|■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
The Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems creates digital contents of any artworks investigated and studied at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, to release it for the Library. We have released the digital content of “Yojinsogakuzu Byobu” (Scenes of European Ways of Life; Important Cultural Property), owned by the Eisei Bunko Museum—it is one of the early Western-influenced works in Japanese painting, where Western people, manners and customs, and landscapes are depicted with Western-influenced techniques. A careful examination of this work shows that unique techniques, different from those of ordinary Japanese paintings, are used for the folding screen, a typical painting format in Japan. We created this digital content according to the report issued by the Institute in 2015. The dedicated computer in the Library shows the research results, such as the high-resolution color image, near infrared image, and the results of the analysis of coloring material using X-ray fluorescence technologies. This computer may only be used for academic or research purposes, and copying or printing the digital content is prohibited. However, you may freely access the large amount of artwork information containing a variety of digital images. The dedicated computer is available during the Library’s opening hours. Please refer to the following URL for the instructions on use:
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.
From INOUE Kaoru’s catalog of collection, “Segaian Kanshō” (owned by Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties)
INOUE Kaoru (1835–1915) was a politician with tremendous influence in the political and business circles during the Meiji period. During the disturbances before the Meiji Restoration, he emerged as a leader of the anti-foreigner movement in his native Choshu domain, and served in several important positions in the new Meiji government, such as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Home Affairs. He is well known for leading the Westernizing policies, including Rokumeikan diplomacy, and was also a man of refined tastes who enjoyed the tea ceremony with tea masters from the business world, such as MASUDA Takashi (called MASUDA Don-oh). He collected masterpieces of oriental art, including “Momohato-zu (Pigeon on a Peach Branch)” presumedly painted by Emperor Huizong of Song. The presentation titled “Meiji Culture and INOUE Kaoru,” delivered by Dr. YODA Toru (Chief of Curators’ Section, Toyama Memorial Museum) for the 9th seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on January 21st, 2020, highlighted Inoue’s significance in cultural history.
It is said that Inoue started collecting antiques in the early Meiji period. During the 1880s, he acquired “Jūichimen Kannonzō (Eleven-Headed Kannon, Skt. Ekadasamukha),” an excellent Buddhist artwork from the Heian period, presently owned by the Nara National Museum. He sometimes acquired masterpieces in an ungentlemanly manner as well, and published a catalog of his collection tilted “Segaian Kanshō (Appreciation of Segaian)” in 1912. Earlier, he also had invited Emperor Meiji home in 1887, and played an important role in entertainment history by showing him a Kabuki program performed by ICHIKAWA Danjuro IX as well as interacting with the comic storyteller SANYUTEI Encho.
After the presentation by Dr. Yoda, which revealed Inoue’s involvement in Japanese culture from diverse perspectives, Mr. SAITO Yasuhiko (Professor Emeritus at the University of Yamanashi), Mr. TANAKA Sendo (Director of Santokuan), and Dr. TSUKAMOTO Maromitsu (Associate Professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, the University of Tokyo) joined the discussion. How Inoue developed his aesthetic sense while working hard as a politician is still not known though. Future research is expected to focus on his various aspects veiled in mystery.
Guidance using a video projection screen before the tour of the mural painting conservation facility
During the seven days between January 18th and January 24th, 2020, the mural paintings conservation room of the Takamatsuzuka Tumulus was opened to the public.
Beginning in 2008, this was the 28th time the mural paintings were opened to the public. During this period, four researchers from Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) worked as staff.
In this exhibition, the black tortoise drawn on the north wall, the northern divine creature that symbolizes “winter,” the female figures painted on the west and east wall, and the male figures drawn on the west and east wall were placed to the side of the walkway for visitors. Many visitors have confirmed the current state of all mural paintings.
In recent years, the difference in the condition of the murals post cleaning became increasingly evident and many visitors were amazed by the difference between the mural paintings and the photos of them displayed on the wall in the conservation room. Additionally, there were those who compared the drawn black tortoise to that in the Kitora tumulus mural paintings exhibition, which was held at the same time at the Center for Preservation of Kitora Tumulus Mural Paintings.
A series of projects related to mural paintings of the Takamatsuzuka Tumulus are being conducted by the Agency for Cultural Affairs under the overarching project entitled “Research in relation to permanent preservation measures of the National Treasure Takamatsuzuka Tumulus.” In addition, the TNRICP has been centrally involved in the work for many years. The murals paintings have been taken out of the mound alongside the stone material from the mounds in 2007. After that, the conservation treatment of the painting or plain surfaces contaminated with mold and biofilm occurs and plaster with advanced porosity is consolidated and stabilized at the temporary conservation facility near the tombs. In this 12th year since the start of the conservation project, it will reach a break once. Research of conservation and utilization of the mural paintings will have continued by the time it exhibits in a new museum.
On-site confirmation before the workshop (overlooking Kabesa village)
Discussions on the workshop (DCHS conference room)
From this Fiscal Year, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) has started an Exchange Project for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs to provide technical support and capacity building for the preservation and utilization of historic buildings in Bhutan. In 16th January 2020, as part of this project, TNRICP dispatched a team of six experts including three outside experts to participate the Workshop on Conservation of Lham Pelzom house organized by the Division for Conservation of Heritage Sites (DCHS), Department of Culture, Ministry of Home and Culture Affairs.
Lham Pelzom house, located in Kabesa near the capital of Thimphu, is considered to be one of the oldest surviving farmhouses in the country, and is the top candidate for designation as historic farmhouses under Bhutan’s first comprehensive basic law on cultural heritage (New Law) which the government aims to pass. On the other hand, the house has been vacant for a long time, and its deterioration has been remarkable recently. Consequently, the need for preliminary consensus among stakeholders, such as the government, owners and local communities, on the potential for preservation and utilization is growing. Given this awareness, DCHS invited house owners, representatives of local communities, government officials from the Ministry of Work and Human Settlements, and Tourism Council to the workshop, for sharing various views on the conservation of the Lham Pelzom house. TNRICP joined the workshop for giving advice from the theoretical and technical point of view regarding heritage conservation.
