Miyagi Network News vol.165 ~The Latter Part~

~The Exhibition in Sendai City Museum~
~The Participation in the restoration project for archives and the exhibition ‘Rescue Activities for the Historical Materials’
                                                                                                                                    Ayako Itsuki
I had participated in the restoration project for archives by the National Archives of Japan from the end of January to the beginning of March. After that, I joined the exhibition ‘Rescue Activities for the Historical Materials’ in Sendai City Museum’, as a receptionist.
It was my first knowledge through experiencing the restoration operation though, the historical materials affected by the Tsunami smelt like the sea. Because seawater might not easily be dried, in the case of the bulky documents, even if they had been dried they retained moisture like dryish paper. They were heavy and the pages were hard to peel off. Furthermore, the sludge from sea is different from pure sand firmly sticking to the documents.
During our activities, when I faced the materials, I often felt heartache due to the fierce power of the Tsunami. Among the materials, there were documents from which the water soon became full of mud and dirt even though I only lightly dipped them into water. Over and over again I removed the sludge and mud, which firmly adhered to the documents, with a brush and pallet called a spatula.

The Restoration Project for Archives

However, when we found the doodles on the old textbooks and the names on the graduation lists, which fell apart into pages, they produced a warm reaction as if we again meet old acquaintances. Moreover, we found the pressed flower between the pages in the textbook, which maybe a student put there long ago, we instinctively smiled. At the same time I felt it was part of his/her history because the textbook was filled with the person’s memories and a sense of time.

In terms of the exhibition, over 500 people per day on weekend visited us, and even on weekdays, approximately 300 people looked around our exhibition. Everyone earnestly saw the panel that introduced the restoration activities and the tools and apparatus which were actually used in the cleaning operation.
There were many people who eagerly asked us questions such as the methods of cleaning Japanese papers and the conditions before restoration operation. Among them there was a person whose house was affected by the Earthquake, but their archives were rescued by the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials. He said he then had a difficult time, so he could actually do nothing for his archives by himself even though he had worried about it. When he was at a loss, the Miyagi Networksincerely helped him, and he was so grateful to the Network. In the exhibition that was comparing the materials after the cleaning operation with those before, people were impressed and said they ‘never thought that they would become clean like that’. Visitors from the young to the elderly rewarded us for our efforts and some said that they would like to join the restoration activities.

The Exhibition

I was really impressed by the visitors’ words when I participated there as a receptionist, such as the story of a person whose archives were actually rescued, and the conversation with people who got interested in our activities. Furthermore, young people who desperately questioned us moved us.
By the series of work for restoration and exhibition, I could meet various people, and they taught me the reason of our activities. The importance of the rescue operations for the historical materials and the exhibition for letting people know the operations. And I could understand our activities were supported by the museums, the Miyagi Network and many experts and voluntary workers. The activities requires much endurance and patience; I would like to continuously join the preservation activities for historical materials, with the hope to pass down them to the next future.


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


Miyagi Network News vol.165 ~The First Part

~The Exhibition in Sendai City Museum~

~The report of the exhibition ‘One Year after the Eastern Japan Earthquake, Rescue Activities for the Historical Materials’~

 This is Shinichiro Kurihara, an officer of the Compiling Room for History of Sendai City in Sendai City Museum. As the Homepage of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materialsinformed you, from 6th to 25th of March, Sendai City Museum held the exhibition ‘One Year after the Eastern Japan Earthquake, Rescue Activities for the Historical Materials’, in the ground floor gallery. This is to introduce the present condition of historical materials in each community and the importance of passing down and making good use of those materials as the community’s common treasure, as we exhibited the fruit of the rescue operations carried out in Sendai city, since the Eastern Japan Earthquake. The following is the main contents of our exhibition.

The Exhibition Room

The exhibition was divided into the actual materials exhibition, a panel exhibition, and a slideshow.

