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

A Rakan-zu Formerly Owned by KATANO Shirō: The 8th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

A scene from the seminar

 On February 25th, 2021, the 8th Seminar of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems was held, where MAIZAWA Rei and YASUNAGA Takuyo of the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems each gave their study reports on a Rakan-zu (a painting of Arhat, an enlightened Buddhist high priest) owned by Kōmyōji Temple (Minato-ku, Tokyo).
 The Rakan-zu was discovered in a survey conducted last year. An article about the painting in “Kokka” No. 74, published in 1895, revealed that it was formerly owned by an art appraiser, KATANO Shirō (1867–-1909).
MAIZAWA introduced the painting with high-definition images and infrared photographs taken by SHIRONO Seiji of the same department, under the title “Rakan-zu, a former collection of KATANO Shirō-Consideration of its design and expressions.” Regarding the design, MAIZAWA reported that it depicts a Rakan and his followers worshipping the image of Tenbu (Deva) in the center, as well as Karyōbinga (Kalavinka, an imaginary creature in Buddhism with a human head and a bird’s torso) and Gumyōchō (Jivajiva, two-headed bird) that both symbolize the Pure Land of Amida Buddha (Paradise) at the top of the painting. MAIZAWA pointed out that the expressions are thought to have been created in mainland China and that the stylistic examination of the painting suggests the possibility that it was created during the Yuan Dynasty.
 YASUNAGA gave a detailed report on the achievements of the former owner, KATANO Shirō and his father, KATANO Yūhei, and the people who interacted with them, under the title “Modern understanding of the Rakan-zu formerly owned by KATANO Shirō.” KATANO Shirō was born in the Kishū clan’s residence in Aoyama, Edo. He was deeply involved in the earliest days of the administration of cultural properties in Japan, through working in the art department of the Imperial Museum. He was also enthusiastic about collecting antique works. The sales list and comparison with other materials revealed that the Rakan-zu was sold after the death of his father, and then was purchased by Marquis INOUE Kaoru. Furthermore, YASUNAGA pointed out that the Rakan-zu was handed down as a work of KOSE no Oumi, a painter in the Heian period, based on its composition. YASUNAGA also added some consideration on the aspect of the modern understanding of the Rakan-zu, inherited from the early modern period.
 The seminar was also held online, and Ms. UMEZAWA Megumi (Kanagawa Prefectural Kanazawa-Bunko Museum), Dr. TSUKAMOTO Maromitsu (University of Tokyo), and Dr. NISHITANI Isao (Sennyūji Temple) were invited as commentators. They gave valuable comments from their respective professional perspectives, and actively exchanged opinions during the question and answer session. Although there are still some problems related to the preservation state, the place of creation, and the age of the work, the seminar was very fruitful because, in addition to the examination of the design and expressions, various reports about how it came to Japan as well as the modern understanding of Rakan-zu were also given.

Release of “SAITO Tama’s Folklore Research Card Collection”

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage began releasing the “SAITO Tama’s Folklore Research Card Collection” on February 1st. This database is an archive of research cards created by an independent folklore researcher, SAITO Tama (1936–2017).
 Ms. SAITO Tama began traveling and traversing fields all over Japan in the 1970s. She visited at least 2,500 areas from Hokkaido to Okinawa to conduct folk research. The research covers a wide range of genres such as plants, animals, spells, play, words, annual events, and life rituals. The total number of research cards that summarize the interviews is about 47,000. All of them are characterized by targeting often overlooked folklore that is closely linked with people’s daily life. Regrettably, there are many folklore cases that have been lost today.
 These cards were originally kept by Ronsosha, which publishes many books written by Ms. SAITO. In 2017, they were entrusted to Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties through Ms. IWAKI Koyomi, a folklore scholar who has been studying Ms. SAITO. (For more details, please refer to “Document: Research Cards by Saito Tama” by KARINO Moe, published in Volume 12 of “Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage”.)
 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been working on creating a system that allows us to browse the images of the cards and search through them using keywords, classifications, and place names so that we, as the next generation, can make full use of her valuable work. Thanks to the kindness of the bereaved family, we have made it possible to publish some of the achievements. We are still working on organizing the cards and plan to add and update the contents around the 15th of every month.
 Each piece of information on the research card is trivial and small. However, the world that can be perceived when observing them together is extremely rich. We hope that the release of this archive will once again shed light on Ms. SAITO’s achievements and also deepen the understanding of the reality in the abundant world of folklore.

The 2nd Meeting of Tumulus Mural Preservation Project Team in FY2020 Held Online

 On February 16th, 2021, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties and the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties held a meeting of the Tumulus Mural Preservation Project Team. The Tumulus Mural Preservation Project is aimed at the permanent preservation of Takamatsuzuka Tumulus Mural and Kitora Tumulus Mural, both of which are national treasures. The two Institutes have been taking the lead in promoting the project for many years. Currently four teams, namely the conservation and utilization team, the restoration team, the material research team, and the biological environment team are conducting research, respectively. Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, and the Agency for Cultural Affairs held the 2nd meeting online as the state of emergency had been declared to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
 At the meeting, one team explained the creation of a 3D reconstruction model of the excavation and research areas of the tumuli. Other teams reported on the condition of the murals and non-contact optical analysis of the murals. The last team discussed the results of monitoring for microorganisms and the temperature and humidity at the preservation and management facility for Kitora Tumulus Mural as well as at the temporary repair facility for Takamatsuzuka Tumulus Mural. Careful discussion took place based on these reports. The reports consolidated at the meeting were made public at the 28th meeting of the Review Committee on the Preservation and Utilization of Tumulus Mural on March 23rd, 2021. Committee members gave suggestions and advice regarding the direction of future research and activities.
 The handouts and minutes of the meeting are posted on the Agency for Cultural Affairs website. If you are interested, please see the link below.

 The repair of Takamatsuzuka Tumulus Mural was completed by the end of FY2019. The installation of a new facility that is suitable for public viewing has been under discussion. There are many issues to consider such as the load on the mural and changes in the environment associated with the transfer from the temporary repair facility to a new exhibition facility. Nevertheless, the project team will verify feasibility, taking into account the research on the permanent preservation of both murals conducted so far.

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