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

“Tradition” Observed in Imperial Ceremonies in the Modern and Present Age: The 1st Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems.

The seminar

 The year 2019 witnessed the Enthronement Ceremony and Daijosai (Great Thanksgiving Ceremony). These great imperial ceremonies marked the change of the era from Heisei to Reiwa. The memory of the events is still vivid in our hearts. The graceful attire used in those ceremonies must have captivated many of you. How have a series of events that remind us of ancient ceremonies been passed down through the five eras namely the Meiji, Taisho, Showa, Heisei, and Reiwa eras? The presentation, “Imperial ceremonies in modern ages and the usages or practices of the court or military households,” by Mr. TANAKA Jun, a Visiting Researcher, in the seminar of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems held on June 23rd, 2020, depicted a few aspects of “the tradition” of the Imperial Household in the modern and present age.
 Western dress has become common even in the Imperial Household since the Meiji Era, limiting the attire of the Imperial Household to be only used in religious services and rites. Whereas the reduction of the usage of the attire threatened its discontinuation, research on the usages or practices of the court or military households began to increase in importance to avoid such a situation and the result of the research has played an important role in each imperial ceremony. As we compare the attire used in imperial ceremonies in different eras, it can be observed that it has been through not a few changes which can be attributed to visual effects and the question of expense. Mr. TANAKA’s presentation made me recognize the existence of something very common between the manner of imperial ceremonies handing down images of “tradition” while flexibly corresponding to the needs of the ages and the manner of conserving and handing down tangible and intangible cultural properties.
 This seminar convened approximately four months after the previous one with a recess in between caused by spread of the new coronavirus. As a preventive measure against viral infection, the venue was changed from the seminar room on the second floor to the seminar hall on the basement level to avoid a crowded place and close contact.

The reopening of the Library

Handing materials over the counter equipped with plastic sheets to prevent droplet infection due to COVID-19.

 We reopened the Library of our Institute on June 10th after keeping it temporarily closed since February 28th, 2020, as a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19. As a continued preventive measure against infection, we have reduced the number of hours and the number of days it is open. Visitors are required to make a reservation in advance, wear a facemask and use nitrile rubber gloves in the Library. We regret the inconvenience caused by this policy. Our staff have been making their best efforts to provide necessary service, securing the safety of all users and staff, while the risk of infection is still high. We deeply appreciate your understanding and kind cooperation.
 Please visit the following link to make a reservation.
 We also provide a remote copy service, which enables you to obtain necessary materials from home. Although it may take some time before the materials reach you due to a lack of staff working here, it is still well worth trying. We highly recommend that you utilize this option.

Technical cooperation activities during the COVID-19 pandemic: Conservation and sustainable development of Ta Nei temple in Angkor, Cambodia

Study on the reinforcement measures for the foundation structure of the East Gate
The ICC Secretariat visited the restoration work site of the East Gate (courtesy of APSARA)

 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties provides continuous technical support to the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA) for the conservation and sustainable development of the ruins of Ta Nei Temple in Angkor, Cambodia. Last year, the restoration of the East Gate began under the Conservation and Sustainable Development Plan jointly developed by APSARA and the Institute. APSARA is responsible for securing the budget for materials and labors, as well as implementing the work. The Institute provides technical assistance on restoration methodologies and procedures, as well as cooperation in architectural and archaeological surveys before and during the work.
 The possibility of our visiting Cambodia has all but disappeared after March this year, due to the global travel bans implemented to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we cannot suspend the restoration work for our convenience, given that COVID-19 has not spread widely in Cambodia and the Cambodian counterpart has been continued regular site duties. From April, we have been benefiting from the advantages of Information & Communication Technology (ICT), actively utilizing interactive networking services with smartphones, besides normal e-mail messaging, to grasp real-time conditions at the site and hold online meetings as needed.
 On the 21st of April, an online meeting was conducted with the East Gate restoration team of APSARA to share the result of the foundation’s geological testing during February and March and discuss restoration methods and structural reinforcement measures, based on the test result. Two of our collaborators, Professor KOSHIHARA Mikio (Structural Engineering) and Professor KUWANO Reiko (Geo-technical Engineering) from the Institute of Industrial Science, the University of Tokyo, joined the meeting. After an in-depth discussion from a scientific perspective, the participants finally agreed on a basic scheme for the restoration and reinforcement with an aim to balance heritage authenticity and structural safety. Under this basic scheme, online meetings were held in May and July to study about treating the foundation and superstructure, respectively. We had interactive discussions and shared ideas, plans, and other useful information, as well as the site’s latest condition, and decided that, at this stage, the concrete restoration/reinforcement method be considered the most appropriate one.
 The Technical Session of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Site of Angkor (ICC), organized at APSARA headquarters in June every year, was also postponed, and only the site visit by the ICC co-chairs and the secretariat was done this year. APSARA and the Institute jointly made the progress report and work plan of the project, including the activities mentioned above, and submitted it to the ICC secretariat prior to their site visit. We also held an online meeting with Professor MASUI Masaya of Kyoto University Graduate School, a member of the Ad Hoc Expert Group of the ICC, who supervised and advised us on our recent issues and the project’s work plan and exchanged information about latest information concerning international cooperation on Angkor.
 In this way, we accidentally realized a potential of ICT in heritage conservation. Indeed, there is a natural limit to conservation efforts based on telecommunication and remote information sharing because the universal value of cultural heritage is in its object itself. We hope that the world returns to normal, after overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, and the days of unrestricted international travel are back soon.

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