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

Donation of Materials related to SEIMIYA Naobumi

Still Life in Early Spring by SEIMIYA Naobumi, 1977, owned by the Museum of Modern Art, Ibaraki
Some of SEIMIYA’s materials donated to TOBUNKEN

 SEIMIYA Nobumi (1917 – 1991) was a renowned artist who expressed his world of calm and poetic imagery into woodblock prints and reverse glass paintings. Many viewers might be enchaned by his lyrical artworks.
 Recently, materials left by SEIMIYA including his notes, diaries, and photos, were donated to the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) by his bereaved family. Among them, handmade notebooks titled “Notebook,” “Thought Records,” and “Subjects of Paintings” are included. These notebooks were created and written as a break between his artworks. They reveal his skillful and meticulous qualities. Furthermore, they are important primary source materials for tracing the journey of his thoughts hidden behind his artworks. They will be available for public view after we finish organizing them. We believe that the donated materials will greatly contribute to the progress of research on SEIMIYA Nobumi.

Participation in WordCamp Kansai 2024
TOBUNKEN Research Collections built with WordPress(

 In 2014, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) developed a database of cultural property information using WordPress(, a web content management system, which is still in operation( WordPress was developed as a blog management system, but at TOBUNKEN it is used as a system for publishing databases, because of its flexibility in development and operation.

 WordCamp(, which was started in 2006 as a conference for WordPress developers and users to get together, has since been held more than 1,200 times in 65 countries. In this conference, WordCamp Kansai 2024(, held in Kobe on February 24, 2024, Mr. OYAMADA Tomohiro, Senior Researcher of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems, gave a presentation titled “Renewal of WordPress Contents and Selection of Adoption System,” about the challenges that have arisen during the 10 years of WordPress operation at TOBUNKEN and the requirements for its renewal. After the presentation, the following questions and impressions were raised, leading to a lively exchange of opinions:

  • Outsourcing to a development company is difficult.
  • What kind of organizational structure does WordPress operate under?
  • Do any problems occur when WordPress is upgraded?

 Now that it is commonplace to disclose information on the Internet, we believe that issues and operational know-how regarding information systems can be shared widely across disciplines. We will continue to create opportunities to share knowledge gained through the dissemination of such information.

Raw Materials Essential to Intangible Cultural Heritage – Joining in the Cutting of Common Reed (Phragmites Australis) in the Kanmaki and Udono Areas

Common reed to use for rosetsu of hichiriki
Common reed tied into batches.

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage (hereafter, “the Department”) is conducting investigations and research into the tools (e.g., musical instruments including their parts, stage properties, and costumes,) and raw materials that are essential for intangible cultural properties.

 Common reed (Phragmites Australis) grown on a riverbed in the Kanmaki and Udono areas of Takatsuki City, Osaka Prefecture, has been known to be suitable for the rozetsu (mouthpiece) of hichiriki, a traditional Japanese flute used in gagaku, classical Japanese court music. Though it is necessary to annually burn the riverbed to maintain a suitable environment for common reed growth, the burning could not be done for two consecutive years due to unsuitable weather conditions and the COVID-19 pandemic. This resulted in an overgrowth of wild vines, which forced the common reed to almost disappear from the area by around September 2021.

 To improve the situation, the Udono Association for Common Reed Riverbeds Preservation and Kanmaki Working Union cooperated with local residents, Takatsuki City administrative staff, parties interested in gagaku, and others to regularly burn the riverbed and remove vines. The Department has been investigating the growing environment and characteristics of the common reed in the areas. As a part of our investigation, we joined in the cutting of common reeds on February 2 and 3, 2024, and collected information about the current situation regarding the common reed and its usage. This public occasion was planned to cut the thin common reed not suitable for rozetsu to produce other products such as paper and towels made of common reed, after the Kanmaki Working Union cut the common reed suitable for rozetsu of hichiriki. Enterprises trying to expand the demand for common reed and individuals and groups trying to understand the natural environment of common reed fields also gathered on those two days. More than 60 people worked each day. This year the condition of the common reed in the area was better than last year, but the supply yield was not sufficient to meet the demand for rozetsu.
 It is essential for succeeding gagaku that local people and enterprises better understand the common reed itself and that involved parties interested in gagaku gain a better understanding of common reed as a raw material of rozetsu for hichiriki.
 The Department is continuing its investigation of the characteristics of common reed itself and its suitability for rosetsu for hichiriki. Furthermore, we are carefully monitoring the local environment where the raw materials grow.

