Miyagi Network News vol.153

~Preservation activity for artefacts —Record disks and Kimono~


This is Yuichi Ebina, a secretariat officer of the Miyagi Network for Historical Materials. The Miyagi Network’s rescue operation is to deal with mainly old documents; however materials in the field are not always papers. Especially, after the East Japan Earthquake, we often meet the daily utensils or clothes from the olden days. When we find these kind of materials, we treat them in order to pass them down to the future as we cooperate with experts or institutions. This report will introduce the rescue operation of the materials besides papers.

[Rescue operation for SP records]

In the first half of June, the owner who lived in Ohunato City requested us to rescue his possessions affected by the East Japan Earthquake. Therefore, the members of the Miyagi Network, who worked in Ichinoseki City Museum and Ashitozan Memorial Museum, visited there. In the rescue operation, we found Rakuyaki pottery and Byobu (*1) which involved undercoated documents, and especially, a large amount of SP records which were sold before World War II. However, the owner’s house was destroyed by the Tsunami: it was therefore extremely difficult for him to manage and preserve these properties well. Because the secretariat office received a call from the members in the field, we decided to carry out the urgent measures for the old documents and Byobu, at the same time, we started to seek an institution which could shoulder the responsibility of preserving the SP records.

The National Showa Memorial Museum, which exhibits mainly daily utensils and materials from the wartime and post-war time, was an ideal institution. This museum also introduces the libraries, magazines, audience materials and visual records from Showa(*2) 10s to 30s. The secretariat office contacted the museum and sounded their view about the SP records, then they immediately agreed to accept them.

The amount of SP records reached 207 pieces in total, and they were directly transferred from the devastated area to the museum. The curators in the National Showa Memorial Museum carried out the cleaning measures like washing them with water. As a result, except for one which was broken, all of them were available to be played back. Currently, the museum preserves them as a survived SP records, and is trying to exhibit them to the public by digitalising.

[Rescue Operation for Kimono]

In the first half of July, the old house, in which we held the rescue operation, possessed old archives, and moreover, they stored many Kimonos on the first floor of the whitewashed warehouse. The ground floor of this house and warehouse were completely flooded by the Tsunami; therefore there was no way but to pull down the house. For this reason, the master of the house told us that a large number of Kimono would inevitably be disposes of if no one took responsibility for them.

While doing the rescue operations, when we discussed how to deal with those Kimono, a voluntary worker who had some knowledge about Kimono told us that she had a few ideas about the groups who treated or recycled Kimono. Among those, we contacted the NPO The Chamber for Popularising Kimono (NPO法人 きものを着る習慣をつくる協議会), which re-evaluates the Japanese traditional Kimono culture, and are generating the environment in which people wear the Kimono without constraint. Although their stronghold is Kyoto, after the East Japan Earthquake, they are engaged in a support movement which sends sufferers in devastated areas Kimono.

When we asked the president of the group to take over Kimono in Wataricho, he willingly consented to accept them. Therefore, on 9th August, the members of the group in Iwate Bureau and we Miyagi Network jointly carried out the rescue operation of these Kimono.

The Kimono which we rescued were, derived from their pattern, considered to be ones from the Taisho(*3) to the early Showa Eras. As for the Kimono for females, there were visiting dresses (Homongi) and daily-wear, and in terms of the Kimono for men, there were black Komonos with crests and formal men’s divided skirts made with Sendaihira. Sendaihira is an unique textile in Miyagi Prefecture. Its origin is, in the middle of the Edo(*4) Period, the lord of Sendai invited craftsmen from Kyoto and made them establish this special textile. After that, Sendaihira had been prized as gifts for the Royal family and Tokugawa Shogunate family, and Samurai class people used them habitually.

The especially eye-catching Kimono were for children. Kimono for boys had a pattern of carp which expressed the parents’ wish to raise their children with devotion and embroidery of strings which meant to protect against bad luck. The Kimono for girls had a pattern of little girl who had a Imombukuro (this is a kind of bag which people in wartime had), as a reflection of social conditions.

Those Kimonos were carefully contained in old drawers, and their condition was pristine without any damage such as fading, moth-holes or mould. According to the owner, the wife of the late head of the family regularly cared for them by applying suitable repellents. In addition, we found a large amount of patches from old Kimono. I guess that those patches were kept by wives in order to mend their cherished Kimono. From those Kimono which were closely cared for, I felt the affection which the women in this family held for their families and children in peace, across time and space.

NPO ‘The Chamber for Popularising Kimono’ will hold an exhibition by using Kimono which we rescued in the devastated area, as follows;

  • Lty932 Garden City in Kusatu City, Shiga Prefecture, from 25th to 28th of October
  • Hachioji Fabric Union in Hachioji City, Tokyo, from 3rd to 5th of November

Likewise, they plan to hold the exhibition in Yamagata and Iwate Prefectures. If it is held in your town, please come and see them.

The materials and artefacts like SP records and Kimono, which we rescued in this operation, were inherited with the rich history and love of many people; they are therefore very important historical materials. We would like to pass down such items which face the danger of disappearing, by cooperating with more people, and as much as we possibly can.

*1 Byobu:a holding screen with a coloured paintings or a black-and-white drawing using Japanese patterns.

*2 Showa: A division of Japanese history which spanned from 1926 to 1989.

*3 Taisho:A division of Japanese history which spanned from 1912 to 1926.

*4 Edo:A division of Japanese history which spanned from 1603 to 1868.


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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: