|■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
The optical study of the Nissokan doors (two panels)
The Phoenix Hall of Byodoin Temple, where the temple’s principal image is enshrined, has two doors at its entrance the rear corridor, featuring Nissokan illustrations intended to evoke Paradise. The door on the right-hand side depicts mountains with buildings in their midst, including a Buddhist temple, while the images on the left door include the expansive sea and the setting sun above the horizon. While naturally the passing years have caused many parts of the paintings to peel off and a number of repairs were made by later generations, in light of the tough environment in which they were placed the original pictures can be said to have survived the years well. These are very important paintings in that they are rare examples of full-fledged paintings remaining from the mid-Heian Period. In September 2012, as requested by Byodoin Temple the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo conducted an optical study focusing chiefly on the paint remaining under the sliding locks that had been installed atop the pictures in later years, since those locks had just been removed.
This more recent study focused chiefly on the outer frame of the doors, a part of the Nissokan doors not previously subjected to full-fledged optical study. Parts of the frames are decorated with patterns that from their materials are thought to be original. From January 8 through January 10, 2013, Seiji SHIRONO and Tatsuro KOBAYASHI of the Planning and Information Department took high-resolution color images, fluorescence images, and infrared images of the Nissokan images themselves along with other subjects including fragments of the Jobonjoshozu doors of the Phoenix Hall, preserved in the Hoshokan, and parts of the ceiling panels. Yasuhiro HAYAKAWA of the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques used fluorescence X-ray analysis to study the materials used in the frame patterns. After study of the data obtained, plans call for reporting the data to the Byodoin and then announcing it publicly in the future.
Prior to this study, the Nissokan doors were moved to the Hoshokan, a museum facility equipped with an environment resembling that of the interior of the Byodoin, and they will be preserved and made available for public viewing in this facility. Plans call for installation of new doors with reproductions of the Nissokan paintings inside the Phoenix Hall, and this optical study, like its predecessor, is likely to contribute greatly to the process of preparing these reproductions.
A presentation during the study meeting
A Toshidon revealing its face
I conducted a study of the Toshidon event held on New Year’s Eve on Shimo-Koshikijima Island in the city of Satsumasendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, in which deities are said to visit bringing good luck. Koshikijima no Toshidon was named an Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Japan in 1977, and in 2009 it was added to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
The Toshidon deities are said to visit on the evening of December 31, riding headless horses. Children of ages three through eight come out to meet them in the living rooms of their homes. The deities emerge from the darkness accompanied by low, groaning voices saying “Oruka, oruka” (“Is anybody there? Is anybody there?”) and the sound of a hand bell, appearing in the corners of the living room and questioning the children. They both scold and threaten the children for the bad things they have done over the year and praise them for the good things they have done, along with having children show off their own talents such as singing, dancing, or multiplication tables and praise them for how they do. Lastly, they admonish the children to be good and give them large rice cakes called toshimochi, before disappearing.
This is a deeply frightening experience for small children, and some run away in tears, but after successfully completing the questions and answers they seem relieved, feeling as if they have accomplished something. I also was impressed by the way other family members too are moved to tears, perhaps as a result of thinking about the children’s growth. People in the local community consider the Toshidon an educational event for children, and it probably could be said that in one aspect this event has continued to the present day thanks to the way this meaning of the event, easy to understand in contemporary society, has been discussed and shared in the community.
However, it is a fact that there are many issues regarding the continuation of this tradition. The biggest problem is the low birth rate, as only four of the six designated Toshidon conservation associations conducted the event this year. Even in the Teuchi Motomachi conservation association, which I accompanied on its rounds, only five homes were visited this year compared to a number of 10 homes up until a few years ago, and two of these five were grandparents’ homes where grandchildren were visiting for the holiday.
Another major issue is how to balance the tradition with tourism. Since the Toshidon being named an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2009, the Motomachi conservation association has actively accepted researchers and other visitors coming to view the event. This year, the group was accompanied by about 15 onlookers, including myself. As the Toshidon becomes well-known in Japan and around the world and attracts the interest of many people, this provides significant motivation to the local community to continue the tradition and also serves as a tourism resource. However, at the same time I sensed that an important issue in the future would be that of how to preserve and balance its significance and atmosphere as a religious observance and ritual.