In the actual materials exhibition, we displayed the personally-owned-documents and public archives which had been rescued in Sendai City. Concretely speaking, for example, there was the ‘Chigyo Mokuroku (the list of their land and its harvest)’ and the scrolls concerned with Japanese archery, which had been rescued from the old house and who had worked as statesmen in the Sendai Domain (please see Network News vol.128). Others included Kenchicho (land survey book) in 1635 and calligraphies by Senjin Oka(1833-1913), which had been rescued from an old house in Wakabayasi-ku, and the Byobu(*1) of Kaimon (a sort of word game), in which you could see undercoated documents from broken parts, rescued from Wakabayashi-ku as well, and the festival flag from 1833 which had been preserved in Dainichinorai-Do Temple damaged by the Tsunami, and the Books of School History in 1927, preserved in Rokugo Elementary School. These are rescued by the Sendai City Museum or the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials, or by both organisations.

Thedisplay of the damaged materials

In addition, we exhibited the tools and apparatus which were used for washing and drying the historical materials affected by the Tsunami. Those tools were used in the project for supporting to repair the archives by National Archives of Japan, held in Sendai City Museum from January to March. The Books of School History in 1927 were actually cleaned up by those tools.

In terms of the panel exhibition, they were further divided into 6 sections as follows: 1. The introduction of historical materials which were rescued and surveyed through the rescue activities, 2. The rescue activities by Sendai City Museum (please see Network News vol.121 and 139), 3. The methods for tidying and the urgent measures for the damaged historical materials, 4. The damage of extent of historical structure and landscape in Sendai City, 5. The past earthquakes and tsunamis occurred in Sendai Plain, 6. The restoration construction of the stone wall in Sendai Castle which affected by past earthquakes and other natural disasters. We displayed 25 panels in total, and those were printed and handed to the visitors as pamphlets.

The Byobu rescued from Wakabayashi-ku

In the slideshow, we showed the process of washing waterlogged materials, rescue operations and extent of damage caused by the quake and the Tsunami in Sendai City.

In Sendai City Museum, at the same time we had the special exhibition of ‘National Treasure, Red and White Plum Blossoms Byobu and masterpieces from MOA Museum of Art’, so that 8,138 people from young to elder, from inside and outside of prefecture, visited our exhibition. The owners of historical materials told us “Please make use of our documents”, “If our house had not been surveyed, we would dispose of all of them. I really appreciate that those materials could see the light of the day”, and those words were our pleasure.

Some visitors already knew our activities very well, on the other hand, many of them first recognised the ‘rescue operation for historical materials’. Because of this, during the exhibition there were a lot of inquiries from owners of historical materials, who heard our activities from visitors and the media.

The apparatus used for cleaning operations

Through the exhibition, we again recognised the importance to widely appeal our activities not only to historical researchers and amateurs but also ordinary citizens. Now the panels are exhibited in other public space. We would like to consider the circulated exhibition of these panels, and to advertise our preserving operations.

Finally, we would like to express our deepest gratitude to citizens and secretariat office of the Miyagi Network of Preserving Historical Materials.

 (to be continued)

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

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



Miyagi Network News vol.164

~The rescue operations in the devastated area have continued~

 The following are each area’s reports of rescuing historical materials and surveying materials’ whereabouts, which were held in the second half of March.

  • The rescue operation in Aikawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki City

On 23th March, we carried out the rescue operation for the school documents in Aikawa Elementary School in Kitakami-cho, Ishinomaki city. The urgent measures for those documents were done at the end of last August together with other school documents due to the request from Ishinomaki Education Board. Those of Aikawa Elementary School amounted to 31 books. After that, on 10th March, the secretariat office of the Miyagi Network received information that many documents remained in the school building which was damaged by the Earthquake. For this reason, we engaged in the operation with the permission of people concerned with the school.

