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

Publication of the Art Catalog Digital Archive and Its Future Prospects–Toward New Utilization of Art Catalogs–The 10th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

A scene from the presentation

 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has provided its collection of 2,565 art catalogs issued from the Meiji period to the Showa period for public reading for many years. Due to the poor condition of the original art catalogs, we started their digitization jointly with the Tokyo Art Club in 2015 (refer to the April 2015 monthly report:, and they were opened to the public as the Art Catalog Digital Archive in May 2019 (refer to the April 2019 monthly report:
 For the 10th seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on February 25th, 2020, we invited three presenters, who introduced examples of utilization of art catalog digital archives in various fields under the title “Publication of the Art Catalog Digital Archive and Its Future Prospects–Toward New Utilization of Art Catalogs.” The first presentation titled “Utilization of Art Catalogs in the Studies of Buddhist Statues and the Significance of Their Publication” was delivered by Dr. YAMAGUCHI Ryusuke (Senior Researcher of Buddhist Sculpture at the Nara National Museum), the second one titled “Utilization and Development of Art Catalogs in the Exhibition of HIJIKATA Torei (at the Tottori Prefectural Museum)” was presented by Ms. YAMASHITA Mayumi (Curator at the Hosomi Museum), the third one titled “How to Utilize the Art Catalog Digital Archive in the Studies of Craftwork and Its Examples” was delivered by Ms. TSUKIMURA Kino (Curator at the Fukuyama Museum of Art), and the fourth one titled “Problems of Early modern Paintings from the Art Catalog Digital Archive” was presented by YASUNAGA Takuyo from the Institute. The seminar attracted an audience of around 50 people, including curators and researchers from all over Japan. After the presentations, the four presenters held an active discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of the digital archive, as well as its issues and problems. The presenters also answered questions from the audience. The questionnaire conducted at the venue showed that 87% of the audience was “very satisfied” with the seminar.

Presentation at the Meeting of International Terminology Working Group (ITWG), Getty Center

Meeting of International Terminology Working Group

 At the International Terminology Working Group (ITWG) Meeting held in the Getty Center located in Los Angeles, the United States, on February 6th and 7th, 2020, we delivered a presentation titled “Japanese artists, TNRICP”. This presentation reported on the development process of our providing Japanese artists’ name data for the Getty Vocabularies, as part of the joint project between Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties (TNRICP) and the Getty Research Institute. The ITWG, led by the Getty Research Institute, aims to discuss the common topics on Getty Vocabularies (, the controlled vocabularies comprising Art & Architecture Thesaurus (AAT), Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names (TGN), Union List of Artist Names (ULAN), Cultural Objects Name Authority (CONA), Getty Iconography Authority (IA), and other programs. The meeting generally takes place every two years. This meeting attracted about 35 people from the United States, Taiwan, Belgium, Germany, Brazil, Israel, Croatia, the UAE, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and other countries. Persons in charge of Getty Vocabularies programs reported their current situations and progress in function enhancement, while the institutions involved delivered presentations on pioneering practices in providing data for Getty Vocabularies. During the discussions about issues common to the Getty Research Institute and the institutions concerned, in response to these reports and presentations, useful advice was provided by participants from other countries.
 International technical terms and biographical dictionaries are essential in introducing Japanese cultural properties to overseas in local languages. Getty Vocabularies find another way by focusing on today’s technologies and the alliance among the institutions concerned. By providing Japanese artists’ name data accumulated by TNRICP for many years, we aim to disseminate Japanese cultural properties, and support international studies on Japanese cultural heritage.

Publication of a Brochure Titled “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts V: Shirabeo by YAMASHITA Yuji”

Brochure “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts V: Shirabeo by YAMASHITA Yuji”

