The Second/Third Preservation Activities after the Nagano Hokubu Earthquake ~Part6

~The report about the affected area in Sakaemura Village published on July 15th~

5-3.The Investigation of the Temple Which Was Scheduled to Be Demolished

The living quarters were in ruin

After the previous activities in June, an owner who lived in Sakaemura requested us to investigate a certain temple. This temple  belonged to the Soto school of Buddhism and had lacked a priest for 30 years. 3 years ago, over more than 40 Buddhist images were stolen and they are still missing. Moreover, the temple was seriously affected by the Nagano Hokubu Earthquake, in this way its demolition in the near future was discussed by the local people. For this reason, we received the request to inspect it prior to that.

On the day, 3 managers of this temple attended our activity, and opened the badly-fitting door. Both the main temple and the priest’s living quarters were in terrible ruin so that we had to enter with our shoes on against custom. The group of historical documents was placed in the corner of the inner temple together with old books and other materials. We also found the cutlery for the Buddhist ceremony or the woodcuts for printing charms in the back of the dais for Buddhist images. Moreover, we discovered the folk-cultural utensils such as farm implements, Byobu(*1) and Fusuma(*2) which included many documents used as undercoated papers. With regard to the historical documents and books, we recorded their present condition and moved them to a small room of the priest’s living quarters with extraction tools as the materials which needed conservation. After that, we explained our operations and asked the 3 managers to preserve them. They strongly felt the deep loneliness because the temple which had been the religious nucleus of the community was about to disappear. If it becomes a vacant plot of land, they had been trying to find ways to pass down the cultural properties which told of the existence of their temple. They expressed their gratitude for our assistance and  we felt deeply honoured.

The extracted materials

5-4.The Investigation of the Folk-Cultural Properties in the Private House

Next, we visited Yt family whose main house was scrapped and the folk-cultural utensils were placed on the vinyl sheet in their garden. In front of the newly built house, a group of the traditional utensils were placed covered with such a vinyl sheet. Mr Yujiro Hosoi of Nagano City Museum classified them, and we extracted a truckload of the lacquer wares and tools for sericulture borrowing the Yt family’s lightweight truck, and we transferred them to our repository room on the ground floor.

5-5. Tagging the Utensils in the Hh Family’s Whitewashed Warehouse

The lightweight truck with the materials

From the previous activity, we carried out the operation for tagging the numbers to the folk-cultural utensils of the Hh family. On the ground floor of the whitewashed warehouse, on many wooden boxes which contained old cutlery the original period when they had been bought was written in Japanese ink, so these boxes themselves were precious cultural properties. Simultaneously it was meaningful and valuable because the product land at the time of purchase was relevant. However, when we bound them so as to tag the numbers, we found that the side plate or basal plate of the boxes was unfastened due to the effect of the quake. The boxes were covered with dust from the collapse of the mud walls, so we wiped them and took the contents out of the boxes, repaired the boxes, restored the contents, and bound them by string and tagged the numbers. On the first floor, the operation for attaching detailed numbers to each small utensil and recording them continued.

Repairing the wooden boxes

Seven out of ten works on the ground floor and nine out of ten operations on the first floor progressed, although eventually we couldn’t finish the whole operation. Therefore, it will be completed the next time.

6. The preparation for the Second/Third Activities

As same as the previous operation, we prepared the cameras and tripods for taking photos of the historical materials, the kit of batteries, inverter and lights, and the solar panel for charging, LED light bulbs and cleaning equipment. Beyond that, we brought the carpenter’s tools for the urgent measures on the damaged structures. At the second operation, the local people provided us with the gasoline powered dynamo. For the third activity, we made good use of the kit of batteries and the solar panel. Moreover, the circumstances in the whitewashed warehouse or the attic were hot and stuffy, so the LED light bulbs were very useful because the generation of heat was quite low.

As a preparation for the inspection of old archives, we brought the recording papers using for noting their present condition, investigating the historical documents, or listing the outlines. Furthermore, in the case that those documents would be preserved in the owner’s house, we prepared the leaflets which appealed to preserving the precious cultural properties, and noted the contact address of our voluntary group.

The leaflet for appealing preservation

Additionally, as the provision for the investigation of the folk-cultural properties, we prepared the table brooms made from the natural materials, floor cloth, label tags with kite strings instead of wire, kite strings, vinyl strings, vinyl sheets, masking tapes, vinyl bags, cardboard boxes and cards for recording present condition.

As for the outfits, each of us brought work gloves, working clothes, masks, and a headlamp ourselves. We could rent helmets from the municipal office. Some of us wore safety shoes in case we trod on nails.

For the second activity, the local Board of education provided us with name plates with ‘Investigator for cultural properties, Sakaemura Board of education’ written upon them which indicated our cooperation with them. At the same time, we prepared the name holders with ‘Voluntary Group for Preserving Community’s Historical Materials’ printed on them in order to explain our activity to the local people. That is to say, we headed to the field  wearing both types of name holders around our necks. It meant that the main body of the inspection was the ‘Voluntary Group’, and it was supported by the board of education.

Hereafter, we will continue our rescue and preservation activity, so please keep watching and supporting us.

(The end)

*1 Byobu(屏風):a holding screen with a coloured paintings or a black-and-white drawing in Japanese pattern

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


About Nerwork for Historical Materials
A volunteer group for preserving Cultural Heritage suffered from natural disasters

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