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

Reading Thoughts on the Exhibition (Kokuten) by NAKAI Sotaro: The 7th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

The seminar
Thoughts on the Exhibition (Kokuten) by NAKAI Sotaro published in Chuo Bijutsu Vol. 11, No. 1 (January 1925)

 Kokuga-Sosaku-Kyokai(Association for the Creation of National Painting)was founded by TSUCHIDA Bakusen, MURAKAMI Kagaku, and others in Kyoto, in 1918. It is renowned as one of the major innovation movements on Japanese-style paintings in the Taishō era. The ideology of this activity was based on NAKAI Sotaro (1879-1966), who taught art history at Kyoto City College of Painting (presently Kyoto City University of Arts). He was a member of Kokuga-Sosaku-Kyokai as an appraisal advisor, and published his critiques on the exhibitions (Kokuten*) and direction of the association in newspapers and art magazines.

 SHIOYA Jun provided a presentation focusing on Thoughts on the Exhibition (Kokuten) published in Chuo Bijutsu (Central Arts) Vol. 11, No. 1, in January 1925. The Thoughts on the Exhibition (Kokuten) is an article where NAKAI discussed the direction in which Kokuga-Sosaku-Kyokai and Japanese-style paintings should move, responding to the 4th Exhibition held both in Tokyo and Kyoto from 1924 through 1925. In the article, he discussed the identity of Japanese-style paintings and encouraged recognition of the tradition and the classics. I believe that he was referring to the trend of returning to the classics in the western art world, which he experienced during his European travel from 1922 to 1923. At the end of the Taishō era, neat Japanese-style paintings called “neoclassicism,” became dominant. The tone of his article Thoughts on the Exhibition (Kokuten) predicted such a movement.

 This seminar had Dr. TANAKA Shūji of Oita University and Dr. TANO Hatsuki of Shiga Museum of Art, as online commentators. They talked about the painting circle of Kyoto and NAKAI Sotaro in the discussion after the presentation. With other external researchers of Japanese modern arts, the discussion went beyond NAKAI’s remarks and Japanese-style paintings; they spoke about the art landscape from the end of the Taishō era to the early Shōwa era. The seminar involved an active, considerably lengthy exchange of opinions and information.

*Kokuten: exhibitions held by Kokuga-Sosaku-Kyokai

Workshop on Basic Science for Conservators

With participants
Lecture on basic chemistry using molecular models
Practical session for the selection of organic solvents

 The Center for Conservation Science continues scientific research on the conservation and restoration of cultural property. Since FY 2021, based on our research, we have held workshops on basic science for conservators who have diverse experiences in the restoration of cultural property and museum curation and archiving.

 In 2022, the workshop was held for three days from October 31st to November 2nd. We provided lectures and practical sessions on basic scientific knowledge essential for conservation and restoration, including basic chemistry, science of adhesion and adhesives, chemistry of paper, pest damage control, and usage and disposal of chemical agents. Researchers of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties delivered lectures based on their expertise.

 We received 45 applications across Japan for 15 seats. In 2022, we invited 19 applicants from across Japan with varied backgrounds to the workshop; by contrast, in 2021, considering the COVID-19 pandemic, we accepted only those applicants who either resided in or commuted to Tokyo. Workshop content was carefully aligned with requests from the previous year. Participants expressed their appreciation for this workshop through the questionnaires provided. We received specific requests for disseminating scientific information used in actual conservation and restoration cases. We intend to continue this workshop series to meet these expectations.

World Heritage Seminar: Re-question on Landscape as Cultural Property

Information leaflet (front)
Scene of discussion at the seminar

 Since 2018, the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation has been hosting the World Heritage Seminar, which aims to transmit information and facilitate an exchange of opinions about the world heritage system and its trends in the country. In FY 2022, redefining it as Re-question on Landscape as Cultural Property, it focused on “landscape” as a tangential point between UNESCO’s sites based on an idea of environmental and territorial preservation, and the Japanese concept of cultural property protection, which recently has been trying to upgrade the “old-style” protection (i.e., protection of a single building or site) to a wider, areal one. For the past two years (FY 2020 and 2021), due to COVID-19, we have had no choice but to conduct it online; however, this year, we held it in-person on December 26th, 2022, at the Tokyo National Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), limiting participation to 50 persons.