The participants were Masashi Amano, a secretariat officer of the Miyagi Network, a member of our Network and a student from Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University. They took 37 boxes of documents out from the building and transferred them to out secretariat office. Since the next day, we have started to clean them up.

  • The rescue operation for the T family Archives in Ogatsu-cho, Ishinomaki City

On the same day of the rescue operation in Aikawa Elementary School, immediately after the rescue team left for the operation, we received the request for rescuing the T family Archives in Ogatsu-cho, from Jun Sasaki, a member of Ishinomaki Education Board. According to him, approximately 300 documents from the early modern time were preserved by him in the field. Therefore, we soon rang for the secretariat staff, who were carrying out the rescue operation in Alikawa Elementary School, and those documents were picked up by them on their way to secretariat office in Sendai.

Because one year had already passed, some of them had severely deteriorated, so that we are monitoring their condition as we put them in the freezer of the secretariat office.

  • The survey for damaged materials in Kurihara city

On 26th March, the survey for damaged historical materials of the Y family was carried out by Mr Mitsuo Goto, a voluntary member of the Miyagi Network. This was opened up by an owner who came to talk with the Society for Preservation of the Japanese Art Swords in Miyagi Prefecture, when the Society held the counselling service on January for the Art Swords damaged by the Earthquake and the Tsunami. In this survey we confirmed the present condition of the historical materials. Those involved many unidentified old documents; we will therefore hold the full-scale investigation after April.

This was the result that 2 organisations which treat and rescue different types of historical materials and cultural heritage shared common information, and because of that, we would confirm the existence of the new historical materials.

  • The rescue operation for old archives in Onagawa-cho

On 28th March, due to the request from the official of the board’s lifetime learning section, We carried out the rescue operation for documents in early modern times, which were discovered in the warehouse of town council. Sato and Amano, as secretariat officers of the Miyagi Network, visited the temporary office in the Onagawa municipal gymnasium, and confirmed the present condition of the documents, which amounted to a paper bag. Each documents were tightly adhered but only a few mould grew. We also transferred them to the secretariat office in Sendai and scheduled to carry out the urgent measures.


Even though one year already passed after the great disaster, we are very glad that the valuable historical materials are rescued, at the same time, we honestly surprised to that. The situation have been gradually calm down, and that may be why people start to pay attention with the historical materials. On the other hand, in terms of the situation of inland, the subsidised house-breaking was relatively delayed. Depends on the progress, we anticipate the increase of the number of operations for transference of historical materials from houses which will be dismantled. 

We appreciate your continuous cooperation and support for our activities in the next fiscal year. (written by Daisuke Sato)

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


Miyagi Network News No.163

~The rescue operation for library materials in Ishinomaki Culture Centre~

Cleaning operation

 From 17th to 18th of March, at the Ishinomaki Culture Centre, Miyagi Prefecture, we carried out the rescue operation for the library materials. The participants were 19 voluntary members of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials, and 8 voluntary students from Chuo University and Hitotsubashi University, organised by Prof Koichi Watanabe of the National Institute of Japanese Literature and Associate Prof Kei Yamazaki of Chuo University.

Make a list

This was a part of the operation which was held on 18th and 18th of last December. Among 1,000 of library books and excavation reports concerned with the local history, which were damaged by the Tsunami, we selected those of which were available to be done urgent measure, and cleaned them up. Simultaneously, the student members indexed those books.During the operation in last December, books in a good condition were already selected to some extent; at this time, many of them were therefore in worse condition. The books which were judged to be difficult to undergo urgent measures and therefore would be scrapped. It was with mixed feelings to learn that there were books published or edited by the members of the Miyagi Network.

Miyagi Network’s report damaged by Tsunami

Because we were supported by many participants, we could finish selecting all the  books which were damaged by the Earthquake. On the other hand, half of books which were intended in this operation were decided to be scrapped.

