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

Activities at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC)

Workshop flyer

 The Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC) in Norwich, UK, is a renowned center for the study of Japanese arts and culture in Europe and well-known to Western stakeholders. Since July 2013, SISJAC and the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) have entered into a collaborative project on “Shaping the Fundamentals of Research on Japanese Art.”

 On July 8th and 9th, 2022, TSUDA Tetsuei, a visiting researcher at the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems in TOBUNKEN, on a sabbatical in the UK, participated in an online workshop on “Absence, Presence, and Materiality: Refiguring Japanese Religious Art and Culture,” organized by SISJAC. On July 9th, he delivered an oral presentation titled Reinterpreting Esoteric Buddhist Sculpture in the Nara period (8th century).

 This presentation demonstrated that esoteric Buddhism had already been introduced and accepted in the latter half of the Nara period (8th century) before Kūkai introduced it in Japan in the Heian period (early 9th century). Vidyā-rājā (J. Myōō) statues had already been sculpted and one of them survives even today. Furthermore, this workshop was conducted as per Japan standard time: it commenced late at night and concluded early morning in Europe and the USA. Nevertheless, 72 people attended on both days, not only from Europe and the USA but also from Russia and Taiwan. It was evident that numerous researchers worldwide were interested in Japanese religions and culture.

 On July 11th, as SISJAC had asked TSUDA to provide descriptions of Japanese artworks (sculptures and crafts) from the Jōmon to the Medieval period for catalogs and panels at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts in the University of East Anglia (UEA), which has jurisdiction over SISJAC, TSUDA and Miss MATSUBA Ryoko, a member of the SISJAC, surveyed the museum’s collection and exchanged views. This collection is almost unknown in Japan, but it contains fine examples of Buddhist art, including a gilt bronze Buddha from the Nara period (8th century) and a seated bodhisattva from the mid-Heian period (10th century), although they are small in size. In addition, a few works can also be checked against the TOBUNKEN’s digital archive of auction catalogue and sold art works.

 On the same day, since 14:00 hours, Mr. ITO Tsuyoshi, minister at the embassy of Japan in London, inspected these exhibits, and TSUDA delivered gallery talks on these artworks with Miss MATSUBA Ryoko. The minister listened attentively as he observed the artworks.

Panel Exhibition in the Entrance Lobby: Door Panels of Wat Rajpradit, a First-grade Royal Buddhist Temple in Bangkok, Thailand

Ordination hall of Wat Rajpradit
Exhibition of research on the lacquer door panels of Wat Rajpradit
Exhibition of Japanese lacquerworks in Thailand

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) exhibits panels in its entrance lobby to disseminate its research outcomes. We started the new panel exhibition shown in the title on July 28th, 2022.

 Wat Rajpradit, one of the first-grade royal Buddhist temples, was built in 1864 by King Rama IV as the third royal temple in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, based on the Thai tradition of three royal Buddhist temples being constructed by each dynasty.

 The doors and windows of the Wat Rajpradit ordination hall feature panels decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay with underpainting using very thin seashell parts whose backs are colored and drawn, and lacquered parts decorated with colored lacquer maki-e expressing three-dimensional patterns. In particular, the style of the patterns of the mother-of-pearl inlay with underpainting looks Japanese. The Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture of Thailand asked TOBUNKEN for technical support to restore the lacquer door panels in 2012. Responding to their request, we brought two panels to TOBUNKEN in October 2013, investigated them in detail, restored them experimentally, and conducted on-site investigations until July 2015. At the same time, they were examined from the different perspectives of art history, musicology, and the history of Japanese trade to identify the provenance of the lacquer door panels and their characterization in lacquerwork manufacturing history. As these investigations confirmed that the door panels were manufactured in Japan, we now extend the focus to other Japanese lacquerworks in Thailand and continue the investigations.

