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

“Introductory Guide to Photographing of Cultural Properties—Practical Course of Photographing for Documentation of Cultural Properties” a Seminar at Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples

Explanation on how the focal distance of lens make differences
Photographing practice: lighting to a target object using an umbrella

 The documentation of cultural properties is fundamental to obtain the necessary information for research, conservation, and utilization. Photography, a type of documentation method, is mandatory to record visual information, including colors and shapes. Meanwhile, many factors need to be considered for photographing to record accurate information.

 With this background, the Cultural Properties Information Section of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information System held the seminar mentioned in the title targeting local government officers and museum staff involved in cultural property protection in Hokkaido, at Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples (Abashiri City) co-sponsored of the Museum and the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) on June 2nd, 2022. Protection measures were taken against COVID-19 including face masks, social distancing, and air ventilation.

 In the morning, lectures were delivered about the purposes of documenting cultural properties and the photographing. In the afternoon, at first, the methods of inventorying cultural property and their photographs were introduced using case studies. Then, the appropriate ways to manage lighting and other photographing tips were explained. As a practical exercise, all participants made reflector boards by attaching wrinkled aluminum foil to recycled styrene boards which had been used for signboards for exhibitions. Then, the participants photographed a carved wooden bear kept in the Museum, using their own cameras by modulating lighting. At the end, a Q&A session was conducted on photographing and inventorying photos as well as cultural property items.

 Handling shadows is challenging for many people in photographing cultural properties. This seminar addressed the appropriate methods to include natural shadow in natural directions using one light only by reflecting light toward appropriate positions for the characteristics of cultural properties or art objects using hand-made reflection boards and inexpensive equipment. Furthermore, several ways to organize and list photographs using the basic functions of Windows and Excel were introduced as we received numerous questions about this matter. We strived our best to make this seminar as practical as possible.

 This workshop was held this time after two years since it was originally planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank to the staff at the Hokkaido Museum of Northern Peoples and participants for their patience and precious opinions.

Investigation of the Higo Biwa Tradition and Related Materials

Ms. GOTO Akiko played Higo biwa at the Zenkōji Temple in Yamaga City

 Japanese government selects “the performing arts including music, dance and drama, and the techniques playing an important role in such performing arts’ establishment and construction, which possesses a high value for seeing the history of the transition of the performing art in Japan” as “Intangible Cultural Properties that need measures such as documentation (performing art)” under the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties.

 As of March 2021, 31 techniques were selected. However, 24 of them were held by individuals. Therefore, all these techniques were practically lost when these individuals died. On the contrary, the rest seven were held by groups. While one of the seven, Kineya Eizo School, a holder of geza ongaku (geza music: music play behind the stage) of kabuki lost its power due to the death of its leader, Mr. Kineya Eizo, the third, in 1967, the other six (Sagiryu kyogen (the kyogen of the Sagi School), Higo biwa, Ryukyu traditional sokyoku (3 groups), and wazuma) are considered as being passed down in their respective groups.

 The department of Intangible Cultural Heritage started investigations on Higo biwa, one of these “Intangible Cultural Properties that need measures such as documentation (performing art).” We began collecting information last year and initiated full investigations this year about the Higo Biwa Preservation Society and Higo biwa technique successors, who have been dedicated to passing down the Higo biwa, and the materials related to the Higo biwa including biwa itself. We conducted the second investigation from June 22nd to 24th, 2022. Thereafter, we investigated the objects left by Mr. YAMASHIKA Yoshiyuki, a Higo biwa player (March 20th, 1901 to June 24th, 1996), which are kept in Yamaga City Museum. They vary from his favorite everyday items to photos and biwas, and were counted to 84 cases (containing even more items). As the last day of this investigation happened to be his death anniversary, we were fortunate and honored to be a part of his memorial service with biwa play offering by Ms. GOTO Akiko, who had learned from him and the people very close to him.

 We plan to publish a report on the Higo biwa tradition and its related materials in this fiscal year after the planned third investigation.

Field Activities for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of Ta Nei Temple in Angkor, Cambodia (Part XI) –Work Progress Regarding the East Gate Area and the Central Building Complex

Retouch work on the East Gate after restoration
Archeological investigation for digging a temporary ditch around the East Gate
Areas at risk on the East Tower Shrine of the central building complex: emergency replacement of reinforcements

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) continues to support 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. We dispatched three expert members from June 12th to July 3rd, 2022. The mission aimed to supervise the finishing works for the restoration of the East Gate, conduct archaeological investigations for setting a new drainage ditch from around the East Gate, and survey the areas at risk of the central building complex.

 For the East Gate restoration, in May, the APSARA team began retouching the parts identified at our previous dispatch in January 2022. We assessed their working status and further discussed how to deal with the broken part of stones and finish the surface with sculptures, and other aspects with APSARA. Although this resulted in additional work, we almost completed the given work by the end of June.

 Furthermore, the water drainage around the East Gate had been an outstanding issue. In discussions with APSARA, it was decided to cut a temporary drainage ditch from the west side of the East Gate to the North Moat. We tasked Mr. KAHSHA Hiroo, a visiting researcher, with conducting archeological investigations related to a new drainage ditch set-up. We dug up a ditch carefully, to avoid damaging the original land surface at the time of constructing the East Gate and the Cruciform Terrace, and completed an approximately 30-meter-long temporary drainage ditch. We plan to carefully monitor its effect during the rainy season until October, in cooperation with on-site staff.

 In the central building complex, we investigated the areas at risk in detail by scaffolding around the buildings of the Central Tower and the East Tower Shrines, which were identified as the highest priority for safety measures based on the discussions with the APSARA risk map team. Because the old wooden reinforcements in the areas at risk were severely deteriorated by pest damage and other factors, replacements using durable materials had been requested for some time. Following APSARA’s request, it was decided to tentatively replace the wooden reinforcements with scaffolding tubes and couplers. We renewed the reinforcements in a part of the Central Tower Shrine and three parts of the East Tower Shrine. We, in discussions with APSARA staff, tried to pursue minimum intervention while carefully examining lacking areas or cracks in the stone materials caused by imbalanced load transfers. Furthermore, safety measures were implemented by setting temporary fences along visitor routes to prevent tourists from entering the areas at risk.

 We also held a working session with the Department of Tourism Development and Culture of APSARA as they planned biking tours around the area, including Ta Nei Temple. We exchanged ideas about the development of tourist facilities and discussed measures to protect the ruins, secure the visitors’ safety, and enhance visitors’ understanding of the ruins. We aim to further discuss effective ways to achieve balance between the appropriate protection and tourism for this site.

to page top