Recording Live Performances of Heike: the Sixth Session

Staff responsible for recording techniques

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage has been recording live performances of the instrument “Heike” or “Heike Biwa,” which faces the crisis of not being inherited by the next generation because of the recent absence of sufficient successors. This series of recordings has been conducted since 2018 with the cooperation of the Heike Narrative Research Society, led by Prof. KOMODA Haruko, Musashino Academia Musicae, and other members of the society, including Mr. KIKUO Yuji, Mr. TANAKA Naoichi, and Mr. HIYOSHI Shogo.
 The sixth recording session of the performance of ‘Suzuki’ (Japanese sea bass) was held in the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) Performing Arts Studio on February 8, 2024. In the ‘Suzuki’, an episode in which Japanese sea bass jumps into the boat of Taira no Kiyomori is narrated as a harbinger of the prosperity of the Heike clan under the patronage of Kumano Gongen. Because of its lyrics, ‘Suzuki’ is a favorite celebratory piece. The piece is also often used as an instructional (introductory) piece, as it contains a short but basic set of melodic patterns. For this recording of live performances, Mr. KIKUO, Mr. HIYOSHI, and Mr. TANAKA shared the performance, and the session was recorded.
 This recording was assisted by students studying studio recording techniques under Prof. KAMEKAWA Toru, Tokyo University of the Arts, and thereby provided an opportunity to put into practice the sound techniques essential to the recording live performances. The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage will continue to record live performances, refining the skills involved in recording traditional performing arts with like-minded people.

Publication of the First to Ninth Video Recordings of Live Performance of Miyazono bushi (the Opening Parts Only)

Published video (from left, Mss. MIAYAZONO Senyoshie, Senroku, Senkazuya, and Senkoju)

 Miyazono bushi is one of Japan’s Important Intangible Cultural Properties; however, it is not often performed these days. Therefore, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage (hereafter, “the Department) has been recording its live performances since 2018. Recently, we published the opening parts of these video recordings on the TOBUNKEN homepage (

The original recordings of the Miyazono bushi were performed by Mss. MIYAZONO Senroku and Senkazuya both are individuals certified as Holders of Important Intangible Cultural Property, so-called “living national treasures.” The whole traditional pieces were recorded and archived in full. The full versions are available at video booths at the TOBUNKEN Library. Due to the limited number of booths, contacting us regarding availability beforehand is highly recommended. A guide to the library is available here.

The Department plans to publish as much more audio and video recordings as possible.

Second Research Recording of the Azuma School Nigenkin, a Two-Stringed Zither

Preparation for the recording
Recording scene (left: TOSHA Rosen IX and right: TOSHA Rokou)

 On February 16, 2024, the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage conducted the second research recording of the Azuma school two-stringed zither called a nigenkin, in the recording room of the Performing Art Studio of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.

 The Azuma school nigenkin is a type of Japanese two-stringed zither, an instrument in which two silk strings are stretched over a wooden body and played with a plectrum. The Azuma school nigenkin was founded in Tokyo in the early Meiji era by TOSHA Rosen I (1830-1889) and has been transmitted mainly in Tokyo. However, as there are now only a few people carrying on the tradition and only a limited number of pieces have been recorded on publicly available audiovisual material, we are producing new research recordings.

 The first recording highlighted six pieces composed by Rosen I, but the tradition also includes works composed by performers in later generations. The second recording featured six pieces: ‘Kishi no fujinami (lit. Riverside Wistaria Trellis)’, ‘Yatsu no hana (Eight Flowers)’, ‘Kiku no kotobuki (Chrysanthemum Festival)’, ‘Hana no ame (Flower Rain)’, ‘Matsukaze no kyoku (Pine Breeze)’, and ‘Funaasobi (Boating)’. The first piece is said to have been composed by Rosen IV (1869-1941) and the second by Rosen III (?-1931). The fourth piece is a work for which only the lyrics of Rosen I have survived, and later performers had supplemented the melody and resumed the transmission. The recordings, selected from a wide range of periods, demonstrate the diversity of performance techniques and compositions in the repertoire. They were performed by TOSHA Rosen IX and TOSHA Rokou, members of Azuma-kai, the performing group of the Azuma school of two-stringed zither music.

 The Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage plans to continue recording rare performances and precious full-length performances.

Newly introduced instruments at the Center for Conservation Science in FY2023

 In FY2023, the Center for Conservation Science introduced a microtome, a biological microscope (with polarized light, phase contrast, and differential interference observation functionality), and an infrared microscope (Fig. 1). The following is an introduction of these newly introduced instruments.

