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Interviews with Faculty


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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.


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.


Project Overview

Professor Gerstle, thank you for your time today.sjL3-0004_ed2.jpg

As the leader of the FY2020 ARC-iJAC project "Cultural Salons and the Visual Arts in Kyoto and Osaka, 1750-1900: Digitizing Kamigata Surimono and Paintings", could you please tell us the reason why you started this project?

Prof. Gerstle: I have been fascinated over the years by discovering how common it was in the Edo period for men and women of all ages and statuses to be active in cultural pursuits (遊芸) for pleasure.

I first realized this in researching gidayū amateur performance, where I found that until World War II gidayū as a hobby was popular all over Japan. I then saw how kabuki actors circulated among patrons and fans via haikai gatherings. Pursuit of the arts also importantly was a way for women as well to socialize outside their neighbourhood, and for individuals of different status (身分) to interact.

I still find it intriguing that individuals often had several pen names for their different activities. Under a pen name, everyone was nominally equal as a devotee of the particular art they were participating in. In contemporary Japan, we still see that it is common to socialize through cultural or other organized activities, like the clubs at university.


Professor Tsukamoto, thank you for your time today.

As the leader of the FY2020 ARC-iJAC project "Construction of a 3D Model Database of Japanese Armor in the Collection of the Tokushima Castle Museum, Tokushima City", could you please tell us the reason why you started this project?


Prof. Tsukamoto: This project started around five years ago. At that time, SfM (Structure from Motion)--a technology that generates point cloud data from drone photography and the video and images captured--had just begun to attract attention in the fields of surveying, archaeology, and GIS. Yet, databases with two-dimensional images were mainstream.

We thought that, depending on the type of cultural property, it would better to create and store three-dimensional data to preserve their features in a digital archive more accurately. Around that time, I had the opportunity with Tokushima University to work on the 3D measurement of archaeological sites and collaborative projects with local museums.

I thought about the possibility of creating a three-dimensional archive of cultural properties held by local museums that would appeal to the local communities.

52nishiura_1.jpgProfessor Nishiura, thank you for your time today. Can you please tell us more about your area of research?

Prof. Nishiura: I joined the College of Information Science and Engineering at Ritsumeikan University in 2004. My research focuses on acoustic signal processing, acoustic systems, and sound interfaces, amongst others.

I conduct integrated research on the analysis, understanding, reproduction, and synthesis of a sound environment to improve society through sound. My goal as a researcher is to create a sound environment for people to live comfortably.

Could you please elaborate on this?

Prof. Nishiura: A practical example may be the visit to the dentist. Many people feel uncomfortable with the dental drilling sound. I have researched and developed a technology of sound esthetics, also called noise-masking so that people are not bothered by the unwanted noise by overlapping it with a pleasant sound.


Furthermore, I have been investigating audio spot technology, a technique to transmit sound only in a specific area. Loudspeakers utilizing ultrasound waves have a higher directivity and can form a narrow audible area to a particular listener, i.e., the audio spot.

This is useful for exhibitions at museums, for example, when you would like to give visitors information relevant to each exhibited object.

48tanaka.jpgProfessor Tanaka, thank you for your time today. Firstly, could you please tell us how you joined the Art Research Center at Ritsumeikan University?

Prof. Tanaka: In 2004, the College of Information Science and Engineering was founded at Ritsumeikan University. I was appointed to the Department of Information Science and Engineering in 2002 as a founding member.

Coincidently, the Art Research Center had been selected for the 21st Century Center of Excellence (COE) Program "Kyoto Art Entertainment Innovation Research" by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) in the same year and so, the joint research started.

Can you please tell us more about your area of research?

funehoko.pngProf. Tanaka: I conduct research on the ultra-high-quality visualization and visual analysis of cultural heritage to digitally preserve valuable cultural properties in Japan and abroad.

By utilizing the latest 3D scanning technologies such as laser scanning and photogrammetry techniques, we can obtain large-scale point-cloud data of cultural assets.

We have proposed a novel method of see-through visualization applicable to point cloud data. This method enables us to visualize the complex inner and outer structures of tangible cultural heritage.


yano_keiji_profile.jpgProf. Yano, thank you for your time today. As an expert in the field of human geography and geographical information science, your research comprises digitally archiving the historical city of Kyoto. Can you tell us about your motivation and how it all started?

Prof. Yano: The rapid advancement in ICT technology and the development of Internet-based GIS (geographic information system) in the past decades have eased the digitization of cultural assets and their distribution via the Internet.

In the early 2000s, the Department of Geography at Ritsumeikan University had accumulated an enormous amount of geospatial information on the historical city of Kyoto including paper maps, digital maps, and national land information, while the Art Research Center (ARC) had been proactive in using cutting-edge information technologies.


hosoi_sensei.pngProf. Hosoi, thank you for your time today. As one of the pioneers in digital game research in Japan, you have successfully expanded the "Game Archive"-project over the last two decades. Moreover, the Ritsumeikan Center for Games Studies (RCGS) has been established in 2011. Could you tell us about your recent updates?

Prof. Hosoi: There have been some positive developments in the last 4-5 years. Firstly, government funding from the Agency of Cultural Affairs has been increased for the RCGS which enabled us to create new rooms and facilities for game research and archiving - despite the notorious lack of space on Kinugasa campus.

Secondly, networking has been greatly expanded, especially with overseas institutions. While we only had a few connections with institutions in the US about five years ago, we have been able to form new alliances with overseas institutions, particularly in Europe.


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