 Mr. NISHI Kazuhiko (Agency for Cultural Affairs) started with a presentation on Trends on World Heritage. Thereafter, KANAI Ken (TOBUNKEN) explained the purpose of the seminar. In Part I, Ms. EDANI Hiroko (Nara National Institute for Cultural Properties) and MATSUURA Kazunosuke (TOBUNKEN) made two presentations from a research perspective titled Characteristic of Japanese Cultural Landscapes and World Heritage Sites as Landscape: Area Setting and its Basis Law, respectively. In Part II, Mr. UENO Kenji (Hirado City) and Mr. NAKATANI Yuichiro (Kanazawa City) made presentations from an administrative perspective about the Possibility of a Landscape Protection through Cooperation and Town Planning to Revive the Cultural Landscape Value in Kanazawa. Thereafter, all speakers discussed the landscape positioning within the Japanese heritage protection system.

 Through presentations and discussions, it was clarified that, while the landscape as cultural property is accepted conceptually and institutionally in a limited manner in Japan, it is widely integrated in the land use policy involving urban planning, environmental preservation, and agricultural policy, as is done in Europe. It was also pointed out that cultural property protection and urban planning in Japan have taken separate steps that drastically delay its overall protection even today. The Center will continue to research on the international heritage protection system, including the theme of “landscape,” which is a complicated problem in Japan.

Investigation for Sustainable and Stable Supply of Noriutsugi

Neri is extracted from noriutsugi bark. The yellow part of the tree is where bark has been removed.
Discussion meeting in TOBUNKEN

 Washi (Japanese traditional paper) is used for the restoration of cultural properties and for traditional crafts. It is well known that washi is made of fibers extracted from plants such as kōzo (Broussonetia kazinoki x B. papyrifera) and ganpi (Diplomorpha sikokiana). However, it is not widely known that neri, a dispersant, is also essential for washi making. Adding neri disperses the fibers evenly in water, producing smooth and beautiful washi. Without the addition of neri, the fibers are not evenly dispersed, and washi made without neri has poor formation.

 Including washi most cases of industrial mass paper manufacturing use synthetic compounds such as polyethylene oxide as neri. Traditionally, neri is made from mucilage extracted from plants such as tororoaoi (Abelmoschus Manihot) and noriutsugi (Hydrangea paniculate). At present, neri extracted from tororoaoi or noriutsugi is still most suitable for thin washi making. It is also widely used for washi-making for cultural property restoration. However, the sustainable and stable supply of these raw materials, especially noriutsugi, becomes increasingly difficult. This is because noriutsugi for neri is a wild species and there are not enough successors to the experts with knowledge on locating noriutsugi and removing its bark. If the low amounts of noriutsugi available does not change, this will permanently impair washi-making for the restoration of cultural property. For example, uda washi paper used for soura-kami (the final lining paper) of hanging scrolls is made using neri extracted from noriutsugi. Therefore, we are concerned that restoring hanging scrolls will become difficult in the near future.

 Commissioned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, the Center for Conservation Science has been conducting a research project: “Investigation of Tools and Materials Used for the Preservation and Restoration of Fine Arts and Crafts” with the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems and the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage. As an important investigation of this project, we are working for sustainable and stable supply of noriutsugi. This investigation is conducted in cooperation with Hokkaido Prefecture, Shibetsu Town and others. We visit the noriutsugi growing area in Shibetsu Town and hold regular discussion meetings. We will provide supports for sustainable and stable supply of noriutsugi and conduct scientific studies on why neri extracted from noriutsugi shows such excellent characteristics.

Symposia on Archaeology and International Contribution: Japanese Cooperation for the Protection of the Cultural Heritage in Bahrain and the Latest Discoveries of Arabian Archaeology

Dilmun Burial Mounds remaining in Bahrain
Speakers and participants of the symposium held in Tokyo, Japan.

 The Kingdom of Bahrain in the Middle East has many interesting cultural heritage sites, despite being a small island country of the size of Tokyo’s 23 wards and Kawasaki City combined. It is known that Bahrain was called Dilmun, and prospered by monopolizing the maritime trade connecting Mesopotamia with the Indus region, approximately 4,000 years ago. As many as 75,000 burial mounds were built during that period only in Bahrain, which have attracted the attention of many researchers since the end of the 19th century. The Dilmun Burial Mounds were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2019.

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been cooperating on the site management and excavations of the Dilmun Burial Mounds for a long time. From FY2022, we began cooperating on the conservation of historic Islamic gravestones in Bahrain.

