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

Report on a research stay: the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC) and inspection of museums and libraries in the UK. ―The 1st Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems.

The Seminar
Witt Library, the Coutauld Institute

 Ms. MAIZAWA Rei, Head, Archives Section of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), stayed as a visiting researcher at SISJAC, located in Norwich, East of England, from October 2023 to February this year, as detailed in the link below.
During her stay, she conducted lectures and a gallery talk at the Sainsbury Centre of the University of East Anglia(UEA)and the University of London The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). She also conducted research on the British Museum’s collection of Japanese art and visited museums, galleries, libraries, and other facilities with archival institutions in the UK.

 At the 1st seminar of the Department of Art, Research, Archives and Information Systems, held at TOBUNKEN on April 30, 2024, Ms. MAIZAWA reported on the research and inspections she had conducted in the UK. She presented explanation regarding an image digitization project currently ongoing at the Witt Library of the Courtauld Institute of Art, and about an inspection she had conducted of a conservation workshop at the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, with photographs. YASHIRO Yukio (1890-1975) had visited the Witt Library as a reference for the creation of Bijutsu-Kenkyūjo (a predecessor of TOBUNKEN). The library holds about 2.2 million photographs, reproductions, and cuttings of paintings, drawings, and engravings. A team of 200 volunteers is working on digitization of the large amount of material, and stands as an example that provides clues for future management of TOBUNKEN, which also holds a wide range of materials. She also looked into how some museum programs are being managed in the UK, highlighting some of the projects for older people run by the National Liverpool Museums and the Dulwich Picture Gallery. She visited 28 of museums and galleries, 10 of which have libraries and archive facilities. Many important issues were presented that serve as reference for us, such as digitization and ensuring the accessibility of materials and the role of cultural institutions in an ageing society, which led to a lively exchange of views in a question-and-answer session after she presented her report.

A Lecture at SOAS

Ms. Maizawa, presenting at SOAS

 Ms. MAIZAWA Rei (Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems) has been a visiting researcher at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC) in Norwich, UK, since last October, where she has been working on research of art works and studies
( As a part of these activities, on January 25, 2024, she gave a lecture in English titled “The Arhat painting at Kōmyōji Temple: Iconography, Style, and the Worship of Buddha in East Asia” at SOAS (University of London, The School of Oriental and African Studies), Center for the Study of Japanese Religions. SOAS is world-renowned as an academic institution for the studies of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. It also has been a leading center for the study of Japan in Europe.
 In the lecture, Ms. MAIZAWA explained about the style and iconography in detail, and then discussed its religious background of the Arhat painting. Professor Lucia Dolce of SOAS chaired the lecture, which was attended by around 70 people, including SOAS alumni and researchers and students of Japanese religious studies. The lecture was followed by a question-and-answer session, during which experts in Chinese and Korean art also gave their opinions, providing an opportunity for a meaningful exchange of views. The lecture hall was almost full on the day, indicating the high level of interest in the study of Buddhist painting in the UK.

Consultation and lecture at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC), and visits to institutions related to art books and documentation

Visit to the National Art Library at the Victoria & Albert Museum
A scene from the gallery talk at the Sainsbury Centre

 Since 2013, the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC) in Norwich, UK, and Tokyo National Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) have been working on the joint project, “Shaping the Fundamentals of Research on Japanese Art.” SISJAC staff regularly provide information on literature and exhibitions related to Japanese arts held outside of Japan, and in previous years researchers from the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems have travelled to the UK for a site visit, consultation, and lecture. From 2020 until last year, online discussions were held, as it was not possible to visit the site, but this year two TOBUNKEN members, Mr. KIKKAWA Hideki and Ms. MAIZAWA Rei, have visited the UK for the first time in three years to tour the site, hold a consultation, and give a lecture.

 On the 14th, 15th, and 17th of November, we visited institutions related to art books and documentation in London. This included the art libraries and photographic archives attached to the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, the Courtauld Institute of Art, the University of London, and the Victoria & Albert Museum, as well as other libraries with substantial collections of Japanese materials, such as the British Library and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. We were given a tour of the facilities and presented with materials by the staff of each institution and discussed the possibility of holding joint projects with some of the institutions. These visits were coordinated by Mr. HIRANO Akira and accompanied by Mr. HIRANO Ms. HAYASHI Miwako of SISJAC.
 The consultation was held at SISJAC on the November 16, and Ms. MAIZAWA gave a gallery talk and lecture at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts that afternoon. The Sainsbury Centre, attached to the University of East Anglia, houses the collection of Sir Robert Sainsbury and Lady Lisa Sainsbury, the founders of SISJAC, which includes Japanese arts. A gallery talk on Buddhist and Shinto statues was held in the exhibition room, followed by the lecture in the basement conference room on ‘The activities of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties and its research on rakanzu (Arhat painting).’ In addition to the local general audience, Japanese officials visiting SISJAC also attended and listened attentively. Ms. MAIZAWA has been at SISJAC as a visiting researcher since October, and will continue to work on research and studies in the UK until the end of February next year.

