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ARC-iJAC Activities


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August 2, 2021(Mon)

The ARC Days were held on July 30 (Fri) & 31 (Sat), 2021. It is an annual event where the faculty members of the Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University, and international collaborative researchers whose projects have been adopted by the International Joint Digital Archiving Center for Japanese Art and Culture (ARC-iJAC) introduce their research projects in Digital Humanities (DH) in individual presentations.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, this event was held online via Zoom and broadcasted live on YouTube.

Organizer: International Joint Digital Archiving Center for Japanese Art and Culture (ARC-iJAC), Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University and Program for Supporting Research Center Formation, Ritsumeikan University

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Daan  Kok-copy.jpgDr. Kok, thank you very much for your time today. As Curator East Asia, you have been at the forefront of this joint research project with the ARC to digitize the extensive Japanese art collection of Museum Volkenkunde, part of the National Museum of World Cultures.

What sparked your interest in Japanese art and culture?

Dr. Kok: In high school, I once received a book about Japanese design. It raised my interest to apply at a design academy. Not admitted on my first attempt, I began to study Japanese and enjoyed it so much that I never stopped.

During my studies at Leiden University, I became particularly fond of the kyōka surimono of the 1820s.

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How do you feel about the overall collaboration with the ARC?

Dr. Kok: I am very thankful for our collaboration. The first contact between our museum and the ARC was already established more than ten years ago. During Professor Akama's visits, we would conduct photography together using the 'portable travel kit' he developed to digitize art collections abroad.

The execution of our joint project has never been stagnant, but you can see a continuous improvement year after year. It has also been a valuable learning experience for me to see the mechanisms Professor Akama uses to increase the quality of digitizing artworks.

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What is the significance of constructing and releasing this database in the ARC Virtual Institute?

Dr. Kok: We need to ensure comprehensive access for researchers to our collection.

Now that we have constructed and interlinked the ARC database with our museum database, the availability of our collection of printed materials to a Japanese-speaking audience is of great significance.

Furthermore, we appreciate the ARC's digital infrastructure for not only searching but also editing the database. The interactivity of the ARC database allows Japanese-speaking researchers to contribute to the database, paving the way for future research.

While our museum database is a more general database for a wide range of objects, the ARC database has a high level of specialization to cater to the specific needs of research in Japanese art and culture, such as ukiyo-e prints and early Japanese books.

Could you tell us a little more about the Japanese collection at Museum Volkenkunde?

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Dr. Kok: The core of the museum's Japanese collection is made up of the collections of Philipp Franz von Siebold, Jan Cock Blomhoff and J.G.F. van Overmeer Fischer.

They were the main collectors in the 1820s--a period of Japan's sakoku (closed country) policy. After they purchased the artworks during their court journeys to the shōgun in Edo, the items came to the Netherlands almost in a straight line and never circulated among other collectors.

Since we know when they made these court journeys to Edo, we have obtained a good overview of what was available during that period and what was of interest to the collectors. The time of purchase also allows us to calculate how much or how little time there was between a kabuki play and the kabuki poster's availability on the market, for instance.

Furthermore, the existence of multiple copies of the same prints makes them suitable for comparative research.

Is there anything that fascinates you about this collection in particular?

Dr. Kok: It is particularly noteworthy that some of the prints are in a quite unique condition. Their colors convey the impression as if they were made just yesterday. Hence, these prints serve as a valuable reference of how prints may have looked originally.


However, due to their exceptional quality, the museum decided that a limited number would not be permitted to go on loan. Therefore, it is even more important they are available to the broad public in digital form through our database.

Could you tell us about your plans or future project goals?

Dr. Kok: I hope to continue to work with the ARC on digitization projects.

While Volkenkunde has the largest Japanese collection, there are interesting Japanese objects at other museums in our organization, mainly the Tropenmuseum (Amsterdam) and Wereldmuseum (Rotterdam), which the ARC has not digitized yet.

Since these Japan collections are not well-known, compared to that of Museum Volkenkunde, it is all the more important that they become available to a Japanese-speaking audience as well. So, we should strive to ensure that links are well established.

Furthermore, with the advance of technology, AI image recognition may provide opportunities to recognize drawings and sketches and match them to certain prints and book illustrations published by Kuniyoshi, Kyōsai, or Hokusai. I also hope to work together with the ARC on this area in the future.

Dr. Kok, thank you very much for your time. We are very much looking forward to continue working with you.

→ Access the database of the Japan Collection at Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden

(This interview was conducted by Yinzi Emily Li.)

giondm21.JPGIn cooperation with the College of Letters, the International Joint Digital Archiving Center for Japanese Art and Culture (ARC-iJAC), Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University is delighted to announce the launch of the Gion Festival Digital Museum 2021--Enjoy the Gion Festival Virtually--.

