|■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
Mr. Nobuo KAMEI, Director General of our Institute since April 2010 passed away on July 17th, 2018, of gastric cancer. He devoted himself to the growth and advancement of the Institute until his very last moment. Mr. KAMEI graduated from the Department of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering of the University of Tokyo and completed the doctoral course in the Department of Urban Engineering, Graduate School of Engineering of the same university in March 1973. He joined the Architecture Division, Cultural Properties Protection Department of the Agency for Cultural Affairs of the Government of Japan as a Technical Official in April of that year. He moved to the Nara National Cultural Properties Research Institute (current Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties) in 1975, then to the Board of Education of Nara City in 1984 and became President of the National Institute of Technology, Miyakonojo College in 2003. In 2005 he returned to the Agency for Cultural Affairs and served as Councillor of the Cultural Properties Department until he assumed the post of Managing Director of the Japanese Association for Conservation of Architectural Monuments, an incorporated foundation in 2008. During his service at the Agency for Cultural Affairs, he made a great contribution to the enhancement of the program for the registration of cultural properties and also played an instrumental role in the selection, repair and landscaping of the “Important Preservation Districts for Groups of Traditional Buildings.” In addition, Mr. KAMEI launched the “Hometown Forest for Cultural Properties” program designed to ensure that Japanese cypress bark and other resources required for the maintenance and repair of traditional buildings will be available for years to come. When the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake struck on January 17th, 1995, he demonstrated his leadership in the restoration of affected cultural properties as chief investigator.
Between April 2010 and March 2013 he was Director of the National Institutes for Cultural Heritage and concomitantly Director General of our Institute, the latter of which he continued to hold after he stepped down from the former organization. In the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred less than a year from his arrival at our Institute, he took Chairman of the Committee for Salvaging Cultural Properties Affected by the 2011 Earthquake off the Pacific Coast of Tohoku and Related Disasters that was set up by the Agency for Cultural Affairs. Mr. KAMEI successfully led the rescue operation that involved 6,800 people in total from around the country and lasted for two years.
Outside the Institute, he served as the chair of the Subdivision on Cultural Properties of the Council for Cultural Affairs since 2017. In that capacity he took the initiative in proposing recommendations concerning the “Preservation and Utilization of Cultural Properties for Assured Inheritance in the New Era.” His contribution to the protection and inheritance of cultural properties encompassed not only architecture, his own specialization, but also all other cultural properties.
All of us at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties are deeply saddened by the loss of Mr. KAMEI, especially at a time when the national policy on the preservation of cultural properties is entering a new dimension following the March 2018 revision of the Act on the Protection of Cultural Properties. We renew our commitment to carrying on Mr. KAMEI’s last wishes of duly passing on our precious cultural properties to future generations.
Ordination hall doors of Wat Rajpradit
On July 30th, 2018, the above seminar was conducted at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) with ten research presentations delivered by eleven experts.
Wat Rajpradit is a first-grade royal Buddhist temple located in Bangkok, Thailand. It was built at the request of King Rama IV in 1864. The windows of the ordination hall (ubosot) and the inner sides of the entrance doors of the Temple were mother-of-pearl with underpaint and the panels were decorated with lacquer paintings. For the mother-of-pearl with underpaint, thin strips of abalone or other shells were placed on the base material after coloring, line drawing and metal foil were applied on the reverse of the shell pieces. At the request of the Fine Arts Department of the Ministry of Culture of Thailand and the Temple, TNRICP started providing technical assistance for the restoration project in Thailand in 2012. From 2013 through 2015, two door panels were brought to Japan to conduct a detailed scientific survey and trial restoration in collaboration with experts inside and outside the Institute.
At this seminar, the results of an optical survey implemented in Thailand and the interpretation of icons found in the lacquer painting patterns were also reported, in addition to the outcomes of the scientific surveys such as X-ray photography of door panels, fluorescent X-ray analysis of pigments, and organic analysis of lacquer coating film and undercoat. These outcomes identified the techniques and materials used for decorating the door panels, showing evidence that they were made in Japan. In addition, the manufacturing techniques used on these door panels and the Japanese style of mother-of pearl with underpaint that existed in Japan and Thailand were considered, while how and when such techniques evolved were also studied.
