performers such as “Souten” and “the Shakuhachi 5” were also introduced. Then shakuhachi performance followed.
 In the afternoon session, the case studies were introduced from the viewpoints of various roles:
 as planners and producers, the Japan Arts Council, an independent administrative agency, and Hyogo Performing Arts Center;
 as performers, Noh performer of Kanze School, and Japan Shakuhachi Professional-players Network(JSPN);
 as a conservation technique practitioner, Fujinami Properties Co. Ltd. (Association of Conservation for Production Techniques of Kabuki stage properties); and
 as secretariat of Dissemination and Empowerment for Hogaku, Agency for Cultural Affairs, Toppan Inc.
 At the round-table-talk, we discussed how to foresee realistic ways of managing “with COVID-19,” even when we are still amid the COVID-19 pandemic; overview of the current situation of traditional performing arts and their activities; and information sharing. We concluded this forum with the statement that holding this kind of discussion itself is considered as “Good Practice”.
 This forum was held with an audience limited to small numbers of related parties, considering the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is now available to watch on the TOBUNKEN website till March 31st, 2022. We also plan to publish a report at the end of FY2021 and release it on our website in Japanese.

Participation in the International Co-Sponsored Meeting on Culture, Heritage and Climate Change (ICSM CHC)

Kiribati faces the risk of being submerged by increasing sea levels (photo taken in February 2014)

 Currently, climate change is one of the most important issues that need resolution. To that end, the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 26) was held from October 31st to November 12th, 2021 to tackle this issue on a global scale.

 Climate change is closely linked to the conservation of cultural heritage. For example, large typhoons and heavy rain that are considered common indicators of climate change could damage cultural heritage and museums. Furthermore, rising sea levels caused by climate change could vanish the cultural heritage in coastal areas and at low altitudes. The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) conducted a survey entitled “The Current State of Cultural Heritage Sites that Are Likely to be Affected by Climate Change” as a “Project for International Contribution to Cultural Heritage Protection (Exchange of Experts)” commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs in FY2013; in the project, we made surveys in Tuvalu, Kiribati, and Fiji of the Oceania region which were likely to be affected by climate change.

 In 2021, the International Co-Sponsored Meeting on Culture, Heritage and Climate Change (ICSM CHC) was held online from December 6th to 10th and was co-sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It became the first international opportunity to comprehensively discuss the impacts and issues of cultural heritage and climate change. More than 100 experts participated from all over the world. Two experts from Japan participated: ISHIMURA Tomo (this article’s author), Head, Audio-Visual Documentation Section of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage and Dr. IWABUCHI Akifumi, Professor of Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology and a member of the ICOMOS International Committee on the Underwater Cultural Heritage (ICUCH).

 Prior to this meeting, three preliminary meetings were held online from September to October 2021 in which discussion points were organized and clarified in preparation of the ICSM CHC. The outcomes were then compiled as reports titled “White Papers” on December 1st; these reports formed the basis of discussions during the ICSM CHC.

 Three themes were discussed: 1) Knowledge Systems and Climate Change: Systemic connections of culture, heritage and climate change; 2) Impacts and Climate Change: Loss, damage and adaption for culture and heritage; and 3) Heritage Solutions and Climate Change: Role of culture and heritage in transformative change and alternative sustainable futures. Each theme had a panel discussion, workshop and poster presentations. Preliminarily selected experts participated in the panel discussions which were broadcasted online. Experts participated in the workshops using an online conference platform. Since simultaneous discussion with all participating experts was not practical, the experts were divided into groups of 5 to 10. For the poster presentations, experts posted their posters on the web and participated in related Q&A sessions and discussions using an online conference system.

 Many topics were discussed in the meetings. Currently, the secretariat of the ICSM CHC is compiling the outcomes of discussions and the final report will be published in the first half of 2022.

 I, as a participant in this meeting, strongly feel that people are powerfully connected to cultural heritage, especially intangible cultural heritage, and can thus be spurred to better attend to climate change issues. Many participants said that in the discussion for the theme “Knowledge Systems and Climate Change,” we would need to seriously consider not only “scientific knowledge” but also “indigenous knowledge” and “local knowledge” to address climate change. These are considered equivalent to the so-called “traditional knowledge” that intangible cultural heritage provides. Participants made the claim that, to understand the effects of climate change on cultural heritage, it is essential to incorporate local community knowledge in areas surrounding such heritage. Additionally, many people suggested that the key to solving climate change related issues can be found in indigenous and local knowledge.

 ICOMOS will continue to work on this project to build a framework to pursue the issues of culture, heritage, and climate change. The author, in collaboration with the TOBUNKEN team, will also continue to monitor the situation.

