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

Publication of a Database of Exhibitions Impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic

Database screen showing the ability to refer museum information from links on the screen

 The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic affecting the world has had a huge impact on museum exhibitions. First, museums across Japan were forced to temporarily close because of a governmental request in February 2020 to voluntarily refrain from large-scale events. Following, repeated declarations of a State of Emergency and Quasi-State of Emergency forced museums to cancel and postpone many exhibitions. The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been collecting information about exhibitions held in Japan since 1935 and stores them in a public database ( Since May 2020, TOBUNKEN started collecting information of exhibitions impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which it published as a database (Japanese only.) (

 This database tabulates the status of exhibitions handling cultural properties, including cancelation, postponement, and early closure primarily for museum members of the Japan Association of Museums ( Before the pandemic, the information was collected based on printing materials such as leaflets and catalogues, annual calendars, and museums’ websites. However, the information is updated on a daily basis under the pandemic’s unpredictable situation; to every extent possible, we collected data widely from SNS such as Twitter and Facebook in addition to museum websites, including the duration of temporary closures and schedule changes. Collected data included 1,406 pieces of information that show the impact on museums over the last two years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, changes occurred: planned exhibitions (or rotating exhibitions) using their own collection were planned or held, instead of cancelling or postponing special exhibitions. More operations using SNS and online contents occurred.

 Even now though many museums are free from requested or forced temporary closure, they must still take preventive measures against COVID-19, such as advance registration systems, visitor number limitations, and museum sterilization. It is predicted that exhibition operations will continue to be affected. TOBUNKEN will continue to collect information and analyze long-term impacts on museums.

Release of Three Archives Related to Contemporary Art – Muramatsu Gallery Papers, TAKAMI Akihiko Papers, and MIKI Tamon Papers

Letter from KUBOTA Shigeko, a pioneer in video art, to MIKI Tamon, enclosing photos of exhibited artworks at her first personal exhibition (December 1963 at Naiqua Gallery, Tokyo)

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) made three archives of documents, the Muramatsu Gallery Papers, TAKAMI Akihiko Papers, and MIKI Tamon Papers, available as a research outcome of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems in FY 2021.

 The Muramatsu Gallery Papers consist of their exhibition materials (including scrapbooks of exhibition invitation postcards and photo albums to record exhibitions) from 1966 to 2009. The TAKAMI Akihiko Papers are the exhibition materials of art galleries from 1990s to 2000s. The MIKI Tamon Papers are a group of materials including exhibition invitation postcards from the first half of the 1960s.

 Surveys of personal exhibitions at art galleries constitute an important basic process for studying post-war contemporary artists. However, investigating what artworks and how they were exhibited is extremely difficult. This is because art magazines and newspapers rarely published personal exhibitions of budding, but still unknown artists. Therefore, it is only possible to specify the venues and schedules of exhibitions through publication media.

 The three archives being released include many photos of exhibitions and exhibited artworks. These act as support tools for researchers to overcome “difficulties” in investigating contemporary arts, as indicated above. These archives can be browsed at the TOBUNKEN Library (advanced reservation required). We hope that many researchers utilize these archives to advance their research.

*TOBUNKEN Library Visitor’s Guide (
Information on the archives is available at the bottom of the Japanese page ( (Japanese only).)

Seminar on MATSUZAWA Yutaka Archive – the 9th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

Seminar on MATSUZAWA Yutaka Archive at TOBUNKEN

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) held the Seminar on MATSUZAWA Yutaka Archives – the 9th Seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems both in-person and online. TOBUNKEN invited experts in charge of recording and organizing the activities of MATSUZAWA Yutaka (1922-2006), a pioneer of conceptual arts, and experts and researchers who work on finding new value in these materials.

 This seminar is also a part of a research project, “Research and Compilation of Materials on Modern and Contemporary Art”, and a Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research from Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, “Study on Art Collective in Post-1968: Based on Matsuzawa Yutaka’s Archive” (principle investigator: KIKKAWA Hideki).