A presentation during the study meeting
A general discussion during the study meeting
On Thursday, January 24, the Center for Conservation Science and Restoration Techniques held a study meeting in a seminar room at the Research Institute on the theme of deterioration and repair of paint and other coloring materials in architectural cultural properties, one subject involved in traditional restoration materials. The content of this study meeting could be described as a continuation of the third study meeting held in FY2009, on current conditions and issues in study and repair of lacquers in architectural cultural properties, and the fifth in FY2011, on study and repair of traditional paints in architectural cultural properties. Historically, paint and other coloring materials such as those on the exteriors of architectural cultural properties have been subjected to repeated repair because they are liable to material degradation and bio-degradation in Japan’s climate.
This study meeting provided the latest information on various issues related to these matters, from the individual perspectives of conservation and restoration science (paint and coloring materials and biology), structural repair sites, and administrative guidance. First, KITANO Nobuhiko of the Technical Standard Section discussed deterioration of paint and coloring materials, and then KIGAWA Rika, head of the Biological Science Section, identified topics related mainly to insect damage at the Shrines and Temples of Nikko World Heritage Site and mold damage at Kirishima-Jingu shrine, as examples of biodegradation of materials including paints and coloring, as well as examples of responses to such damage. Next, SHIMADA Yutaka of the Cultural Properties Division in the Department of Guidance of the Kyoto Prefecture Board of Education reported on examples of repairs to the paint and coloring of Iwashimizu Hachimangu Shrine and to the paint of the Phoenix Hall of Byodoin Temple, and HARASHIMA Makoto of the technical office of Itsukushima Shrine reported on an example of repairs to the paint of the main building of Itsukushima Shrine. Lastly, TOYOKI Hiroyuki, Architecture and Other Structures Division, Agency for Cultural Affairs, described an overview of the fundamental concepts behind repairs to paint and coloring materials currently conducted by the Agency. The meeting was well received by participants, who showed high levels of interest in the content of its themes because they were directly related to repair of paint and coloring materials.
A presentation in the seminar (Deputy Minister Samuelyan at left)
The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo invited to Japan Ms. Arev Samuelyan, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Armenia, over the 10-day period from January 10 through January 18 2013, under the framework of an Agency for Cultural Affairs project to invite to Japan artists and experts in cultural properties from overseas.
During the first half of her visit to Japan, the Deputy Minister Samuelyan energetically visited spots including the backyards and exhibits of the Tokyo National Museum and the National Museum of Western Art as well as conservation sites of historic architectures in Kyoto and Nara, such as Kiyomizu-dera temple, exchanging opinions with experts. At a seminar on the subject of conservation of cultural properties in the Republic of Armenia and Japanese cooperation with such efforts held by the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo on January 16, she presented on the current state of protection of cultural properties in Armenia. Representatives from Japan presented on the subjects of a survey report on the Republic of Armenia (by the Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage), a project on human-resources development and technical transfer for conservation of archaeological metal objects under a framework of the program of “networking core centers for international cooperation on conservation of cultural heritage” funded by the Agency for Cultural Affairs (by the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation), propagation of Armenian architectures to other countries in the vicinity of Armenia, and a workshop on conservation of textiles at the History Museum of Armenia (by the Japan Foundation). The event provided excellent opportunities for networking among organizations and researchers related to Armenia as well as informing the general public about Japan’s cooperation in protecting Armenia’s cultural properties. In addition, on January 17 Ms. Samuelyan made a courtesy visit to Commissioner for Cultural Affairs Seiichi Kondo, expressing gratitude for Japan’s cooperation in conservation of cultural properties and asking for continued support in the future.
This invitation served as an opportunity for building even closer ties in the existing cooperative relationship between the two countries as well as promoting cooperation and exchange projects between Japan and Armenia in a variety of fields, not just the protection of cultural properties.
Taking measurements at a wooden temple
An example of a highly damaged temple building
Visiting a metal casting workshop
Survey at the National Museum in Yangon
As part of the Project for International Contribution to Protection of Cultural Heritage (Experts’ Exchange) conducted by the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo under commission by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, a mission of experts was dispatched to Myanmar from January 26 through February 3. This mission, made up of 17 members in total, comprised three teams to study the fields of architecture, arts and crafts, and archaeology, respectively. The National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo was responsible for the fields of architecture and arts and crafts, while the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties was responsible for archaeology. Intended to make clear future directions of action for cooperation provided by Japan to Myanmar in regard to safeguarding of cultural heritage, the survey was able to advance smoothly with the accompaniment and assistance of the responsible staff members from the Department of Archaeology, National Museum and Library of the Myanmar Ministry of Culture.