 This panel exhibition shows the process of discovering the manufacturing techniques and the provenance of the lacquer door panes at Wat Rajpradit through a joint study by researchers and research institutes in various fields from both inside and outside TOBUNKEN. The exhibition also introduces some Japanese lacquerworks that were exported to Thailand. Please visit us to enjoy the exhibition. (Opening hours: Monday to Friday except for national holidays, 9:00–17:30)

Publication of the Report: Lacquered Door Panels of Wat Rajpradit – Study of the Japan-made Lacquerwork Found in Thailand –

Lacquer door panels of Wat Rajpradit. Dharma teachings of Buddha on top of the door panels.
Cover of the report

 Since 1992, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been conducting cooperative research to conserve and restore the cultural properties of Thailand jointly with the Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture of Thailand (FAD). As part of this research, TOBUNKEN has provided technical support for restoration work by FAD, Wat Rajpradit, and other related parties in Thailand, targeting lacquer door panels in Wat Rajpradit, a first-grade royal Buddhist temple built by King Rama IV in 1864.

 Investigating manufacturing techniques and materials is mandatory for restoring cultural properties. Such investigations also provide opportunities to find and gain vast knowledge related to the given cultural properties. The lacquer door panels at Wat Rajpradit are believed to have been made in Japan because they are decorated with the designs of people with Japanese garments using techniques of mother-of-pearl inlay with underpainting, which were typical for Japanese lacquerwork products for export, mainly in the mid-19th century. However, there was no evidence to prove this origin prior to this investigation. Therefore, experts in various fields, from within and outside of TOBUNKEN, investigated them, and their design patterns expressed with mother-of-pearl inlay with underpainting and colored lacquer maki-e, from scientific perspectives. The investigations revealed that these lacquer door panels were likely made in Japan based on their materials, techniques, and design expressions.

 The report of this article published in March 2022 consists of an English translation of the discussions cited in the Japanese report about the research outcomes published in 2021 and the discussion related to the background of the temple’s foundation and the buildings in the temple area by FAD and Wat Rajpradit. This report is available for reading in the TOBUNKEN library. We would be pleased if you could read this report.

Tokyo National Museum 150th Anniversary ― Timely Connections: Hidden Western-Style Paintings in Tokyo National Museum

Exhibition room
Lecture speech by YOSHIDA Akiko (Evening in Brabant with a Woman Carrying Water by Rodolphe Wytsman on the screen)

 An exhibition, Timely Connections: Hidden Western-Style Paintings in Tokyo National Museum was held as one of Tokyo National Museum’s 150th Anniversary projects from June 7th to July 18th, 2022 at the Heiseikan thematic exhibition room. This exhibition was planned by Mr. OKIMATSU Kenjiro, Supervisor, Collections Management of Tokyo National Museum and Supervisor, Loan Promotion of the National Center for the Promotion of Cultural Properties. SHIOYA Jun, director and YOSHIDA Akiko, a researcher of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems participated in the preparation studies.

 Tokyo National Museum is well known for its collections of Japanese and Eastern ancient arts. Simultaneously, the museum has been collecting western-style paintings, including those by European and American painters, since the early days of the museum. This exhibition presented these western paintings in three sections: I. “Connections with the World” — artworks brought from abroad through world expositions and collection exchange projects; II. “Connections with Contemporary Art” — those collected to introduce the latest western fine arts and promote production in Japan; and III. “Connections with Social Conditions” — those collected for responding to social movements, such as natural disasters and wars.

 While preparing for this exhibition, the works were investigated by us and photographed, and material and related works were surveyed. Then, we made several findings through these surveys. Portrait of Lorenz von Stein (Austria 1887), exhibited in the section III, features Lorenz von Stein, a German jurist who contributed to draft the Constitution of the Empire of Japan. We identified his son, Alwin von Stein as its painter. The information was given by related parties who responded to Mr. OKIMATSU’s surveys and calls for information, thus contributing to this identification. Furthermore, A Painter and His Wife (the Netherland 1636), a print art by Rembrandt van Rijn, is considered to be collected by Tokyo National Museum which introduced Western modern arts for a short period after the World War II. The state of its version was successfully narrowed down by external expert’s advice. More discoveries were made through material investigation and surveys on related materials. With these activities and findings, we again recognized the significance of Tokyo National Museum’s western-style painting collection.

