|■Tokyo National Research
Institute for Cultural Properties
|■Center for Conservation
|■Department of Art Research,
Archives and Information Systems
|■Japan Center for
International Cooperation in Conservation
|■Department of Intangible
Web Contents " KURODA MEMORIAL HALL: KURODA Seiki Oil Painting Optical Survey" Top Page
"Lakeside" color photograph
"Lakeside" color photo (left) and near-infrared photo (right)
KURODA Seiki (1866–1924) left a significant mark on the history of modern Western-style painting in Japan as a painter and educator. The Japan Art Academy–affiliated Institute of Art Research was established as an institution to conduct research on art as part of KURODA’s will. The Institute’s successor, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has, to this day, as one of its activities, conducted research on KURODA’s paintings and his activities.
From October to December 2021, as part of its research on KURODA Seiki, TOBUNKEN conducted an optical survey of 148 oil paintings by KURODA that are housed in the KURODA MEMORIAL HALL. In the optical survey, color photographs were taken to record colors, shapes, and textures at high resolution; near-infrared photographs to record differences in the reflection and absorption of near-infrared rays; and fluorescence photographs to record the fluorescence emitted by a material when irradiated with light of a specific wavelength on a screen to obtain information that cannot be read by the naked eye. In addition, X-ray fluorescence analysis was conducted on KURODA ‘s representative works such as “Lakeside,” “Maiko,” “Reading,” and “Wisdom, Impression and Sentiment,” as well as on the palette used by KURODA, to determine the elements contained in the painting materials. These photographs and the results of the analysis were published as the web content “KURODA MEMORIAL HALL: KURODA Seiki Oil Painting Optical Survey” on March 31, 2023.
In “Lakeside,” for example, the artist drew every hair on the model’s eyebrows, used uneven white paint to express the stripes on the clothing, and changed the size of the fan held by the model several times based on the lines of the rough sketch. Currently, the above four works and color photographs of all 148 oil paintings in the KURODA MEMORIAL HALL collection are available on the web for your viewing and research.
the 9th Seminar
As in Japan during the Meiji era, Thailand in the late 19th and early 20th centuries had foreign experts in various fields working for government agencies, some of them Japanese.
One such artist was MIKI Sakae (1884–1966), a graduate of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (presently Tokyo University of the Arts), Department of Lacquer Technology, who went to Thailand in 1911 to work for the Imperial Household Agency’s Technical Affairs Bureau (the predecessor to the current Art Bureau of the Ministry of Culture). Thereafter, he served as a teacher and principal of a national art school and was active in the field of lacquer work until 1947, when he returned to Japan. At the 9th seminar by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems held on March 2, 2023, FUTAGAMI Yoko (Head, Cultural Properties Information Section of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems) gave a presentation titled Lacquer Work Expert MIKI Sakae’s Activities in Thailand –- Focusing on Materials from the Same Period –.
Because of the above background, MIKI Sakae is often featured in the field of prewar Japanese – Thailand exchange. However, most references to his activities in Thailand were limited to large-scale projects, such as the production of the throne for the coronation of King Rama VI, which he was involved in immediately after his trip to Thailand, as well as palace repairs, and did not go into the details of his daily work. Therefore, we used mainly the recent status reports MIKI contributed to in the alumni magazine Monthly Bulletin of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts Alumni Association to decipher the work he was involved in on a daily basis.
From an article in Monthly Bulletin of the Alumni Association we learned that, in 1917, MIKI had decorated the king’s daily articles with gold or silver lacquer and employed other Japanese techniques, using an abundance of materials imported from Japan. On the other hand, it also shows that, during the same period, materials and techniques were modified to suit the objects to be decorated and the climate of Thailand. MIKI was accepted in Thailand because of his Japanese lacquer craft skills and flexible application as well as his serious attitude toward his work which, due in part to personnel cutbacks caused by administrative reforms, led him to take on important work, including supervision of large-scale construction projects. This presentation is an interim report on MIKI Sakae’s activities in Thailand and will be further discussed and compiled into a report.
Lacquer door of Wat Rajapradit
Wat Rajapradit (built in 1864), a first-class royal temple located in the old city of Bangkok, Thailand, uses lacquered doors made in Japan for its worship hall. The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) conducts research on those door components and provides technical support for their restoration. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the start of activities related to the repair of the door components of Wat Rajapradit, and a seminar entitled “Rajapradit Pisitsilp” (meaning “The Wonderful Art of Rajapradit” in Thailand) was held at the temple on March 20, 2023.