Due to the difficulty of preserving space, Ishinomaki City is not in situation that they can accept the alternative library immediately. In contrast, when the Ishinomaki Culture centre will be restored in the future, the problem of lish the library will be issued. We would like people concerned to support the institution continuously. (written by Daisuke Sato)

books slated for disposal

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

Miyagi Network News vol.162

~We were given the testimonial by the Prefectural Governor~

~New Discovery of the painting by Kokan Shiba~

 This is Daisuke Sato, a secretariat officer of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials. Soon, a year will have passed since the Great Eastern Japanese Earthquake. We would like to express our deepest gratitude for all of your support of our rescue activities for the historical materials.

  • We were given the testimonial by the Prefectural Governor of Miyagi

On February 2012, Prefectural Governor Yoshihiro Murai awarded the testimonial for our rescue activities of supporting the devastated areas. We recognise that this is the results of your efforts, who support and cooperate with our activities. We appreciate your contribution.

  •  We confirmed the painting by Kokan Shiba as a new discovery

The historical materials for which we had carried out the rescue operation on 29th January in Ishinomaki City involved 2 canvases which were thought to have been drawn by Kokan Shiba (1747-1818), a famous painter in the Edo Period. They were confirmed as genuine, and it was revealed to be new discovery. One of them was showed a broad view of Mt Fuji from Enoshima (Fujisawa City, Kanagawa, Figure 1), and the other was that from Kanazawa Nomidai (Yokohama City, Figure 2). These were given to Sendai City Museum by Mr Shinichiro Katsumata, the owner of them. Sendai City Museum schedules to exhibit the two paintings in a special exhibition this autumn.

 When we carry out the preserving operation for local historical materials which have not been researched yet, rarely do we find the historical materials which are equivalent of national cultural assets like at this time. Given another example, the Endo Family Archives, which was the family of senior statesmen of Sendai Domain, involved the medieval documents that were stumbled across. This was an operation in which preservation activity had started before the Earthquake though, the two cases have common point that both were not the activity for discovering new documents. Since July 2003, because we have accumulated over 500 inventory surveys including the operation carried out after the quake, it bore fruit as a ‘new discovery’. Moreover, we should not ignore the existence of owners and the local people who have historical materials in their mind.

 Personally, this incident became an opportunity to learn the importance of continuous rescue and preserving operation, and of unceasing inventory survey cooperated with local people, regardless of the type of historical materials.


Miyagi Network News vol. 161

~Participation in the preservation operation for materials affected by the Tsunami~

Miya Sato, Research Lecturer of Sociology, Hitotsubashi University

 The 3 days from 22nd to 24th of February, I participated in the preservation operation for damaged historical materials, as the activity of the sociology department of Hitotsubashi University. It was organised by Professor Koichi Watanabe, National Institute of Japanese Literature, and our voluntary members were mainly from among the postgraduate students whose expertise were from ancient to contemporary history, belonging to the seminars of Prof Hisashi Watanabe and Prof Masaki Wakao. I myself have been considering what should I do as a researcher of History and have been acting as much as I can; however I did not have any opportunity to join such operations. For this reason, I immediately accepted the offer.

 On the 22nd, we met at floor 11 of the building for all humanities research of Tohoku University. After the outline of the Miyagi Network’s activities and the preservation operations were explained to us by Prof Hirakawa, I started our work. Our tasks were to select and clean up the historical materials damaged by the Tsunami. As for the procedure, Mr Masashi Amano and the skilled voluntary workers of the Miyagi Network instructed us.

 The historical materials, which we treated, were from a house which was located in Sumiyoshi-cho, Ishinomaki City, and included an array of various documents, such as modern times documents in Chinese ink and books from during war-time. Because they were waterlogged by the Tsunami, covered with mud and left 10 months after the disaster, some had  turned to mould. In addition, some were in a situation that each document was tightly adhered and were difficult to peel off. Our series of procedures were to remove the dirt caused by the mould and mud, by using pallets and brushes, to spray ethanol in order to prevent further mould growing, and to select the documents which could be repaired or were unlikely to be restored. As we continued the operation, we paused to recognise the interests and preciousness of each documents, and it in turn led to realising their importance.