 As a part of this exhibition, monthly lectures titled Timely Connections: Hidden Western-Style Paintings in Tokyo National Museum were held on July 16th, 2022, wherein Mr. OKIMATSU, YOSHIDA, and SHIOYA (in speaking order)provided lectures in relay.
 Mr. OKIMATSU spoke about the overview of the entire exhibition and introduced new findings from its survey stage. Following his lecture, sub themes were discussed. YOSHIDA gave a brief history of the Belgian painter couple, Rodolphe and Juliette Wytsman and spoke about their relationship with Japan, which started with the submission of their paintings to Hakubakai, including Evening in Brabant with a Woman Carrying Water, an oil painting by Rodolphe Wytsman. Then, SHIOYA told that the Viscount Kuroda memorial Art Promotion Fund Committee was founded in the memory of KURODA Seiki, a western-style painting pioneer in Japan, and endowed western-style paintings in the pre-war Showa period including Mother and Child (1930) by MATSUSHITA Haruo and Atelier (1933) by INOKUMA Gen’ichirō.

Renewal of the Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage Brochure

Cover of new brochure
Some contents of the brochure

 The Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage (JCIC-Heritage) is the hub council for protection of cultural heritage abroad; individual experts and institutes in various fields participate by working on international cooperation. JCIC-Heritage serves to promote collaboration of various activities related to cultural heritage and support effective international cooperation. JCIC-Heritage was established under the management of the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2006 based on the ideas of the late HIRAYAMA Ikuo, a great painter. The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been commissioned and serves as its secretariat.

 JCIC-Heritage largely renewed its brochure to disseminate Japan’s cultural heritage international cooperation activities and its own to wider audience. While the previous version was compact mainly illustrated with texts, the new version is full of photo images vividly inspiring international cooperation through Japanese cultural heritage protection activities around the world, and everyday activities to support them. We believe that this new brochure leads readers to a better understanding of how to protect cultural heritage facing damages caused by various factors including destruction by humans, climate change, natural disasters, and experts’ efforts to tackle these challenges.

 The new brochure is available via the JCIC-Heritage website; the secretariat will distribute and send it per request. Please feel free to contact us.

Local History Course 2022 Lecture at the Ibaraki City Cultural Properties Museum

Lecture of local history course 2022 at the Ibaraki City Cultural Properties Museum

 The Ibaraki City Cultural Properties Museum, Osaka Prefecture, holds an annual local history course of six lectures. KOBAYASHI Koji, a senior fellow, was invited for the first lecture of 2022 and gave a lecture titled Three Seigan and One Zushi: What We Can Know from the Four Portable Christian Shrines Left in Sendaiji and Shimo’otowa Areas on July 16th at the museum.

 The Sendaiji and Shimo’otowa, located in the northern parts of Ibaraki City, are villages in which many residents converted to Christianity when Justo Takayama Ukon, a Christian lord, also known as Dom Justo Takayama, took over the areas in the late 16th century. Their religion survived over a period of fierce repression of Christianity during the Edo period until the modern period. Thus, they are widely known as “hidden” Christian villages. Their Christian culture is unique as they passed down many varieties of Christian relics in high volumes. “Miracle” is never overstated because such varieties of relics have not remained in any other hidden Christian areas or villages in Japan. It is well known that the extremely famous painting St. Francis Xavier, Important Cultural Property housed in Kobe City Museum, is among them.

