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

YAMAGUCHI Hōshun and Yamato-e – from the Viewpoint of Neoclassicism: the 10th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

The presentation

 YAMAGUCHI Hōshun (1893-1971) was a representative Nihonga (Japanese-style painting) painter during the Showa period (1926-1989) in Japan. He actively worked and exhibited his paintings at Teiten (exhibitions held by the Imperial Academy of Fine Art) before WWII and Nitten (Japan Fine Arts Exhibitions) after WWII. He learned painting from MATSUOKA Eikyū at the Tokyo Fine Arts School (Tokyo University of the Arts, today), and worked as a member of Shinko Yamato-e-kai, an association of the painters who learned from MATSUOKA. His artworks, deeply colored landscape paintings based on traditional Yamato-e techniques, such as Nachi Mountain, One of the Three Main Shrines of Kumano, prized by the Imperial Fine Arts Academy in 1926 and now owned by the Museum of the Imperial Collections, Sannomaru Shozokan, attracted much attention. However, around 1930, his style began to shift to Kachōga, paintings of birds and flowers with light and refreshing colors. Mr. SHIOYA Jun, Special Research Chair of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems, discussed this change of his style that took place in the early Showa period before WWII at a Seminar held on March 7, 2024, titled YAMAGUCHI Hōshun and Yamato-e – from the Viewpoint of Neoclassicism.

 Through the words of YAMAGUCHI Hōshun, we can understand that he grasped Yamato-e painting as an expression based on very objective viewpoints. At the same time, he highly recognized artworks by painters of the so-called neoclassicism style (members of the Nihon Bijutsuin) such as YASUDA Yukihiko and KOBAYASHI Kokei. His early Kachōga paintings were done in similar styles as seen in their artworks. We believe that, at that time, YAMAGHCHI pursued reality based on his classic style skills and knowledge, while he also learned from Eastern-style paintings beyond Yamato-e as did YASUDA and KOBAYASHI.

 Ms. RYU Risa, Vice President and Senior Curator of Hoshun Yamaguchi Memorial Hall joined this seminar as a commentator and talked about YAMAGUCHI’s activities. After her talk, a discussion among participants was conducted, including those who came from outside of TOBUNKEN. I was especially impressed with one point: YAMAGUCHI’s principle was to paint whatever he saw and felt as it is, and this did not change even after WWII. This principle was continued by his pupils and remains even now.

Modern Collector HARA Rokuro and his Unknown Collection -The 11th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

The 11th seminar (A)
The 11th seminar (B)

 HARA Rokuro (1842-1933) was a collector who exemplified the Meiji period. HARA was born in Tajima Province (present-day Hyogo Prefecture), became the retainer of the Tottori clan because of his achievements in Meiji Restoration activities, studied abroad in the United States with assistance from the Meiji government, and studied banking in England. After returning home, he became famous as a banker and devoted himself to public work. On the side, he protected and collected old and valuable works of art. The Hara family maintains the greater part of that outstanding collection, and the Foundation Arc-en-Ciel, a public interest incorporated foundation, was established in 1977, and exists under that status today.

 Today, the Hara family’s collection, donated to the foundation, is on display at Hara Museum ARC (Gunma Prefecture) whose main focus is on contemporary art. The unveiling of contemporary art begun at the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art (Shinagawa, Tokyo), for which the Hara family residence was renovated and opened as a museum in 1979. The Hara Museum in Shinagawa was regrettably closed in 2021, and because of the closing, the cultural properties left behind at the site were re-examined. Works newly discovered at this time totaled more than 100 items, and these works that appeared for the first time were donated to the foundation.

