Restoration of Cultural Properties(Progress report)

The majority of cultural properties that have been passed down to us today all differ with regard to the materials, techniques, conservation environment and their past restoration history so no two are the same. However, when carrying out the restoration of sculptures recognized as cultural properties, we adhere to the following basic rules: 1. Utmost importance is placed on all remaining original materials, carved surfaces, color, lacquering or gilding, taking great care not to damage these. 2. Inferior, later additions (reinforcement, coloring, etc.) may be corrected or removed wherever it is technically possible. 3. As a rule, broken or missing sections should not be replaced, but if deemed necessary for the preservation or stability of the statue, these can be repaired or restored. 4. The finish of the restored section should be kept to a minimum, unnecessary supplements or recoloring of the surface should not be carried out. 5. Where the work is the subject of worship, the wishes of the owner must be respected and agreement for any changes obtained in advance. 6. The opinions of the restoration committee, outside researchers (supervisors) are to be respected and taken into consideration.

Reference: Nishikawa Kyōtarō, Bijutsuin no dentōgihō [Traditional Techniques of the Bijutsuin]


A large statue, over 2 meters tall, that has been undergoing restoration for several years. It is the oldest Unkei-style Kongōrikishi [Deva King] statue in the Kantō area and together with other items dedicated to the temple during the Muromachi period (1336–1573) it has attracted great attention.

At first glance, this appears to be a small, cute statue, but it possesses a powerful presence. This is hardly surprising as it is said to be the origin of the name of the Senju district of Tokyo.

Zenkōji is one of the most famous temples in Japan. This statue, which has been lent by Sesonin, one of the sub-temples, has a severe expression and dynamic pose, which combine to make it a most impressive work.

This small statue and its portable shrine display amazingly finely-detailed coloring and gold decoration. It can be said to embody the very essence of the skills displayed by the Buddhist sculptors of the Edo period (1603–1868).

This statue is thought to have been produced at the end of the Heian period (794–1185), a time when aristocratic culture was at its peak. It is striking for its graceful, well-balanced beautiful form.

This work is in the process of being restored for Enjōji temple, which is famous for owning a statue of Dainichi Nyorai [Skt. Mahāvairocana Tathagata] that is believed to be Unkei’s debut work. The slim, supple body possesses great beauty and it dates from the Heian period (794–1185).

This is the only sculpture of a god in this exhibition. Although it has been decayed, the sharp modeling of the statue conveys a strong sense of presence and tension. The statue is not normally viewable, but this time we were given special permission to open it to the public.

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