Donation and Publication of Materials of MATSUSHIMA Ken

Mr. KAWAI Masatomo (center, left) and Director General SAITO Takamasa (center, right)
Examples of the donated materials

 Mr. MATSUSHIMA Ken (1944~1998) was the head of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), known at the time as the “National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo.” Materials related to his work were donated to TOBUNKEN by his brother-in-law, Mr. KAWAI Masatomo., and we have begun to make some of the materials available to the public. Mr. MATSUSHIMA had worked for a long time in the cultural properties administration at the Agency for Cultural Affairs, and has been a lifelong researcher of Japanese Buddhist sculpture. The donated materials, including research documents, photographs, and restoration records of Buddhist sculptures throughout Japan, are extremely valuable. We have been in possession of some of the materials since 2015, and since then have made some progress in organizing them; finally, all of the materials were officially donated in September 2023. In response to the donation, Mr. SAITO Takamasa, Director General of TOBUNKEN, presented a letter of gratitude to Mr. KAWAI on 2 October 2023. We have posted a list of the materials on our website as “Materials of MATSUSHIMA Ken” ( and the materials are also available in our library. We will continue to add data as needed. Please make use of this valuable resource.

Publication of X-ray film database

X-ray film database screen (Digital images can only be viewed in the reference room.)

 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) was one of the first in Japan to research and investigate cultural properties using scientific methods. In the 1950s, we began photographing cultural properties using X-rays and have accumulated a vast number of X-ray films over many years of experience. Some have already been published as ” List of X-ray film, ” available in PDF in the ” Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties Institutional Repositories – Publications “.
 However, TOBUNKEN has many X-ray films in addition to this catalog, and we have made this list available on our website as the “X-ray Film Database,” and digital images are also available in our library.
 The approximately 4,150 films released recently include many works, such as Buddhist sculptures, Buddhist paintings, crafts, and modern Western-style paintings, These are valuable images that contribute to research. We will continue to add data as needed; please use it.

Standing Yakushi Nyorai (Skt. Baisajyaguru) in the Jingoji Temple and the Deity Hachiman Keka (repentance in Buddhism) – The 2nd Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

The seminar
Q&A session

 Standing Yakushi Nyorai in the Jingoji Temple in Kyoto has attracted attention from the early stages of Japanese art history and has subsequently stimulated many discussions. The statue has an extraordinary appearance and provenance and was made at the request of Wake no Kiyomaro (733–799). Two topics are primarily debated: which temple the statue was originally set in, the Jinganji or Takaosanji Temple, both of which were later combined into the Jingoji Temple, and the background against which this statue was created. The theory by Dr. SARAI Mai has recently gained widespread support, namely, that Wake no Kiyomaro had the statue created as the principal image of the Jinganji Temple responding to a request by the Deity Hachiman which required the Buddhist power to compete against his political enemy, Dōkyō (?–772).

 The seminar was held by the Department on May 30th, 2022. Dr. HARA Hirofumi of Keio Shiki Senior High School conducted a presentation titled The Purpose of Making Standing Yakushi Nyorai and the Deity Hachiman Keka. Dr. HARA claimed that the statue was originally set in the Jinganji Temple, and then pointed out based on various materials that the story of the competition between the Deity Hachiman and Dōkyō was a fiction created in a later period. He then concluded that the statue is the principal image for Keka by the Deity Hachiman and was created at the private wish of Wake no Kiyomaro.

 This seminar was held in person and online in TOBUNKEN. We invited Dr. SARAI Mai of Gakushuin University as a commentator, and Prof. NAGAOKA Ryūsaku of Tohoku University. Other researchers specializing in the history of sculpture also participated. Various opinions were expressed in a lively discussion during the Q&A session. This presentation provided a new perspective on the studies of Standing Yakushi Nyorai of the Jingoji Temple. We expect further active discussions.

Publication of a Database of Exhibitions Impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic

Database screen showing the ability to refer museum information from links on the screen

 The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic affecting the world has had a huge impact on museum exhibitions. First, museums across Japan were forced to temporarily close because of a governmental request in February 2020 to voluntarily refrain from large-scale events. Following, repeated declarations of a State of Emergency and Quasi-State of Emergency forced museums to cancel and postpone many exhibitions. The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been collecting information about exhibitions held in Japan since 1935 and stores them in a public database ( Since May 2020, TOBUNKEN started collecting information of exhibitions impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which it published as a database (Japanese only.) (

 This database tabulates the status of exhibitions handling cultural properties, including cancelation, postponement, and early closure primarily for museum members of the Japan Association of Museums ( Before the pandemic, the information was collected based on printing materials such as leaflets and catalogues, annual calendars, and museums’ websites. However, the information is updated on a daily basis under the pandemic’s unpredictable situation; to every extent possible, we collected data widely from SNS such as Twitter and Facebook in addition to museum websites, including the duration of temporary closures and schedule changes. Collected data included 1,406 pieces of information that show the impact on museums over the last two years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, changes occurred: planned exhibitions (or rotating exhibitions) using their own collection were planned or held, instead of cancelling or postponing special exhibitions. More operations using SNS and online contents occurred.