 I have studied various Christian objects passed down in these villages, especially seigan, Christian shrines which are containers for holy Christian paintings including images of Christ or Madonna and Child, to explore the reality of Christian belief in Japan. The seigan passed down in these areas are simply coated with black urushi lacquer. This fact and their history obviously show that they were made for domestic believers. Conversely, seigan, categorized as Namban lacquer with the same shape but with gorgeous makie and mother-of-pearl decorated, which were ordered to Japanese workshops by Europeans for export to Europe and Latin America, are also recognized. These two types of seigan show distinct differences despite sharing the same function as Christian objects. The sacred paintings stored in these seigan are associated with its frame with a western conjunction structure, supposed to be made of ebony, and with its frame decorated with makie and made in Japan respectively. These facts imply important questions regarding their backgrounds and manufacturing techniques. Conversely, the zushi exhibits an ivory-made crucifixion on the black cross possibly made of ebony. However, either this crucifixion or zushi have attracted almost no attentions so far and neither their original manufacturing place nor date are yet identified.

 This lecture featured the reality of these seigan and zushi; and the ways of Christian acceptance and its religion in Japan from the Momoyama period to the early Edo period, which were revealed through the studies of these seigan and zushi. Approximately 40 participants who were selected by lot during another peak of the COVID-19 pandemic enthusiastically asked questions. I sensed a great interest in Christian culture and history during this time.

 The Christian culture and related relics passed down in these areas are precious and unique historic milestones. I would like to further conduct this research and disseminate the outcomes.

Valuation of Raden (Mother-of-Pearl Decoration)– Relationship between Kōdaiji Makie and Namban Lacquer through the Consideration of the Zushi for the Toyotomi Hideyoshi Statue Owned by the Richi-in Temple in Misaki Town – the 4th Seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

4th Seminar, screen shows the zushi

 KOBAYASHI Koji, senior fellow, conducted a presentation titled Valuation of Raden (Mother-of-Pearl Decoration) – Relationship between Kōdaiji Makie and Namban Lacquer through the Consideration of the Zushi for the Toyotomi Hideyoshi Statue Owned by the Richi-in Temple in Misaki Town at the 4th seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on July 25th, 2022. It was held in hi-bred format, both face to face and online.

 The Richi-in Temple in Misaki Town, Osaka Prefecture has passed down a zushi, a miniature shrine ornamented with makie and raden decorations containing a statue of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. It was ordered to be made by Kuwayama Shigeharu, a loyal who served for and became a daimyo (a feudal lord) by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi was divinized soon after his death. It should be considered that the zushi was created by Kuwayama’s order at the time for him to be deified and worshipped at the shrine in his own territory, thinking of Hideyoshi’s virtue and to repay his kindness. This zushi attracts attention because most of its surface is decorated not only with hira-makie (flat makie) patterns of Kōdaiji makie style but also with raden decorations which no other Kōdaiji makie examples display.

 KOBAYASHI discussed the three makie patterns of the “flowering plant scroll,” “chrysanthemum and paulownia,” and “autumn plant scroll” it exhibits. As a result, he pointed out that these patterns’ historical backgrounds and individual classes strongly influenced whether raden decorations were accompanied with a makie of each pattern. Thus, the raden technique was not typical in that period. Furthermore, this zushi suggests a unique position of namban lacquer, which was made for export by European orders and generally ornamented with akikusa (autumn plants) patterns and raden decorations.

 It is widely known that some namban lacquers have ununified shapes of shell fragments randomly placed. This has been commonly understood as immature techniques to handle raden decorations or the incondite production level. However, the similar raden techniques are identified on this zushi, which was made to respect Hideyoshi’s memory. Therefore, the negative valuation of this type of raden is clearly denied, which obliges us to find positive meaning. Accordingly, I focused on decorations of ryōshi (decorated paper for writing), which has had a close relationship with makie since the Heian period. I cited some ryōshi cases with haku chirashi (thin foils scattered design and techniques) at that time as examples. Then, I presented the hypothesis that these random raden design expressions were influenced by a sense of beauty shown in ryōshi and adapted for this zushi and raden techniques of namban lacquer.

 This process highlighted the unique character of the namban lacquer, which differs from lacquer works crafted based on Japanese tradition and preferences, based on the consideration of the namban lacquer decoration from the viewpoint of makie and raden decorations of the zushi made with a domestic background at that time.