The seminar included a round table discussion on the background to the restoration project and one on technical matters and the restoration process.
In addition to experts from the Department of Fine Arts, Thailand Ministry of Culture, which is implementing the restoration project, and a monk from Wat Rajapradit, Japanese participants included FUTAGAMI Yoko (TOBUNKEN) for the former discussion and Mr. YAMASHITA Yoshihiko (lacquer art conservation researcher and expert) for the latter.
On the same day, a ceremony was held to attach several repaired door components to the door frame of the worship hall. There was also a tea ceremony and Japanese food stalls on the temple grounds, a dance performance by a dancer wearing traditional Thailand costume and Japanese kimono, and cosplayers dressed as Touken-ranbu* characters, providing an opportunity to deepen familiarity with Japan. Due to the spread of COVID-19, our research and study in Thailand was suspended for three years, but we would like to once again deepen our research and research exchange regarding cultural properties.
* video game with a Japanese sword motif
Lecture by Mr. WATANABE Naoto
Lecture by Ms. KONNO Saki
Lecture by Dr. IMAIZUMI Shoko
The Cultural Property Information Section of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems held a seminar on the Documentation of Cultural Properties in the seminar room on the underground floor of TOBUNKEN on September 2nd, 2022. The Act Partially Amending the Museum Act was established in April 2022. Through this act, digital archiving and dissemination of museum materials were added to museum roles. Furthermore, the demand for exhibitions in virtual fields, such as websites, has been increasing because of the prolonged difficulties in visiting cultural property sites and exhibitions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Considering these situations, we organized a seminar with the following three lectures. Mr. WATANABE Naoto, curator of Sendai City Museum of History and Folklore, presented the video documentation of the annual festival and kagura (Shinto music and dancing) tradition of Oidenomori Hachiman Shrine and its dissemination on YouTube during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. KONNO Saki, curator of Tohoku Fukushi University Serizawa Keisuke Art and Craft Museum, introduced their activities, such as conducting a tour of the exhibition rooms online, with curators also explaining their exhibits online. Dr. IMAIZUMI Shoko, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Engineering, Chiba University, conducted a lecture on the fundamentals of image and video compression, and points to note at its utilization.
Dr. IMAIZUMI showed visually that compression brought disadvantages of the compromising image/video quality, despite its positive effect to decrease the file size. Mr. WATANABE and Ms. KONNO introduced hands-on methods for disseminating information by utilizing their own human resources, equipment, and free software with public support, such as subsidies and support from local cooperation. All of the lectures provoked thoughts useful in tackling respective challenges. The participants focused on the presentations as they were facing similar challenges and have asked many questions.
The Section will continuously provide information about documentation and information dissemination applicable to the daily activities of curators and officers involved in cultural property protection through various media.
Ordination hall of Wat Rajpradit
Exhibition of research on the lacquer door panels of Wat Rajpradit
Exhibition of Japanese lacquerworks in Thailand
The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) exhibits panels in its entrance lobby to disseminate its research outcomes. We started the new panel exhibition shown in the title on July 28th, 2022.
Wat Rajpradit, one of the first-grade royal Buddhist temples, was built in 1864 by King Rama IV as the third royal temple in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, based on the Thai tradition of three royal Buddhist temples being constructed by each dynasty.
The doors and windows of the Wat Rajpradit ordination hall feature panels decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay with underpainting using very thin seashell parts whose backs are colored and drawn, and lacquered parts decorated with colored lacquer maki-e expressing three-dimensional patterns. In particular, the style of the patterns of the mother-of-pearl inlay with underpainting looks Japanese. The Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture of Thailand asked TOBUNKEN for technical support to restore the lacquer door panels in 2012. Responding to their request, we brought two panels to TOBUNKEN in October 2013, investigated them in detail, restored them experimentally, and conducted on-site investigations until July 2015. At the same time, they were examined from the different perspectives of art history, musicology, and the history of Japanese trade to identify the provenance of the lacquer door panels and their characterization in lacquerwork manufacturing history. As these investigations confirmed that the door panels were manufactured in Japan, we now extend the focus to other Japanese lacquerworks in Thailand and continue the investigations.
