Cultural Properties Rescue Project
Bringing the materials into the Vacuum Freeze Dryer
Recovering of cultural properties from rubble
Due to the Great East Japan Earthquake which struck on March 11, 2011,
there was damage in the afflicted area to a great many cultural properties,
which are not only the foundation for the identity and pride of the people
of the region, but also precious assets held in common by the nation as
a whole. For this reason, centering on agencies such as the Committee for
Salvaging Cultural Properties Affected by the 2011 Earthquake, organized
at the request of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, a cultural properties
rescue project (for carrying out the conservation, salvaging, and emergency
treatment, etc.) involving both the government and citizens en masse has
been underway, with the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties
With activity at the Ishinomaki Culture Center on April 20 leading off as the start of the rescue project, from the latter part of May three or four researchers were dispatched by the Institute to the region from Monday through Friday every week. In cases where rescue operations for buried cultural properties in particular were anticipated, they assumed the lead role and took responsibility for the exploratory investigation and determination of the working plan. As a result, 36 staffs participated in the rescue project ultimately included 12 destinations centering on Miyagi prefecture and extended over 239 days.
In addition, rescue work was conducted for documentary materials that were water-damaged in the disaster. As water-logged written materials can be affected by outbreaks of mold, and in some cases decomposition, after freezing the materials with cooperation from the private sector as a means for temporary safekeeping, the freeze-drying was then conducted in orderly fashion. Also, for items that were finished drying, cleaning such as washing the mud was done with the aid of volunteers, so that these materials could be returned to the region in slightly better condition.
In order to restore damaged cultural properties to their former condition, it is necessary to conduct full-scale restoration work. Preparations are also needed on a daily basis with regard to how cultural properties can be protected against disaster, which may occur anytime in unpredictable fashion.
Approaching the 1300th Anniversary of the Capital’s Move to Nara
April 23, 2010, is the 10th day of the 3rd month, according to the traditional
calendar. On this day, to mark the 1300th anniversary of the capital’s
move from Fujiwara to its new location in Nara in 710, on the 10th day
of the 3rd month of that year (the 3rd year of the Wadō era), a ceremony
for the completion of the reconstructed First Imperial Audience Hall was
solemnly held with the Crown Prince in attendance. From this day until
November 7, with the Nara Palace site as the main staging area, the Commemorative
Events of the 1300th Anniversary sponsored by Nara prefecture unfolded.
Over the approximately 200 days of the events, the numbers of people from
Japan and abroad visiting the Nara Palace site reached 3.63. million.
The Institute also provided support on many fronts. Day after day were passed in busy fashion, beginning with guiding important guests from both Japan and abroad who visited the Imperial Audience Hall, holding public lectures and responding to requests for information from the media on numerous occasions, and cooperating with the production of a television program based on the Nara capital. Also, the excavation proceeding in the Eastern Palace sector was openly exhibited to the public over a prolonged period, and was well received. Not only at the excavation site, but at every important location within the Nara Palace site, words of praise and thanks were frequently heard for the volunteers who provided clear explanations while guiding visitors to the site.
The Nara Palace Site Museum received many visitors since opening in April after renovation, and further held a special exhibit from September 25, “Voices from the Tenpyō Era: The Nara Palace Site Mokkan, a Buried Treasure Trove,” in which in addition to the latest data from research on wooden documents (mokkan), a large number of actual mokkan, which normally are but rarely seen, were put on display. Regarding the results of research, special mention should be made of Zusetsu Heijōkyū jiten (Illustrated Dictionary of the Nara Capital), a compilation of research on the Nara capital, which was published through the combined efforts of the Institute’s researchers.
On October 8, towards the end of the anniversary events, Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress were received, and a commemorative celebration held in the forecourt of the Imperial Audience Hall. After performances of dancing, and of wind and string instruments, reminiscent of the Tenpyō period, warm words of thanks were given rewarding those who have guarded, preserved, and conducted research on the Nara Palace site.
At the start of the following year, the Imperial Household Agency published poems composed by the Emperor in the previous year, among which was the following verse.
(Sento 1300 nen ni atari)
Kenkyū o kasanekasanete fukugen seshi Daigokuden
ima me no mae ni tatsu
[(On the 1300th anniversary of the move to Nara)
Reconstructed through repeated research, the Imperial Audience Hall
now stands before my eyes]