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

Report on Kumano Honjibutsu Mandala and Rokudō-e of Medieval Japan– the 7th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

Presentation in the seminar
Kumano Honjibutsu Mandala owned by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (before restoration)

 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been conducting the projects to restore the Japanese artworks located outside of Japan through the Cooperative Program for the Conservation of Japanese Art Objects Overseas for a long time. Since FY2021, we started restoring the Kumano Honjibutsu Mandala and Byōbu Screens Featuring the Thirty-six Poetesses owned by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Please refer to the article on our website:

 Kumano mandala is suijaku mandala (Shintō-buddhist syncretic mandala), picturing the Shintō and Buddhist deities enshrined in Kumano Sanzan (Kumano three main shrines) in Wakayama Prefecture, and representing their own religious vision. Around 50 kumano mandala have survived both in and outside of Japan. At the 7th Seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on January 25th, 2022, MAIZAWA Rei of the department reported on the Kumano Honjibutsu Mandala owned by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, and introduced its composition, design and style in detail. Several paintings are known to have the similar composition with hachiyōrenge (a design after lotus flower with eight petals) in the center and the deities inside its petals. The one owned by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is considered to have been painted in the 14th century, at the end of the Kamakura period. It is precious, because it was painted at an earlier stage than the other kumano mandala.

 Following MAIZAWA’s presentation, Dr. YAMAMOTO Satomi from Waseda University and Dr. ABE Mika from Nagoya University made presentations, respectively, titled Representation of Ashura in the Six Realms Paintings of Medieval Japan and A New Interpretation of the Six Realms Paintings in the Shōjuraikōji Temple with Rokudōshaku. The Rokudō-e(illustrations of Six Realms)owned by the Shōjuraikōji Temple in Shiga Prefecture is known as a masterpiece of the paintings describing Buddhist tales in the medieval age. It is considered to be made based on Ōjōyōshū (a Buddhist text which means ‘the essentials of rebirth in the pure land’) written by the Japanese Buddhist monk, Genshin, in 995, as a core but also on various texts and images. Dr. YAMAMOTO focused on the Ashura described on it. She pointed out that it is reflected on the image of Ashura described in battle paintings, war chronicles, as well as Rokudōshaku (preach text used in Buddhist ceremonies) made in the same period. Dr. ABE compared the contents of Rokudōshaku books with the composition and the expression of the Shōjuraikōji Temple painting in details and then suggested a possibility that this painting can be a ceremonial principal image of Nijūgozanmai, a ritual for rebirth in the pure land, paradise. Both suggested new interpretation of the foundation and history of the Shōjuraikōji Temple one. Therefore, the following Q&A session was very active.

 These three presentations will be published in the Bijutsu Kenkyu for the coming fiscal year or after.

Digital Imaging of the Manuscripts of Traditional Japanese Music Notations Transcribed by Mr. ASADA Masayuki, known as Asada-fu

Asada-fu manuscripts, organized by piece.

 The music notations, transcribed by Mr. ASADA Masayuki (1900-1979), are widely known as a source for describing the melodies of voice (jōruri or uta) and shamisen accompaniment in shamisen music. His notations span a variety of genres, primarily Kiyomoto-bushi, but also Icchū-bushi, and Miyazono-bushi, among others. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been organizing and preserving the valuable manuscripts, which were collectively donated by the bereaved families when the department was known as the Department of Performing Arts. The outline of the material is reported as “Scores of Japanese Music Transcribed by ASADA Masayuki” [in Japanese] in Vol. 5 of “Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage.”

 The bound versions of Asada-fu (copied and bound from the original manuscripts) are held by various institutions and are available for viewing. In addition, we have been working on digital imaging of the manuscripts, which have only remained at the Institute to ensure their availability for long-term use. We have recently completed the digital imaging of the manuscript of Kiyomoto-bushi genre.