 The following presentations were provided: in order of presentation:
The 100 anniversary of birth, MATSUZAWA YUTAKA: From the Investigation by the Art Museum to the Exhibition by Ms. KINOUCHI Mayumi and Ms. FURUIE Mitsuha (Nagano Prefectural Art Museum),
MATSUZAWA Yutaka’s Exchange with Latin American Arts – Based on the Materials of CAyC (Centro de Arte y Comunicación) by Dr. INOUE Emiko (Hunter College, the City University of New York), and
About the Data Center for Contemporary Art (DCCA): Archive Project by MATSUZAWA Yutaka by KIKKAWA Hideki.

 After the above presentations, the four presenters and seminar participants (11 in-person and 33 online) exchanged opinions. The discussion involved people from General Incorporated Foundation – Matsuzawa Yutaka Psi Room Foundation (Executive director: Mr. MATSUZAWA Haruo), artists with direct relationships with MATSUZAWA Yutaka, and related parties from museums and archives. Topics varied from the significances and possibilities of the MATSUZAWA Yutaka Archives as research materials to challenges for archive preservation.

 We at TOBUNKEN explore and fulfill our mission to pass down cultural property archives, not only the MATSUZAWA Yutaka Archives, recognized as valuable research materials that lack a guaranteed of long-term conservation for the next generations.

Publication of a Brochure Titled Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts VIII: Noh Costume by Sasaki Noh-Isho

Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts: Noh Costume by Sasaki Noh-Isho

 The department of Intangible Cultural Heritage published Noh Costume by Sasaki Noh-Isho as the 8th brochures of the series, Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts.

 Manufacturing Noh costumes was certified as a Selected Conservation Technique, and Mr. SASAKI Yoji, the 4th president of Sasaki Noh-Isho, as its technique holder by the government in FY 2020. Noh costumes are not only customized for the plays, characters, and traditions of each school, but also introduce new creativities and ingenuities. In this brochure, each process of “making Jacquard cards,” “preparing yarns,” “weaving,” and “finishing” is briefly introduced in the order of work.

 The research outline of technique details is published in the Investigation Report on Techniques for Preserving Cultural Properties with a Focus on Musical Instruments 5 (MAEHARA Megumi & HASHIMOTO Kaoru, Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage 15, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, 2022.) Please refer to this material along with the brochure. It will be available on TOBUNKEN’s website.

 These series of brochures can be distributed for non-commercial purposes via Yu-Pack (parcel), Japan Post with a cash-on-delivery option. Please email to with your name, address with postal code, phone number, and the name(s) and number of the brochure(s) requested.

Series of brochures published so far:
Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts I: Biwa by ISHIDA Katsuyoshi
Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts II: Koma (Bridge of Shamisen) by OKOUCHI Masanobu
Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts III: Futozao Shamisen (Three stringed lute with thickest neck) by ISAKA Shigeo
Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts IV: Wind Instruments for Gagaku music by YAMADA Zenichi
Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts V: Shirabeo (Tension ropes for drums) by YAMASHITA Yuji
Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts VI: Shamisen (three-stringed lute) by Tokyo Wagakki
Techniques to Support Japanese Traditional Performing Arts VII: Koto (thirteen-stringed zither) by KUNII Kyukichi

Publishing a Video Recording of the 15th Public Lecture, Culture of Using Trees – Using Cherry Trees, Playing with Cherry Trees

Recording demonstration to assemble kotsuzumi
Playing water (from the left, Mr. TŌSHA Eishin (drum), Mr. TŌSHA Yukimaru (ōtsuzumi), Mr. TŌSHA Roei, Mr. TŌSHA Rokon (kotsuzumi), and Mr. FUKUHARA Kansui (flute)
Round-table talk

 The 15th Public Lecture titled Culture of using Trees – Using Cherry Trees, Playing with Cherry Trees is being distributed on our website ( until the end of May 2022. This is the edited video recording, considering the COVID-19 pandemic situation. The report will be published in FY 2022 based on this lecture.

 Cherry blossoms are extremely popular among Japanese people and used as motifs in various performing arts. However, in this public lecture, we focused on cherry trees from the viewpoint of “the ones whose timbers and barks are used,” rather than “their blossoms which we enjoy and celebrate or play with.”

