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

Seminar on Documentation and Database Compilation of Cultural Properties – Session 1: Digital Image Basics – the Series on “Digital Image Compression from the Basics of Images to Moving Images”

Lecture on digital image formats by Dr. Imaizumi

 The documentation of cultural properties is indispensable for acquiring information about cultural properties such as their materials, forms, and colors, and for utilizing the collected information for research activities and preservation/restoration planning. The Cultural Properties Information Section of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems is responsible for communicating information about database compilation necessary for cultural property photographing in the course of documentation as well as data management/utilization. As part of the communication strategy, we held the seminar named in the title above in a seminar room at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties on December 23rd, 2020 (COVID-19 infection control measures were taken).
 We are scheduled to hold three sessions in total in the series on “Digital Image Compression from the Basics of Images to Moving Images,” and the program designed for participants to learn the basics about image compression was offered at the first session. As the first speaker, Dr. IMAIZUMI Shoko, Associate Professor of Graduate School of Engineering, Chiba University explained about the characteristics of digital images such as differences from analog images, file properties, and the amount of information that changes depending on the resolution. Her lecture was followed by a talk by Mr. SHIRONO Seiji, an artificer of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems which mainly discussed how to control light and color when taking a digital photo such as the spectral feature that varies depending on the light source, and the light sources and their appropriate placement for photographing cultural properties.
 Currently, compressed image formats such as JPEG and MPEG-4 are commonly used around the world. However, when planning to photograph cultural properties or saving images in files, one may wonder which information will be lost due to image compression, or if everything will really be okay as long as images are saved in TIFF or RAW formats.
Through the seminars in this series, we will continue to communicate the information that will be useful for you to document and preserve cultural properties using imaging technologies and disseminate information about them.

Discussion on Issues Concerning Preservation of Outdoor Sculptures – Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

Scene of the seminar

 On December 21st, 2020, YASHIRO Kyoko, an associate fellow of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems presented her research findings under the title: “Report and Consideration on the Preservation of Art Works Including Outdoor Sculptures That Are Not Recognized as ‘Cultural Properties’ – Aiming to Hold a Symposium”
 Outdoor sculptures can be easily found in public spaces across Japan. Each of them is an important and irreplaceable asset for the community that owns it. However, many of these outdoor sculptures are in a state of neglect due to lack of maintenance, and to make matters worse, some have been removed for good for safety reasons in recent years. Generally speaking, outdoor sculptures are not recognized as “cultural properties.” Therefore, there is no appropriate preservation system in place for them.
 With an aim to solve such problems, the speaker talked about some actual cases and raised issues about the preservation of outdoor sculptures to discuss with participants at this seminar. Also, Dr. TANAKA Shuji, Professor of Oita University, and Mr. SHINOHARA Satoshi, Associate Professor of Tokai University, both of whom have been involved in the maintenance of outdoor sculptures in their communities for many years participated in the seminar as guest speakers this time and talked about the challenges faced by those engaged in preservation work.
 The issues regarding the preservation of outdoor sculptures are entangled with other issues in a wide range of fields such as public administration, education, and history. Therefore, it is not easy to come up with a solution. We are currently discussing the possibility to hold a symposium going forward for the purpose of sharing information and exploring possible solutions for this matter.

First Performance Recording of Tokiwazu-bushi

Scene of Performance Recording of Tokiwazu-bushi (From left to right: Tokiwazu Hidemidayu, Tokiwazu Kikumidayu, Tokiwazu Kanetayu, Tokiwazu Mojibei, Kishizawa Shikimatu, Kishizawa Shikiharu)

 On December 25th, 2020, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage made the first sound recording of Tokiwazu-bushi in the Performing Arts Studio of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.
 Tokiwazu-bushi, an important intangible cultural property of Japan, was created by Tokiwazu Mojitayu in 1747 in Edo. Its rhythm and pace do not change drastically, and it has a moderate depth. Tokiwazu-bushi has been handed down to the present day in connection with Kabuki and Nihon Buyo. Joruri (the voice part) has a good balance of lines and “fushi or bushi” (lines with the melody), and the shamisen part is played on a chuzao-shamisen with a bachi (plectrum), which has a large hiraki (the tip of the plectrum) that imparts a moderate depth to the sound. Another characteristic of Tokiwazu-bushi is that it has a diverse repertoire, including Danmono (works derived from Gidayu-bushi), those based on Noh Kyogen, Shinju-michiyuki, and works with a comical flavor.
 In this session, the entire classical piece “Shinobiyoru Koi wa Kusemono: Masakado” was recorded. Although this is one of the most popular pieces of Tokiwazu-bushi, it is rarely performed in its entirety these days. It is a large piece that takes about 40 minutes to perform, with a clear structure consisting of “Oki” (the part before the appearance of the characters), “Michiyuki” (the appearance of the characters), “Kudoki” (expression of passion), “Monogatari” (narration of the story of the battle), “Kuruwa-banashi” (the red-light district story), “Odoriji” (showpiece of the dance), “Miarawashi” (revelation of the character’s true identity), and “Dankire” (the finale). When performed with the typical characteristics of music, each part of the piece stands out. The performers are the seventh Tokiwazu Kanetayu (the first performer), Tokiwazu Kikumidayu (the second performer), Tokiwazu Hidemidayu (the third performer), the fifth Tokiwazu Mojibei (the first shamisen), Kishizawa Shikimatsu (the second shamisen), and Kishizawa Shikiharu (Uwajoshi, high-pitched melody).
 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage plans to continue to record pieces that are rarely performed as well as valuable full-length performances.
 In keeping with the norms of social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, masks used in Kabuki performances were worn during the recording.