 The microtome is a device used to precisely cut samples to facilitate observation. For example, when analyzing what kind of material a piece of paper or cloth is made of, a sample is sometimes cut and its cross section is observed under a microscope. Conventionally, samples are cut with razor-sharp blades or embedded in resin and polished. However, these methods can present problems such as deformation of the specimen and difficulty in observing the specimen because it is embedded in resin, and they require skillful manipulation. The microtome solves these problems and makes it easier to identify paper and cloth materials. Figure 2 shows an example of actual cross-sectional observation results. The microtome can be applied to all cultural assets made of organic materials such as wood and lacquerware.

Biological Microscope
 Polarized light observation, phase-contrast microscopy, and differential interference microscopy are effective for observing crystal structures, microstructures, and cells and biological tissues, respectively. For example, they are effective for observing mold and bacteria on cultural properties, fibers of paper and textiles, and starch glue and other glues used for cultural properties.

Infrared microscope
 Infrared cameras are often used to observe cultural properties. This type of microscope can be used to clearly see ink lines and certain types of dyes used in calligraphy and paintings, and to identify materials and observe the underlying surface of paintings.

 We will continue to analyze cultural properties using these devices.

Figure 1. Photographs of newly introduced instruments

Biological microscope
Infrared microscope

Figure 2. Cross section of Najio Gampi paper

Cross-section produced using a scalpel
Cross-section produced using a microtome

 When a scalpel is used to produce a cross section, a large amount of clay minerals are pressed down by the blade, covering the gampi fibers and causing them to lose their original shape. When the cross section is produced with a microtome, the gaps between fibers can be confirmed, and the hollow structure of the fibers remains intact.

Technical exchange program inviting Cambodian experts

Visiting the Historic Sites: Korokan Historical Museum

 Under a cooperative project between the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA) and Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN), restoration work of the East Gate of Ta Nei Temple in Angkor in Cambodia was completed in November 2022.
 To commemorate the completion of the restoration, a technical exchange program* was organized by TOBUNKEN, including the invitation of three experts from Cambodia to Japan: Mr. Kim Sothin (Deputy Director General, APSARA), Mr. Som Sopharath (Director of Department of Conservation of Monuments and Archeology, APSARA), and Mr. Sea Sophearun (Technical Officer, National Authority for Sambor Prei Kuk).
 Following an open seminar, “Seminar commemorating the completion of the Restoration of the East Gate of Ta Nei Temple,” held on February 14 at TOBUNKEN, a study tour was conducted from February 15 to 18, in which the following conservation sites of the nationally designated Important Cultural Properties and Historic Sites were visited: the former Alt residence, the former British council, Shofukuji-Temple in Nagasaki city, and Korokan Historical Museum in Fukuoka city.
 Experts from both countries who are engaged in heritage conservation research and fieldwork participated in enthusiastic discussions during the seminar and study tour. This proved to be a valuable opportunity for deepening mutual understanding of various areas, including heritage value, preservation techniques, presentation methods, and more.
*This program was partially funded by the Foundation for Cultural Heritage and Art Research, Japan.

3-Dimensional Measurements of Historical Islamic Tombstones in Bahrain (Second season)

Research at the Abu Anbara Cemetery
Reused tombstones in Abu Anbara Cemetery

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been cooperating with an excavation survey and the maintenance of historical sites in the tombs of Bahrain for many years. When we visited the site in July 2022 and met Salman Al Mahari, Director of the Bahrain National Museum, he asked us to help protect the historical Islamic tombstones that remained in the mosques and cemeteries. Currently, approximately 150 historical Islamic tombstones remain in the country, but they are deteriorating due to salt damage and other factors.
 As cooperative activities in response to this request, in 2023 we conducted photogrammetric surveying using SfM-MVS (Structure-from-Motion/Multi-View-Stereo), a technology for creating 3D models from photographs, and completed 3D measurements of 20 tombstones in the collection of the Bahrain National Museum and 27 in the collections of the Al-Khamis Mosque. The models created were published on Sketchfab, a platform widely accessible both domestically and internationally, and are being used as a database of the tombstones.
 From February 9 to 15, 2024, we again conducted a 3D survey of other cemeteries in Bahrain. Photogrammetric surveying was completed for 47 tombstones in Abu Anbara Cemetery, 2 in Al Maqsha Cemetery, 11 in Jebelat Habshi Cemetery, and 3 in Jidhafs Al-Imam Cemetery. Unlike in previous years, these tombstones were located within Muslim cemeteries, and some were reused in modern tombs.
 A database of more than 100 tombstones with 3D models combining information on their dimensions, shapes, and inscriptions is unprecedented, and in addition to preserving records of tombstones, the results of this research are expected to be useful in the study of Islamic tombstones.

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