This panel exhibition shows the process of discovering the manufacturing techniques and the provenance of the lacquer door panes at Wat Rajpradit through a joint study by researchers and research institutes in various fields from both inside and outside TOBUNKEN. The exhibition also introduces some Japanese lacquerworks that were exported to Thailand. Please visit us to enjoy the exhibition. (Opening hours: Monday to Friday except for national holidays, 9:00–17:30)
Lacquer door panels of Wat Rajpradit. Dharma teachings of Buddha on top of the door panels.
Cover of the report
Since 1992, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been conducting cooperative research to conserve and restore the cultural properties of Thailand jointly with the Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture of Thailand (FAD). As part of this research, TOBUNKEN has provided technical support for restoration work by FAD, Wat Rajpradit, and other related parties in Thailand, targeting lacquer door panels in Wat Rajpradit, a first-grade royal Buddhist temple built by King Rama IV in 1864.
Investigating manufacturing techniques and materials is mandatory for restoring cultural properties. Such investigations also provide opportunities to find and gain vast knowledge related to the given cultural properties. The lacquer door panels at Wat Rajpradit are believed to have been made in Japan because they are decorated with the designs of people with Japanese garments using techniques of mother-of-pearl inlay with underpainting, which were typical for Japanese lacquerwork products for export, mainly in the mid-19th century. However, there was no evidence to prove this origin prior to this investigation. Therefore, experts in various fields, from within and outside of TOBUNKEN, investigated them, and their design patterns expressed with mother-of-pearl inlay with underpainting and colored lacquer maki-e, from scientific perspectives. The investigations revealed that these lacquer door panels were likely made in Japan based on their materials, techniques, and design expressions.
The report of this article published in March 2022 consists of an English translation of the discussions cited in the Japanese report about the research outcomes published in 2021 and the discussion related to the background of the temple’s foundation and the buildings in the temple area by FAD and Wat Rajpradit. This report is available for reading in the TOBUNKEN library. We would be pleased if you could read this report.
Explanation on how the focal distance of lens make differences
Photographing practice: lighting to a target object using an umbrella
The documentation of cultural properties is fundamental to obtain the necessary information for research, conservation, and utilization. Photography, a type of documentation method, is mandatory to record visual information, including colors and shapes. Meanwhile, many factors need to be considered for photographing to record accurate information.
With this background, the Cultural Properties Information Section of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information System held the seminar mentioned in the title targeting local government officers and museum staff involved in cultural property protection in Hokkaido, at Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples (Abashiri City) co-sponsored of the Museum and the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) on June 2nd, 2022. Protection measures were taken against COVID-19 including face masks, social distancing, and air ventilation.
In the morning, lectures were delivered about the purposes of documenting cultural properties and the photographing. In the afternoon, at first, the methods of inventorying cultural property and their photographs were introduced using case studies. Then, the appropriate ways to manage lighting and other photographing tips were explained. As a practical exercise, all participants made reflector boards by attaching wrinkled aluminum foil to recycled styrene boards which had been used for signboards for exhibitions. Then, the participants photographed a carved wooden bear kept in the Museum, using their own cameras by modulating lighting. At the end, a Q&A session was conducted on photographing and inventorying photos as well as cultural property items.
Handling shadows is challenging for many people in photographing cultural properties. This seminar addressed the appropriate methods to include natural shadow in natural directions using one light only by reflecting light toward appropriate positions for the characteristics of cultural properties or art objects using hand-made reflection boards and inexpensive equipment. Furthermore, several ways to organize and list photographs using the basic functions of Windows and Excel were introduced as we received numerous questions about this matter. We strived our best to make this seminar as practical as possible.
This workshop was held this time after two years since it was originally planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank to the staff at the Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples and participants for their patience and precious opinions.
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.
Summary of the Seminar
Nearly 30 years have passed since Japan ratified the World Heritage Convention. Japan currently has 25 properties inscribed on the World Heritage List, including “Amami-Oshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, Northern part of Okinawa Island, and Iriomote Island” and “Jomon Prehistoric Sites in Northern Japan”, which were recently added to the list in 2021. FUTAGAMI Yoko, Head, Cultural Properties Information Section, conducted a presentation about the recent international and domestic activities based on the World Heritage Convention, including the nomination, inscription, and protection.
Many nominated properties that were not recommended to inscribe on the World Heritage List by its advisory bodies, were eventually decided to be inscribed on the List at the extended 44th session of the World Heritage Committee conducted in Fuzhou, China, with both in-person and online attendees in July 2021. For example, “Frontiers of the Roman Empire – The Danube Limes (Western Segment)” nominated by Hungary and other states, was also decided to be inscribed on the list. This happened even though ICOMOS / International Council on Monuments and Sites, as an advisory body on cultural properties, concluded that it was “impossible to evaluate” because its boundary of the property was significantly modified soon before the session due to Hungary’s withdrawal from its nomination. Hungary noted discrepancies between the outcomes of the thematic study that ICOMOS performed in the past and their recent advice based on the mission triggered by its nomination, and the related states failed to reach agreements regarding how to deal with the advice provided. These hiccups may have influenced the Committee Member states to turn against ICOMOS. FUTAGAMI explained these issues related to the nominations to the World Heritage List, as well as the introduction of improvement measures, such as Preliminary Evaluation on the nomination dossiers at the extended 44th session of the World Heritage Committee.
In addition to the movements of the World Heritage Committee, since 2020, domestic discussions have been conducted in Japan at the Subdivision of World’s Cultural Heritage of the Council for Cultural Affairs regarding the nomination and protection of world heritage properties. FUTAGAMI presented information about its discussion points based on the materials published on the Internet.
Active discussions were conducted during this seminar on the challenges for domestic activities in the light of World Heritage nomination and protection. It provided a good opportunity for us to recognize the need for outreach on a wide range of related information.
Lecture by Mr. NAKANO Noriyuki
Lecture by Dr. IMAIZUMI Shoko
To obtain fundamental data for their research, protection, and utilization, the documentation of cultural properties and artifacts through both texts and photographs is an important activity for museums, fine art museums, and municipal governments managing cultural properties. The Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems is actively discussing methods for documenting cultural properties as well as the compilation of a database to organize and utilize these documentations. To this end, we conducted a seminar titled “Documentation of Cultural Properties for Protection and the Principle of Image Compression,” on September 21st, 2021, in the seminar room at the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties while following the appropriate countermeasures against COVID-19 infection.
Mr. NAKANO Noriyuki (Senior Specialist of the First Cultural Properties Division, Agency for Cultural Affairs) delivered a lecture titled “Documentation of Cultural Properties for Protection.” He explained the importance of documenting cultural properties to ensure their protection and reiterated the areas of special care that must be taken into consideration during the documentation process, based on the abundance of materials with actual cases. In addition, Dr. IMAIZUMI Shoko (Associate Professor, Graduate School of Engineering, Chiba University) delivered a lecture titled “Concepts and Basic Technologies of Image Compression” as the second session in the series on “Digital Image Compression from the Basics of Images to Moving Images.” She explained digital image compression, the processes involved, and finally, the basic technologies and techniques of major compression formats for still and moving images, such as JPEG and MPEG.
The significance of documenting cultural properties continues to increase as it is crucial to securing opportunities for research and appreciation in the current situation wherein it is difficult to access cultural properties due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to actively disseminate useful information for documentation, preservation, and publication of cultural properties by providing lecture-style and hands-on seminars.
Lacquer Door Panels of Wat Rajpradit - mother-of-pearl with underpainting is seen in both the upper and lower parts, and cedar material decorated with colored lacquer maki-e is found in the middle portions.
Front Cover of the Report
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been conducting a joint study to preserve the cultural heritage of Thailand in collaboration with the Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture of Thailand (FAD), since 1992. As a part of this joint study, we have been providing technical support through related parties in Thailand, including the Temple and FAD, for the restoration project related to the lacquer door panels at Wat Rajpradit, the first-grade royal Buddhism temple built in 1864.
Restoration of cultural heritage requires devising a plan based on detailed research on materials, techniques, surrounding environment, and deterioration status of each cultural heritage, and the restoration work needs to proceed according to the plan. Hence, relevant scientific investigation on the cultural heritage in question is crucial. Lacquer door panels at Wat Rajpradit were believed to be made in Japan because they have designs of flowers and birds, landscapes, and figures wearing Japanese kimonos, and they feature work in mother-of-pearl with underpaint techniques, which were often used in lacquerware exported from Japan in the mid-19th century. However, there was neither concrete evidence nor clues regarding their producers and their positioning in the history of such techniques. Therefore, numerous experts in various fields from TOBUNKEN and other organizations conducted scientific investigations and research studies on the designs expressed in mother-of-pearl with underpainting and colored lacquer maki-e. According to these studies, the material ingredients, techniques, and design elements found in the lacquer door panels strongly suggest that they were made in Japan.
