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

Publication of the Art Catalog Digital Archive and Its Future Prospects–Toward New Utilization of Art Catalogs–The 10th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

A scene from the presentation

 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has provided its collection of 2,565 art catalogs issued from the Meiji period to the Showa period for public reading for many years. Due to the poor condition of the original art catalogs, we started their digitization jointly with the Tokyo Art Club in 2015 (refer to the April 2015 monthly report:, and they were opened to the public as the Art Catalog Digital Archive in May 2019 (refer to the April 2019 monthly report:
 For the 10th seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on February 25th, 2020, we invited three presenters, who introduced examples of utilization of art catalog digital archives in various fields under the title “Publication of the Art Catalog Digital Archive and Its Future Prospects–Toward New Utilization of Art Catalogs.” The first presentation titled “Utilization of Art Catalogs in the Studies of Buddhist Statues and the Significance of Their Publication” was delivered by Dr. YAMAGUCHI Ryusuke (Senior Researcher of Buddhist Sculpture at the Nara National Museum), the second one titled “Utilization and Development of Art Catalogs in the Exhibition of HIJIKATA Torei (at the Tottori Prefectural Museum)” was presented by Ms. YAMASHITA Mayumi (Curator at the Hosomi Museum), the third one titled “How to Utilize the Art Catalog Digital Archive in the Studies of Craftwork and Its Examples” was delivered by Ms. TSUKIMURA Kino (Curator at the Fukuyama Museum of Art), and the fourth one titled “Problems of Early modern Paintings from the Art Catalog Digital Archive” was presented by YASUNAGA Takuyo from the Institute. The seminar attracted an audience of around 50 people, including curators and researchers from all over Japan. After the presentations, the four presenters held an active discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of the digital archive, as well as its issues and problems. The presenters also answered questions from the audience. The questionnaire conducted at the venue showed that 87% of the audience was “very satisfied” with the seminar.

Presentation at the Meeting of International Terminology Working Group (ITWG), Getty Center

Meeting of International Terminology Working Group

 At the International Terminology Working Group (ITWG) Meeting held in the Getty Center located in Los Angeles, the United States, on February 6th and 7th, 2020, we delivered a presentation titled “Japanese artists, TNRICP”. This presentation reported on the development process of our providing Japanese artists’ name data for the Getty Vocabularies, as part of the joint project between Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) and the Getty Research Institute. The ITWG, led by the Getty Research Institute, aims to discuss the common topics on Getty Vocabularies (, the controlled vocabularies comprising Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT), Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN), Union List of Artist Names (ULAN), Cultural Objects Name Authority (CONA), Getty Iconography Authority (IA), and other programs. The meeting generally takes place every two years. This meeting attracted about 35 people from the United States, Taiwan, Belgium, Germany, Brazil, Israel, Croatia, the UAE, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and other countries. Persons in charge of Getty Vocabularies programs reported their current situations and progress in function enhancement, while the institutions involved delivered presentations on pioneering practices in providing data for Getty Vocabularies. During the discussions about issues common to the Getty Research Institute and the institutions concerned, in response to these reports and presentations, useful advice was provided by participants from other countries.
 International technical terms and biographical dictionaries are essential in introducing Japanese cultural properties to overseas in local languages. Getty Vocabularies find another way by focusing on today’s technologies and the alliance among the institutions concerned. By providing Japanese artists’ name data accumulated by TNRICP for many years, we aim to disseminate Japanese cultural properties, and support international studies on Japanese cultural heritage.