The site is a renewal of the Gion Festival Digital Museum 2020 ~The Past, Present, and Future of the Gion Festival~ which was released last year.

This year, the Gion Festival has unfortunately been affected again by the global pandemic, leading to the cancellation of many events, including the Yama-hoko Junko.


In response to this, we have launched the Gion Festival Digital Museum 2021 where visitors can experience the charm and history of the Gion Festival online.

<<Gion Festival Digital Museum 2021>>


Highlights of the new contents:

1. 2D and 3D maps of virtual Kyoto by ArcGIS Online 

2. High-resolution images of hanging scrolls, Gion bayashi, and virtual festival parades

3. App Virtual Historical City Kyoto AR (iOS and Android)


TV coverage:

An interview with Prof. Keiji Yano (ARC Deputy Director) on the Gion Festival Digital Museum 2021 has been broadcasted by NHK Kyoto ニュース630京いちにち on July 16 (Fri), 2021.

→ Watch the video below.

The ARC is dedicated to research, analyze, record, organize, preserve and disseminate the tangibles and intangibles of Japanese cultural heritage. By digital archiving traditional events such as the Gion Festival and making them available to the broad public, the center strives to retain their significance for future generations.


In anticipation of the return of the Takayama float to the Gion Festival in 2022, a symposium was held by Asahi Shimbun, co-organized by the Art Research Center (ARC), Ritsumeikan University, on June 19, 2021.

The Takayama float boasts a long history of participating in the Yamahoko Junko parade that dates back to the 15th century. However, the float has been absent from the festival since 1826, having suffered from heavy damages caused by natural disasters.

As a result of the continued dedication and determination of the Takayama Preservation Association to revive the Takayama float, the long-cherished wish of the townspeople for the float to return to the Yamahoko Junko after nearly 200 years will finally come true.


The Symposium

At the beginning of the symposium, Mr. Junji Yamada, Head of the Takayama Preservation Association, gave an overview of the reconstruction progress of the float and expressed his joy that it is due to be completed four years earlier than expected.

Then, Prof. Keiji Yano, Deputy Director of the ARC, introduced the center's various activities concerning the digital archiving of the Gion Festival and the Takayama float (→ Gion Festival Digital Museum 2020 and 2021).


He presented CG animation of the rebuilt Takayama float, 2D and 3D maps of festival routes, old videos and photographs from the early Showa era, and 3D see-through visualization models of the festival floats, amongst others.

"As we did last year, the Art Research Center will be making its research results available to the public again from July this year through the Gion Festival Digital Museum 2021, so please look forward to it," expressed Prof. Yano.


Other distinguished guest speakers included Prof. Shoichi Inoue, Director of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies; Mr. Takashi Minamoto, film director and screenwriter; and Ms. Rieko Morita, Nihonga painter and Affiliate Professor at the Kyoto City University of Arts, with each of them sharing stories about his/her connection with the Gion Festival and the Takayama float.

Concluding the symposium, the hayashikata (Gion Festival musicians) of the Takayama Preservation Association performed ohayashi specific to the float.


"Ever since I was a kid, I have seen the festival floats passing by, accompanied by the creaking of wheels while I stood on the roadside listening to the ohayashi," Mr. Yamada reminisced. "None of us has ever experienced playing the ohayashi on the Takayama float during the festival, so we are all more than excited."

*A full video of the event is available online from July 1 - August 31, 2021 (in Japanese). To watch the video, please register via the following link:

Kuzushiji is a kind of Japanese cursive script found in early Japanese books (until the mid-Meiji Period).
Due to the different writing styles compared with modern Japanese characters, kuzushiji can be understood only by a minority of trained specialists.

The Art Research Center (ARC), Ritsumeikan University, has developed an educational transcription system with an AI-enabled deciphering support function for kuzushiji to facilitate access to early Japanese books for academic research.
The training course started on May 14, 2021, and has counted participants from 12 countries so far. It is provided free of charge. (→Click here for details on the training course.)

Professor Akama, thank you very much for your time today. You have just completed Phase 1 of the kuzushiji training course for beginners and intermediate levels. What is the purpose of your training course?

kuzushiji_cap1.JPGProf. Akama: We have developed an AI-enabled transcription support system for kuzushiji specifically for educational purposes as part of an industry-academia collaboration with Toppan Printing Co., Ltd. The company kindly provided us with the API (application programming interface) of their kuzushiji recognition system that is powered by deep learning.

Our purpose is to teach and support students and researchers in utilizing our transcription support system for their academic research projects based on the abundant materials available in the ARC's Early Japanese Books Portal Database. You can freely choose the materials you wish to transcribe from our database--with over 218,000 titles, one of the largest databases of digital-archived early Japanese books in the world.