The technique of mother-of-pearl with underpaint was used for a short period from the end of 18th century until the late 19th century. Its technical genealogy has not been fully clarified yet. We will continue to provide technical support for the door panel restoration project at Wat Rajpradit while conducting research and study on door panels and mother-of-pearl with underpaint in both Japan and Thailand.
In July 2013, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties signed a memorandum of agreement on a five-year joint project with the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC) located in Norwich in the County of Norfolk, UK and worked on the project of “Shaping the Fundamentals of Research on Japanese Art” while sending researchers of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems to give lectures on Japanese art at the SISJAC every year. In the project of “Shaping the Fundamentals of Research on Japanese Art”, SISJAC has collected and entered data related to the study of Japanese arts written in English to be added to the database of our institute. By the middle of June 2018, 4675 items including 2584 titles of articles on Japanese cultural properties, 1631 titles of art exhibitions and movie festivals held overseas, and 460 titles of books on Japanese cultural properties published overseas had been sent and gathered into the database of our institute to enable cross-searches.
To continue these projects, Dr. Simon Kaner, General Director of SISJAC and Yamanashi, Deputy Director General of the institute signed the renewed memorandum of agreement on the joint project on July 13th at the SISJAC. Continuation of the joint project would help to enrich the database and enhance research exchange.
Miyazono-bushi: Performance during the actual video recording (From left: MIYAZONO Senyoshie, MIYAZONO Senroku, MIYAZONO Senkazuya, and MIYAZONO Senkoju)
On July 30th, 2018, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage recorded a live performance of Miyazono-bushi (for the first time) at the Performing Arts Studio of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties. Miyazono-bushi is designated as a nationally important intangible cultural property.
The first MIYAKOJI Sonohachi created Miyazono-bushi in Kyoto in the early 18th century. It declined later in Kyoto, but was revived in Edo in the mid-18th century, and has been inherited until today. The musical features of Miyazono-bushi are its unique joruri (vocal part), which is heavy yet silky, and the sound of the chuzao (middle neck) shamisen (Japanese banjo), which is soft yet thick. The traditional tunes are divided into 10 classical ones and modern ones, whose themes are mostly elopements for double suicides.
This time, a classical tune, the “Scene of KOHARU Jihee Using Kotatsu (Japanese foot warmer)” (Kotatsu), and a modern tune, “Double Suicide in Minowa” were recorded. Both were performed by MIYAZONO Senroku (lead singer: an individual certified as a Holder of Important Intangible Cultural Property or what is called living national treasure), MIYAZONO Senyoshie (supporting singer), MIYAZONO Senkazuya (lead shamisen player), and MIYAZONO Senkoju (supporting shamisen player).
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continue to record the live performance of classical Miyazono-bushi tunes as well as its modern tunes, which are seldom played.
Practical training with historic textiles
Analysis of the fiber structure by microscope
From June 25th through July 6th, 2018, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties organized a workshop on the conservation of historic textiles in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture in the Republic of Armenia. Based on the cooperation agreement regarding the cultural heritage protection area established between them in 2014, this workshop was implemented for the second time following last year.
This workshop was conducted at the Scientific Research Center for Historical and Cultural Heritage and the Museum of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin with Dr. Mie ISHII, a visiting researcher from the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation, and Ms. Midori YOKOYAMA from the NHK Culture Center Saitama, as lecturers. Fourteen trainees from seven institutions such as museums and galleries in Armenia attended the workshop. At the Scientific Research Center, historic textiles unearthed from archaeological sites in the 12th century, which the Center possesses, were analyzed by microscope before practical training on how they should be stored. At the Museum of the Mother See, the trainees stitched the Museum’s textiles for reinforcement with more advanced techniques before exhibiting them at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the United States in September.
This time, we provided practical training with historic textiles that provided the trainees with very good experience. We will organize a workshop in 2019 as well to transfer our knowledge and techniques to Armenian specialists.