The 13th Public Lecture Held by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage

A scene from the public lecture

 On Thursday, February 6th, 2020, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties held the 13th public lecture, titled “Technology in Kusatsu Supporting the Textile Technology: Spiderwort-dyed Paper-Blue Made from Flower Petals.”
 In the morning session, records on spiderwort-dyed paper were examined by watching films: a documentary film of craft techniques by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, titled “Yuzen – The Textile Art of MORIGUCHI Kako –“ (1988, Sakura Motion Picture),” and a film, titled “Asiatic Dayflower, the Flower of Kusatsu City: Handing Down of Spiderwort-dyed Paper,” produced by Kusatsu City in 1999.
 In the afternoon session, there was a lecture describing the outcomes of a joint research on the spiderwort-dyed paper production technique of Kusatsu City, Shiga Prefecture, and Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, conducted from 2016 through 2017. The joint research report has been published (refer to the April 2019 monthly report:
 During the course of the lecture, explaining the main points, a documentary film was shown, titled “Recording Process of the Spiderwort-dyed Paper Production Technique” (produced in 2018 by Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties), which was shot and edited in the joint research. This was followed by a report on a survey by KIKUCHI Riyo from the Institute that explained how both the natural spiderwort blue and its alternative, synthetic spiderwort blue, are now used. The report was in the form of a presentation, titled “Current Situation of Spiderwort-dyed Paper Use – Through a Listening Survey on Textile Technicians.” Adding to this, Ms. OKADA Yumi from the Kusatsu-juku Kaido Koryukan made a presentation titled “Kusatsu City and Spiderwort-dyed Paper – Toward the Preservation of the Spiderwort-dyed Paper Production Technique,” which highlighted the relationship between Kusatsu City and the technique of producing spiderwort-dyed paper as clarified through the joint research, in addition to the present situation. Since the joint research was conducted two years ago, the circumstances surrounding the three farmers producing spiderwort-dyed paper have changed. To hand down the traditional technique to the coming generation, seminars for producers-to-be are now being implemented in Kusatsu City. The report on the current efforts unveiled the need for considering spiderwort-dyed paper as local culture and for protecting this cultural form. ISHIMURA Tomo, Head of the Audio-Visual Documentation Section of the Institute, made a presentation, titled “Spiderwort-dyed Paper as Cultural Heritage,” focusing on how the technique to produce such material should be positioned for protection of cultural properties.
 At the end of the lecture, Mr. SUZUTA Shigeto was invited for a round-table-talk, titled “Spiderwort-dyed Paper as a Textile Material.” He was certified as the holder of the Mokuhanzuri Sarasa (wood-block) dyeing technique that was designated an intangible cultural property. The talk reinforced the fact that spiderwort-dyed paper works as a material supporting an important process even in producing works with the technique although it is considered a material to draw designs for Yuzen dyeing and tie-dyeing.
 Transfer of technique to produce spiderwort-dyed paper is now at a milestone. One must always bear in mind that protection of intangible culture involves some alteration and hence, there should be scope for a compromise. The lecture was a good opportunity for the audience to understand the dilemma concerning spiderwort-dyed paper and whether it could become a sustainable material.

Publication of a Brochure Titled “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts V: Shirabeo by YAMASHITA Yuji”

Brochure “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts V: Shirabeo by YAMASHITA Yuji”

 The fifth brochure of the series addressing “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts” has been published. This brochure focuses on Mr. YAMASHITA Yuji, manufacturer of “shirabeo” (also called “shirabe”). Shirabeo is a special hemp rope used to tie the front and back leather of small hand drums, large hand drums, and drums used for noh and kabuki plays and in festivals held all over Japan. Mr. Yamashita has been working on the production of shirabeo, nurturing the younger generations, and disseminating production techniques as the fourth head of a long-established store called Yamashita Keishudo (Kyoto), which has been dealing in shirabeo for generations. The brochure mentions a part of the secret technique involved in producing shirabeo as “firmly yet softly twist the rope.” The survey on Mr. Yamashita’s technique in producing shirabeo was conducted prior to the publication of the brochure. The outline of the survey is available in the “Investigation Report on Techniques for Preserving Cultural Properties with Focus on Musical Instruments 2” (MAEHARA Megumi & HASHIMOTO Kaoru, “Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage” 13, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, 2018). Please refer to the report along with the brochure. (Access here to download the report:
 The series of brochures is available to those who require it for any non-commercial purpose. It will be delivered by Yu-Pack parcel post for COD. (Please note that the brochure may be out of stock.)
 If you require any of the brochures, please send us details of 1. Your name, 2. Postal code & address, 3. Phone number, 4. The brochure you need (I-V) and the number of copies, by e-mail to (Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage).