 Various discussions were held with comments from Mr. KOIKE Tomio of the Seikado Bunko Art Museum and Mr. KOMATSU Taishu of the Eisei Bunko Museum, as well as many opinions from the participants in the room and online.

Guidance Session for the TOBUNKEN Library – for Graduate Students of Gakushuin University

Introduction in the conference room
Explanation about the auction catalogue digital archive

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) introduced the guidance for TOBUNKEN Library with 14 graduate students of Gakushuin University (led by Prof. SARAI Mai and Prof. SHIMAO Arata) on July 1st. At the beginning of this guidance session, KIKKAWA Hideki explained how to use the library and how the collection was developed in the conference room on the second floor of TOBUNKEN. We then moved to the library and its stack rooms, where our staff introduced various materials including the Auction Catalogue Digital Archive, investigational photographs of cultural properties, and auction catalogues. The participants handled the digital archives, held the books and photos, listened to the explanations, and actively asked questions from the viewpoint of how they could utilize them for their own research.

 The Archive Section of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems has a mission to collect, organize, and conserve materials concerning cultural properties and prepare an easily accessible and effectively usable environment for experts and students working on cultural properties. As a part of this mission, we continue to actively hold guidance sessions. If you want to participate in the sessions, please submit your request with reference to “TOBUNKEN Library Guidance for undergraduate/graduate students and museum staffs” (Japanese only).

Manuscripts of Traditional Japanese Music Notations Transcribed by Mr. ASADA Masayuki, known as Asada-fu: Digital Images Released

Viewing images on a dedicated computer at the TOBUNKEN Library.
Example of additional revisions to a once-published manuscript ('Sanja Matsuri', Kiyomoto-bushi No.39)

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage organizes and makes available to the public valuable materials that serve research on intangible cultural properties. Digital images of the manuscripts of traditional Japanese music notations, transcribed by Mr. ASADA Masayuki (1900-1979), have been made available for viewing at the TOBUNKEN Library.

 Asada-fu is the result of Mr. ASADA’s continuous transcription of a wide variety of shamisen music genres, including melodies of voice (jōruri or uta) and shamisen accompaniment. It is estimated that more than 100 notations were privately published over a period of 23 years. Because the original manuscripts require careful handling, only the bound versions (copied and bound from the original manuscripts) were previously available to the public. However, with the completion of the digital imaging of manuscripts (Kiyomoto-bushi in FY2021 and other genres, including Icchū-bushi and Miyazono-bushi in FY2022), image data for all genres have been made available in the TOBUNKEN Library from July 2022. This allowed us to examine at our discretion details not reflected in the photocopies, such as traces of detailed modifications to the voice passages made by cutting the paper out of the manuscript.

 Those interested in viewing materials can refer to the TOBUNKEN Library Visitor’s Guide and reserve a dedicated computer. A list of Asada-fu manuscript holdings is available (Japanese only). We hope that these images will be utilized by a wide range of interested people, including researchers, performers, and enthusiasts.

Surveys on Aizugiri, Paulownia Produced in Aizu District in Fukushima Prefecture

Domestic paulownia lumbers left in the rain and winds for three to five years to remove tannin after sawing (Aizukiridansu Corporation)
Paulownia trees planted in the town in 2016

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage continues to conduct surveys of the raw materials which support intangible cultural heritage. We have been focusing on techniques to collect and process trees as materials, and conduct surveys, recordings, and a reevaluation of the disappearing techniques and knowledge since FY2020. These activities are supported by the Research Grants in the Humanities of the Mitsubishi Foundation offered for the project “Research on Traditional Wood-use Techniques and Knowledge Regarding Intangible Cultural Heritage.” As a part of these surveys, we visited Mishima Town, Fukushima Prefecture on July 14th, 2022 and investigated the production status and associated issues of Aizugiri: paulownia timbers planted and produced there in Aizu district.