Online Observations of the Sixteenth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO

Field research for canoe culture in the Federated States of Micronesia by TOBUNKEN (August 2018)

 The Sixteenth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO was held from December 13th to 18th, 2021. This session was planned to be held in Sri Lanka but was held online like the previous session due to COVID-19. While the previous session was shortened to three hours per day for deliberations, this session had 6 hours per day and the agenda was the same as usual. In the meeting, only Dr. Punchi Nilame Meegaswatte, chairperson of the session and Secretary General of Sri Lanka National Commission for UNESCO, and members of the secretariat gathered at UNESCO’s headquarter in Paris, while other representatives from the Committee Member States, States Parties, accredited non-governmental organizations etc. participated using an online conference platform. It was broadcasted via the internet and two researchers of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) participated as observers.

 This time, while Japan did not submit any agenda, the Intergovernmental Committee inscribed four elements on UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, 39 elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage and 4 elements on the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices. The elements of 9 countries were inscribed for the first time on the list: the Federated States of Micronesia, Montenegro, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo, Denmark, Seychelles, Timor-Leste, Iceland, and Haiti.

 Among these elements, “Carolinian wayfinding and canoe making” which was nominated by the Federated States of Micronesia and inscribed in the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, is the one related to the international cooperation projects for cultural heritage conservation by TOBUNKEN. TOBUNKEN has been working on the conservation of canoe culture as intangible cultural heritage (ICH) in the Pacific Island nations: the first “Canoe Summit” was held in Guam in May 2016 and interactions took place in Japan with the traditional navigators of the Federated States of Micronesia. In fact, one of the TOBUNKEN outcomes was the inscription of “Carolinian wayfinding and canoe making” at this time. “Joumou soup” nominated by Haiti was discussed in this session and inscribed in the Representative List in accordance with Haiti’s wish and international society’s consideration to encourage the people in Haiti, who were devastated by the 2021 earthquake. The important role that ICH plays to encourage people suffering in the aftermath of disasters was highlighted in the discourse regarding the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 and reaffirmed in this case.

 In this session of the Intergovernmental Committee, the outcomes of “Open-ended intergovernmental working group meeting in the framework of the global reflection on the listing mechanisms of the 2003 Convention” held in 2021, were also discussed. Though the operational procedures for the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage are described in “Operational Directives,” there are various cases whose procedures were not covered by the current “Operational Directives” as it has been more than 10 years since the Directives were first adopted. For example, there are no descriptions on how to transfer the elements in the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, and how to remove the elements once inscribed from the list. These cases have been individually judged in the intergovernmental committee. The working group, which was set up in 2018 to comprehensively discuss these issues, has submitted the revision of “Operational Directives” based on the outcome of the intergovernmental working group meeting held in 2021 described above. While the reform plan was decided to be submitted to General Assembly in 2022, the mandate of this working group was extended to 2022 to further streamline the discussion.

 This session progressed smoothly despite it being online owing to the mutual trust and cooperation among the state party representatives including committee member states and the UNESCO secretariat; nevertheless, I felt that it was largely because of the chairperson’s leadership. The session in Sri Lanka, the chairperson’s native country, could not happen but he took his position’s responsibility seriously and made the participants feel comfortable using his sense of humor. We were deeply impressed by his attitude. The next host country will be officially announced after monitoring the COVID-19 situation. We sincerely hope to hold the meeting in person.

The 16th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties

General discussion

 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) held the 16th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties titled “The Power of Video Documentation – to Overcome the Crisis” participated by a minimum number of stakeholders on December 17th, 2021, to comply with the COVID-19 protocols.

 We are still suffering from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. The stakeholders representing intangible folk cultural properties are trapped in the situation, as they have been unable to organize the usual activities. Japan’s annual festivals, including religious and local festivals, have been on hold for two consecutive years. This has hindered the techniques succession process and reduced motivations, thus affecting the succession process of intangible cultural heritage.

 An attempt was made to overcome these crises through the utilization of video documentations. In the COVID-19 pandemic, which imposed a limit on people’s gathering, video technology, including video documentation and online video meetings, has gained popularity. This has made it possible to connect people without face-to-face meetings. Additionally, as videos have proven to be useful for the succession of cultural heritage, various video documentations have been produced and archived video recordings utilized.

 Thus, we used this year’s conference as an opportunity to discuss the challenges of video documentations. Two participants from TOBUNKEN and five from public administration and research delivered the presentation about the activities undertaken for the conservation and utilization of video and media in local governments, industries, and academia. Then, they participated in a general discussion with two additional commentators, where the topics were examined in detail.

 This conference is available online between January 14th and February 14th, 2022 at All contents of this conference will be published as a report in March 2022 and be available online at the webpage of the department of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Molecular Biological Analysis for Identifying Cultural PropertyPests Using Their Frass

Method to identify cultural property pests using DNA as an identifier
Collecting frass from buildings

 Damages caused by cultural property pests are a serious and global threat to cultural property conservation because they result in significant losses of cultural property materials and largely reduce their values. Thus, it is critical to identify and take appropriate measures as soon as the cultural properties start showing signs of damage to prevent further loss. However, we may encounter a situation in which it is difficult to identify “criminal” species even by experts, as we cannot find living insect pests but only their frass. To overcome these difficulties, the Biological Science Section has identified cultural property pests using DNA extracted from frass as an identifier.

