|■Tokyo National Research
Institute for Cultural Properties
||■Center for Conservation
|■Department of Art Research,
Archives and Information Systems
||■Japan Center for
International Cooperation in Conservation
|■Department of Intangible
Lecture by KOBAYASHI Tatsuro
Lecture by YASUNAGA Takuyo
The Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems conducted a public lecture titled “Look at Form, Read Form” on November 5th, 2021. The “Public Lecture” is conducted every autumn over the course of two days, and a wide range of audiences are invited to attend lectures presented by researchers on their work. However, this year, as with the preceding year, we shortened the period to one day with only two lecturers from our institute to follow COVID-19 prevention measures. The audience was limited to 30 people, and they were selected by raffle. In the venue, temperature checks were conducted and the speakers and audiences were requested to wear masks and sanitize their hands.
The following two lectures were conducted by members of our department: “Emergence and its Meaning of Amida Paintings All in Gold – Representation of Time Spirit in Transition Period” by KOBAYASHI Tatsuro, Head, Japanese and East Asian Art History Section; and “‘Hanshan and Shide’ Painted by Yosa Buson at Myōhōji Temple in Kagawa – Study for Restoration Utilizing Image Materials” by YASUNAGA Takuyo, Senior Researcher.
“KOBAYASHI discussed the Amida pictures of the Kamakura period—painted and plated in all gold—in light of the transition of the time spirit. Special emphasis was placed on how Amida emerged alongside the doctrine of original enlightenment (hongaku), which dominated Tendai Buddhism.” YASUNAGA introduced the ongoing restoration work of “Hanshan and Shide”—an Important Cultural Property owned by the Myōhōji Temple in Marugame city, Kagawa Prefecture—which was partially damaged by age. The old monochrome films shot decades ago by Tobunken have been used for this restoration with the high-definition images that Tobunken pictured recently.
Questionnaire survey responses from the audience show that 85% participants were “satisfied” or “generally satisfied” with the lecture.
Summary of the Seminar
Nearly 30 years have passed since Japan ratified the World Heritage Convention. Japan currently has 25 properties inscribed on the World Heritage List, including “Amami-Oshima Island, Tokunoshima Island, Northern part of Okinawa Island, and Iriomote Island” and “Jomon Prehistoric Sites in Northern Japan”, which were recently added to the list in 2021. FUTAGAMI Yoko, Head, Cultural Properties Information Section, conducted a presentation about the recent international and domestic activities based on the World Heritage Convention, including the nomination, inscription, and protection.
Many nominated properties that were not recommended to inscribe on the World Heritage List by its advisory bodies, were eventually decided to be inscribed on the List at the extended 44th session of the World Heritage Committee conducted in Fuzhou, China, with both in-person and online attendees in July 2021. For example, “Frontiers of the Roman Empire – The Danube Limes (Western Segment)” nominated by Hungary and other states, was also decided to be inscribed on the list. This happened even though ICOMOS / International Council on Monuments and Sites, as an advisory body on cultural properties, concluded that it was “impossible to evaluate” because its boundary of the property was significantly modified soon before the session due to Hungary’s withdrawal from its nomination. Hungary noted discrepancies between the outcomes of the thematic study that ICOMOS performed in the past and their recent advice based on the mission triggered by its nomination, and the related states failed to reach agreements regarding how to deal with the advice provided. These hiccups may have influenced the Committee Member states to turn against ICOMOS. FUTAGAMI explained these issues related to the nominations to the World Heritage List, as well as the introduction of improvement measures, such as Preliminary Evaluation on the nomination dossiers at the extended 44th session of the World Heritage Committee.
In addition to the movements of the World Heritage Committee, since 2020, domestic discussions have been conducted in Japan at the Subdivision of World’s Cultural Heritage of the Council for Cultural Affairs regarding the nomination and protection of world heritage properties. FUTAGAMI presented information about its discussion points based on the materials published on the Internet.
Active discussions were conducted during this seminar on the challenges for domestic activities in the light of World Heritage nomination and protection. It provided a good opportunity for us to recognize the need for outreach on a wide range of related information.
“(Japanese)” at the end of the article is linked to its Japanese article.
Since 1936, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has annually issued the “Year Book of Japanese Art (the Year Book),” which covers activities in the art world in the given year in Japan. Although this book can be downloaded from “TOBUNKEN Publications repository > Yearbook of Japanese Art,” you can also directly search for specific information on the TOBUNKEN web database.
“Art News Articles database,” one of the databases constructed based on the Year Book, is a useful material that allows you to track movements in the art world through major exhibitions, art competitions, and events related to museums and cultural properties since 1936. We are happy to announce that the English version of “Art News Articles” with articles dating back to 2013, 2014, and 2015 were published. They were translated by Ms. Miwako Hayashi Bitmead, Japanese Arts Database Officer of the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC) in the United Kingdom. SISJAC and TOBUNKEN have conducted joint research since 2013 and this English publication was created with their cooperation. As the translation progresses, more data will be available.
The English version of this database will be helpful for disseminating information all over the world about the history of the movement in the Japanese art world until now. We believe that it can be also used as a vocabulary glossary for further outreach activities. Japanese and English versions of articles are mutually linked to ensure that each version can be easily referred. We are also planning to improve the database to mutually refer to both English and Japanese at a vocabulary level. We hope that you can find it useful and will use them regularly.
Manually adjusting warps set on the loom
Handweaving with various types of woof
Cutting and tailoring Noh costumes
The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducts the research on the preservation techniques for cultural properties. We studied the “manufacturing Noh costumes related to Nohgaku*1” technique among various preservation techniques. Nohgaku is performed on stages, where the performers wear masks (Noh masks), costumes (Noh costumes), and other traditional items. Not only the performing arts themselves but also the techniques to support them are mandatory to inherit the intangible cultural heritage.
Mr. SASAKI Yoji (in Kyoto Prefecture) is a government –certified technique holder who has mastered the techniques to manufacture Noh Costumes, moreover these selected preservation techniques are certified by the national government. Mr. SASAKI, who is the fourth president of Sasaki Noh Robes (founded in 1897), manufactures Noh costumes with Nishijin’s*2 traditional handlooms equipped with the Jacquard machine*3 for each order. Noh costumes come in various forms, styles, and patterns and are selected for each drama. Most of them exhibit gorgeous designs, which include shining silk and gold and silver threads, to stand out on the stage. Thus, manufacturing requires highly skilled technique holders to perform weaving techniques to meet the subtle demands of Noh performers.
We interviewed Mr. SASAKI Yoji and recorded each process of manufacturing Noh costumes; the recording included still pictures and videos. We plan to publish a leaflet named “Techniques to support Japanese traditional performing arts” based on the outcomes of this research.
*1. Nohgaku is one of the traditional styles of Japanese theater. It includes the lyric drama noh, and the comic theater kyogen (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N%C5%8Dgaku)
*2. Nishijin: is a district in Kamigyō-ku, Kyoto, Japan. It is well known for traditional textiles which are often referred to as Nishijin-ori (西陣織) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nishijin)
*3. Jacquard machines control movements of warps by punch cards to generate complex patterns. They are not powered automatic looms. Sasaki Noh Robes manually develop clothes (using hands) using handlooms equipped with Jacquard machines.