Extracts from the Miyagi Network News XXIII

Traditional Structures in Iwanuma City and Ishinomaki City

Published on 23 May 2011

Author(s): Network for Historical Materials/Kentaro Obayashi

Type:  Blog/Situation report Vol 123

Participating in the rescue operation of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials

I had learned about the activity of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials from the News Letters which had been occasionally delivered. For this reason, receiving the appeal for repairing the ‘C’ family’s paintings and calligraphic works, I offered to investigate whether they would require the urgent measures or not, as I was a specialist for repair and restoration. As I prepared to head to the devastated area, I got the request from Prof.Hirakawa who was the representative of the Miyagi Network, so I decided that needed to rent a big wagon.

On May 6th

I entered Sendai City by ANA’s earliest aeroplane from Osaka at 7:15am. Near Sendai Airport, the traffic signals had not been repaired yet, so police officers were controlling traffic, however as I went into the centre of Sendai City, the traffic and signals seemed to be ordinal. After I rented a wagon at Sendai Station, called in at the secretariat office of the Miyagi Network and received the rescue materials, I departed to the field after 11:00am.

  • The Rescue Operation for ‘S’ family’s cultural property

Because Ms.Satoko Kaneno who was the repairer of paper books had already tidied up and packed the historical archives, I attached the numbers to every box as owners confirmed each archive. The archives which were concerned with the modern Ohunato City, the factory of the ‘Taiheiyo Cement Company’ and the industry of dye works amounted to 16 cardboard boxes and wooden boxes. After packing and confirming, I loaded them into the wagon.

  • The Investigation of the present condition of ‘C’ family’s historical materials

As for the Fusuma(*1), the condition was the same as I had seen on the photos. However, once I touched them I realised they were still wet. According to the weather forecast, as from next Monday, the temperature would go up. Although I knew that they required urgent measures, I couldn’t reach the conclusion whether they would be dried here or should be transferred to another place so as to execute the operation. Therefore, I told them that I would again contact them after consultation with the Miyagi Network in Sendai, and I left there at that time.

On May 7th

  • The Urgent Measure for ‘S’ Family’s Historical Materials in Miyagi Network’s Office

On that day, although the Miyagi Network had scheduled to carry out some operations with voluntary workers, we carried out another operation on ‘S’ family’s historical materials which I rescued the day before, so I asked them to remove the mud and dried them. As for the inside of the wooden boxes which had a family crest on, containing the old archives from the Edo Period(*2). This operation was introduced in the Miyagi Network News vol.120. Simultaneously I discussed about upcoming operations with Prof.Hirakawa, and then we judged that it would be difficult for ‘C’ family’s Fusuma to be dealt with in the field or neighbouring places.

For this reason, we decided that firstly the surface paintings would be transferred to Kyoto and washed and dried, after that, they would be turned over and pasted to the main body again which the structure would be repaired. In regard to the folding screens, although they required some work so as to avoid peeling off and still more washing up, the surface paintings had already been dried, so I decided that transporting them to Kyoto would be feasible because it didn’t need the emergency rescue.

On May 8th

  • The Rescue Operation of ‘C’ Family’s Cultural Properties

Accompanied with Mr.Mitsuru Yoshida of Tohoku University, we headed to Ohunato City from Sendai City by wagon. The protective papers which were necessary for our operation were offered by the NPO of Japan Conservation Project, and Ms.Mika Yagi delivered them for us. In the field, Ms.Kaneno also helped us, and we carried out the operation of removing Fusuma together in the afternoon.

The Fusuma itself couldn’t be removed because its Kamoi(*3) had fallen down, so we took off the surface painting of Fusuma by cutting them off from the main body. After finishing the whole operation for 8 Fusuma we packed them and sent them to Kyoto by the forwarding agent. I received them the next day in Kyoto and they are now being kept at a low temperature so as to prevent the spread of mould till we start the repair operation.

In this operation, the most surprising thing was that the paper material which were flooded by seawater were hard to dry. Although 2 months had passed after the earthquake, there still remained a lot of material which required urgent measure. It is said that the materials which were covered with saline were mould-resistant, however, actually many of them were in a serious condition.

It seems that the members of the Miyagi Network cannot afford to have much time and enough man power because they are also sufferers of the Quake. Some operations have already been carried out in Tohoku University of Arts and Design, however it is certain that those operations will continue hereafter, so I think we should spread this operation over each place and cooperate with each other. The operation for ‘S’ family and ‘C’ family’s materials was the first attempt at transferring material to the distant places and executing the urgent measures.

The project of rescuing cultural properties usually takes place after the damaged material is transferred to a safe place with no further risk of damage or theft. Therefore we need the utensils for transportation and preservation. It is said that the operation for repairing is the responsibility of reconstruction operations, however as for the methods or fees, nothing is concretely fixed. With reference to the reconstruction project in the past, there were very few examples of repairing non-designated properties. I strongly feel that we should consider the repair operations for those materials hereafter, because if the oncoming operation has not determined, we cannot decide how to carry out the urgent measure. This problem might continue for a while.

[The Excursus]

This is the report about the rescue operation of the waterlogged documents in Ohunato City, Iwate Prefecture. Mr.Obayashi travelled twice between Sendai and the field although it took 8 hours, and carried out the urgent measures and transportation of the damaged materials. In addition, he advised us about our operation from 7th to 8th of May. Taking this opportunity, we would like to express our gratitude to him. (written by Daisuke Sato)

NB: The photos are all from the homepage of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials.

*1 Fusuma(襖): sliding door made from paper and wood, used to partition off rooms in a Japanese house. Sometimes they have beautiful traditional pictures, or old historical documents on the underside to strengthen against being torn apart.

*2 Edo Period(江戸時代): A division of Japanese history which spanned from 1603 to 1868.

*3 Kamoi(鴨居): a fitting in a Japanese house which is set in the upper part of the Fusuma, and it helps to smoothly open the sliding door.

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