 The year 2022 marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Bahrain and Japan. TOBUNKEN held the international symposia on Archaeology and International Contribution: Japanese Cooperation for the Protection of the Cultural Heritage in Bahrain (on December 11th, 2022 at TOBUNKEN) and the Latest Discoveries of Arabian Archaeology (on December 14th, 2022, at Kanazawa University), co-sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Ancient Civilizations and Cultural Resources of Kanazawa University. The Director of Archaeology and Museums of Bahrain, heads of Denmark, France, and British missions that conduct excavations in Bahrain, and archaeology and conservation science experts in Japan, gathered for the symposia.

 The history of each country’s excavations in Bahrain and the excavation, conservation, and restoration activities of Japanese experts were introduced at the symposium in Tokyo. The latest excavation survey results for each mission were introduced at the symposium in Kanazawa.

 TOBUNKEN plans to continue cooperating for the protection of cultural heritage in Bahrain in various ways.

Participation in the 30th Anniversary Ceremony of the Angkor World Heritage Site and the Meetings of the International Coordinating Committee

APSARA dance performed in the ceremony
Poster exhibition (TOBUNKEN poster is in the middle)

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has been working with the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA) on the cooperation program for the Ta Nei Temple in the Angkor Archaeological site in Cambodia.

 Angkor was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1992. This led to comprehensive international support and cooperation from other countries, including Japan, which covers not only the conservation and restoration of the archaeological sites, but also various other fields like the formation of management systems, including human resource development, tourism development, and planning and infrastructure improvement for sustainable development of the surrounding regions. Angkor has been established as a top international tourist destination and became one of the most important sources of foreign currency revenue for the Cambodian economy. At the same time, it was highly praised as a successful model of international cooperation on the protection and utilization of World Heritage Sites, despite facing various challenges till date.

 On the early morning of December 14th, 2022, I attended a ceremony commemorating the 30th anniversary of Angkor’s inscription on the World Heritage List. The solemn ceremony, held in front of the entrance causeway to the Angkor Wat Temple, started with Buddhist sutra chanting by many priests, where the APSARA dance was also performed. A poster exhibition on international cooperation history, including TOBUNKEN’s projects, was also held at the event.

 On the following two days, the 36th Technical Session and the 29th Plenary Session of the International Coordinating Committee for the Safeguarding and Development of the Historic Sites of Angkor and Sambor Prei Kuk (ICC-Angkor) were held successively in Siem Reap City. For the previous two years, these regular meetings were held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, we finally managed to hold the meeting in person, with related experts and institute representatives both from and outside of Cambodia. The progress on many programs was reported and shared, and we revived the relationship among the related parties from various countries. I deeply appreciate the fact that in-person meetings as precious opportunities have finally resumed.

Preliminary Survey for Joint Research on the Conservation of Wall Paintings and Archaeological Objects in Luxor, Egypt

Survey at the conservation and restoration site of the rock-cut tomb wall paintings
Survey of a case for conservation and restoration at the site (Temple of Hathor)

 Luxor is where the old capital Thebes was located during the New Kingdom period within the chronological division of ancient Egyptian history. Within Luxor, in the Valley of the Kings, Egyptian pharaohs such as Thutmose I and Tutankhamun were buried. Luxor also has many surviving mortuary temples, including the Karnak Temple Complex. These archaeological sites were inscribed on the World Heritage List as the “Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis” in 1979. They were evaluated as important archaeological ruins that demonstrate a lost civilization. Egyptology, research regarding Egyptian Civilization, stemmed from Napoleon Bonaparte’s 1798 French Campaign in Egypt. Since then, research has been actively conducted on an international scale. Interesting outcomes and reports have been made available annually, and will continue to be published. Luxor is one of the targets of these studies. Excavation surveys are actively conducted at various sites in Luxor, where archaeological complexes and objects are continuously discovered.

 The challenges associated with continuous discoveries are the conservation and utilization after archaeological surveys. In recent years, it has become mandatory that the sites and archaeological objects discovered by excavation surveys must be conserved and maintained as cultural properties for local tourism promotions. However, there are many cases in which inadequate emergency treatments are made under time and budget constraints, often damaging the sites and archaeological objects.

 We conducted an on-site survey, targeting the Luxor Museum and West Bank rock-cut tomb sites from December 12th to 24th, 2022, to explore the possibilities of supporting the improvement of these situations. As a result, we were asked for cooperation by local experts to discuss maintenance methods regarding the conservation and management of archaeological objects housed in the museum, and on conservation and restoration methods of the wall paintings of rock-cut tombs in the principle that they would be conserved at the original sites. We will continue the survey to narrow down the research theme of urgent needs and targets to bring it to the international team co-working on this project.

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