The report “Study of the Japan-made Lacquerwork found in Thailand – Lacquer Door Panels of Wat Rajpradit,” published in Japanese in March 2021 assists in understanding these research outcomes and provides an overview of the interdisciplinary research on cultural heritage. This report is accessible in the TOBUNKEN Library, public libraries in Japan, and some libraries in overseas museums that have collections of Japanese artworks. We hope that you will read it.
Explanation of the point of attention in taking a picture of ishari
Hands-on practice of shooting spouted pottery
Hands-on practice of shooting shimacho
Documentation of cultural properties aims to obtain information needed to conduct research on cultural properties, and to protect or utilize them. In particular, photographs convey detailed information that words alone are unable to express fully, and by setting the appropriate shooting conditions, more information can be conveyed.
We organized a seminar on practical photographing for documentation of cultural properties with the title above, which was targeted at the staff of member museums of the Liaison Council of Museums in Miyagi Prefecture, at the Tohoku History Museum (Tagajo City, Miyagi Prefecture) on March 12th, 2021. Co-hosted by the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), the Tohoku History Museum, and the liaison council, the seminar was the liaison council’s second workshop during fiscal year 2020. During the seminar, measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19 were taken, such as requiring participants to wear masks and ensuring social distancing and ventilation.
Following a lecture in the morning, hands-on practice of taking pictures of a variety of objects in the collection of the Tohoku History Museum, such as spouted pottery in the Late Jomon Period, ishari, a traditional lure for catching octopuses, and shimacho (a swatch book of stripe-patterned kimono fabrics), was conducted under the guidance of SHIRONO Seiji, an artificer at TOBUNKEN. All participants in the hands-on practice were requested to bring a camera with them and other equipment, such as lights and reflector boards, was provided by the museum. In the practice, we emphasized the importance of handling light. All the techniques were applicable using an existing or inexpensive device; one example was eliminating deep shadows that inhibit observation by illuminating the target object by projecting the light on a reflector board, which was hand-made by the staff at the museum. Participants worked on the practice with keen interest and many of them commented that they hoped to share what they learned with their colleagues or to use the techniques acquired in their work.
Let us take this opportunity to express our heartfelt thanks to everyone at the co-host organizations and all the participants that provided us with many useful suggestions. We hope to continue to organize seminars by taking advantage of this experience.
The Fifteenth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee on the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO was held from December 14th to 19th, 2020. It was originally to be held in Jamaica but owing to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting of the Committee was held using a fully online modality. The secretariat was at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris; however States Parties as well as the committee member states, including Jamaica, the Chair, participated in the online meeting from their respective locations. The meetings were broadcasted in real time on the UNESCO website, and two researchers from our Institute observed the proceedings.
The number of agenda items to be discussed was kept to a minimum because it was online, and the session was scheduled from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm local time in Paris (9:30 pm to 0:30 am Japan time) each day. In spite of these constraints, three elements were inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding (Urgent Safeguarding List), and 29 elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (Representative List). Further, three programmes were added to the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices. In addition, one of the elements added to the Urgent Safeguarding List has been approved for international assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund.
Among them, “Traditional skills, techniques and knowledge for the conservation and transmission of wooden architecture in Japan” was added to the Representative List. This element includes 17 conservation techniques selected by the government. They are “building repair,” “building woodwork,” “roofing with Japanese cypress bark or with wood shingles,” “thatching,” “cypress bark harvesting,” “roof panel production,” “thatch harvesting,” “building decoration,” “building coloring,” “building lacquer painting,” “clay tile roofing (using both round and square tiles),” “plastering (Japanese walls),” “fittings production,” “tatami mat production,” “repair and conservation skills for paintings and calligraphies,” “Japanese lacquer production and refinement,” and “gold leaf production.” Until now, most of the elements nominated by Japan and successfully inscribed on the List are nationally important intangible cultural properties and intangible folk cultural properties. However, the set of nationally selected conservation techniques was inscribed for the first time. Japan is famous for its many great historical wooden structures that have been handed down in good condition to the present generation by the skilled craftsmen and technicians who repaired and maintained them in excellent condition. Therefore, the inscription of traditional building techniques is also significant because it highlights the work of those artisans working “behind the scenes.” It is also an example of the relationship between tangible and intangible cultural heritages, which has received international acclaim.