• “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts I: Biwa by ISHIDA Katsuyoshi”
• “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts II: Koma (Bridge of Shamisen) by OKOUCHI Masanobu”
• “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts III: Futozao Shamisen (Three stringed lute with thickest neck) by ISAKA Shigeo”
• “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts IV: Wind Instruments for Gagaku music by YAMADA Zenichi”
• The latest “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts V: Shirabeo (Tension ropes for drums) by YAMASHITA Yuji”

 We will continue to publish brochures focusing on techniques to produce/repair musical instruments as skills to conserve cultural properties.

Investigation of the Former Japanese Navy Fongshan Communication Center Designated a National Ancient Monument in Taiwan

The Old Sasebo Wireless Transmission Facility and its surroundings at present (Sasebo City, Nagasaki Prefecture)
The front of the communication room in the center of the former Fongshan Communication Center (Kaohsiung City, Taiwan)

 The Old Sasebo Wireless Transmission Facility (Hario Transmitting Station) standing on a hill overlooking the Harioseto Strait, which divides Sasebo City and Saikai City, Nagasaki Prefecture, is the remains of a long-wave telecommunication base built by the Navy in 1922. The construction of this group of buildings was undertaken by the Architecture Department of Sasebo Naval District led by MASHIMA Kenzaburo (1874-1941), a naval engineer known for pioneering concrete construction in Japan. The quality reinforced concrete constructions are represented by three huge radio towers 136 m in height. These buildings, which reflect the cutting-edge concrete technology of the day, were designated as important cultural properties in 2013.
 Since their designation as important cultural properties, Sasebo City, which manages the Old Sasebo Wireless Transmission Facility (hereinafter Sasebo), has been making arrangements for the conservation and utilization of these buildings as cultural properties. On February 12th and 13th, 2020, the former Japanese Navy Fongshan Communication Center, located in a suburb of Kaohsiung, southern Taiwan, was investigated as part of the activities by the Maintenance Examination Commission, for which the author serves as a member. Fongshan Communication Center (hereinafter Fongshan ) is a long-wave telecommunication base built by the Sasebo Naval District, and it was completed in 1917, five years earlier than Sasebo. Fongshan was used as a guest house or as a training center for the Taiwanese Navy until the 2000s. Fongshan , which is now a facility open to the public, was designated a national ancient monument in 2010. Fongshan was designed by the same organization as Sasebo, and reinforced concrete was used everywhere except in the radio tower, which was a steel tower, an icon of the day (now demolished). A circular road of 300 m radius that surrounds Fongshan and the layout of the central facilities are similar to those in Sasebo. This investigation confirmed that Fongshan, which was consistently used as an educational facility, did not require any large-scale renewal or modification after the war, and still maintains its appearance as in the Japanese Navy period due to the relatively few alterations made to the major buildings. Particularly the communication room located at the center of the facility is built in the same style as in the Sasebo. Fittings such as steel doors and upper and lower window frames, as well as interior wooden floors and staircases, still maintain their original appearance although they were partly damaged in a fire. The transmission room in Sasebo was renovated periodically when Sasebo was used by the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Japan Coast Guard, in addition to the modifications made for explosion resistance at the end of World War II. Therefore, Fongshan can be an effective reference in studying conservation and restoration principles for Sasebo.
 However, Fongshan is considerably different from Sasebo due to the uniqueness of its buildings, which have heavy architectural features, locally called a “cross-shaped radio station,” and give an impression of a combat operations center. For the maintenance of Fongshan, relevant people consider the fact that it was a place to reform political prisoners during the White Terror period (the suppression of political dissidents by the Chinese Nationalist Party government). Its occupation by the Japanese Navy does not attract much attention, leading to several unattended matters. For sharing the issues involved in protecting cultural properties, interactions between Sasebo and Fongshan should be promoted. This would contribute to the development of conservation principles and restoration approaches in the modernization heritage of Japan and Taiwan.

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