 Documenting intangible cultural properties based on oral/aural traditions, especially vocal music with various verses, remains a difficult task. This was even more so in the period when Asada-fu was created, that is before technological developments made it easier to record sound and edit images. From the manuscript, two types of traceable revisions were found: manuscripts revised by cutting and pasting of papers and those rewritten from scratch by destroying the previous version. The use of digital images allows future research into the revision process to be conducted without damaging the original manuscript, which calls for careful handling.

 The list of manuscripts in our collection [in Japanese], which includes the progress of digital imaging, was posted on the website of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage on February 1st, 2022. The list will be updated based on the progress of our research.

Analytical Survey Using Hyperspectral Camera at the Baijōsan Kōmyōji Temple

Preparation for the survey
Discussion about the investigation parts

 Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems has been engaged in a series of surveys on Rakan-zu (a painting of Arhat, an enlightened Buddhist high priest) painted in the Yuan Dynasty, owned by the Baijōsan Kōmyōji Temple in Minato Ward, Tokyo. Please refer to our online monthly report for this survey. (

 Near-infrared imaging and fluorescence imaging produced by optical survey suggested that the new artificial iwa-enogu (mineral pigment used in paintings) could have been used to add colors on several parts of this painting.

 It is expected that, in addition to the observation on the imaging data including high-definition imaging, scientific analysis survey can provide additional data from the different approaches. Then, we, INUZUKA Masahide, CHI Chih lien, TAKAHASHI Yoshihisa from the Center for Conservation Science, and EMURA Tomoko, YASUNAGA Takuyo and MAIZAWA Rei from the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information System conducted a survey on Rakan-zu by reflectance spectrometry at the Baijōsan Kōmyōji Temple on January 19th, 2022.

 Reflectance spectrometry can identify the kinds of coloring materials used in the work by reflectance spectrometry formation, how the reflectance of the surface against wavelength of light. Furthermore, hyperspectral camera, which we used this survey, shows the distribution of the same reflectance spectra in two dimensions simultaneously.

 We plan to identify the materials and places for adding color by analyzing the data which we have gathered in this survey.

Field Activities for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of Ta Nei Temple in Angkor, Cambodia (Part X) – Survey for Planning Future Activities

Onsite survey after the restoration of the East Gate
Survey for the risk parts of the central building complex

 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been engaged in technical cooperation for the conservation and sustainable development project of Ta Nei Temple by the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA) in Cambodia. While it had been difficult to visit the site due to the COVID-19 pandemic, from January 9th to 24th, 2022, TOBUNKEN dispatched three staff experts responding to the request by APSARA for the first time after almost two years. We conducted the field survey and discussion on the points necessary for immediate consideration onsite including the East Gate under restoration as well as the parts of the central complex of the temple that are considered at risk.

 The APSARA team have continued the restoration project of the East Gate started in 2019 by discussing the specific restoration direction online with us after April 2020. In January 2021, the reassembly work of the superstructure was completed up to the top. We checked the details onsite including the accuracies of the construction and the finishing details, which had not been well grasped remotely, and provided advice for improvement. Some retouching and additional works are planned based on the further discussion.

 The central building complex of the temple requires immediate measures to secure visitors’ safety and prevent further damage to the ruins due to multiple risk factors including the collapse of unstable stone materials, aging of temporary timber reinforcements, and impacts by growing trees. Considering the given situation, we conducted a joint survey with the APSARA risk map team and discussed the main direction for countermeasures and the priority of temporary measures. We also recorded the current status of the towers by checking the upper part using a drone and creating 3D models from the photos taken.

 In addition, the analysis of soil specimens taken in the previous archaeological survey at the front causeway was made with the assistance by Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation (KCHF), which also continues the restoration support in the Angkor archaeological site. In the APSARA Laboratory developed with Korea’s support, we conducted tests including grain size analysis and color measurement, which provided data related to the soil layer comprising the foundation of the causeway. We would like to express our gratitude to the generous support provided by KCHF.

 We renewed our recognition of how important the onsite cooperative activities are, including interaction with the teams from different countries onsite and at research meetings. The mission also implemented the excavation survey of the outer enclosure and the survey on the stored sculptures from Ta Nei, which are reported separately.