 Paulownia timbers are excellent materials because of their characteristics: lightness, limited distortion, excellent function of humidity control, and low heat conductivity. They are generally well-known as materials for Japanese traditional chests and wooden clogs. They have also long been used for koto, a Japanese traditional musical instrument. Furthermore, paulownia boxes have been popular as the most suitable conservation containers for fine arts and crafts. However, the domestic demand for paulownia materials shrunk to approximately one eighth compared to 1959 at their peak, partly because of a shift in consumer preferences away from Japanese traditional chests. Additionally, domestic materials among the overall paulownia material supply dropped sharply. At their peak, domestic materials represented almost 95% of the total supply in Japan. However, they dropped to approximately three percents as of 2018 because of imported paulownia timbers (Data by Mishima Town). The production of Nanbugiri, paulownia produced in Nambu district in Iwate Prefecture, had already ceased, although it was as popular as Aizugiri. The annual market dedicated to paulownia timbers in Yuzawa City, Akita Prefecture, which was the last one, has now been halted. Domestic paulownia timbers are now only produced in limited districts, including Aizugiri and Tsunangiri, paulownia produced in Tsunan district in Niigata Prefecture.

 Among them, Aizu district is said to have been the place where paulownia planting began. Since large-scale paulownia afforestation occurred there in the Meiji period, paulownia raw woods have been actively shipped as farmers’ side business. Based on this background, Mishima Town founded Aizukiritansu Corporation (meaning a corporation for Aizu Japanese traditional chests made of paulownia), co-funded by the town and the private sector in the early 1980s, when the demand for paulownia timbers decreased. Since then, the town has trained craftsmen and developed new products and markets. These days, it allocates “Kiri (paulownia) experts” and plants paulownia saplings, manages planting, makes manuals for paulownia planting, and conducts various other activities.

 Paulownia trees grow quickly and become ready for timbering in approximately 30 years. Meanwhile, they require intensive work including mowing undergrowth, fertilization, and disinfection. It was said to be a reason why people planted paulownia trees near their houses and took sufficient care of them. Now, approximately 900 paulownia trees are planted and managed by the town. It requires special know-how unique to paulownia trees such as a wider space required between each tree than Japanese cedar trees and efforts against damages by pests and rats. The town not only keeps striving toward a stable supply of paulownia timbers, but also proposes new types of chests suitable for the modern life and develops completely new products such as chairs and butter cases.

 Markets for domestic timbers including paulownia have been shrinking. Both the demand and supply of lumbers especially used for further niche fields of intangible cultural heritage have been shrinking drastically. Thus, we face a greater risk of being unable to obtain suitable materials when necessary. The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) will strive to enlighten larger audiences about the efforts necessary for planting, managing, and processing timbers including paulownia, at a reasonable value for its price, to liaise among production regions, craftsmen, and consumers, and to elucidate raw material characteristics from the scientific study. We will continue to work on this.

2022 Training for Museum Curators in charge of Conservation (Advanced Course)

Visiting the Analytical Science Section
Lecture on conservation of Modern Cultural Heritage

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) held the “2022 Training for Museum Curators in Charge of Conservation (Advanced Course)” for five days, from July 4 to July 8, 2022.

 This training is an application version of the trainings for museum curators in charge of conservation, which were held from 1984 to 2020 for curators in charge of material conservation to master basic knowledge and techniques necessary for environmental management, evaluation, and improvement.

 From 2021, we reorganized the training into two courses: 1) basic course, focusing on conservation of environment by the National Center for the Promotion of Cultural Properties, and 2) advanced course, focusing on curators who attended the course before and/or who have similar experiences, by TOBUNKEN.

 We provided lectures and workshops mainly based on research outcomes of each research area of the Center for Conservation Science, along with lectures from external lecturers related to various conservation and restoration in the advanced course. We are pleased to have organized face-to-face training with 18 participants, with thorough prevention measures for COVID-19 pandemic. We believe that the participants made their networks there.

 Based on questionnaires after the training, we understand that the participants were well satisfied. We could know their voices: “I will try various techniques from this training in our museum,” “I could review my understandings and obtain new knowledges. It was very beneficial for me,” and “It was a very useful week for me.” Henceforth, we will work to provide more useful training to curators in charge of conservation.