I have held several workshops on the system, for instance, at the University of Leiden and the University of California, Berkeley. Not able to travel due to the pandemic, I hope to promote the system's usage by offering this online training course.

Could you tell us about the significance of developing a transcription support system?


Prof. Akama: The Edo Period was peaceful and culturally mature--an ideal environment for commercial publishing and the distribution of woodblock-printed books to flourish as the literacy rate among the population was reasonably high.

Hence, books from a variety of genres written in kuzushiji were published during this time containing valuable information about art, culture, history, and more. However, only a fraction of them has been transcribed.

The transcription support system facilitates access to these books for students, researchers, and people in the fields related to Japanese arts and culture, to obtain a deeper understanding of the past as we strive to preserve cultural heritage.

What is the merit of the ARC Transcription Support System as compared with other transcription systems for kuzushiji?

Prof. Akama: The merit of our transcription support system lies in its educational function.

Our interactive system enables students to learn and practice transcribing and archiving digital texts of early Japanese books fast and efficiently.

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It is particularly suited for being used in lectures and study groups under the supervision of an instructor or as part of individual or group research projects.

As the system offers a user-friendly interface with a vertical input window for transcriptions next to the original kuzushiji text, users can easily compare and check the contents as they proceed.

Should users encounter difficulties, the AI-enabled deciphering support function gives a list of suggestions ranked by percentage. If there is no suitable suggestion based on the context, users can search in our extensive Character Image Database or request support from the instructor.

Hence, users can gradually enhance their ability to read kuzushiji with clues provided by the system and the feedback given by instructors.

Could you tell us about your plans for the future regarding this system?

Prof. Akama: As we continue to utilize the system to advance the projects under our ARC-iJAC umbrella, we also warmly encourage international researchers, both individuals and groups, to →contact us should you be interested in using the system for your research or teaching.

Our system is a powerful tool to accelerate digital humanities research of Japanese art and culture, so I hope to expand its usage in lectures, study- and project groups in Japan and overseas.

Prof. Akama, thank you very much for your time today.

(This interview was conducted by Yinzi Emily Li.)

The International Joint Digital Archiving Center for Japanese Art and Culture (ARC-iJAC), Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University, will be co-hosting the 2021 Annual Conference of the Japan Art Documentation Society (JADS) on June 19 (Sat) and 20 (Sun), 2021.

You are cordially invited to join us.

■ Date:

June 19 (Sat) 13:00 - 17:00

June 20 (Sun) 10:00 - 16:15

■ Participation method:

The conference will be held online.

*Please note that the conference will not be held on the Kinugasa Campus of Ritsumeikan University.

*Details regarding the online access to the conference and the conference proceedings (PDF) will be informed separately.

*Any change in the outline of the conference will be announced via the conference mailing list (ML). If you have not yet registered for the ML, please do so.

■ Participation fee:

Free of charge for both JADS members and non-members.

*A paper version of the proceedings will not be published this year. Please print out the PDF file of the proceedings if required.

■ Registration:

Please register via our application form.

*Upon registration, an automatic email will be sent to you with details to access the conference and the proceedings.

Application deadline: June 18 (Fri), 2021

*This conference is open to both members and non-members, except for the general meeting on the second day.

Organized by: Japan Art Documentation Society (JADS) and the MEXT International Joint Usage / Research Center International Joint Digital Archiving Center for Japanese Art and Culture (ARC-iJAC), Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University

Supported by: 記録管理学会 、情報処理学会人文科学とコンピュータ研究会、情報知識学会、人文系データベース協議会、全国大学史資料協議会、全国美術館会議、全国歴史資料保存利用機関連絡協議会、専門図書館協議会、デジタルアーカイブ学会、日本アーカイブズ学会、日本アートマネジメント学会、日本デジタル・ヒューマニティーズ学会、日本ミュージアム・マネージメント学会

For inquiries, please contact:

Organizing Committee for the 2021 Annual Conference of the Japan Art Documentation Society
jads_conf2021■ (Please change "■" to "@")

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On June 10, 2021, the ARC-iJAC-funded research project of Professor Eriko Hata (Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Shizuoka Eiwa Gakuin University) on the primary sources related to the legend of Urashima in the collection of Itoi Bunko Library in Maizuru City was featured in the evening edition of the Kyoto Shimbun.

The article reported on a different and unexpected turn from the commonly known story on the legend of Urashima Taro from the Edo period that is introduced in an easy-to-understand way by Prof. Hata's research group investigating the Itoi Bunko Library in Maizuru.

IMG_0762_1.JPGThe Art Research Center (ARC), Ritsumeikan University, held a Joint Digital Archiving Technical Workshop with the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC) and the Sainsbury Centre, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom, on Digitizing Hanging Scrolls.

