|■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
In the Restoration Laboratory
14 participants of the Kyushu National Museum’s “Project to Encourage Active Use of Museums”:
On November 10, fourteen participants in the Kyushu National Museum’s “Project to Encourage Active Use of Museums” visited the Institute to view research activities related to conservation of cultural properties in order to facilitate the implementation of integrated pest management (IPM) at their individual facilities. The participants toured the Restoration Laboratory, Fumigation Laboratory, and Biology Laboratory of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques and the Restoration Studio of the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation. The staff members in charge of each section explained the work they do.
In the Image Laboratory
Four visitors from the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, South Korea:
On November 15, four visitors from the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, South Korea visited the Institute as part of a conservation project. The visitors toured the Image Laboratory of the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems and the Restoration Laboratory and Chemistry Laboratory of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques. The staff members in charge of each section explained the work they do.
In the Chemistry Laboratory
Mr. Yokokawa, Director of the Historical Museum of Nagasaki Shipyard and Machinery Works, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.:
On November 11, Mr. Yokokawa, Director of the Historical Museum of Nagasaki Shipyard and Machinery Works, visited the Institute in order to view the studio and the laboratories where the lacquered shelf of the Argentina Maru, a piece in the museum’s collection, is going to be restored. Director Yokokawa toured the Conservation Laboratory and Chemistry Laboratory of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques and the Restoration Studio of the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation. The staff members in charge of each section explained the work they do.
In the Restoration Studio
Prof. A. Ochir, International Institute for the Study of Nomadic Civilizations, Mongolia and Prof. Matsukawa, Otani University:
On November 25, Profs. A. Ochir and Matsukawa visited the Institute in order to exchange opinions with our specialists on the Birch-Bark Manuscripts that were recently excavated in Mongolia. The visitors also inspected the current state of conservation of paper in Japan. The visitors toured the Conservation Laboratory and the Chemistry Laboratory of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques and the Restoration Studio of the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation. The staff members in charge of each section explained the work they do.
Presentation by TAKAGISHI Akira (Nov. 11th)
Presentation by SASAKI Moritoshi (Nov. 12th)
In order to further publicize the results of its day-to-day research, the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems hosts a public lecture series each fall for personnel from the Institute and other facilities. This year marked the 45th of these lecture series. The theme of this year’s lecture series was a new one, Dialogues on Objects and Images, and dealt with various aspects of cultural properties as immobile objects that engender vivid imagery in people’s minds. Four art history researchers from the Institute and other facilities gave presentations Nov. 11th and 12th in the Institute’s seminar hall.
The theme for Nov. 11th was “Multiple streams of styles in Japanese art history: Selection and modification of styles.” SARAI Mai, a researcher in the Department, gave a presentation entitled “From the Early to Late Heian Period: Sculpting of the Juichimen Kannon [eleven-headed Kannon] at Rokuharamitsuji Temple while TAKAGISHI Akira, an associate professor in the graduate school of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, gave a presentation entitled “From the Kamakura Period to the Muromachi Period: The origins and revival of the medieval Yamato-e painting style.” Ms. SARAI focused on “style,” a concept particular to art history, as she discussed sculptures during a transition in styles in the mid-10th century with specific attention to the context in which those sculptures were produced. Mr. TAKAGISHI expanded on his own multilayered view of changes in Yamato-e style paintings evident in picture scrolls from the end of the Heian Period–Muromachi Period.
The theme for Nov. 12th was “Concepts of antique art.” WATADA Minoru, Head of the Department’s Trans-Disciplinary Research Section, gave a presentation entitled “Foundations for Chinese-style paintings of the Muromachi Period: Shubun and Sesshu” while SASAKI Moritoshi of the Machida City Museum of Graphic Arts gave a presentation entitled “Buddhist print design from the Heian Period–Kamakura Period: Buddhist images on stamps.” Antique art tends to be described merely in terms of shape, but Mr. WATADA shed light on conditions during the creation of “Autumn and Winter Landscapes,” one of Sesshu’s works (in the Tokyo National Museum’s collection) and the works of Shubun, his teacher, as well as the roles of those works. Similarly, Mr. SASAKI shed light on conditions during the creation of Buddhist prints stored inside Buddhist statues as well as the roles of those prints. Although completely forgotten today, the “concepts” of those works were brought to light.
Lectures were unusually well attended, with an audience of 128 on Nov. 11th and 108 on Nov. 12th. The seminar hall was packed. In each presentation, presenters described the results of their latest research. Despite the academic content of the lectures, audiences remained enthralled and appeared to enjoy these novel topics.
The Azerbaijan State Museum of Art
Survey underway at the Museum
As part of a program for cultural cooperation by the Japan Foundation and scheduled from Nov. 27 to Dec. 6, 2011, a survey of Japan-related artworks in the collection of the Azerbaijan State Museum of Art was conducted. Azerbaijan became an independent state following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Its capital, Baku, is located on the western coast of the Caspian Sea, and medieval buildings that have been inscribed as world heritage sites still remain in the older part of the city. The Azerbaijan State Museum of Art was founded in Baku in 1920 and curates and domestically exhibits primarily Russian and European paintings and sculptures. The Museum’s collection includes about 300 pieces of Oriental art from Japan and China, but the Museum has no expert in Oriental art, so the Museum has had difficulty distinguishing Japanese artworks from those made in China or elsewhere. Thus, OCHI Ayako, a member of a culture team in the Cultural Programs Division of the Japan Foundation, KOMATSU Taishu, Director of the Akita Senshu Museum of Art, and EMURA Tomoko of the Institute visited the Museum. We surveyed works in the collection and advised Museum personnel on exhibiting and managing those works. As a result, the survey determined that about 100 of 270 works that were surveyed were Japanese artworks (pottery, sculptures, lacquerware, gilded objects, textiles, paintings, and books printed from woodblocks). Most of the surveyed works are pottery exported overseas from Japan and China from the late 19th century to the early 20th century; although the pieces are not considered particularly rare, the identification of this collection of exported pottery is significant. Plans are to finish compiling the survey data and then translate the survey report and provide copies to the Museum. This effort should help to further understanding of Japanese culture in Azerbaijan and help locate unknown works held abroad as part of research on pottery exported from Japan.