Field Activities for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of Ta Nei Temple in Angkor, Cambodia (Part X) – Excavation Survey of the Outer Enclosure Remains

The East Gate in the rainy season
The foundation of the outer enclosure and the land surface at Angkor Period unearthed

 As part of the project mission from January 9th to 24th, 2022, we conducted an excavation survey of the outer enclosure remains of Ta Nei temple Under restoration of the East Gate implemented in cooperation with APSARA, the reassembly work has already been finished. However, due to the lower land surface than the surrounding area, it has been problematic in that the rain water accumulates around the gate in the rainy season. We assumed that this could hardly happen with the original setting when the temple was built, in which it was believed to have been equipped with some form of water drainage system. With this assumption, we conducted an excavation survey to understand the land surface level and terrain status at that time to plan a water drainage system around the East Gate area.

 We conducted an excavation survey at the three points along the base remains of the wall that used to connect to the south and north sides of the gate (no information on the time and reason for removing the wall structure): its northeast corner and two locations where laterite blocks of the wall base are exposed up to the corner. The survey revealed that the land surface at these points in the Angkor period was about 30 centimeters below the current surface. This means that it was almost flat land without particular height difference from the surface around the East Gate. We did not find any remains such as drainage channels, so we consider that the drainage at that time depended on the natural drainage system including percolation.

 The area to the north of the Gate is currently elevated, which prevents water evacuation. We will therefore remove the topsoil in that area and check if the rainwater can be discharged better. We plan to reorganize the surrounding area as well as the restoration of the temple buildings.

Field Activities for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of Ta Nei Temple in Angkor, Cambodia (Part X) – Survey of Statues in Storage

Damaged Dvarapala statue
Onsite survey

 As part of the onsite survey mission from January 9th to 24th, 2022, the survey was conducted on the current location and status of the stone statues found in Ta Nei Temple and stored in other places. The French School of the Far East (L’Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient, EFEO) compiled the records of the discovery of the artifacts from different monument sites in Angkor. However, the systematic survey for the current status of these artifacts had not been conducted.

 With the cooperation of the Angkor Conservation Office (ACO) under the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, we conducted a verification survey of the artifacts stored at that office against the records. There are a total of 30 plus artifacts from Ta Nei Temple on the inventory list created by the EFEO, among which, 16 items were identified at the storages of ACO this time. Most of the rest whose location remains unknown are small pieces such as hands or feet of divine statues. Among the massive statues of the gate guardian Dvarapala, which are about 2 meters high, three have lost their heads that were visible in the previous photographs. In addition, one of the Lokesvara (Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva) statues was found to be heavily damaged. These damages are considered to be made by illegal diggings or destruction during the civil war period. The information from a French researcher onsite helped us to determine that at least two statues on the inventory, apart from the 16 items identified in the ACO, are currently stored in the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh.

 We also found that a group of statues collected from the monument sites by ACO around in 1993 and 1994, when illegal diggings were most frequent, includes ones moved from Ta Nei Temple. We then identified seven Seated Buddha statues, seven Naga balustrades, and two Sinha statues. We will further investigate where they were originally located in the temple and where the rest of the artifacts are stored.

 On the other hand, part of the head of a Lokesvara statue found inside the East Gate of Ta Nei during its dismantling in 2019 is stored in the Preah Norodom Sihanouk-Angkor Museum. We photographed it again for 3D model creation. The accompanying body parts have unfortunately not yet been found. It could still remain undiscovered on the site avoiding people’s eyes.

 We plan to take the opportunity to conduct further surveys in the other facilities.

Symposium 2021 Maritime Network and Cultural Heritage -People and Objects connected by Oceans- Held by the Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage (JCIC-Heritage)

Poster of the Symposium the Oceans and Cultural Heritage - the Oceans Have Connected People and Products
Forum the World Connected through the Oceans by Presenters

 Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage (JCIC-Heritage), which the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) is commissioned as its secretariat by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, held the webinar Maritime Network and Cultural Heritage -People and Objects connected by Oceans- on November 28th, 2021.