 Among the newly discovered works, we had the opportunity to examine two wild horse paintings, which were related to the wall and panel paintings that originally adorned the Nikko-in Guest Hall at Mi′idera temple. At the 11th seminar held on March 26, 2024, Ms. ONO Mika, an associate fellow of the Tokyo National Museum, took on the subject of “New developments in the Hara Rokuro collection: using research on the wall and panel paintings that originally adorned the Nikko-in Guest Hall at Mi′idera temple as an opportunity,” and presented an overview of the Hara Rokuro collection and reported on its present and future prospects. Next, Ms. ONO Mayumi, Head of Japanese and the East Asian Art History Section of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems, took on the subject of “The wild horse paintings appearing for the first time: beginning with their relation to the wall and panel at the former reception hall of the Nikko-in Temple,” and reported on the formative features of those paintings. During a question-and-answer session, the placement of the wall and panel paintings and the attribution of their artists were discussed, and the Hara Rokuro collection also attracted a high level of interest.
Using the above as an opportunity, we hope to have a bird’s-eye view of the entire Hara Rokuro collection and move toward new academic research based on Hara Rokuro and the significance of his preservation of old works of art.

TOBUNKEN Library Stack Room Reform Completed

Removed fixed shelves.
Newly installed electrically operated bookcases

 The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) maintains materials, including books and photographs collected by TOBUNKEN’s departments and centers, mainly in the TOBUNKEN Library. The library itself consists of a reading room and stack rooms; however, the aforementioned materials can be accessed by external researchers at the Library, which is open three days a week.

 Almost 24 years have passed since TOBUNKEN moved to its current building in 2000. During these years, TOBUNKEN has continuously been collecting materials through its research activities, including books and photographs,. Furthermore, it has recently had more opportunities to receive donations of archives from the collections of ex-employees and related researchers. Through these activities, the Library has been able to accumulate many more materials and enhance the quality of those materials. At the same time, we foresaw that the bookshelves would be overflowing in the near future. Therefore, we reconstructed the bookshelves as part of a framework entitled “Projects to expand archive stacks and optimize the storage environment.”

 In 2022, the fixed bookcases in over a quarter of the floor space of the second-floor stack room were replaced with the electrically operated bookcases. During this recent reconstruction, which was started on January 11, 2024, the fixed bookshelves in the remaining three-fourths were so replaced. After removing the materials from the fixed bookshelves, removing the bookshelves, laying rails for new bookshelves, setting-up the new electrically operated bookshelves, and placing the materials onto the new shelves, the renovation was completed on March 27. The space that was previously home to 16 fixed bookshelves (1,900 shelves; 1,615 m in total) now accommodates 29 new electrically operated bookshelves (3,500 shelves; 2,975 m in total), with almost double capacity.

 We apologize for any inconvenience that resulted from the Library’s temporary closure during the reform. We continue our work to collect, pass down, and utilize materials valuable for research and conservation of cultural properties. We hope that the TOBUNKEN archives can serve your research activities well.

Publication of IMAIZUMI Yusaku’s “Kijishu” on the Web

A sketch of a clay sculpture of a horse owned by the Tokyo National Museum (Click here for current information on Tokyo National Museum)

 Photography is an effective tool for investigating cultural properties, because it can record objects in an instant. However, before photography became widespread, the only way to record subjects was through handwritten notes and sketches. Notes and sketches, which take more time than photographs, are often records of only some elements or characteristics of the subject. It may be said that they are incomplete records. However, records in which only selected elements are characterized are useful for understanding what characteristics of a cultural property the recorder found to be of value, or in other words, why that cultural property has been preserved to this day. Such records can be said to be valuable resources.

 We have already reported the details of IMAIZUMI Yusaku’s (1850-1931) “Kijishu,” which is one of such handwritten research records (, and the first volume has been published on the website of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (今泉雄作『記事珠』 :: 東文研アーカイブデータベース ( For publication, the full text was transcribed as text data for search functionality. In addition, since things that were obvious to IMAIZUMI are not described, we have added annotations to the extent possible and have also provided links to related information published on the Internet.

 The transcribed text has been set to be displayed vertically on the user’s browser so that it can be easily compared with the original text. We have made every effort to ensure that the image and vertically written text can be viewed at the same time, but some line breaks may be misaligned. We will continue to conduct layout and technical verification in preparation for the release of vertically displayed documents.

Database Collaboration with ColBase and Japan Search

Cross-search using ColBase

 Since its establishment in 1930, the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) has continuously investigated and collected materials on many cultural properties. In recent years, we have been digitizing images taken during surveys and materials collected, and making them available on our website. For example, the images taken at the time of the establishment of TOBUNKEN were in black and white, making it impossible to convey the colors of the cultural properties. However, the images that retain their former appearance are valuable and interesting and can inform us as to how the cultural properties were preserved and how they were restored by comparing them with their current appearance.