Ongoing work at the pagoda dome
Wall painting of Pokala Temple (portion)
From July 11th to August 5th, 2018, we conducted conservation and restoration work on the outer walls of Me-taw-ya Temple (No. 1205), a brick temple at the Bagan Archaeological Site in Myanmar, aiming primarily to protect the mural paintings from rain. Continuing the work implemented from this January through February, we reviewed the portions damaged by the earthquake in 2016, and considered the restoration methods for stucco decorations and joint fillers that would affect the beauty of its facade. As a result, we successfully indicated how collapsed bricks should be restored together with the materials to be used, which was highly esteemed by the Bagan Branch, the Department of Archaeology and National Museums, the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture of Myanmar.
In addition, we continually conducted studies on art history, iconography, and the evolution of mural painting techniques in Myanmar. First, we collected further information on representative mural paintings from the 11th century through the 13th century in Bagan for a greater understanding. Second, we moved to Mandalay from where we visited temples scattered in Inwa, Sagaing, Amarapura, and Kyaukse in order to grasp the features of wall paintings from the 17th century through the 19th century.
During our stay in Myanmar, we visited the Embassy of Japan in Yangon to briefly outline this project. We will share information on our activities to conserve cultural properties in Bagan through regular progress reports.
Removing the Collapsed Wooden Members of the Old House
Memorial Service at Changangkha Lhakhang
In cooperation with the Division for Conservation of Heritage Sites, Department of Culture, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs of Bhutan, we surveyed traditional houses built with the rammed earth construction technique in the capital, Thimphu, and the Paro Dzongkhag from July 16th to July 24th, 2018.
We focused on an old house located in Kabesa Village in the northern outskirts of Thimphu as the best example of a house built in an ancient style among the old farm houses we discovered through the surveys. Regrettably, the upper floors and other wooden elements of the house, which had been left uninhabited for many years, collapsed last year, but its external walls built with rammed earth remain. As a result of emphasizing the significance of preserving this house at a workshop held in the city in March 2018, the owner withdrew his intention to demolish the house, and a movement began toward its restoration. In response to this, we collected the wooden members of the house, and individually recorded and identified their original locations, before placing them into temporary storage. We confirmed that the members were far less damaged or missing than expected, which enables an accurate restoration. We expect that examination of concrete restoration and utilization measures will progress after this.
Since 2016, the research and study of old houses in Bhutan has been conducted under Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research. During our stay in Bhutan this time, we received the sad news that the representative of the research project, Dr. Nobuo KAMEI, Director General of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, had passed away. The Bhutanese people involved in the cooperation project proposed that we should hold a memorial service for the DG at Changangkha Lhakhang, a venerable temple overlooking the city of Thimphu. The staff members involved in the joint activities gathered there to pray for the repose of his soul by lighting 108 votive candles.
Lecture on handling of folding screens
Practical work on restoration of a hanging scroll
These workshops are held annually for the purpose of preservation and utilization of Japanese art objects, such as paintings and calligraphic works overseas, and promotion of the understanding of these objects. This year, the basic course “Japanese Paper and Silk Cultural Properties” held from July 4th to 6th, 2018, and the advanced course “Restoration of Japanese Hanging Scrolls” held from July 9th to 13th were conducted at the Asian Art Museum, National Museums in Berlin (Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) with the support of the Asian Art Museum and Museum of Technology (Deutsches Technikmuseum).
In the basic course, 13 restorers, conservators and students from ten countries participated. This course consisted of lectures, demonstrations, and practical work that covered the process from the creation of a cultural property to its appearance before the public, that is, its creation, mounting, exhibition and viewing. Participants were lectured on the materials used for the cultural properties, such as adhesives, mineral pigments and paper, and participated in the practical work of painting on silk, Chinese ink painting and handling of hanging scrolls.
In the advanced course, instructors from a certified group that holds the Selected Conservation Techniques dubbed “Restoration techniques for mounts” conducted practical work sessions and lectures to ten restorers from six countries. The instructors demonstrated techniques such as lining and reattachment of roller knobs, and the participants experienced the removing and attaching of the rods of a hanging scroll during the practical work sessions. Through these sessions, the participants could gain an understanding of the structure of hanging scrolls and knowledge and techniques for the restoration of hanging scrolls. Discussions were actively held in both courses. In addition to a question and answer session, opinions about restoration and applications of Japanese techniques and materials were exchanged.
Similar projects will be implemented with the aim of contribution to the preservation and utilization of Japan’s tangible and intangible cultural properties overseas by sharing information about conservation materials and techniques in Japan with conservators overseas.