 Even now though many museums are free from requested or forced temporary closure, they must still take preventive measures against COVID-19, such as advance registration systems, visitor number limitations, and museum sterilization. It is predicted that exhibition operations will continue to be affected. TOBUNKEN will continue to collect information and analyze long-term impacts on museums.

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.

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.

Research at Baijōsan Kōmyōji Temple

 On July 7th and 21st, 2021, we surveyed and photographed cultural properties at Baijōsan Kōmyōji Temple in Minato Ward, Tokyo.
 On July 7th, SHIRNO Seiji, EMURA Tomoko, YASUNAGA Takuyo, and MAIZAWA Rei (who belong to the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems) conducted an optical survey of Rakan-zu (a painting of Arhat, an enlightened Buddhist high priest). In the previous fiscal year, we also surveyed and photographed the same painting and presented an overview, such as its history, at the eighth workshop of the Department of Art Research for fiscal 2020 ( In this latest survey, we used fluorescent photo shooting to check the storage conditions and expressions in more detail, such as the difference between the original portion and the portion touched upon later, which are difficult to detect with naked eye.
 On July 21st, EMURA Tomoko, YASUNAGA Takuyo, and MAIZAWA Rei examined a painting of TAKEDA Unshitsu (1753-1827), a priest from Iiyama, Shinano Province. Unshitsu, the 26th head priest of Kōmyōji Temple, was a man of letters who excelled in poetry, writing, and drawing. He organized a poetry and writing association and interacted with many writers in the Edo period, including HIROSE Taizan and TANI Bunchō. Kōmyōji Temple has various works of Unshitsu, such as landscape paintings, paintings based on historical anecdotes, various written documents, as well and Sansuichō , a collection of his paintings. These are very valuable for learning about the activities and achievements of Unshitsu.
 Founded in Kasumigaseki in the Kamakura period, Kōmyōji Temple relocated the building to its current location in the early Edo period. This ancient temple has a bell with an inscription, “Enpo 6” (1678), and a stone monument with an inscription, “Meiwa 9” (1772). Based on this survey, we will continue to conduct research on Rakan-zu and Unshitsu. We at the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties will continue to actively conduct research on cultural properties that still remain in the community.

Gunsen kitsuun zu,
(Immortals eating clouds)
by TAKEDA Unshitsu, Bunsei 8 (1825)
Survey scene
A portion of the painting

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

A scene from the seminar

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

Pair of Hanging Scroll Paintings of the Fudōmyōo (Skt.Acala): Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

Scene of the seminar [image: Fudōmyōo (Skt. Acala) and Two Attendants at Zenrin-ji Temple]

 The 9th Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems Seminar was held on February 28th, 2019. Rei MAIZAWA (Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems) gave a presentation entitled “Pair of Hanging Scroll Paintings of the Fudōmyōo (Skt. Acala): Zenrin-ji Temple and Kōki-ji Temple,” and Tetsuei TSUDA (Aoyama Gakuin University) was invited as a commentator.
 The presentation was with regard to “Fudōmyōo (Skt. Acala) and Two Attendants” at Zenrin-ji Temple, Kyoto, and “Fudōmyōo (Skt. Acala) and Four Attendants” at Kōki-ji Temple, Osaka. After providing a detailed description of the pair of paintings and the style of painting, Maizawa deduced that they were produced in the late Kamakura Period and the late Nanbokucho Period, respectively. Indicating the similarity between the two paintings in that the Skt. Acala is depicted in the center flanked by two attendants, she went on to explain how the preexisting Skt. Acala image found in Zenrin-ji Temple was most likely used as a reference when producing the rare image of the “Fudōmyōo (Skt. Acala) and Four Attendants.”
 The belief in the Skt. Acala, a deity in esoteric Buddhism, was popular in the early Heian Period. Numerous depictions of the Skt. Acala were made in the form of sculptures and paintings. Original Skt. Acala images that did not exist earlier were produced during the Middle Ages in Japan, and “Fudōmyōo (Skt. Acala) and Four Attendants” at Kōki-ji Temple is one of them. A detailed consideration of the pair of images will reveal some insights into the diverse production of Skt. Acala images.
 At the seminar, internal and external researchers engaged in a lively discussion on how the Skt. Acala was worshiped, the origin of the pair of images, and what they express.

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