Nominations from other States Parties that were newly added to the Representative List include “Hawker culture in Singapore, Community Dining and Culinary Practices in a Multicultural Urban Context” (Singapore), which refers to the popular street food culture in Singapore, and “Taijiquan” (China), which has many enthusiasts in Japan. A large number of nominations for elements related to lifestyle and culture, such as these mentioned above, was one of the international trends. In addition, “Craft techniques and customary practices of cathedral workshops, or Bauhütten, in Europe, know-how, transmission, development of knowledge and innovation” (Germany, Austria, France, Norway, Switzerland) were selected for being registered as Good Safeguarding Practices. These practices are related to Bauhütten, a cooperative of artists and artisans involved in the construction and repair of cathedrals. It is similar to the traditional building techniques nominated by Japan. However, what is interesting is that while Japan nominated them to the Representative List, Europeans proposed inclusion of these techniques to the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices as an example of heritage conservation activities, showing the difference in approaches.
As Jamaica was the chair country of the session, reggae music, which had been added to the Representative List in 2018, was played in the background of the online broadcast. Unfortunately, there was no scope to experience live reggae music in Jamaica. However, we would like to express our respect to Jamaica, the Chair, as well as the staff of UNESCO, the secretariat, for successfully completing the first online committee session.
Lecture on digital image formats by Dr. Imaizumi
The documentation of cultural properties is indispensable for acquiring information about cultural properties such as their materials, forms, and colors, and for utilizing the collected information for research activities and preservation/restoration planning. The Cultural Properties Information Section of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems is responsible for communicating information about database compilation necessary for cultural property photographing in the course of documentation as well as data management/utilization. As part of the communication strategy, we held the seminar named in the title above in a seminar room at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties on December 23rd, 2020 (COVID-19 infection control measures were taken).
We are scheduled to hold three sessions in total in the series on “Digital Image Compression from the Basics of Images to Moving Images,” and the program designed for participants to learn the basics about image compression was offered at the first session. As the first speaker, Dr. IMAIZUMI Shoko, Associate Professor of Graduate School of Engineering, Chiba University explained about the characteristics of digital images such as differences from analog images, file properties, and the amount of information that changes depending on the resolution. Her lecture was followed by a talk by Mr. SHIRONO Seiji, an artificer of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems which mainly discussed how to control light and color when taking a digital photo such as the spectral feature that varies depending on the light source, and the light sources and their appropriate placement for photographing cultural properties.
Currently, compressed image formats such as JPEG and MPEG-4 are commonly used around the world. However, when planning to photograph cultural properties or saving images in files, one may wonder which information will be lost due to image compression, or if everything will really be okay as long as images are saved in TIFF or RAW formats.
Through the seminars in this series, we will continue to communicate the information that will be useful for you to document and preserve cultural properties using imaging technologies and disseminate information about them.
Mr. Shirono showing how to hold a camera properly
Study and documentation of cultural properties are means to develop a deeper understanding of them. Dissemination of the documented information provides many people with opportunities to become familiar with such properties. It also provides a basis for restoration if any cultural property were to be damaged. Therefore, documentation is necessary in terms of these properties’ preservation and utilization. On the subject of photography, which is a means to document cultural properties, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties held the seminar, referred to in the title, at the Uehara Museum of Art in Shimoda City, Shizuoka Prefecture, on August 24th, 2020. The seminar was organized with the support of the Shizuoka Prefectural Museum Association as well as in collaboration with the Museum. Eleven people, including staff of museums and art galleries, and local government officials in charge of cultural properties in Shizuoka Prefecture, participated in the seminar. For the seminar, the Uehara Museum of Art took proper measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which included keeping distances between seats, ventilation of the lecture rooms, and temperature checks of the participants.
The seminar comprised a morning and an afternoon session. In the morning session, Mr. Tajima Sei, chief curator of the Uehara Museum of Art, shared his photography experience during his research on temples, followed by an open discussion on issues regarding photographing in the participants’ daily activities. Mr. Shirono Seiji, an artificer of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, answered participants’ questions. He also explained, using examples, the importance of photographing focused on the significance of the subject which should be recorded.
In the afternoon, participants took photos of three artworks owned by the Uehara Museum of Art, using their own cameras. Mr. Shirono explained photographing methods and techniques, including the best lighting to draw out the character of the work, as well as how to properly record colors by manually setting the camera’s white balance. He also showed participants how to operate the photographing equipment. The afternoon session provided hands-on practice as curators of the Uehara Museum of Art, including Mr. Tajima, also gave an exposition of the research techniques of the work.