 In the beginning, Mr. KAWAJIRI Hideki of the Gifu Academy of Forest Science and Culture provided a lecture on the Current Situations and Challenges to Use Various Types of Trees including cherry trees. IMAISHI Migiwa and MAEHARA Megumi, of the department, presented reports on the Usage of trees in the folklore world – Focusing on Cherry Trees and Intangible Cultural Heritage and Cherry Trees – Use Cherry Trees and Play with Cherry Trees – respectively.

 Then, focusing on kotsuzumi, whose body is made of cherry wood, an interview of Mr. TŌSHA Roei about the Charms of Kotsuzumi, a Musical Instrument, a demonstration to assemble a kotsuzumi, and the performance of Water composed by Mr. Roei were recorded. Moreover, this lecture was concluded by a round-table talk with Mr. KAWAJIRI, Mr. Roei, IMAISHI and MAEHARA. At that talk, various topics were discussed reflecting the diverse backgrounds of the participants; changes in demands on broadleaf trees including cherry wood, the current situation of forestry and necessity of “woods consisting of various type of trees,” the charms of cherry woods as musical instruments’ materials, and the importance of popularization using “authentic” musical instruments.

 Our department continues to strive to share and prepare for occasions to discuss various challenges on intangible cultural heritage and related techniques and materials.

Publishing Visual Documentation of Ōtsuzumi Drumheads – HATAMOTO Toru (Short Version)

Finished drumheads (front and back)
Recording the production process at the Hatamoto Taiko Workshop

 Ōtsuzumi is not only an instrument used as a musical accompaniment to Nohgaku, Kabuki, Hōgaku and other traditional Japanese musical theater forms but also a crucial element of Japanese traditional performing arts. Its drumheads are roasted dry as preparation before every single play. Therefore, they tend to become severely worn out and torn after every use and need to be replaced after ten uses. As ōtsuzumi drumheads are an integral component of ōtsuzumi the techniques to manufacture ōtsuzumi drumheads (manufacturing nohgaku ōtsuzumi (drumheads)) are considered as important techniques to conserve cultural properties.

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducted a survey, visually documenting the techniques of making ōtsuzumi drumheads in collaboration with Mr. HATAMOTO Toru of the Hatamoto Taiko Workshop in Tokyo. The video is available online We recorded his entire production process, which included softening leather for drumheads and stitching the material using hemp. Mr. HATAMOTO uses his own techniques during some parts of the process, although the whole manufacturing process is based on traditional techniques. Thus, we edited some parts of the video for the public, considering the possible commercial impacts of revealing his own techniques. We also created a long version of the video documentation separately only to maintain a record of the whole process.

 Various conservation techniques supporting intangible cultural heritage are faced with risks for survival due to changing social circumstances and lack of successors. We continue to conduct surveys on conservation techniques to perpetuate and protect them.

Renewed Performing Art Studio (Recording Studio)

Renewed Performing Art Studio (Recording Room)

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has documented live performances of intangible cultural heritage, including traditional performing arts at the Performing Art Studio in the TOBUNKEN facility. The Studio consists of two rooms: a stage for video recording and a recording studio for audio recording. At the stage facility, we have continuously recorded performing arts including kodan and rakugo. In addition, traditional music such as Miyazono-bushi, Tokiwazu-bushi and Heike have been recently recorded. However, the recording studio was hardly used due to its age. Its recording equipment was not suitable for the kind of digital recording widely used today. Therefore, TOBUNKEN made large-scale renovation of this recording studio in FY 2021, and it was completed in March 2022.

 The renewed recording studio have a feature suitable for recording Japanese traditional music: Its floor is made of hinoki, Japanese cypress. This can properly reflect the echo of Japanese traditional musical instruments. In addition, a small space exists under the hinoki floor for ventilation. This will release humidity from the recording studio and prevent curving and mold involving the floor materials.

 The new recording studio has zigzag shape with wide angle on the rear walls. This is an alternative to traditional byōbu (folding screens), which are set behind performers when they play Japanese traditional music. Byōbu not only visually highlight the performers, but also reflects the sound. The rear walls thus play this role of sound reflection. In addition, the rear walls have several sets of three sliding doors that are set vertically. Opening and closing these mechanisms controls sound reflection. Furthermore, different types of materials including washi (white in the photo) and cloth (black in the photo) are used in the wall, which contribute to control the balance of sound reflection and absorption.