The first of a bilingual video series, this workshop served as a prototype for providing cross-cultural online training to young researchers in various skills and methods of digital-archiving Japanese artworks while promoting research exchange between Japan and the UK.

Via a live stream, Professor Ryo Akama, College of Letters, Ritsumeikan University, explained step-by-step how to master the skill of digital archiving with Japanese hanging scrolls as a practical example.

IMG_0805_1.JPGFrom the set-up of the shooting location and adjusting the lighting to advising on handling the artworks, taking photographs effectively, and recommending various equipment and accessories, Professor Akama led through the entire process of digital-archiving hanging scrolls, followed by a Q&A session.

While Japanese graduate students at the venue obtained hands-on experience in executing a digital archiving project independently, the photographs taken were shared immediately with the UK counterparts to discuss the quality and accuracy of the results under the guidance of Professor Akama.

In line with the ARC's mission to disseminate know-how in digital-archiving Japanese art collections worldwide, the workshop video will serve as an educational resource and reference material for future digitization projects.

This project is funded by the International Joint Digital Archiving Center for Japanese Art and Culture (ARC-iJAC) and is part of SISJAC's Digital Japan Project.

SISJAC's report of the workshop→

*Please note that this was a non-public event.

On June 5, 2021, the research project on old colour photographs of Kyoto during the occupation period by Associate Professor and ARC member Naomi Kawasumi (College of Letters, Ritsumeikan University) was featured in the newspaper Kyoto Shimbun.

The article introduced how Prof. Kawasumi, a researcher in the field of Digital Humanities (DH), has deciphered colour photographs from the occupation period using overlay maps, which allow to see what buildings and houses were like before and after the war by overlaying old maps on current ones.

The article includes a photo of the Kyoto Hotel from about 70 years ago and a photo taken by US military in 1948 from near the west side of the Sanjo Bridge.

edited4.pngThe 2nd Ritsumeikan University - Tsinghua University International Academic Symposium on Saturday, May 22, 2021, focused on Japan-China Cultural Exchange and New Coordinates for the Humanities.

The symposium was jointly organized by the School of Humanities, Tsinghua University, China, and the International Joint Digital Archiving Center for Japanese Art and Culture (ARC-iJAC), Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University, supported by the Program for Asia-Japan Research Development Research on Creation and Development of Asian Arts Studies, Ritsumeikan University.

In his opening remarks, Professor Yoshio Nakatani--Chancellor of the Ritsumeikan Trust--stressed that the symposium was an excellent opportunity to promote research, academic exchange, and friendship with Tsinghua University and Chinese scholars.

Furthermore, Professor Yuping Ni--Associate Dean of the School of Humanities, Tsinghua University--expressed his hope to deepen the partnership and comprehensive cooperation between both universities, emphasizing the significance of humanities, besides natural sciences, in times of crisis and complex challenges such as the global pandemic.

During the symposium, research teams of both universities presented their perspectives and research activities in digital humanities.


Professor Takaaki Kaneko introduced the ARC Model of Digital Archiving, the center's representative databases, and how its online research environment facilitates born-digital style research.

He also explained powerful tools developed by the ARC to aid digital humanities research, such as the educational transcription system with an AI-enabled deciphering support function for the Japanese cursive script known as kuzushiji.

Furthermore, Professor Keiji Yano introduced the construction of a WebGIS-based portal database of maps and a system to compare Rakuchū rakugai-zu byobu--folding screen paintings of scenes in and around Kyoto--with maps of the present and the past.

edited6.pngConcluding the symposium, Professor Koichi Hosoi--Director of the Art Research Center--expressed his anticipation for the birth of new international joint research styles on diverse topics fueled by digital technology as both universities join efforts in digital humanities research.

Many people from Tsinghua University, Ritsumeikan University, and other universities and research institutions attended the symposium and engaged in lively discussions.

"I am very impressed that so many people are studying Japanese culture through databases and digital archives," commented Chancellor Nakatani on attending the symposium and expressed his anticipation for many new research findings to emerge from these archives.

edited1.jpgProfessor Takahiro Nishibayashi, who led the planning and organization of the symposium, expressed his gratitude to all the speakers, participants, and staff involved. "Taking the humanities as a starting point, I strongly hope that research exchange between both universities will be further deepened and involve other fields such as digital humanities," said Professor Nishibayashi.

The second joint academic symposium marked a meaningful occasion to reinforce the collaboration between both universities while highlighting the advance in humanities research on both sides with the progress in digital technology.

We look forward to further strengthening our partnership with Tsinghua University by expanding the scope of our research exchange to other research fields in the future.

*To prevent the spread of COVID-19, this event was held online via Zoom.

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