The seminar was well received as participants said it was fruitful and productive. It was meaningful for us as well, as it provided us with an opportunity to hear about issues on photography directly from the participants. We would like to show our deepest appreciation to the Uehara Museum of Art and its staff for their great support in planning and organizing the event. We will continue to improve our hands-on seminars, building upon this valuable experience.
The investigation at Wat Rajpradit
Wat Rajpradit, which was built in 1864 as per the wish of King Rama IV, is a first-grade royal Buddhist temple located in Bangkok, Thailand. For the entrances of its ordination hall (ubosot), Japan-made door panels, created by employing the “mother-of-pearl with underpaint” technique, were used. Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties is providing technical support to restore these panels at the request of the temple and the Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture of Thailand. The restoration work is also an opportunity to better understand this cultural property. Even in Japan-exported lacquerwork, there are few instances of research being pursued into works produced in the 19th century, and the background of the door panels is unclear. Therefore, we conducted detailed investigation of the Japan-made lacquerwork, including the works of mother-of-pearl with underpaint, in Bangkok from January 12th through 18th, 2020.
During the mission, we checked the condition of the door panels at Wat Rajpradit, and exchanged ideas on the restoration plan to be implemented proactively from the Thai side, in the presence of the Director of the Fine Arts Department. Having an opportunity to do research at Wat Pho, one of the most prestigious first-grade royal Buddhist temples, we observed in detail a pair of long cover plates (to protect palm leaf manuscripts on which sutras or other documents are written) decorated with mother-of-pearl and lacquer. This year, we also scrutinized part of the cover plates of the palm leaf manuscripts created during the reigns of King Rama I through V, which are stored at the National Library of Thailand. In addition to those already known, we found a piece of cover plate decorated with mother-of-pearl and lacquer.
Furthermore, we researched a toolbox used by Mr. MIKI Sakae (1884–1966), who had arrived in Thailand in 1911 and worked as a craftsman and educator in the field of lacquer art. We feel that our investigation reveals that the communication between Japan and Thailand has spread further through the Japan-made lacquerwork, including the works of mother-of-pearl with underpaint created from the late Edo period to the Meiji period.
A live performance of “Music and dance of Dominican Bachata” (Dominican Republic), which was inscribed on the Representative List
The fourteenth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage took place in Bogota, the capital of Columbia, from December 9th to 14th, 2019. Two researchers from this Institute attended the session.
At the session, Japanese elements were not discussed, but the Committee inscribed five on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding and 35 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Committee also added two projects to the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices. Among the elements inscribed on the Representative List are “Music and dance of Dominican Bachata” (Dominican Republic), “Nuad Thai, traditional Thai massage” (Thailand), and “Ie Samoa, fine mat and its cultural value” (Samoa). In particular, “Safeguarding strategy of traditional crafts for peace building” (Colombia), which was also added to the Good Practices, attracted global attention. As a good model, the strategy shows that intangible cultural heritage plays an active role in recovering from the devastation of long battles with drug syndicates.
In a first, the Committee decided to remove one element, “Aalst Carnival” (Belgium), from the Representative List. The reason for that was the recurrence of anti-Semitic and Nazi representations on the carnival floats, which was not stopped on the grounds of “freedom of expression” despite protests and objections from various quarters. This is incompatible with the fundamental principles of the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, thereby non-conforming with the inscription criteria. The global community expressed its intention to not allow any forms of discrimination, even in cultural activities or practices.
Intangible cultural heritage may give courage and pride to people, promoting dialogue between peoples of different cultural backgrounds, while it may also highlight the cultural superiority of one side, denying or excluding people on the other side. We feel that it is the responsibility of us experts to blow a whistle against political use of intangible cultural heritage while promoting its use for peacekeeping and mutual understanding.
A scene from the presentation, showing the breakdown of the participants
Inventories of cultural properties are very important for museums, galleries, and archives, as well as for local governments. It works as a principle source of information not only for the research/study and the conservation/management of cultural properties but also for planning exhibitions and rental schedules. Photos, which record the visual information of cultural properties, also support research and studies. Their management with listed cultural properties enables more appropriate conservation and utilization of cultural heritage and its related information. Thus, the recording of cultural properties and the database compilation of such records are essential to the conservation and utilization of cultural heritage. However, not a few persons concerned have budgetary and technological restrictions, which render them difficult. Therefore, the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems held a seminar for the same on December 2nd, 2019.