 Then, the panels are set in different angles on the ceiling. Some of the panels reflect the sound to the players and others absorb sound and suppress reflection.

 Many modern music studios are designed to prevent sound reflection by setting acoustic materials on walls and ceilings. This is because recording clear sounds in the environment requires minimum reflection. However, players feel strange in these circumstances because the music they play does not bounce back. In particular, Japanese traditional music is usually played in an environment with some sound reflection. Therefore, it is important to record the music in an environment close to normal performances to document such live performances. Simultaneously, to record “clear” sounds, an environment with minimum sound reflection is preferable. It is difficult to meet these two incompatible conditions simultaneously, but we attempt this in the recording studio using a highly precise design.

 Related with the recording studio’s renewal, the sound equipment was completely replaced with contemporary digital recording equipment. We plan to start live performance documentation in this new recording studio from FY 2022. We expect to record performances with higher quality and presence than ever before.

Background and Architectural Features of Vernacular Houses in East-Central Bhutan: A joint study Session with the Department of Culture, Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs, Royal Government of Bhutan

Screenshot of a lecture by Mr. Phub Tshering during the roundtable session

The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) provides technical support and training for human resource development to the Department of Culture (DoC), Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs of Bhutan, to conserve vernacular houses. Since F.Y.2019, we have been entrusted with the Network Core Center Project for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage by the Agency for Cultural Affairs (ACA), which conducts joint architectural surveys with the Division for Conservation of Heritage Sites (DCHS) of the DoC and practical training for local stakeholders to ensure heritage conservation. However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to pursue our mission remotely, by preparing reference books for governmental sectors and educational materials for schools. In F.Y.2021, although we were prepared to conduct a joint survey anticipating the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, this did not materialize. As an alternative, we held an online joint study session with the DoC on March 7th, 2022.
 Twenty-two people, including TOBUNKEN and DoC staff members, as well as external cooperative experts, attended the session. The Bhutanese side provided the latest information about the preliminary stage of the joint survey. Mr. Pema, a senior engineer of the DCHS, described the cultural and regional characteristics of Bhutan’s central and eastern regions, focusing on settlement patterns. Mr. Pema Wangchuk, an architect of the DCHS reported on the current situation of preparations for conducting fieldwork in the region. From the Japanese side, Professor AOKI Takayoshi of Nagoya City University, who has been conducting empirical research on earthquake resistance measures for historical buildings in Bhutan, gave a presentation on the structural characteristics of masonry buildings that are common in the region, highlighting the issues they face and methods for their conservation. We exchanged relevant know-how as joint survey team members through active discussions during each presentation. In addition, Mr. KUBOTA Hiromichi, head of the Intangible Folk Cultural Properties Section, and his collaborator, Mr. Phub Tshering from Mera, Tashigang, Eastern Bhutan, held a roundtable session on local daily life and folklore, which helped the Japanese attendees enhance their understanding of the region and customs.
 Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we need to finish the ACA project by completing bookmaking, but we hope to launch a joint survey with DCHS as soon as the international travel bans are lifted.

Publication of the List of the ITO Nobuo Library

Front cover of the List of the ITO Nobuo Library

The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has proceeded with the classification of documents related to the protection of cultural properties and items donated by the family of the late Dr. ITO Nobuo, a former director of the Institute (please refer to the Monthly Report on September 2021: The documents can be sorted into (1) administrative work for the protection of cultural properties in Japan, (2) administrative work for the protection of cultural properties overseas, (3) research activities related to architectural history, (4) private activities related to protecting cultural properties, and (5) written manuscripts. We added two more elements: (6) books and (7) photographs before publishing the List of the ITO Nobuo Library. The list consists of 2,185 items, some of whose details are still not clear at this stage. However, after organizing the material into seven groups, we decided to make the list accessible to researchers/experts who need them as soon as possible. The List of the ITO Nobuo Library will also be available on our website ( We hope that it will encourage heritage conservation studies and will contribute to their development in the future.

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