 Cultural heritage related to the oceans exists in many locations worldwide. It is a witness to people’s living, society, history, and culture at that time. Although in the past, there were scarce ways of knowing where the products transported by oceans had come from, latest technologies and analysis methods have made it possible to locate the original source of these products. This symposium aimed to introduce the international trends and case studies on the protection of cultural heritage related to the maritime network, share Japanese researchers’ contributions in this area, and consider the potential roles of Japan in facilitating international collaboration in this field.

 ISHIMUMRA Tomo from TOBUNKEN briefed on the purpose of the symposium, followed by five lectures: The Appeal and Significance of Research on Sunken Ships – Time Capsules of the Sea- by Dr. SASAKI Randall from the Maritime Archaeology Lab; Opening the Sea Route, Voyages, and Shipbuilding by Dr. KIMURA Jun from Tokai University; Glass Beads Brought across the Oceans-East-West Trade and the Road of Glass by Dr. TAMURA Tomomi from the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties; People Crossing the Maritime World – Islamic merchants, including the merchants of Hormuz by Dr. YOKKAICHI Yasuhiro from Rikkyo University; and Places where the Sea and Land Meet- Port Cities of Asian Waters: Shophouse & Courtyard House by Dr. FUNO Shuji from Nihon University.

 Following these lectures, the forum entitled the World Connected through the Oceans was conducted with two more commentators: Dr. SUTO Yoshiyuki and Dr. ITO Nobuyuki from Nagoya University. The forum consisted of four sessions with the following perspectives: Exchange between the West and the East via the Oceans and the Lands; Ships, and their Technologies; Ocean Network in the Mediterranean World and the New Continental World; and Japan’s International Cooperation related to the Maritime Network and Cultural Heritage.

 At the end of the symposium, Prof. YAMAUCHI Kazuya from Teikyo University made a closing remark. He emphasized the importance to protect and conserve cultural heritage related to the maritime network, which are witness to the fact that human beings have connected the world via their ocean explorations.

 Although it was JCIC-Heritage’s first attempt to conduct an online symposium, it was successful with about 200 participants from 11 countries. The JCIC-Heritage will continue to collect and disseminate the relevant information.

 Please visit the following webpage for the further details.

Cooperation to Set Up and Display for the Special Exhibition: POMPEII

Displaying a wall painting “Macedonian prince with a philosopher”

 The Tokyo National Museum is currently holding the Special Exhibition: POMPEII from January 14th to April 3rd, 2022. The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) cooperated on the condition survey of the artifacts for the exhibition (wall paintings, mosaics and marble statues) at the display setting prior to the opening of this exhibition.

 Pompeii is a city built in the Roman period, located about 23 km southeast of Naples, a city in the south of Italy. In 79 AD, a major eruption of Mount Vesuvius, located between Naples and Pompeii, buried the city with volcanic ash and pumice in a twinkle. Time has passed; the city of Pompeii was rediscovered in 1748. Full-scale excavation was started then. Many buildings, wall paintings, and artifacts of that time have been unearthed. About 150 pieces came to Japan from the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, which holds a vast collection of artifacts excavated from Pompeii. These attract many museum visitors.

 We had a chance to watch the set-up process at the exhibition venues, which we rarely experience during our usual work. In usual cases, experts from the museums owning these artifacts accompany them. However, they could not come to Japan due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thereafter, the entire exhibition set-up was left to the staff members of the Tokyo National Museum, and the experts in fine art transportation and display. The operation is far from easy, since special attention has to be paid, not to damage the pieces while simultaneously considering exhibit conditions best tailored to audiences. There is a wall painting weighing several hundreds of kilograms amongst the pieces listed for the exhibition. It was a very good opportunity for us to realize that the exhibitions we usually visit without giving them special attention can only be accomplished due to the sincere efforts of many people.

to page top