At the seminar, we used examples to explicate the significance of recording and compiling the databases for cultural properties. We also introduced a free system that facilitates building a database of cultural properties, which has been worked on by the Cultural Properties Information Section of the department in recent years. In addition, the Image Laboratory of the section presented various types of photography as a means to record information on cultural properties, along with relevant concepts and concrete examples.
Almost 120 people attended the seminar, particularly those who are practically involved in the conservation and utilization of cultural heritage. The participants’ significant number of questions related to routine tasks made us believe that they were quite interested in this topic. Although we organized this comprehensive seminar as a first step, we seek to further transmit diversified information, such as seminars focusing on specific themes and workshops with practical training.
From the front page of the website for the Buddhist paintings in the Heian period (national treasures)
Transformed Buddha of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been jointly conducting research with the Tokyo National Museum on the Buddhist paintings in the Museum’s collection. Releasing the outcomes of the research, four Buddhist paintings belonging to the Heian period were published on their joint website (tnm-tobunken.tobunken.go.jp) on August 20th, 2019. They are pictures of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, Ākāshagarbha Bodhisattva, Sahasrabhuja Avalokitesvara, and Mahamayuri vidyaraja, which are designated National Treasures.
Although the paintings seem flat, layers of pigment are intricately deposited on the paper or silk cloth. You form an impression of the picture as a light complex is seen when daylight is reflected on or penetrates the layers. Traces of the painting process and what happened to the painting after its completion can be seen underneath.
Key clues to capture them are the information on the piled-up layers, as well as the data on materials such as the size and shape of the pigment particles, the texture of the silk cloth, and the thicknesses of its warp and weft. An optical survey is one of the effective methods to look beneath the surface without touching or collecting an analysis sample from the painting. The Institute was the first in Asia to start the optical survey for arts and crafts soon after its foundation as The Institute of Art Research in 1930. This joint research is also based on the accumulated know-how of that survey.
To make a fine depiction in a picture of the world of Buddha transcending this world, delicate patterns were drawn on the garment and ornaments of the Buddha during the Heian period. However, to protect these painting, few opportunities are given to appreciate them and confirm through close observation. This publication on the joint website enables visualizing high-definition images on a PC or a tablet computer. Photographs have now been taken under visible light providing an expanded and detailed view. Further details of the paintings will be provided by including their pictures taken by infrared, fluorescence, or X-ray photography, apart from the results of fluorescent X‐ray analysis, to distinguish the elements contained in the pigments. Looking forward to your anticipation for their forthcoming release.
Study of door panels of Wat Nang Chi ordination hall
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) is providing technological support to restore the door panels of Wat Rajpradit (built in 1864), a first-grade royal Buddhist temple located in Bangkok, Thailand, at the request of this temple and the Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture of Thailand. Lacquerwork produced by employing the “mother-of-pearl with underpaint” technique, which was used to make these door panels, was primarily exported to the West in the 19th century. However, TNRICP confirmed for the first time that these door panels were Japan-made, on the basis of the technique and materials utilized, indicating that Japan-made mother-of-pearl with underpaint had also been exported to Thailand.
Restoration work is not just the behavior of repairing damage but should also be an opportunity to better understand the cultural property concerned. When it was discovered that the door panels at Wat Rajpradit were Japan-made, there were reports of works made with a similar technique at several locations in Thailand. A careful inspection was conducted, which included detailed record-making through polarized light photography of a portion of these works of mother-of-pearl with underpaint located in Bangkok, such as the door panels at Wat Nang Chi, a temple maintained in its present form since the reign of King Rama III (1824–1851), and the cover plates of the palm leaf manuscripts stored at the National Library of Thailand. The study was performed from January 27th to February 2nd, 2019, in association with experts from related Japanese and Thai agencies.
Even among Japan-exported lacquerwork, there are few cases of scientific research being pursued into works of mother-of-pearl with underpaint, and its background is unclear. Palm leaf manuscripts are palm leaves on which sutras or other documents are written, and bound with string. A pair of cover plates are used to protect palm leaf manuscripts. As palm leaf manuscripts are unique to Southeast Asia and South Asia, it is surmised that the cover plates, as with the door panels, were produced after an order was placed from Thailand. There is great potential for works of mother-of-pearl with underpaint found in Thailand, such as the door panels at Wat Rajpradit and Wat Nang Chi, to contribute to research into this technique itself, and studies will continue to be pursued in Japan and Thailand.