 The fifth brochure of the series addressing “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts” has been published. This brochure focuses on Mr. YAMASHITA Yuji, manufacturer of “shirabeo” (also called “shirabe”). Shirabeo is a special hemp rope used to tie the front and back leather of small hand drums, large hand drums, and drums used for noh and kabuki plays and in festivals held all over Japan. Mr. Yamashita has been working on the production of shirabeo, nurturing the younger generations, and disseminating production techniques as the fourth head of a long-established store called Yamashita Keishudo (Kyoto), which has been dealing in shirabeo for generations. The brochure mentions a part of the secret technique involved in producing shirabeo as “firmly yet softly twist the rope.” The survey on Mr. Yamashita’s technique in producing shirabeo was conducted prior to the publication of the brochure. The outline of the survey is available in the “Investigation Report on Techniques for Preserving Cultural Properties with Focus on Musical Instruments 2” (MAEHARA Megumi & HASHIMOTO Kaoru, “Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage” 13, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, 2018). Please refer to the report along with the brochure. (Access here to download the report:
 The series of brochures is available to those who require it for any non-commercial purpose. It will be delivered by Yu-Pack parcel post for COD. (Please note that the brochure may be out of stock.)
 If you require any of the brochures, please send us details of 1. Your name, 2. Postal code & address, 3. Phone number, 4. The brochure you need (I-V) and the number of copies, by e-mail to (Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage).

• “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts I: Biwa by ISHIDA Katsuyoshi”
• “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts II: Koma (Bridge of Shamisen) by OKOUCHI Masanobu”
• “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts III: Futozao Shamisen (Three stringed lute with thickest neck) by ISAKA Shigeo”
• “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts IV: Wind Instruments for Gagaku music by YAMADA Zenichi”
• The latest “Techniques Supporting Traditional Performing Arts V: Shirabeo (Tension ropes for drums) by YAMASHITA Yuji”

 We will continue to publish brochures focusing on techniques to produce/repair musical instruments as skills to conserve cultural properties.

Temporary Closure of the Library and Guaranteed Open Access to Its Materials

The screen of Tobunken OPAC
An art exhibition catalog issued in the Meiji period, which is downloadable in PDF format

 To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Library of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been temporarily closed since February 28th, 2020, like other facilities of the Independent Administrative Institution, National Institutes for Cultural Heritage. We apologize for any inconvenience. Since the government declared a state of emergency, many staff members of this Institute have been staying home. Thus, countless numbers of people have been forced to suspend their studies at school or at work throughout the world.
 Under the circumstances, you can make full use of databases or open access materials via the Internet. The Institute has been working on digitalizing its collection and promoting their further utilization. Through the joint project with Getty Research Institute, we opened to the public more than 900 art exhibition catalogs issued from the Meiji period to the early Showa period on the Internet in October 2019. We are now digitalizing almost 730 titles (1,700 issues) of books printed from woodblocks in the Edo period, which are owned by the Institute, to guarantee their open access. These books will be searchable for browsing from the Getty Research Portal in 2020.
 You can browse the digital collection through the joint project with Getty Research Institute from here:
You can access “Journal of Art Studies,” “Science for Conservation,” “Research and Reports on Intangible Cultural Heritage,” “Yearbook of Japanese Art,” and other publications from the repository of the Institute:
In addition, you can search for a wide variety of research materials stored in the Institute’s databases through “Tobunken Research Collection”:
We will continue to provide access to free research materials from anywhere, at any time, for the convenience of more researchers.

Important Cultural Property “Yojinsogakuzu Byobu” in the Eisei Bunko Museum’s collection: Digital Content Released

 The Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems creates digital contents of any artworks investigated and studied at Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, to release it for the Library. We have released the digital content of “Yojinsogakuzu Byobu” (Scenes of European Ways of Life; Important Cultural Property), owned by the Eisei Bunko Museum—it is one of the early Western-influenced works in Japanese painting, where Western people, manners and customs, and landscapes are depicted with Western-influenced techniques. A careful examination of this work shows that unique techniques, different from those of ordinary Japanese paintings, are used for the folding screen, a typical painting format in Japan. We created this digital content according to the report issued by the Institute in 2015. The dedicated computer in the Library shows the research results, such as the high-resolution color image, near infrared image, and the results of the analysis of coloring material using X-ray fluorescence technologies. This computer may only be used for academic or research purposes, and copying or printing the digital content is prohibited. However, you may freely access the large amount of artwork information containing a variety of digital images. The dedicated computer is available during the Library’s opening hours. Please refer to the following URL for the instructions on use:

Investigation of the Japan-made Lacquerwork Found in Bangkok, Thailand

The investigation at Wat Rajpradit

 Wat Rajpradit, which was built in 1864 as per the wish of King Rama IV, is a first-grade royal Buddhist temple located in Bangkok, Thailand. For the entrances of its ordination hall (ubosot), Japan-made door panels, created by employing the “mother-of-pearl with underpaint” technique, were used. Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties is providing technical support to restore these panels at the request of the temple and the Fine Arts Department, Ministry of Culture of Thailand. The restoration work is also an opportunity to better understand this cultural property. Even in Japan-exported lacquerwork, there are few instances of research being pursued into works produced in the 19th century, and the background of the door panels is unclear. Therefore, we conducted detailed investigation of the Japan-made lacquerwork, including the works of mother-of-pearl with underpaint, in Bangkok from January 12th through 18th, 2020.
 During the mission, we checked the condition of the door panels at Wat Rajpradit, and exchanged ideas on the restoration plan to be implemented proactively from the Thai side, in the presence of the Director of the Fine Arts Department. Having an opportunity to do research at Wat Pho, one of the most prestigious first-grade royal Buddhist temples, we observed in detail a pair of long cover plates (to protect palm leaf manuscripts on which sutras or other documents are written) decorated with mother-of-pearl and lacquer. This year, we also scrutinized part of the cover plates of the palm leaf manuscripts created during the reigns of King Rama I through V, which are stored at the National Library of Thailand. In addition to those already known, we found a piece of cover plate decorated with mother-of-pearl and lacquer.
 Furthermore, we researched a toolbox used by Mr. MIKI Sakae (1884–1966), who had arrived in Thailand in 1911 and worked as a craftsman and educator in the field of lacquer art. We feel that our investigation reveals that the communication between Japan and Thailand has spread further through the Japan-made lacquerwork, including the works of mother-of-pearl with underpaint created from the late Edo period to the Meiji period.

Senior Statesman INOUE Kaoru and the Meiji Culture—The 9th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

From INOUE Kaoru’s catalog of collection, “Segaian Kanshō” (owned by Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties)

 INOUE Kaoru (1835–1915) was a politician with tremendous influence in the political and business circles during the Meiji period. During the disturbances before the Meiji Restoration, he emerged as a leader of the anti-foreigner movement in his native Choshu domain, and served in several important positions in the new Meiji government, such as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Home Affairs. He is well known for leading the Westernizing policies, including Rokumeikan diplomacy, and was also a man of refined tastes who enjoyed the tea ceremony with tea masters from the business world, such as MASUDA Takashi (called MASUDA Don-oh). He collected masterpieces of oriental art, including “Momohato-zu (Pigeon on a Peach Branch)” presumedly painted by Emperor Huizong of Song. The presentation titled “Meiji Culture and INOUE Kaoru,” delivered by Dr. YODA Toru (Chief of Curators’ Section, Toyama Memorial Museum) for the 9th seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on January 21st, 2020, highlighted Inoue’s significance in cultural history.
 It is said that Inoue started collecting antiques in the early Meiji period. During the 1880s, he acquired “Jūichimen Kannonzō (Eleven-Headed Kannon, Skt. Ekadasamukha),” an excellent Buddhist artwork from the Heian period, presently owned by the Nara National Museum. He sometimes acquired masterpieces in an ungentlemanly manner as well, and published a catalog of his collection tilted “Segaian Kanshō (Appreciation of Segaian)” in 1912. Earlier, he also had invited Emperor Meiji home in 1887, and played an important role in entertainment history by showing him a Kabuki program performed by ICHIKAWA Danjuro IX as well as interacting with the comic storyteller SANYUTEI Encho.
 After the presentation by Dr. Yoda, which revealed Inoue’s involvement in Japanese culture from diverse perspectives, Mr. SAITO Yasuhiko (Professor Emeritus at the University of Yamanashi), Mr. TANAKA Sendo (Director of Santokuan), and Dr. TSUKAMOTO Maromitsu (Associate Professor at the Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, the University of Tokyo) joined the discussion. How Inoue developed his aesthetic sense while working hard as a politician is still not known though. Future research is expected to focus on his various aspects veiled in mystery.