MoU for Research on Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Properties in Minamikyushu City Concluded

SAITO Takamasa, Director General of TOBUNKEN and Mr. NURUKI Hiroyuki, Mayor of Minamikyushu City holding the signed MoU
Meteorological observing station now installed close to the water tower of the former Chiran Airfield site (cultural heritage designated by the city) – right hand side in the fence

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) and Minamikyushu City of Kagoshima Prefecture have jointly conducted research on conservation and restoration of individual cultural properties located in the city from around 2008. Now, we decided to conclude “MoU for Research on Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Properties Designated by Minamikyushu City” and explore further collaboration as joint research. Taking this opportunity, we conducted the conclusion ceremony of this MoU in the city office of Minamikyushu City on July 20th, 2022. At the ceremony, the project details were explained and SAITO Takamasa, Director General of TOBUNKEN and Mr. NURUKI Hiroyuki, mayor of Minamikyushu City signed them, after the explaining the project overview.

 Minamikyushu City has total 191 designated cultural properties. Among them, modern cultural heritage, including the buildings at the former Chiran Airfield site of the Imperial Japanese Army, as nation registered cultural properties and The Army Type-4 Fighter Aircraft, “Hayate”, a cultural property designated by the city are well known as mandatory materials in Japanese modern history. However, the modern cultural heritage’s characteristics differ from those of traditional cultural properties in volume, materials, functions, and others. Therefore, it often requires new methodologies for conservation and restoration.

 This joint research aims to solve technical issues related to conservation and utilization of these cultural properties, develop new conservation methodologies, vitalize research activities, and contribute toward promotion of public awareness of local cultural properties by collaboration of TOBUNKEN and Minamikyushu City. We will also provide information beneficial to other local governments who have the same or similar challenges by disseminating the research outcomes.

Investigation of Coloring Pigments Used in Kangetsu-do Hall of the Kotoku-in Temple

Investigation at Kangetsu-do Hall of the Kotoku-in Temple

 The Kotoku-in Temple, famous for its Great Buddha, has a hall called Kangestu-do Hall, transferred from Gyeongbokgung, a Korean royal palace. Kangetsu-do Hall faces various issues for its conservation and utilization, such as aging roofing tiles and outer walls as well as damage by wild animals. Dancheong were the original coloring pigments used in Kangetsu-do Hall at the time of its construction. This is very valuable because they exist in their original state. Their elements have not yet been elucidated; therefore, it is important to understand their status. Through these examinations and discussions, we decided to collect basic information related to the coloring pigments used in Kangetsu-do Hall.

 Responding to the request by the Kotoku-in Temple (chief priest: Prof. SATO Takao), INUZUKA Masahide, HAYAKAWA Noriko, HAGA Ayae, and CHI Chih lien of the Center for Conservation Science of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) conducted on-site investigation of coloring pigments on the building components of Kangetsu-do Hall using portable analytic equipment on July 6th and 7th, 2022.

 As this investigation’s first step, reflectance spectrometry was conducted using a hyperspectral camera to investigate two-dimensional color information, focusing on the places where the original paintings from the construction time were presumed to remain. We then selected some places that were academically interesting based on the reflectance spectrometry data and performed further detailed analysis using X-ray fluorescence analysis. We plan to analyze in detail the data obtained by these two types of analysis methodologies, further investigate the unique coloring pigments used in the Joseon Dynasty, and use this information for future conservation and utilization.

Preliminary Survey of Cultural Property Restoration in the Republic of Türkiye

Wall paintings of Keslik Monastery
Wall paintings of the Ephesus ruins

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) conducted a preliminary survey to establish a joint research project related to the restoration of cultural properties in the Republic of Türkiye. This joint research project aimed to make sustainable improvements in the operational methods and techniques of conservation and restoration plans. These issues were raised through the “Human Resource Development Project toward the Improvement of the Conservation and Management System for Mural Paintings in the Republic of Türkiye,” conducted by TOBUNKEN from 2017 to 2019. In Türkiye, emergency treatment has been prioritized for cultural property conservation. However, the country recently started focusing on the development of conservation and restoration experts specializing in various materials.