 TOBUNKEN has started collaboration with Japan Search, a national platform for aggregating metadata of digital resources of various fields, and ColBase, a service that enables multi-database searches of the collections in the four national museums, The Museum of the Imperial Collections, Sannomaru Shozokan , and two research institutes, to make this information more readily available. TOBUNKEN will continue to work on adding collaborated databases and registering data from time to time, so we hope that you will compare our data with the various data held by other institutions while conducting your research.

A Tour of TOBUNKEN Library for the Staff of the National Museum of the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty

A tour, guided by Mr. KIKKAWA Hideki

 On March 21, 2024, a group from the National Museum of the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, Korea (Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do) visited the TOBUNKEN Library of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties.
The museum, an institution under the Cultural Heritage Administration, Korea, opened in November 2023 and mainly holds historical materials, including 75 volumes of the Odaesan Edition of the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty (UNESCO’s Memory of the World) and 82 volumes of the Royal Protocols of the Joseon Dynasty.

 The group, including Mr. Daehyun Kim (administrative officer), took a tour, guided by Mr. KIKKAWA Hideki, Head, Archives Section of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems and Mr. TASHIRO Yūichirō, Researcher of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems of the Institute’s collection of books, which have been collected since 1930. Furthermore, both institutions exchanged opinions on the current situation and issues surrounding material preservation and archive projects based on common ground regarding the preservation and utilization of materials.

 One of the missions of the Archives Section is to provide information on cultural properties to experts and students, as well as to create an environment for the effective use of such materials. This is no exception for overseas experts and students. We hope that the materials of our institute, which are highly valued even by international standards, will be widely utilized and contribute to the development of research on cultural properties that are the common heritage of all humankind.

 Note: The Archives Section provides usage guidance for undergraduate students, graduate students, museum staff, etc. If you are interested, please apply after reading the guidance ( (Japanese only)).

French-Japanese Workshop on Material Sciences for Cultural Heritage

A group photo of the symposium participants

 For the purpose of discussing science for cultural heritage and building new research collaborations between France and Japan, a symposium titled “French-Japanese Workshop on Material Sciences for Cultural Heritage” was held on March 13 in 2024 in the seminar room of the Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN). The seminar was co-organized by the Embassy of France in Japan, the National Center for Research and Restoration in French Museums, the Foundation of Science for Cultural Heritage, and TOBUNKEN.

 The program of the symposium consisted of five sessions: ceramic, paper, wood, painting, and environment/sustainable conservation. On each topic, lectures were provided by French and Japanese researchers, followed by discussions. Also, a lively panel discussion followed the five sessions and went beyond a summary of the symposium to include future prospects for the sciences for cultural heritage (Participants: 61, including 8 French researchers).

 A closed roundtable meeting was held on March 14 with participation of all the speakers and moderators of the symposium. Fruitful discussions were held for establishing new research collaborations concerning sciences for cultural heritage between French and Japanese experts.

The 7th Seminar on Research and Management regarding the Conservation Environment for Cultural Properties – Sustainable Environmental Management in Consideration of Global Warming –

Workshop venue

 This seminar was jointly held by the National Center for the Promotion of Cultural Properties and Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties with the aim of gaining a common understanding of the specialized survey and evaluation methods used for the conservation environment for cultural properties, as well as of the materials and tools used in improving storage environments or providing safe storage.

 The 7th meeting, titled “Sustainable Environmental Management in Consideration of Global Warming” was held on March 1, 2024, in a conference room of the National Center for the Promotion of Cultural Properties. Dr. MIZUTANI Etsuko, a researcher with the Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management Center, joined in an international workshop, “Changing Climate Management Strategies Workshop” held in Melbourne, Australia, in August 2023. She shared the contents of the workshop, identified issues in this seminar, and held discussions. She talked about the outlook of the workshop, held in response to the global climate change crisis, which has increased the worldwide need to conserve and utilize cultural heritage in more sustainable ways. Lectures, practical training, and discussions were held on the issues and solutions to be implemented in museums around the world. In particular, in a lecture on the historical background of management of the conservation environment for cultural heritage, changes to the guidelines for the temperature and humidity of conservation environment were shown as essential for promoting sustainable management strategies in the future. At the same time, a lecture was held on risk assessment and monitoring methods for cultural heritage, and on the last day, there were reports and discussions about individual cases; thus, it was a very dense workshop.