The Friendship between KURODA Seiki and KUME Keiichiro – The 7th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

KUME Keiichiro (left) and KURODA Seiki during their study in France
Part of the letter written to KUME Kei-ichiro by KURODA Seiki dated on April 1st, 1895, which includes the view of marriage expressed partially in French by him right after his marriage

 KURODA Seiki (1866-1924) and KUME Keiichiro (1866-1934), who learned oil painting from Raphael COLLIN––an academic painter in France––were close friends and shared an atelier. After returning to Japan, they founded a new fine art association named Hakubakai. Through their involvement in art education and administration, they endeavored to innovate and develop the sphere of Japanese oil painting.
 The Kume Museum of Art, which owns and publishes the works and materials of KUME Keiichiro, and Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, which was founded with the inheritance of KURODA Seiki, began joint research in 2016 in order to investigate the materials pertaining to their friendship. The letters exchanged between them particularly attract attention as materials that illustrate their social and professional friendship. The 7th seminar titled “Reading the Letters Written by KURODA Seiki and KUME Keiichiro” was organized by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on December 10th, 2019. SHIOYA Jun of the Institute delivered a presentation regarding the letters written to Kume by Kuroda, while Ms. ITO Fumiko of the Kume Museum of Art addressed the letters written to Kuroda by Kume.
 The letters investigated by this research were written from the 1890s until 1925, after they returned to Japan from France. They wrote not in the epistolary style used generally at that time, but in a colloquial style to report their productions’ progress and their travel impressions. They occasionally wrote in French to secretly pour forth their feelings. In 1910 and 1911, Kume visited the UK to do clerical work for the association for exhibits for the Japan-British Exhibition. The letters written during the period¬¬––in which he detailed the exhibition, the reunion with Mr. Collin, and interaction with local painters––represent the network of oil painters of that time.
 After the presentation, two Visiting Researchers who helped us reprint the letters, Mr. TANAKA Jun and Mr. SAITO Tatsuya, joined the opinion exchange. We will release the outcomes of this research in “The Journal of Art Studies,” which will be published in the next fiscal year.

Researching Medieval Glass in Japan – The 8th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

A scene from the seminar

 At the 8th seminar organized by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on December 24th, 2019, HAYASHI Yoshimi––a Part-time Lecturer at Tokai University––delivered a presentation titled “Researching Medieval Glass in Japan – Based on the Outcomes in 2018 and 2019.”
 Dr. Hayashi has been researching the history of glass in East Asia for many years. For this seminar, she introduced a part of her outcomes from the collection and observational research of Japanese glass products manufactured between the 13th and 16th century, which she has researched after writing her doctoral dissertation in 2018. The actual state of Japanese medieval glass has been almost unknown due to the rarity of its unearthed products. However, in recent years, glass products manufactured during the aforementioned period have been excavated in Kyoto, Hakata and other areas. An improved understanding of Japanese medieval glass is expected based on these products, which will add to the existing literature and materials. Dr. Hayashi mentioned the following three key aspects in the research of Japanese glass produced between the 13th and 16th century: (1) Getting a whole sketch, (2) Determination of production areas, and (3) Consideration from historical and broad-based viewpoints. Then, she presented her views on the manufacturing technique and origin of the glassware unveiled, through her study of written and excavated materials.
 Ms. INOUE Akiko, director of the Association for Glass Art Studies, Japan, also attended the seminar as a commentator so as to facilitate a discussion on various front-line topics pertaining to glass history studies, proceeding step-by-step alongside a few researchers.

Seminar on the Recording and Database Compilation of Cultural Properties

A scene from the presentation, showing the breakdown of the participants

 Inventories of cultural properties are very important for museums, galleries, and archives, as well as for local governments. It works as a principle source of information not only for the research/study and the conservation/management of cultural properties but also for planning exhibitions and rental schedules. Photos, which record the visual information of cultural properties, also support research and studies. Their management with listed cultural properties enables more appropriate conservation and utilization of cultural heritage and its related information. Thus, the recording of cultural properties and the database compilation of such records are essential to the conservation and utilization of cultural heritage. However, not a few persons concerned have budgetary and technological restrictions, which render them difficult. Therefore, the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems held a seminar for the same on December 2nd, 2019.
 At the seminar, we used examples to explicate the significance of recording and compiling the databases for cultural properties. We also introduced a free system that facilitates building a database of cultural properties, which has been worked on by the Cultural Properties Information Section of the department in recent years. In addition, the Image Laboratory of the section presented various types of photography as a means to record information on cultural properties, along with relevant concepts and concrete examples.
 Almost 120 people attended the seminar, particularly those who are practically involved in the conservation and utilization of cultural heritage. The participants’ significant number of questions related to routine tasks made us believe that they were quite interested in this topic. Although we organized this comprehensive seminar as a first step, we seek to further transmit diversified information, such as seminars focusing on specific themes and workshops with practical training.