While in Azerbaijan, we visited the Embassy of Japan in the Republic of Azerbaijan and met with WATANABE Shusuke, the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. The Ambassador explained that he wanted to build on the survey and encourage further cultural exchanges between Japan and Azerbaijan. The efforts of Embassy staff like KOBAYASHI Ginga, second secretary to the Japanese Embassy and supervisor of this program, helped to ensure our survey went smoothly overall. The year 2012 will mark a 20-year milestone since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Azerbaijan. Plans are underway for the Museum to host commemorative exhibitions with the cooperation of the Japanese Embassy. The survey was extremely significant since it laid the groundwork for future activities like plans for friendly relations between the two countries.
Decoy cormorants placed in front of a hut (where catchers wait for cormorants) on a 15-meter-high cliff
A cormorant that has just been hooked and caught
This study examined techniques of catching Japanese cormorants (an intangible folk cultural property of Hitachi City) in Jyu-o Town, Ibaraki Prefecture in the beginning of November. This was the second time this area was visited since last spring, when the aftermath of the earthquake in March was investigated. Since the study took place midway through the autumn cormorant season, the actual techniques used to catch cormorants were observed and recorded. Cormorants in flight are lured in by using several cormorants as decoys. They are then hooked with a long bamboo pole, placed in bamboo cages with their bills fixed with a little wooden implement called a Hashikake, and sent to cormorant fishing sites all over Japan.
Researchers were fortunate enough to see a cormorant been caught during the study since cormorant catchers mentioned that they often saw no cormorants flying even after waiting for several days. In terms of the type of technique, techniques to catch cormorants could be categorized as ambush hunting techniques, which include techniques to catch falcons and Mabushi hunting, a primitive style of hunting. Cormorant catching retains this primitiveness because catchers have to select and catch only quality cormorants and because large numbers of cormorants need not be caught. However, this also means that cormorant catching alone cannot constitute one’s livelihood, resulting in a lack of catchers to carry on the technique. Since almost all of the cormorant fishermen at 12 locations in Japan use cormorants caught in Jyu-o town, this technique of catching cormorants is an important folk technique that sustains traditional cormorant fishing in Japan. Additional safeguards are needed to pass on this technique in the future
6th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage
The 6th session of Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was held in the Nusa Dua area of Bali, Indonesia from November 22 to 29, 2011 at the Bali International Convention Centre. Representing the Institute, MIYATA Shigeyuki and IMAISHI Migiwa from the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage and FUTAGAMI Yoko from the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems participated in the conference.
In the Session, 11 nominated files were inscribed in the “List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding,” 19 were inscribed in the “Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity,” and 5 safeguarding practices were registered as “Best Safeguarding Practices.”
Six files nominated by Japan for the Representative List were evaluated. As a result, 2 nominated elements, “Mibu no Hana Taue, ritual of transplanting rice in Mibu, Hiroshima” and “Sada Shin Noh, sacred dancing at Sada shrine, Shimane,” were inscribed, and 4 nominated files, including “Hon-minoshi, papermaking in the Mino region of Gifu Prefecture,” were “referred” back to the submitting state.
“Referring” a nomination is a system adopted by this session of the Committee in order to ask Submitting States for additional information, if necessary, to better recommend whether to inscribe the element or not. Since the system is brand new, lengthy debate was held over the appropriateness of each “referral.” Topics that had been discussed starting last year, such as limits on the number of nominations considered, limits on the number of nominations made by each State, and the appropriateness of involving experts from the Consultative Body, led to a greater rift in opinions among Committee Members than was apparent last year. Several topics were even decided by a majority vote, which had never occurred before in a session. Although in full force for less than 3 years, the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage appears to have reached a turning point. This issue is of considerable interest domestically and, given the desire to encourage international exchanges in the area of Intangible Cultural Heritage, these trends must be carefully followed in the future.
Workshop in progress
The 16th Local Workshop on Materials Conservation was held on Nov. 16th and 17th at the Contemporary Art Museum, Kumamoto The workshop had 68 attendees.
The workshop seeks to send Institute personnel into local communities to teach basic knowledge about materials conservation to curators and administrators of cultural heritage. Seminars are conducted on topics such as general theory, temperature and humidity, lighting, climate control, and pest control. In addition, this session of the workshop was the first to feature a lecture on materials conservation in a “contemporary art museum.” Contemporary art museums are often designed based on concepts unlike those used in facilities dealing with works prior to the modern era. That said, contemporary art museums sometimes handle classical works, including national treasures , so persons in charge of cultural properties need to be aware of the characteristics of their individual facilities in order to safely conserve and exhibit those pieces. Such persons also need to handle those pieces appropriately. In addition, such persons are aware that the time has come for them to seriously consider the conservation of contemporary artworks with potential historical and artistic value. The fact is that we as curators are lacking in experience with and study of both works of contemporary art and the facilities curating them. Thus, the Institute hopes to actively ascertain the needs of current curators and highlight those issues.