In the first half of the workshop, from the standpoint of promoting heritage protection, TNRICP proposed conservation policies and restoration methods based on field research, and DCHS reported on how government support should be provided, including financial aspects. Contrary, from the standpoint of the bearer of actual preservation, house owners strongly requested the need to secure economic benefits through common adaptive use, and local communities emphasized the need for the active involvement of the government in preservation. However, they all understood and welcomed a high reputation as a cultural heritage in general. Subsequently, in the second half of the workshop, meaningful mutual discussions unfolded in the latter half of the workshop, based on opinions, aspirations, and grievances of each participant in the first half. Finally, participants agreed to promote the conservation of Lham Pelzom house as the following conditions.
(1) ACCELERATE procedures for value valuation as cultural heritage, such as designation under the new law,
(2) CLARIFY protection frameworks, including administrative support for restoration works and the house owner’s obligations to the preservation,
(3) CONSIDER a proposal for utilization that is appropriate as a cultural heritage and takes into account the house owner’s demand.
TNRICP will cooperate with DCHS and continue research activities and field surveys to realize the conservation of traditional farmhouses in Bhutan as cultural heritage.
Panel discussion at the third Mayors’ Forum
As part of the above-mentioned project commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) continues to support the building of an administrative network to conserve historic settlements in Nepal. On September 23rd and December 1st, 2019, workshops were organized in Kirtipur municipality with participation of engineers in charge of conservation of historic settlements from relevant municipalities. In response to their outcomes, “the third Mayors’ Forum on Conservation of Historic Settlements in Kathmandu and Kavre Valley” was held on January 5th, 2020, under the joint auspices of Kirtipur municipality and TNRICP.
The first Mayors’ Forum was held in 2018 in Panauti municipality for sharing the initiatives and issues related to preservation of historic settlements among the municipalities, followed by Lalitpur Metropolitan City in 2019.
Kirtipur municipality, whose old city area known as “a medieval settlement in Kirtipur” was listed as a UNESCO tentative list for World Heritage site, has been working on establishing its own rules for conservation. Therefore, the theme of this Forum was set as “regulatory framework for conservation of historic settlements,” and through two engineer workshops, the current issues pertaining to the systems were clarified and discussed while sharing information. As a result, the following were spotlighted as issues of administrative organizations and such systems: the existing framework for preservation of historic settlements is not effective since the policy for protection of cultural heritage of monumental nature is not linked with that for urban planning under national administration; some pioneering municipalities preserve their streetscapes under their original regulations, while others are formulating their regulations or criteria by focusing on completely different issues in municipal administration.
Accordingly, at the Forum, an officer in charge of national policy to protect cultural heritage and the one for urban planning reported about their respective conservation systems, and engineers from five municipalities delivered presentations on their legislation and issues to mutually share the tasks under national and municipal administration. Professor NISHIMURA Yukio of Kobe Design University gave a keynote speech titled “Effective Integration between Methods of Urban Planning and Preservation of Historic Settlements” while KANAI Ken, Head of the Conservation Design Section of the Institute, introduced some case studies on the Japanese system for important preservation districts of historic buildings. The Forum was attended by around 120 people, including State Minister of Urban Planning, five mayors and four deputy mayors, as well as engineers and researchers, who proactively exchanged opinions at the end.
Each municipality has several issues on conservation of historic settlements due to lack of financial and human resources, without sufficient support from the national government. Another reason for the ineffective functioning of the existing systems is insufficient basic research on historic settlements or lack of cooperative systems involving researchers and experts.
Consideration to lay the foundation to operate the network for conservation of historic settlements involving research institutions has just begun. It is anticipated that the autonomous and continuous cooperation among the persons concerned is strengthened to achieve a better environment around the historic settlements as well as its preservation.
Research on the folklore pertaining to wall painting iconography
Investigation to evaluate the state of wall paintings damaged by pests
Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties is providing technical support and human resource training to restore wall paintings and the exterior walls of brick temples at the Bagan Archaeological Site in Myanmar. The decision to register Bagan as a world cultural heritage site was made at the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee in 2019. In response to this decision, the “Bagan International Coordinating Committee (BICC)” was set up to work on improving the conservation system. The Committee is making arrangements for holding an international conference annually for information sharing and mutual adjustment so as to better utilize the initiatives taken in each support-providing country.
To collect information on such changes in local situations, we visited the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture of Myanmar (Naypyidaw) and the Bagan branch of the Department of Archaeology and National Museums from January 15th through 31st, 2020, and exchanged opinions on the direction of the future cooperative project. Responding to expectations of further technical assistance to local experts, we agreed to continue with our support activities.
In addition, research on the folklore pertaining to wall painting iconography was conducted following the previous one in July 2019. On-site investigation was also carried out to evaluate the state of wall paintings damaged by pests and to discuss countermeasures. With respect to the iconographic research, we gathered information showing the relation between the acceptance of Buddhism and an indigenous belief specific to Myanmar from local intellectuals. Also, to find the influence of the indigenous belief on wall paintings, we collected detailed examples primarily from Bagan. We now plan to expand the scope of this research beyond Bagan. Furthermore, the investigation of wall paintings damaged by pests revealed their destruction by termites and potter wasps. Therefore, we plan to conduct detailed research to establish countermeasures suitable to the local environment.
The Institute will continue providing technical support and undertaking research activities based on the opinions of local experts for comprehensive conservation of cultural properties at the Bagan Archaeological Site.