The 53rd Open Lecture

Ongoing open lecture

 The Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems organized a two-day open lecture on November 1st and 2nd, 2019 in the seminar room of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties. Every autumn, the Institute invites the public to attend presentations delivered by its researchers, along with outside lecturers, on the outcomes of their daily research. This program is held not only as part of the Lecture Series of the Ueno no Yama Cultural Zone Festival organized by Taito City but is also associated with Classics Day on November 1st each year.
 This year, the lectures covered four topics: Five Hundred Luohan Passed Down by Daitoku-ji Temple and Rules of Purity for the Chan Monastery (Chanyuan qinggui): Depiction of Monastic Life” (MAIZAWA Rei, Researcher of the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems); “The Shape of the Seated Amitabha Statue Placed in the Lecture Hall of Koryu-ji Temple and Its Reflecting Wishes–Based on the Portrait of the Petitioner, ‘Nagahara no Miyasudokoro’” (Dr, HARA Hirofumi, Teacher of Keio Shiki Senior High School); “Research and Study of the Minakuchi Rapier, the Only Western-style Sword Handed Down to the Present Time in Japan” (KOBAYASHI Koji, Head of the Trans-Disciplinary Research Section, Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems); and “The Front Line of the Study of Swords at SPring-8: Towards the Education Breakthrough of the Production Technology” (Dr. TANAKA Manako, Department of History and Culture, Showa Women’s University). The first two lectures were delivered on November 1st and the latter two the following day. Across both days, 151 people were in attendance. According to the results of the questionnaire survey, nearly 90% of the audience responded “satisfied” or “almost satisfied.” Thus, the Institute provided the public with a good opportunity to learn the cultural properties with interest by disclosing the research trends and new findings of our researchers.

Lecture on the “Cruciform Sword” as a Commemorative Event of the Local History Society of Minakuchi Town, Koka City


 The Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems has been leading in the research and study of the “Cruciform Sword (Minakuchi Rapier),” possessed by Fujisaka Shrine in Minakuchi, Koka City for six consecutive years. In fiscal 2019, to pack up our research, we released our outcomes through a presentation at the ICOM Kyoto, made mainly for overseas experts (, and the 53rd open lecture of the Institute for the public (see the Monthly Report of November: Following these, on November 9th, we had a great opportunity to deliver a lecture as an event commemorating the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the Local History Society of Minakuchi Town, Koka City, where this Western-style sword has been handed down to the present time. Under the title of “Challenging the Enigma of ‘Cruciform Sword’ Possessed by Fujisaka Shrine,” jointly with Ms. NAGAI Akiko, curator of the Minakuchi Museum of History and Folklore in Koka City, partner of our research, we reported the research outcomes and historical significance of this sword to local people. The audience of as many as 100 people gathering in the local venue, located just opposite to Fujisaka Shrine, listened to our research report with much interest.
 We feel that giving this lecture has allowed us to partially fulfill our research obligation. Returning our attention to preparing our research report with joint researchers, we will tentatively wrap up the study of this Western-style sword.

Consultation and Lecture at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures

Ongoing consultation
A scene from the lecture; Photo by Sainsbury Institute/Andi SAPEY

 The Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC), located in
Norwich, the country capital of Norfolk, UK, is among the most prominent institutions for the
study of Japanese arts and culture in Europe. SISJAC and Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties have been working on a joint project, “Shaping the Fundamentals of Research on Japanese Art,” since 2013. Through this project, documents related to Japanese art that are written in English and published outside Japan are provided by SISJAC and made available on the Institute’s website. Also, as part of the project, researchers of the Department ofArt Research, Archives and Information Systems have been visiting Norwich annually to hold consultations with SISJAC and conduct lectures on related topics. In fiscal 2019, two researchers, EMURA Tomoko and MAIZAWA Rei, visited Norwich from November 20th to 23rd for this purpose.
 During the consultation, various issues were addressed, including the number of people accessing the data provided by SISJAC, as well as problems related to a system of transcribing the collected data in general, and the link structure of the web. The Institute and SISJAC agreed to continue the project to ensure better database construction and active data utilization.
 On November 21st, EMURA conducted a lecture titled, “The Expression of the Four Seasons in Japanese Paintings,” at the Weston Room of Norwich Cathedral, with interpretation provided by Dr. Simon KANER, Executive Director of the Sainsbury Institute. The lecture was conducted as part of a regular lecture event focused on general audience and offered by SISJAC on every third Thursday of the month. This event saw an attendance of about 150 people, who asked a number of questions after the lecture, thus showing the popularity of Japanese art in the UK. The Institute will globally transmit further information on Japanese art through effective collaboration with SISJAC.