 We visited several regions of Trabzon, Şanlıurfa, and Cappadocia and some cities including Selçuk, and discussed with local experts conservation status and methods for conservation and restoration of cultural heritage. At Keslik Monastery, a Christian monastery located in the southern part of Cappadocia, the wall paintings on the inner walls are covered with thick soot layers from candles used in liturgical services over 1,000 years. The restoration of these wall paintings to their original condition was desired from the perspectives of both their protection and their touristic value. At the Ephesus ancient Roman ruins, members of the Austrian Archaeological Institute, who have been excavating there for a long time, explained to us that it is necessary to revise the current inconsistent conservation and restoration methods and to conduct research for the sake of establishing a basic policy.

 Researchers from Ankara Hacı Bayram Veli University, who cooperated with us on the Human Resource Development Project previously mentioned, accompanied us on this survey. We will identify what challenges shall be tackled based on the survey outcomes and build an implementable joint research framework with each cooperating institute. We target the next fiscal year to start this joint research to lead to the further development of cultural heritage protection and conservation and restoration activities in the Republic of Türkiye.

Surveys for the Cooperation to Protect Cultural Heritage in Bahrain

Gravestones of the early Islamic period in Abu Anbra Graveyard

 We, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) visited the Kingdom of Bahrain in the Middle East from July 22nd to 25th. We discussed starting a new cooperation project with the Bahrain National Museum and made onsite surveys on the status of ruins targeted in this cooperation project. Specifically, Dr. Salman Al Mahari, Director General of the museum, requested that we support establishing conservation techniques for historically valuable gravestones of the early Islamic period, which were left in mosques, shrines, and graveyards. Responding to his request, we checked the conservation environments of the gravestones left in Al Khamis Mosque, the oldest mosque in Bahrain, and Abu Anbra graveyard located near Al Khamis Mosque. As a result of these surveys, we decided to start the cooperation by three-dimensional measurements of gravestones using photogrammetry and LiDAR scanning.

 At the same time, three parties: the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, TOBUNKEN, and the Institute for the Study of Ancient Civilizations and Cultural Resources, Kanazawa University are working to set up a new research center in the Bahrain National Museum and develop international cooperation activities based in this center so as to promote archaeological research and protection of cultural heritage in Bahrain and neighboring countries. We discussed with Dr. Salman the foundation policy of this center. Further, we informed the Japanese ambassador in Bahrain of our progress and promised to continue closely sharing information.

JCIC Heritage Research Project Maritime Network and Cultural Heritage FY2021 Report

Online meeting of the International Cooperation Survey Working Group
Online Interview – International Cooperation Survey

 Many different cultures and civilizations have met through the oceans since ancient times. Both the land and oceans have become the stage for international exchanges between humans and objects. New trends have recently gained momentum in revising global history with a focus on oceans, pursuing transformation from a land-centric viewpoint. These new movements require new perspectives on surveys, research, and the protection of cultural heritage related to global exchanges through oceans.

 The Japan Consortium for International Cooperation in Cultural Heritage (JCIC-Heritage), whose secretariat was commissioned to the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN)by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, proposed the “maritime network” based on the fact that many routes connect regions despite their distance by exchanges over oceans to form networks, and their influence reaches into the inner lands through ports and harbors. JCIC-Heritage attempted to grasp the trends in the protection of cultural heritage related to maritime networks in countries all over the world.

 Surveys were conducted using various methods and related activities over two years, including questionnaires targeting 29 institutes in 27 countries, online interviews, forums, and symposia. They revealed various aspects of the exchanges between people, objects, and cultures through the oceans. In addition, we received information on the current status of the protection of cultural heritage related to maritime networks and expectations for international cooperation in these fields. Please read this report: Maritime Network and Cultural Heritage. JCIC-Heritage will continue to collect and disseminate information in the given field. (

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