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

Research at Baijōsan Kōmyōji Temple

 On July 7th and 21st, 2021, we surveyed and photographed cultural properties at Baijōsan Kōmyōji Temple in Minato Ward, Tokyo.
 On July 7th, SHIRNO Seiji, EMURA Tomoko, YASUNAGA Takuyo, and MAIZAWA Rei (who belong to the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems) conducted an optical survey of Rakan-zu (a painting of Arhat, an enlightened Buddhist high priest). In the previous fiscal year, we also surveyed and photographed the same painting and presented an overview, such as its history, at the eighth workshop of the Department of Art Research for fiscal 2020 ( In this latest survey, we used fluorescent photo shooting to check the storage conditions and expressions in more detail, such as the difference between the original portion and the portion touched upon later, which are difficult to detect with naked eye.
 On July 21st, EMURA Tomoko, YASUNAGA Takuyo, and MAIZAWA Rei examined a painting of TAKEDA Unshitsu (1753-1827), a priest from Iiyama, Shinano Province. Unshitsu, the 26th head priest of Kōmyōji Temple, was a man of letters who excelled in poetry, writing, and drawing. He organized a poetry and writing association and interacted with many writers in the Edo period, including HIROSE Taizan and TANI Bunchō. Kōmyōji Temple has various works of Unshitsu, such as landscape paintings, paintings based on historical anecdotes, various written documents, as well and Sansuichō , a collection of his paintings. These are very valuable for learning about the activities and achievements of Unshitsu.
 Founded in Kasumigaseki in the Kamakura period, Kōmyōji Temple relocated the building to its current location in the early Edo period. This ancient temple has a bell with an inscription, “Enpo 6” (1678), and a stone monument with an inscription, “Meiwa 9” (1772). Based on this survey, we will continue to conduct research on Rakan-zu and Unshitsu. We at the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties will continue to actively conduct research on cultural properties that still remain in the community.

Gunsen kitsuun zu,
(Immortals eating clouds)
by TAKEDA Unshitsu, Bunsei 8 (1825)
Survey scene
A portion of the painting

Emergence and Transformation of “Namban Lacquer” in Modern and Present Japan – the 4th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems

Pic 1 “Saddle with European Figures”, Tokyo National Museum Collection (H-1470), donated by SAWA Nobuyoshi in 1873. (from ColBase)
Pic 2 “Yamato-e Painting Study” 1-3 Cover 1.

 KOBAYASHI Koji, Head, Trans-Disciplinary Research Section, Department of Art Research, Archives, and Information Systems, gave a presentation titled “Emergence and Transformation of ‘Namban Lacquer’ in Modern and Present Japan – Through its Discourse” in the fourth seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on July 16th, 2021.
 The presenter has been working on a comprehensive cultural property study, from the viewpoint of material and cultural history, about Namban Lacquer, which was produced in Kyoto in the early half of the 17th century and exported to Europe and Americas. He made this presentation as he believes that it is necessary to carry out recognition process tracing and explore reference studies to identify when the scholarly interest in “Namban lacquer” started and what path it has followed to the present.
 Interest in “Namban lacquer” emerged as a result of the influence of the “Namban” trends in literature, drama, painting, and other fields around the Taisho era, inspired by the study of Japanese Christian history, which started in the early Meiji era. This interest led to the active collection of “Maki-e lacquer depicted Namban patterns” (pic 1) from the early Showa era until the beginning of World War Ⅱ (WWII), which depicted Namban (western) people on Japanese traditional objects. The interest in these “Namban lacquer for domestic use” continued even after WWII. However, when many of the “Namban lacquer for export” that had been exported to Europe started to be imported back into Japan after the 1960s, the interests of lacquer art historians and the exhibit trends were transformed from lacquer for domestic use to lacquer for export, and these trends persist in the present era. While these trends have been mentioned more broadly so far, this presentation delved into further details. For example, the study’s focus on Namban lacquer export was first pointed out by OKADA Jo in the paper titled “On Makie Lacquer Depicted Namban Patterns” in “Yamato-e Painting Study”(pic 2), a fine art history journal published exclusively during WWII. The fact that the interest in lacquerware emerged and expanded to popularity, shifting from domestic use to export, was corroborated by concrete evidence in lacquer exhibits in exhibitions held before and after WWII. Furthermore, he explained that the term “Namban-style export lacquer” used in parallel with the term “Namban lacquer” was proposed by researchers in countries such as UK or the Netherland, where Japanese lacquer was exported throughout the Edo era, while the term “Namban lacquer” was generally used in countries such as Portugal or Spain, to where they were exported mainly in the early Edo era. This means that these two terms are not used in a contradictory sense, but can be understood in comparative ways.
 Mr. KOIKE Tomio of the Seikado Bunko Art Museum, Dr. HIDAKA Kaori of the National Museum of Japanese History, and Mr. YAMASAKI Tsuyoshi, President of the Kanazawa College of Art, graciously participated in this seminar as commentators and facilitated a thorough discussion on this presentation, including insufficient points of explanation or contents of recognition. In fact, there are wide varieties of research materials on modern and present periods and we expect there to be more documents and items that are still undiscovered. He will continue to explore further and achieve a more persuasive understanding of the history of research on Namban Lacquer.