Presentation at CIDOC 2019 (ICOM Kyoto 2019, the 25th General Conference)

Example of Kanji Variants in the Japanese Language
System to Search All Possible Variations through Comprehensive Retrieval

 The International Council of Museums (ICOM), created in 1946, is a non-government organization aimed at exchanging and sharing information on museums. The general conference, which is held for all of its International Committees every three years, took place in Kyoto this year. Three staff members from the Cultural Properties Information Section attended the conference to deliver a presentation titled “Two Solutions for Orthographical Variants Problem” at CIDOC, ICOM’s International Committee for Documentation.
 One of the features of the Japanese language is its varied orthographic system, under which you use kanji, hiragana and katakana quite differently. However, this system results in creating orthographical variants, such as龍 and竜, as well as藝 and芸, causing search omissions. Focusing on personal names, we reported our own way of coping with all possible variations for the database of our website.
 Orthographical variants are not unique to the Japanese language. For example, some systematic solution is required for the English retrieval system if the results of the plural form should also be shown when you perform a search in a singular form. Cultural properties have their universal value although there are some issues originating in locality in their documentation. We would like to consider the universality and locality in cultural properties from the aspect of system infrastructure.

Presentation and Information Sharing for ICFA Committee, ICOM Kyoto “The Minakuchi Rapier, European Sword Produced in Japan

Presentation for ICFA committee at ICOM Kyoto

 For a week, from September 1st to 7th, ICOM Kyoto 2019, the 25th General Conference was held at the Kyoto International Conference Centre as its main venue.
 At the ICFA’s (International Committee for Museums and Collections of Fine Arts) individual session “Asian Art in Western Museumns, Western Art in Asian Museums II,” KOBAYASHI Koji from the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems delivered a presentation titled The Minakuchi Rapier, European Sword Produced in Japan jointly with Ms. NAGAI Akiko from the Koka City Minakuchi History and Folkroe Museum.
 The Minakuchi Rapier (cruciform sword possessed by Fujisaka Shrine in Koka City) was produced in Japan modeled on a European sword, which was brought Japan in the early 17th century. We have been researching this sword together with experts at home and abroad since 2013. Part of the processes and outcomes have been reported through the articles, “the 10th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems ‘Study of the Western Cruciform Sword Possessed by Fujisaka Shrine in Koka City’” ( and “Research of the Western-style Cruciform Sword Possessed by Fujisaka Shrine in Minakuchi, Koka City, Shiga Prefecture by an Expert from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and an Initial Report at the 7th Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems” (
 For this presentation, the later result of analyzing the sword blade at SPring-8 (large-scale synchrotron radiation facility) and historical examination from an overall point of view was added. This presentation aimed at disseminating to the world, including Europe and the United States, the fact that such Western swords existed in Japan in the 17th century when cultural exchange was occurring globally, and that a sword was imitated at that time and has been handed down up to the present time.
 At the fully occupied presentation venue, the audience showed much interest in the existence of such a cultural property in Japan through a variety of questions and discussions, including on the background of producing a Western sword replica.

Formation Process of Namban Lacquer and Its Dating: Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