 While participating in the workshop, Dr. MIZUTANI presented the participants with an issue concerning the impact of global warming on the conservation environment, and raised the subject of management of the conservation environment, and how to proceed with management strategies in Japan. There were five curators in charge of conservation or experts in conservation science at the venue in person, and 12 such persons participated in the seminar online, and these participants posed various questions related to the fundamentals of the conservation environment.

 This seminar was a good opportunity to learn about overseas trends in environmental management for the sustainable preservation of cultural properties, and to reconsider how to deal with global warming and management of the conservation environment in Japan.

Collaboration with European experts for the conservation and restoration of stone cultural heritage

Seven-story stone pagoda at Kandani Shrine
Survey of similar cases for the conservation and restoration of stone cultural properties in Europe

 Stone is a material that mankind has utilised for cultural life since ancient times. It has a wide range of uses, including as tools, building materials, and sculptures, many of which are classified as stone cultural heritage and have been handed down through conservation efforts. Although the definition of stone as cultural heritage differs between Japan and the rest of the world, various efforts have been made to conserve and restore stone materials around the world. In particular, Europe, known as having had ‘stone culture’ as opposed to Japan’s ‘wood culture,’ has been leading the world in advanced research and studies, and the results of these studies can be used for the conservation of stone cultural heritage in Japan.

 Many stone cultural heritage objects are conserved outdoors, as they are more durable than timber in terms of hardness and stability. Therefore, they are often subject to deterioration and loss due to external factors such as weather, natural disasters, and the surrounding environment, and it is necessary to take measures from a variety of perspectives when considering their conservation. This is why it is important to look at many examples, share the problems with experts in each field, and carry out research to find solutions.

 On February 16, 2024, we visited Kandani Shrine in Sakaide City, Kagawa Prefecture, to conduct a survey for the conservation of the seven-storey stone pagoda standing on the shrine grounds. The stone pagoda, built of lapilli tuff, is in a very poor state, with the base eroded by rainwater, and cracks and losses are visible. The situation was shared with European experts, and on March 1, 2024, we held meeting in Florence with Italian national conservators of cultural properties regarding a survey of similar examples and a research plan.

 In the future, we will engage in research that will lead to improvements in the current state of conservation and restoration of stone cultural properties in Japan.

A Research Survey into Stucco Decorations and Clay Statues (Part 3)

Hall of the Five Hundred in Palazzo Vecchio
Comparative study of marble sculpture and clay statues using 3D

 The Japan Centre for International Cooperation in Conservation is involved in a research survey on stucco decoration and clay statues under the research project “Technology for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage” program.

 As part of this project, we visited Florence from February 26 to March 2 and from March 10 to March 12, 2024, to carry out a survey of a statue by the late Renaissance and Mannerist sculptor Giambologna, ‘Florence triumphant over Pisa,’ in collaboration with the Superintendency of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape for the metropolitan city of Florence.

 This work, which is currently on display in the Hall of the Five Hundred in Palazzo Vecchio facing Piazza della Signoria, was originally created as a prototype for a work in marble, and a marble work based on it is on display at the National Museum of the Bargello. In this study, the shapes of the two pieces were compared using 3D scanning as part of the verification of the production technique. In the future, the research will move on to focus on the internal structure, which is important for the production of the clay statues.

 There are many clay statues existing in Japan and overseas, but surprisingly, methods for their conservation and restoration have not yet been established. We will continue our activities with the notion that relevant research surveys will lead to the development of conservation and restoration methods.

Joint Research for the Conservation of Mural Paintings in Istria, Croatia

Investigation of the condition of mural paintings in a church using a checklist
Discussions with local experts

 In Istria, located in the northwestern part of Croatia, numerous mural paintings were painted in churches from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance. Although there are as many as 150 such paintings in Istria, there are serious problems with their maintenance and management. To improve this situation, the Japan Centre for International Cooperation in Conservation is conducting a research project to establish a method for documenting the state of conservation in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Media of the Republic of Croatia, the Historic and Naval Museum of Istria, and the University of Zagreb.

 From March 4 to 8, 2024, we visited the site, prepared a checklist for the conservation status of the mural paintings, and conducted an implementation test on two churches located in the center of the Istrian Peninsula, with the aim of ensuring that experts engaged in the conservation and maintenance of the mural paintings would be able to efficiently utilize the information. As a result, we were able to obtain accurate information in a short period of time and confirmed that the information could be used to develop a policy for the future conservation of the murals paintings.

 In the future, we will discuss the content of the checklist items to make it more complete and aim to build a digital archive through repeated implementation tests.

Survey on Legislation regarding Cultural Properties in Spain

Interview at the Spanish Cultural Heritage Institute
Interview at the Andalusian Historical Heritage Institute

 The Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation has been collecting and translating foreign laws and regulations on the protection of cultural properties in various countries since FY 2007, and has so far published 28 volumes. The project aims to contribute to Japan`s international cooperation and to provide a reference for reevaluating Japanese protection systems in the field of cultural properties. In this regard, we conducted a field survey in Spain, the next target country, from March 19 to 28, 2024.

 Spain used to have a nationally centralized protection system, but since the 1980s, authority has been diverted to the states (comunidad autónoma). Due to its vast territory and cultural diversity, there are differences in protection from state to state. In recent years, many states have enacted legislation regarding cultural landscapes, industrial heritage, and intangible heritage. The Spanish-designated cultural properties, denominated “Bien de Interés Cultural,” are just a tip of the iceberg of “Bien de Patrimonio Historico,” identified by state Institutes for Historic Heritage. Notable is that the last category, mostly not designated, is in some way protected by local urban planning.

 Through this survey, we were able to get a glimpse of the protection of cultural properties in Spain, hardly introduced to Japan until now. Actually, the state protection of cultural properties is obliged to comply with Spanish national and state laws, of which we plan to conduct research in FY 2024 and FY 2025, respectively. Since some state protection systems are well-organized, we can reconsider using such laws as reference for reevaluation of the protections of cultural properties in Japan.

Field Activities for the Conservation and Sustainable Development of Ta Nei Temple in Angkor, Cambodia (Part XV) – Protection of the Terrace on the West Embankment of the East Baray

Protection work of the Terrace on the West Embankment of the East Baray
Site inspection by the ad-hoc experts

 The excavation of the Terrace on the Embankment at the easternmost end of Ta Nei Temple was reported in a previous article. As a continuation of that report, here we summarize the protection work on the terrace that was carried out from March 8 to 29, 2024.

 This terrace was built from the top to the east slope of the west embankment of the “East Baray,” one of the huge reservoirs that characterize the Angkor Monuments. Therefore, it was an urgent task to protect the laterite stones from being washed away during the rainy season, especially those that were situated on the sloping terrain. First, four stones that had been moved from their original position and were structurally unstable were re-positioned. The perimeter of the stones on the slope was also reinforced with a compacted lime-mixed earth mortar, known as ‘lime mortar.’ The excavated area on the top of the embankment was also backfilled, particularly around the perimeter of the terrace, where there is concern about movement due to rainwater. Further work will be carried out in the future to cut down trees around the terrace, which is one of the factors causing the collapse of the structure.

 From March 14 to 15, an international meeting of ICC-Angkor/Sambor Prei Kuk was held, at which each team reported on their restoration projects. The Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TOBUNKEN) and the Authority for the Protection and Management of Angkor and the Region of Siem Reap (APSARA) jointly reported on the progress and future plan for the conservation of Ta Nei Temple. Prior to this meeting, on March 8, ICC ad hoc experts responsible for providing technical recommendations on each restoration project visited the site. The future restoration and maintenance policy, including the restoration of the east and west entrances to the Central Tower, which is scheduled to be carried out in 2024, was explained at the site, and the plan was approved.

to page top