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Marking World Heritage Day today we are focusing on the ancient Japanese art of picture conservation and mounting known as Hyōgu.
1923 woodblock print after the earliest known image of a hyōgushi priest and his assistant Original by the 14th century Japanese painter Fujiwara Takakane
Private collection Great Britain
Hyōgu and the hyōgushi
The art of restoring and mounting works of art on paper and silk has been practiced in the Far East for nearly two millennia. Originating first in China at the beginning of the Christian era, conservation techniques and materials then spread to Japan where they developed into the refined art that we now know as Hyōgu.
The word Hyōgu means a picture or piece of calligraphy lined with paper and mounted as a hanging scroll. The words hyōgushi, hyōguya and kyōji refer to the mounter/conservators of Japan who not only repair and mount hanging scrolls but also conserve other forms of pictorial art such as the handscroll, screens, sliding doors, murals etc.
The hyōgushi of today is required to undergo a long and strict period of training. During this time he or she learns not only the skills which will enable him to conserve scrolls, screens etc, but also the knowledge and sensitivity required to present them in their correct context. He must know the appropriate style of mount used for any subject and be aware, for example, of the meanings associated with the patterned silks used with such mounts. He or she must also know how and where an object will be used as this will often dictate the materials and techniques employed in its conservation.
Like the Western bookbinder, the hyōgushi is responsible for objects which must be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The objects he is conserving are made to be opened and closed, rolled and unrolled and, apart from the demands of conservation and aesthetics, the hyōgushi must always bear in mind that they are to be constantly handled and not merely viewed.
Made of wood and measuring 96cm in length. Probably between 50 and a 100 years old
Private collection. Great Britain
The Taisho Photographer’s House by Hamish Campbell
Hidden in an old and collapsing home, an incredible discovery sheds light on the lives of a Japanese family during Japan’s Taishō Period (1912–1926). As this remarkable family home, and its contents, slowly disintegrates and disappears Australian photographer Hamish Campbell captures what still remains.
The Heritage Trust strongly urges the appropriate Japanese authorities to take steps to protect and preserve this unique and invaluable house and its contents for future generations.
Nexus – Genkan I
A superimposed image showing the condition of the Taisho Photographer’s House today, with a Taisho family bride entering the house’s genkan (hallway)
Image credit Hamish Campbell
The Sanro-den kake-zukuri Prayer Hall before restoration
At the end of 2013 we reported on the World Monuments Fund’s project to save and restore the Sanro-den kake-zukuri Prayer Hall in Ōzu, Ehime Prefecture, Shikoku Japan (see our feature Appeal for the restoration of the Sanro-den launched). The restoration project is now almost complete and, as today marks World Heritage Day and ICOMOS’ 50th anniversary, we’re happy to highlight that, with help from the World Monuments Fund, a celebration recently took place to mark the near-completion of the Sanro-den restoration project. The Sanro-den was included on the 2014 World Monuments Watch because of its deteriorated condition and its potential for community involvement. Structural work on the Sanro-den is now finished. “The remaining work includes public paths and a final codification of plans for site management and usage. Completion is scheduled for June 2015.”
The Sanro-den after restoration
Artist impression of the seventh century Koyamada Burial Mound Moat
Image credit the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara
Kazuto Tsukamoto, Staff Writer for the Asahi Shimbun, reports last week that archaeologists in Japan have unearthed the remains of a possible mid-seventh century imperial burial mound (kofun 古墳). The remains of the Koyamada Mound were discovered on the site of a school in the Askua area of Nara Prefecture, central Japan. Asuka was one of the early capitals of Japan before being relocated to Nara and then Kyoto (see our earlier feature, Asuka, Japan: An introduction to its megalithic sites).
“The mound is highly likely the first burial site of Emperor Jomei (593-641), described in the ‘Nihon Shoki’ (The Chronicles of Japan) as the place where his body rested until it was later transferred to another location,” said Fuminori Sugaya, the director of the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, Nara Prefecture. The researchers made the estimate based on the ruin’s location, size and unique construction method.
The excavation site contains what is believed to be part of a moat lined with boulders along one of its slopes, according to the researchers. The remnants of the moat measures 48 meters in length and 3.9 to 7 meters in width. While 40-centimeter quartz diorite boulders line the northern slope of the moat, the bottom is covered with stones measuring 15 cm to 30 cm. The southern slope is covered with flagstones made of two-step chlorite schist that are topped with special flagstones known as “Haibara,” a type of rhyolite stone, stacked in a staircase pattern. The total number of steps in some areas is 10.
Full Asahi Shimbun article here.
Mongol invaders (left) fire on Takezaki Suenaga (on horseback) while a tetsuhau or ceramic projectile bomb explodes overhead
From the 13th century Mōko Shūrai Ekotoba (蒙古襲来絵詞) Japanese handscroll of the Mongol Invasion of Japan
Museum of the Imperial Collections, Tokyo Imperial Palace
Source Wikimedia Commons
Tasuku Ueda, Staff Writer, for the Asahi Shimbun, reports on the possible discovery of Kublai Khan’s invading fleet to Japan –
Matsuura, Nagasaki Prefecture: A wreck found off Takashima Island here is likely part of a Mongol invasion fleet that came to grief in a typhoon more than 700 years ago. The discovery was announced Oct. 2 by archaeologists with the University of the Ryukyus and the Matsuura City board of education who are researching the Takashima Kozaki underwater historic site.
Numerous artefacts have been recovered from the seabed from wrecks of fleets dispatched in 1274 and 1281 to invade Japan. In both invasion attempts, battles were fought in northern Kyushu. The fleet of 4,400 vessels sent by Kublai Khan in 1281 was wrecked near Takashima Island in a storm the Japanese dubbed ‘Kamikaze’ (divine wind) for ultimately saving their homeland from the Mongols.
An earlier report in Archaeology by James P. Delgado describes the discovery by Kenzo Hayashida of the Kyushu Okinawa Society for Underwater Archaeology (KOSUWA) of a, “…tetsuhau or ceramic projectile bomb. KOSUWA has recovered six of these from the wreck. They are the world’s earliest known exploding projectiles and the earliest direct archaeological evidence of seagoing ordnance.” Delado writes –
Chinese alchemists invented gunpowder around A.D. 300, and by 1100 huge paper bombs much like giant firecrackers were being used in battle. Chinese sources refer to catapult-launched exploding projectiles in 1221, but some historians have argued that the references date to later rewritings of the sources. In his recent book In Little Need of Divine Intervention, which analyses two Japanese scrolls that depict the Mongol invasion, Bowdoin College historian Thomas Conlan suggests that a scene showing a samurai falling from his horse as a bomb explodes over him was a later addition. Conlan’s research masterfully refutes many of the traditional myths and commonly held perceptions of the invasion, downplaying the number of ships and troops involved and arguing that it was not the storms but the Japanese defenders ashore, as well as confusion and a lack of coordination, that thwarted the khan’s two invasions. But his suggestion that the exploding bomb is an anachronism has now been demolished by solid archaeological evidence. Moreover, when the Japanese x-rayed two intact bombs, they found that one was filled just with gunpowder while the other was packed with gunpowder and more than a dozen square pieces of iron shrapnel intended to cut down the enemy.
– Introductory remarks: Dr Simon Kaner
– Presentation about the Online Resource for Japanese Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (Don Henson, Ben Hui, Nakamura Oki)
– Digital developments in Japanese archaeology (Professor Miyamoto Kazuo)
– Discussant: Professor Julian Richards
This event is free to attend but booking is essential. To reserve a place, please e-mail the Sainsbury Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org