Ongoing Seminar

 At the 6th Seminar held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on September 24th, 2019, KOBAYASHI Koji, Head of the Trans-Disciplinary Research Section, delivered a presentation titled “Formation Process of Namban Lacquer and Its Dating – Examination Especially Focusing on Christian Portable Oratory.”
 There is no consensus on when and how Namban lacquer, which was produced in Kyoto and exported mainly to Europe and America in the early 17th century, started to be utilized. So far, among portable oratories, in which Christian sacred paintings are placed, much attention has been paid only to the ones produced as Namban lacquer. The presenter comprehensively examined the portable oratories produced for Japanese Christians as well, which continued to be handed down to this day in the Sendaiji and Shimo-otowa areas in Ibaraki City, Osaka, well-known as settlements of crypto-Christians; these oratories include the one owned by the General Library of the University of Tokyo, which has a the painting of Christ by NIWA Jacob, who learned painting in seminary in Japan, in addition to the Namban lacquer portable oratories scattered around the world. Among them, a group of oratories without decorative pattern on metal fittings were extracted and compared with a makie decorated Chinese-style chest owned by Toyokuni Shrine, with a miniature shrine ornamented by Namban lacquer patterns of Kodaiji-style makie and raden decoration made for a statue of TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi possessed by Richi-in Temple in Misaki Town, with a relatively older makie shelf having metal fittings, and others. As a result, the presenter concluded that the oratories with no decorative metal fittings are the oldest, estimated to have been produced between the latest 16th century and the earliest 17th century.
 This dating of older oratories matches the presenter’s dating of Namban lacquer lectern, which had been estimated to be produced from the early 17th century, i.e., a little later than oratories.
 The examination was aimed at exploring the formation process and dating of Namban lacquer. If these results are accepted, it might become a catalyst for reconsideration of various issues involving painters or production areas of sacred paintings and frames placed in the portable oratories, on the reality of Christianity and trade in Japan around the early 17th century as well as the relations between TOYOTOMI Hideyoshi /the Tokugawa shogunate and the Anti-Christian Edicts/Christian missions.
 At the seminar attended by Dr. TAKEDA Eri, a restorer of Western early paintings, Professor KOIKE Tomio from Tsurumi University, and many other researchers in related fields from the art museums organizing exhibitions of lacquerware from the Momoyama period, lively discussions were held on diverse topics, right from methodology to various other aspects.

Basic Research on the Sculptor Tōru KOMURO: Study meeting hosted by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties

Equestrian Statue of DATE Masamune (completed in 1935; the photo has been taken from a postcard)
Scene from the study meeting

 Tōru KOMURO (1899-1953) was a sculptor born in Tsukinoki Town (current Shibata Town), Miyagi Prefecture, and the creator of the Equestrian Statue of DATE Masamune (completed in 1935), which is located in Sendai Castle. The work is famous as a symbol of the tourist destination, but so far, it has not been widely known how he produced the equestrian statue.
 On August 26, 2019, Kyoko YASHIRO, an associate fellow at the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems of Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, made research presentations under the title “Basic Research on the Sculptor Tōru KOMURO,” analyzing the life and works of the sculptor based on the albums, diaries, and other materials he left and discussing the Equestrian Statue of DATE Masamune , one of his most prominent works.
 KOMURO published his works in group exhibitions in Tokyo during the prewar period while in Miyagi, his native land, he produced portrait sculptures, bronze statues, and wood-carved works of local distinguished people. In these creative activities, he must have cultivated relationships with local influential and knowledgeable people and garnered their support. In her presentations, YASHIRO also made it clear that when he produced the Equestrian Statue of DATE Masamune , he adopted the opinions of Sendai’s local historians as much as possible and expressed the figure of DATE Masamune as a feudal lord that carried out peace projects.
 Currently, energetic creative activities of sculptors in Tokyo are being clarified, but there are only a few materials to confirm in detail the works and movements of sculptors like KOMURO who developed productive activities in provincial areas, and therefore, it is necessary to further deepen research on these sculptors in the future.
 At the recent study meeting, experts in the modern history of sculpture, including Mr. Satoshi KODAMA of the Local Museum of Shibata. which houses materials concerning KOMURO, Prof. Shuji TANAKA of Oita University, and Dr. Taiko TOBARI of the Asakura Museum of Sculpture, were invited as commentators, and there was active exchange of opinions about differences between KOMURO’s works in Tokyo and Miyagi and the style of the Equestrian Statue of DATE Masamune .

Buddhist Paintings of the Heian Period (National Treasures) in the Possession of the Tokyo National Museum Published on the Joint Website

From the front page of the website for the Buddhist paintings in the Heian period (national treasures)
Transformed Buddha of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva

 Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties has been jointly conducting research with the Tokyo National Museum on the Buddhist paintings in the Museum’s collection. Releasing the outcomes of the research, four Buddhist paintings belonging to the Heian period were published on their joint website ( on August 20th, 2019. They are pictures of Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, Ākāshagarbha Bodhisattva, Sahasrabhuja Avalokitesvara, and Mahamayuri vidyaraja, which are designated National Treasures.
 Although the paintings seem flat, layers of pigment are intricately deposited on the paper or silk cloth. You form an impression of the picture as a light complex is seen when daylight is reflected on or penetrates the layers. Traces of the painting process and what happened to the painting after its completion can be seen underneath.
Key clues to capture them are the information on the piled-up layers, as well as the data on materials such as the size and shape of the pigment particles, the texture of the silk cloth, and the thicknesses of its warp and weft. An optical survey is one of the effective methods to look beneath the surface without touching or collecting an analysis sample from the painting. The Institute was the first in Asia to start the optical survey for arts and crafts soon after its foundation as The Institute of Art Research in 1930. This joint research is also based on the accumulated know-how of that survey.
 To make a fine depiction in a picture of the world of Buddha transcending this world, delicate patterns were drawn on the garment and ornaments of the Buddha during the Heian period. However, to protect these painting, few opportunities are given to appreciate them and confirm through close observation. This publication on the joint website enables visualizing high-definition images on a PC or a tablet computer. Photographs have now been taken under visible light providing an expanded and detailed view. Further details of the paintings will be provided by including their pictures taken by infrared, fluorescence, or X-ray photography, apart from the results of fluorescent X‐ray analysis, to distinguish the elements contained in the pigments. Looking forward to your anticipation for their forthcoming release.

Applying Post-War Japanese Art Archives in Research: Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

Scene of the seminar

 The 4th seminar was held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on July 23rd, 2019. The seminar was held in a mini symposium format with the theme, “Applying Post-War Japanese Art Archives in Research: The Case of Yutaka MATSUZAWA Archives.”
 In the first half of the seminar, there were four presentations and reports on the following: “Letters to Yutaka MATSUZAWA from the 50s and 60s” by Hideki KIKKAWA (Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems), “Investigation and Records on MATSUZAWA Yutaka Atelier Psi Room” by Mayumi KINOUCHI (Nagano Prefectural Shinano Art Museum), “Yutaka MATSUZAWA Archive: Potential Uses Considered from Naiqua Gallery-Related Materials” by Yūka MIYATA (The National Museum of Art, Osaka), and “Digitization and Storage of Video Media: In the Case of MATSUZAWA Materials” by Shuhei HOSOYA (art and media researcher, filmmaker). In the second half of the seminar, Jun SHIOYA (Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems) presided over a discussion on Yutaka MATSUZAWA’s artwork and activities, the significance of these archives from the perspective of art history, the applications of these archives, and the archive organization method (data organization and material preservation). During the break, some of Yutaka MATSUZAWA’s archives were viewed by the concerned parties and some information was exchanged.
 More than 40 people attended this seminar, including Yutaka MATSUZAWA’s family members, researchers from art museums and universities, and art writers. Presently, the Yutaka MATSUZAWA archives are being considered as the theme for grant-in-aid for scientific research, and there are plans to hold a symposium in 2020, the final year of this grant-in-aid research. Toward this end, the significance of Yutaka MATSUZAWA archives from the perspective of art history and cultural history will be studied in association with researchers from diverse fields.

Cultural Property Information with Linked Data: Seminar Held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems

Scene of the seminar

 The 3rd seminar was held by the Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems on June 25th, 2019. Taiki MISHIMA (Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems) gave a presentation titled “Aggregation of regional cultural heritage information based on Linked Data,” and Mr. Ryoji MURATA (Tokyo National Museum) was invited as a commentator.
 Linked Data is a way to realize the Semantic Web. By tracing the links between structured Linked Data, relevant information based on individual needs can be gained. Linking open data to external resources based on Linked Data will improve data discoverability and its potential uses. In recent years, the attention is being paid to the utilization of regional cultural heritage because of the amendment made to the Act on Protection of Cultural Properties, and MISHIMA has focused on the utilization of regional cultural heritage “information” in Japan and has proposed the metadata schema and pointed out the issues involved when aggregating and publishing this information as Linked Data.
 As a result of an analysis of the information regarding a designated cultural heritage, published by local public bodies in Tokyo, commonalities and differences were clarified in terms of description items such as name, category, and location of cultural properties, the vocabularies used in the description items, and the description formats. In order to aggregate this information based on Linked Data, a metadata schema was created wherein information with unified vocabulary and description format prevailed along with the original information. One of the issues be highlighted was the relationships between vocabularies, such as “tangible cultural property” and “buildings,” which are specific to cultural property categories as data, and which would need the model for constructing the thesaurus.
 At the seminar, participants exchanged opinions on a broad range of topics, such as how cultural heritage information has been created, shared, and published on the basis of their experiences in dealing with cultural heritage.

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