 On the second and third day, each of us kept carrying out the operations. After finishing our tasks on the second day, we could have an opportunity to listen to the presentation by Prof Hirakawa, concerning the process of establishing the Miyagi Network of Preserving Historical Materials, the advance of their activities and the rescuing operations for the materials damaged by the Eastern Japan Earthquake, and the research results by using newly discovered materials, which were rescued by them.

 By the participation, we could take away a sort of a sense of fulfilment from our contribution to their activity in some extent. Simultaneously, as we were impressed by the Miyagi Network’s efforts, we keenly felt the necessity that we had to be more conscious for not only the response when the great disaster happened, but also for preserving the documents, which we treated daily. I believe that each member could have a valuable experience. I would like to express our gratitude to the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials.


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


Miyagi Network News vol.160

~Participation in the preserving operation for waterlogged materials~

Hisashi Watanabe, Professor of Hitotsubashi University

 On 24th February, I participated in the preserving operation for damaged materials held by the Miyagi Network, with Professor Masaki Wakao and members of Hitotsubashi University, including my seminar students.

 Immediately prior to the day, over 22nd to 23rd February, I myself looked around the devastated area from Ofunato City in Iwate Prefecture to Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture, guided by Yoshiyuki Saito, Professor of Tohoku Gakuin University. By the Tsunami, some of the houses, which we visited, lost a huge amount of historical documents along with their warehouses which had contained those materials. Notwithstanding their tragedy, because Prof Saito’s research group had taken digital photos of all the documents, invaluable data was preserved. As I saw the people who sincerely appreciate their efforts, I again recognised the importance of daily operation for researching documents whereabouts, tidying up, and taking digital photos. And I acknowledged that this quiet dedication would pass these materials onto the future.

 The preserving operation on 24th was held in the lobby of Floor 11 in the building for all humanities research of Tohoku University, where we could have a great view. The contents of our operation were to clean up the waterlogged materials. We removed the mud by bamboo-made pallets and brushes, and sprayed ethanol onto the pages where mould grew. When the pages were firmly adhered, they were carefully peeled off by a bamboo-made pallet, after being sprayed with water. If they were not teased out, we did not take any chances and passed them onto the operations at a later date. According to the members of the Miyagi Network, these procedures were the first stage of the entire operation, so following that, they will be treated with  further measures such as washing with water and being dried.

 In the morning, because we preserved the materials whose extent of damage was not serious, we could smoothly advance with our operation, although we occasionally felt difficulty to judge whether the stains came from mould or other reasons. However, in the afternoon, the materials which we treated had severe problems, as a large amount of documents were curled up together, and they could not be separated because of the mud and seawater. We tried to tear them off one by one by bamboo-made pallets and water-spray though, very thin Japanese papers were tightly stuck to each other; we therefore required significant time, patience and attention. In the process of peeling off, we broke a part of papers, then I paused to realise the difficulty of how much effort and time would be required for preserving the materials intact.

 But we were able to finish the operations because Mr Masashi Amano and other members and voluntary workers of the secretariat office of the Miyagi Network closely took care of us. We would like to express our deep gratitude to all of them.

 Additionally, Professor Hirakawa explained the activities of the Miyagi Network and the actual devastation caused by the earthquake which occurred in the past, through the analysis of historical materials. It made us consider that we could discover the facts which we had never known, by rereading the materials from the viewpoint of the disaster and reconstruction. I myself keenly felt that we had to contemplate how the people in early modern times faced natural disaster, through reconsidering the village-owned documents by such points of view.

 These 3 days indeed let me think and learn many things. I would like to burn these moments into my memory and to do anything that we can do, by ruminating upon what we had experienced.