Release of Biwaseisaku no kiroku (Record of biwa production) (the short version) featuring ISHIDA Katsuyoshi and Biwaseisaku no kiroku (Record of biwa production) (the long version) featuring ISHIDA Katsuyoshi

Recording scene
From the video

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage records and edits intangible cultural properties and makes them available to the public to the extent possible to contribute to the transmission of preservation techniques related to intangible cultural properties.
 We have uploaded videos (short and long versions) that depict how ISHIDA Katsuyoshi produces biwa (a traditional lute) on the website of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties ( We researched and recorded the entire process of how Ishida makes satsuma biwa from July to November 2017, and later edited it. Ishida is the fifth-generation owner of Ishida Biwa Store which is probably the only biwa shop that still exists in Japan. He has acquired the techniques of his father, ISHIDA Katsuo (ISHIDA Fushiki the fourth), the holder of selected conservation techniques for the crafting and restoration of biwa lutes.
 In the long version, information on the materials and tools is provided as much as possible via subtitles to facilitate the transmission of the techniques. The short version, based on the overall production process, has been edited so that it is easier to watch as we seek to disseminate it widely.
 These videos may not be reproduced, distributed, altered, or used for commercial purposes without permission. However, you may use them for exhibitions, lectures, and so on by contacting us and going through a certain procedure. A portion of the video is being used in the exhibition Biwa kokoro to katachi no monogatari (Biwa: a story of the heart and form) (July 31st – December 7th, 2021), which is currently held at the Hamamatsu Museum of Musical Instruments.
 Cooperation: ISHIDA Katsuyoshi. Photography: SANO Masaki (the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage) and ODAWARA Naoya. Editing: ICHIKAWA Koichiro. Supervisory assistance: SOMURA Mizuki. Supervision: MAEHARA Megumi and SANO Masaki (Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage). Production: The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.

2021 Training for Museum Curators in Charge of Conservation (advanced course)

Lecture on the Types and Characteristics of Restoration Materials
A Visit in Pest Control Practical Training

 During a five-day period of July 5–9, 2021, we held the 2021 Training for Museum Curators in Charge of Conservation (advanced course). Last year, we held this training jointly with the National Center for the Promotion of Cultural Properties. In order to clarify the content of the training and to make it more beneficial for museum curators in charge of conservation, this fiscal year, we decided to divide the training into the “Basic Course,” implemented by the National Center for the Promotion of Cultural Properties, and the “Advanced Course,” implemented by the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.
 The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has been implementing intensive measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and we thoroughly conducted temperature inspections, sanitization, and mask-wearing policies during the training.
Each laboratory of the Center for Conservation Science led the training on a one- or half-day basis, providing lectures and practical training in accordance with their respective specialties. Since advance-level courses are offered to people who have already received training for curators in charge of the conservation of museums, most of the attendees had an awareness of the issues and challenges faced by their own museums. On the last day, a lecture on disaster prevention and the mitigation of damage to cultural properties was given in light of recent natural disasters. This was a valuable opportunity to consider how to deal with and implement measures against natural disasters in museums, as well as the roles of the institutions in disaster prevention with regard to cultural properties.
 In questionnaires, many participants stated that the training was helpful, such as by increasing the knowledge and skills that would be helpful in carrying out their work in the future.
 This was the first time the training was held as an advanced course, but since the issues of the training have been clarified, we would like to improve it next year and in the future.

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