Together with checking the state of damage and key factors affecting conservation of brick monuments in Bagan as well as wooden monasteric buildings in Mandalay and other areas, the architecture team’s activities also included interviews with concerned staff of local agencies and craftsmen, to identify issues related to future conservation and restoration. These activities revealed such as the fact that full-fledged structural repairs had not been conducted in a long time and activities such as keeping basic records concerning the state of conservation were not being conducted to a sufficient extent.
The arts and crafts team conducted surveys and interviews on the state of conservation, storage and exhibition, as well as training of human resources involved in conservation and restoration, for mural paintings , metal objects, lacquerwares, and books and sacred documents. It did so by visiting national museums and libraries, temples, schools, and workshops in Yangon, Bagan, and Mandalay. While they observed signs of the knowledge obtained through overseas training and other efforts being put to use in Myanmar, it also was clear that sufficient conservation and restoration measures were not being taken, due to shortages of materials and equipment and to underdevelopment of related systems.
The mission also gathered basic information on Myanmar’s system for protection of cultural heritage through activities including meeting with the Ministry of Culture in the capital city of Naypyitaw. While it was clear that there were shortages in areas such as the technologies and human resources needed to conserve and restore cultural heritage in each field, the motivation of those in Myanmar to improve the situation was high, so that it is expected that technology transfer and human-resources development through projects such as joint research and training would be highly effective as assistance.
Seminat on conservation of stone monuments in Angkor
Second measurement training at the Ta Nei site
Since 2001, the National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo has jointly conducted studies and research on conservation of cultural properties made of stone, with its main field being the Ta Nei site in Angkor, Cambodia, together with the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA). This seminar, with the participation of experts from Japan, Cambodia, Italy, and South Korea who had taken part in these studies, included presentations on subjects such as taxonomical research on lichens, quantitative and qualitative research on physical changes in stone materials, and research on the relationship between the environment and living organisms, as an overview of research that had been conducted up to that point to monitor and control the living organisms that flourish on stone surfaces. It also featured exchange of opinions on improving site conservation in the future.
Also, the second training onarchitectural measurementwas held at the Ta Nei site from January 10 to 18. A total of 11 trainees, including two new participants from the APSARA, split into three teams to check the plans prepared in the first training in July of last year and to continue the measurement work using total stations, largely completing the plan of the central part of thetemple.
Continuation of research cooperation, including transfer of technology and human-resources development are planned, while further studying how the results of these efforts can be put to use in conservation of Angkorsites.
Materials from American institutions involved in conservation of cultural properties
The Freer Gallery of Art
The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation carries out studies and research concerning the systems for conservation of cultural properties in each country around the world. As one such project, currently it is studying the state of conservation of movable cultural properties in the United States. While the U.S. is home to numerous museums of history and art and holds many of the world’s movable cultural properties, it has no government agency that specializes in the protection and management of cultural properties. Management of cultural properties is left to their owners, and management and regulation at the federal level is not very strong except in emergencies such as major natural disasters. Under these circumstances, management, restoration, and exhibition of moveable cultural properties in the U.S. is handled on an individual basis, in accordance with the management policies of each museum and with the wishes of the properties’ owners.
While thinking on cultural properties differs considerably between Japan and the U.S., at the same time the U.S. is home to numerous art museums that hold collections of Japanese art. In addition, the Center’s Cooperative Program for the Conservation of Japanese Art Objects Overseas, begun in 1991, has restored more than 250 works of art at 24 art museums across the United States. Thus, the Center has close ties with American art museums. Accordingly, from January 26 through February 3, 2013 Tomoko EMURA and Asuka SAKAINO conducted a study in Washington, D.C. to ascertain in a systematic way the state of the conservation of movable cultural properties in the United States. They conducted a number of interviews focusing chiefly on key organizations conducting comprehensive activities to protect cultural properties, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Park Service of the Department of the Interior, the Library of Congress, the American Institute for Conservation (AIC)/Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation (FAIC), the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), and the nonprofit Heritage Preservation. They also studied the state of management of the collections of history and art museums. In particular, they learned about the collection management rules and the state of restoration of works at the Freer Gallery of Art. America’s oldest national art museum, the Freer Gallery opened in 1923 and holds numerous works of art from East Asia, including Japan.
This study showed that one of the reasons cultural properties in the U.S. are conserved appropriately despite the lack of strict regulations is because of cooperation among individual organizations and personnel along with effective functioning of bottom-up decision-making. Future plans call for advancing more practical study and research looking at the history museums playing central roles in each region of the U.S. and at museums holding works of Japanese art.