 As the outcomes in FY2021, we succeeded in establishing a method to identify species by frass for the major pests boring bamboo, which are used as part of cultural property buildings and to create craft works. The method includes collecting bamboo-boring pests, extracting the DNAs, and determining a short section of sequence from a specific gene. The datum is registered in the international databases, combining the morphological characteristics and the DNA sequence. Then, DNA is extracted from frass collected at rearing containers and outside buildings, determining their target sequence. The resulting sequences are compared to the reference databases to find the matching species. Before the establishment of the method, it was difficult to determine the base sequence, because the DNA extracted from the frass was either too small or contaminated by DNA of other species. However, specific primers for PCR constructed in this study enabled us to succeed in identifying “criminal” species using anonymous frass collected in the cultural property buildings, rather than being limited to laboratories. Please refer to “Science for Conservation” #61 for further details.

 In the future, we plan to further develop specific primers to identify species by frass of cultural property pests in various phyletic lines, and enable easy usage in the field by upgrading the base detection system, including standardization and simplification of methods. We will continue to proceed with the study to achieve these objectives.

Understanding the Progress in the Technical Support Provided to the Bagan Archaeological Site in Myanmar

Conserved and restored parts are maintained in good condition (middle and upper parts), and plants have grown in the parts that remain unrestored.

 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been working on a technical support and skill development project for the conservation and restoration of wall paintings and exterior walls of the temples composed of bricks, targeting the staff in the Bagan branch of the Department of Archaeology and National Museums of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture of Myanmar. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and deterioration of Myanmar’s general situation have hindered our onsite work for some time. In such circumstances, we are conducting online meetings every two months to understand the status of the Me-taw-ya and Lokahteikpan temples, which are the target sites for the conservation and restoration project. We continue to provide advice for their maintenance and management by referring to the site photographs sent to us by the local staff.

 The current status of the Me-taw-ya temple was reported at the meeting held on December 19th, 2021, informing that its restored parts have remained in good condition since our onsite activities were halted, which was two years ago. In the Bagan Archaeological Site, other organizations (prior to the involvement of TOBUNKEN) had repeatedly restored the joint plaster and adopted countermeasures against rain leakage. However, in most of the cases, the restoration materials were damaged within a year. Additionally, in 2021, the heavy rainfall caused disastrous damages to the structure.

 For this project, we have been closely working with the local experts by listening carefully to their concerns and conducting relevant research to address them. The restoration materials introduced by TOBUNKEN have remained in good condition for 5 years, showing no damage even at the oldest parts. Thus, it is important to carefully monitor the progress after the restoration and to work on the restoration. Despite the frustration at being unable to work onsite because of the current situation, the proven effectiveness of the conservation and restoration to sustain over multiple years is a source of constant motivation for us.

 Thus, while we continue to extend our full cooperation to the local staff, we remain hopeful about resuming our onsite work shortly.

Preliminary Research for the Restoration Support and the Rehabilitation of Damaged Cultural Heritage in Nepal

The South East corner of the Shiva Temple podium before the investigation
Assuming original structure of internal podium exposed by the dismantling investigation

 An earthquake of magnitude 7.8 struck Nepal on April 25th, 2015. Subsequently, several regions, including the capital city of Kathmandu, were stricken, and many cultural properties, including the World Cultural Heritage, were damaged. Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been continuing the investigation and support for the preservation of damaged cultural heritage since November 2015 through projects such as the one commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. Recently, I was asked to travel there by Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA). The investigation required partially dismantling the podium of the Shiva Temple in the Hanumandhoka Palace in Kathmandu and was conducted from December 5th–17th, 2021.

 Shiva Temple, which is a 5m by 5m-multi-storied building, is considered to have been constructed in the 17th century. Its super structure had completely collapsed due to the above mentioned earthquake. TOBUNKEN conducted excavations to examine the composition of its foundation in June, 2017. To this end, we investigated the internal composition and condition of the remaining podium that was made of bricks to obtain the basic data and materials to reinforce the structure, which was essential for its full recovery.

 From this investigation, we found that the bricks outside and at the upper parts of the podium were varied and uneven in composition and placement, being irregularly piled on top of each other. This suggests that such parts were restored sometime later than the original construction. On the contrary, the bricks inside and at the lower parts were standardized, and regularly and precisely piled, implying that these parts made up the original structure before restoration. These parts maintain relative stability, which supports our previous investigation outcome.

 Furthermore, we plan to conduct a compositional analysis of the adhesive used to join stones at the upper structure as well as the mortar applied to bricks at the joint of the podium. We hope that the research outcome can support Nepal’s earthquake rehabilitation efforts and contribute to enhancing the local understanding of historic buildings.

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