Exhibition: “The Shapes of Mi Japanese Winnowing Baskets ― Japanese Wisdom for Living with Nature”

Exhibits at the Gallery Walk
Fuku-Mi (lucky winnowing baskets) of the Toka Ebisu Festival at Nishinomiya Shrine (Hyogo Prefecture)

 An exhibition titled “The Shapes of Mi Winnowing Baskets ― Japanese Wisdom for Living with Nature” is being held from December 2nd, 2020, to January 28th, 2021, at Gallery Walk on the third floor of the Shiodome Media Tower, the headquarters of Kyodo News. (The exhibition is organized by the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage; co-organized by the Graduate School of Engineering, Chiba University and the Gangoji Institute for Research of Cultural Property, and supervised by the Workshop on Winnowing Baskets.)
 Mi (or winnowing) baskets are common, indispensable tools for winnowing rice and other grains. However, the numbers of both users and makers of mi baskets have been declining since the period of high economic growth. The government has made efforts to conserve its weaving techniques by designating three techniques as important intangible folk cultural properties (folk techniques).
 Mi baskets are made of natural materials such as wood, bark, and bamboo. While regular hand-woven baskets are made with one or two types of natural materials, mi baskets are made using four or five types of materials, which makes the technique of weaving mi baskets more complicated and sophisticated. Therefore, the technique is said to be the culmination of weaving techniques. Furthermore, various shapes have been created by reflecting the vegetation of specific regions.
 This exhibition introduces the materials and techniques used for making mi baskets through fourteen panels, focusing on the high level of skill and knowledge in the use of natural materials that have been condensed into the form of a mi basket.
 In conjunction with the exhibition, a webpage has also been launched, displaying a number of videos documenting the production techniques of mi baskets ( mi). This webpage will remain open to the public even after the end of the exhibition for you to visit.
(Admission free/Open from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays.)

The 15th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties

Video viewing page of the Conference

 The 15th Conference on the Study of Intangible Folk Cultural Properties was held online based on the theme “Intangible Folk Cultural Properties amid the COVID-19 pandemic.” The video of this event was available for viewing from December 25th, 2020 to January 31st, 2021.
 As the impact of COVID-19 continues, festivals and gatherings that may attract huge crowds are forced to be canceled or scaled back. These restrictions have prevented the successors of intangible folk cultural properties from conducting their activities as usual.
 Considering the situation, an online meeting was held to explore ways of preserving and utilizing intangible folk cultural properties amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Three staff from our Institute, three from the local government and museums, and five successors of intangible folk cultural properties from various regions attended the meeting. They presented videos on the current situation and issues in their respective fields and regions, and on practices that had been newly introduced amid the pandemic. Examples of these practices include infection-control measures, online streaming, and crowdfunding. Following the presentation, KUBOTA Hiromichi from the Institute and the five successors had a general discussion and engaged in a lively debate on whether it is possible to continue or resume festivals amid or post COVID-19. They also discussed the necessary measures to be taken if they would hold festivals
 A full report of the conference will be published in March 2021; this will also be available on the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage on a later date.

Online Observations of the Fifteenth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee on the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO

 The Fifteenth Session of the Intergovernmental Committee on the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO was held from December 14th to 19th, 2020. It was originally to be held in Jamaica but owing to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the meeting of the Committee was held using a fully online modality. The secretariat was at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris; however States Parties as well as the committee member states, including Jamaica, the Chair, participated in the online meeting from their respective locations. The meetings were broadcasted in real time on the UNESCO website, and two researchers from our Institute observed the proceedings.
 The number of agenda items to be discussed was kept to a minimum because it was online, and the session was scheduled from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm local time in Paris (9:30 pm to 0:30 am Japan time) each day. In spite of these constraints, three elements were inscribed on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding (Urgent Safeguarding List), and 29 elements on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity (Representative List). Further, three programmes were added to the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices. In addition, one of the elements added to the Urgent Safeguarding List has been approved for international assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund.
 Among them, “Traditional skills, techniques and knowledge for the conservation and transmission of wooden architecture in Japan” was added to the Representative List. This element includes 17 conservation techniques selected by the government. They are “building repair,” “building woodwork,” “roofing with Japanese cypress bark or with wood shingles,” “thatching,” “cypress bark harvesting,” “roof panel production,” “thatch harvesting,” “building decoration,” “building coloring,” “building lacquer painting,” “clay tile roofing (using both round and square tiles),” “plastering (Japanese walls),” “fittings production,” “tatami mat production,” “repair and conservation skills for paintings and calligraphies,” “Japanese lacquer production and refinement,” and “gold leaf production.” Until now, most of the elements nominated by Japan and successfully inscribed on the List are nationally important intangible cultural properties and intangible folk cultural properties. However, the set of nationally selected conservation techniques was inscribed for the first time. Japan is famous for its many great historical wooden structures that have been handed down in good condition to the present generation by the skilled craftsmen and technicians who repaired and maintained them in excellent condition. Therefore, the inscription of traditional building techniques is also significant because it highlights the work of those artisans working “behind the scenes.” It is also an example of the relationship between tangible and intangible cultural heritages, which has received international acclaim.
 Nominations from other States Parties that were newly added to the Representative List include “Hawker culture in Singapore, Community Dining and Culinary Practices in a Multicultural Urban Context” (Singapore), which refers to the popular street food culture in Singapore, and “Taijiquan” (China), which has many enthusiasts in Japan. A large number of nominations for elements related to lifestyle and culture, such as these mentioned above, was one of the international trends. In addition, “Craft techniques and customary practices of cathedral workshops, or Bauhütten, in Europe, know-how, transmission, development of knowledge and innovation” (Germany, Austria, France, Norway, Switzerland) were selected for being registered as Good Safeguarding Practices. These practices are related to Bauhütten, a cooperative of artists and artisans involved in the construction and repair of cathedrals. It is similar to the traditional building techniques nominated by Japan. However, what is interesting is that while Japan nominated them to the Representative List, Europeans proposed inclusion of these techniques to the Register of Good Safeguarding Practices as an example of heritage conservation activities, showing the difference in approaches.
 As Jamaica was the chair country of the session, reggae music, which had been added to the Representative List in 2018, was played in the background of the online broadcast. Unfortunately, there was no scope to experience live reggae music in Jamaica. However, we would like to express our respect to Jamaica, the Chair, as well as the staff of UNESCO, the secretariat, for successfully completing the first online committee session.

A seminar on the analysis of materials, structures, and conditions of cultural properties: Lead corrosion affecting cultural properties and the air

The seminar is underway

 In the research project “Research on the Analysis of Materials, Structures and Conditions of Cultural Properties”, the Center for Conservation Science focuses on the physical and chemical characteristics of cultural properties based on the investigations of their materials and structures using various analytical methods. In particular, the Analytical Science Section has been studying the problem of the corrosion of lead composing cultural properties.
 In order to summarize the research, a seminar on the “Corrosion of lead composing cultural properties and air environment” was held on December 14th, 2020. Invited were experts in art history (HASEGAWA Shoko of Seikado Bunko Art Museum and ITO Tetsuo of Agency for Cultural Affairs), conservation science (KOTAJIMA Tomoko of National Ainu Museum), and restoration (MUROSE Tasuku of Mejiro Institute of Urushi Conservation) were invited. At the seminar, lectures were presented on examples of art works consisting of lead, the current situation and problems concerning lead corrosion in art works, and basic knowledge of lead corrosion from a scientific point of view. In addition, the latest information about the relationship between lead corrosion and air environment and examples of restoration were shared and discussed. (Attendance: 20 individuals).

Inking Ceremony for the Replica of the Kuju Landslide Disaster Cenotaph

Inking ceremony at Shingu City Hall (Photo 1)
Replicated cenotaph (Photo 2)

 The inking ceremony for the replica of the landslide disaster cenotaph in Kuju was held at Shingu City Hall on December 5th, 2020. The Kuju district of Shingu City is one of the affected areas of the rainstorm that the Kii Peninsula experienced in 2011. The district houses the stone monument built in remembrance of the tragedy of similar disasters seen in this area in the Edo Period. The Kuju Landslide Disaster cenotaph built in 1821 would get covered with overgrown shrubs, and its muddied surface made it difficult to read the inscription on it. Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, therefore, precisely measured this cenotaph, and created a replica using 3D printing technology so that the unreadable characters of the inscription would be readable. As part of the citizen-awareness project for disaster preparedness, an event for this 3D printed replica was held at Shingu City Hall. The head of the Kuju district, the superintendent of education in Shingu City, the researchers involved in printing the replica, and the citizens took turns inking the engraved colorless characters of the replicated cenotaph (Photo 1) until they were readable even to the untrained eye, and suitable for being open to the public (Photo 2). Through this event, we could help people in the community recall the landslides that had occurred in the Edo Period, and contribute to increasing community disaster awareness.

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