Using Technology to Support the Preservation and Passing On of Japanese Cultural Assets to Future Generations Tsuzuri Project

The Tsuzuri Project aims to pass on precious Japanese cultural assets such as decorative folding screens and sliding door paintings by creating high-resolution facsimiles. Canon contributes to the project with the company's input, color matching and output technologies.

Sharing the Value of Cultural Assets through High-Resolution Facsimiles

The Production Process for High-Resolution Facsimiles

The Tsuzuri Project (Official Title: Cultural Heritage Inheritance Project), a joint project between Canon and the Kyoto Culture Association (NPO), aims to pass on Japanese art and culture to future generations. The project involves producing high-resolution facsimiles of precious cultural assets such as decorative folding screens and sliding door paintings from Japanese antiquity, enabling the original artwork to be stored and preserved in a controlled environment while the high-resolution facsimiles are displayed to the public and actively used for educational purposes.

The project, which began in 2007 and completed its fourth stage in March 2011, has resulted in the creation of high-resolution facsimiles for a total of 21 Japanese national treasures and important cultural assets by such artists as Sesshu, Kano Eitoku and Tawaraya Sotatsu. Although some of these original works belong to overseas collections, the high-resolution facsimiles have been donated to, among other parties, the original owners and governments of local regions with historical links to the cultural assets.

Imaging Technology Supporting High-Definition Photography

Numerous processes are necessary to create high-resolution facsimiles of cultural assets.

The first process is capturing images of the original cultural asset. This task is performed using a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III professional-model digital SLR camera mounted on a specially designed pan-tilt head that incorporates ultrasonic motors which contribute to precise position control.

Not to place burden on the cultural asset, a Canon flash is used during shooting, doing away with the need for long-term exposure to harsh lighting. Special control software developed for the project allows images of the artwork to be captured in multi-segments, while proprietary software developed by Canon is used to stitch the images together with high-accuracy to produce high-resolution digital data.

High-Accuracy Color Matching Technology

To prepare for printing, it is necessary to accurately match the output colors of the digital data with those of the original artwork. This is an extremely difficult task because the lighting conditions are different during the shooting and the color matching evaluation process. Furthermore, due to the fragile nature of the cultural assets because of their age, the amount of time spent on color matching must be kept to a minimum to avoid placing additional burden on the originals.

To solve this problem, Canon uses only the photo data to compute the parameters required for color conversion, by comparing the photo data shot with a flash against the image data captured under the existing lighting conditions. This color conversion process has resulted in the establishment of a technique in which highly accurate color matching is possible without the use of measuring equipment. By dramatically reducing the amount of time required for color matching, the burden placed on the cultural assets is kept to a minimum.

Output that Reproduces the "Age" of Cultural Assets

A Tsuzuri Project Work: "The Wind and Thunder Gods" by Tawaraya Sotatsu

An imagePROGRAF large-format inkjet printer equipped with a 12-color pigment-ink system is used to print out the images. Following the image processing, the printer outputs the image data at actual size, faithfully reproducing the subtle tones and textures developed over time of the original cultural assets.

Gold leaf, a common feature of such Japanese cultural assets, is then applied by a traditional craftsman from Kyoto to effectively express the "era" in which the work was created while also conveying the ageing over time.

The final process is the mounting of the printout onto sliding doors or folding screens using authentic Japanese materials performed by the master craftsman concerned in the restoration of cultural assets. In this way, high-resolution facsimiles that are almost indistinguishable from the originals are created.

Through the Tsuzuri Project, Canon will continue to support the preservation and passing on of Japan's outstanding cultural assets to future generations.

For more information on Tsuzuri Project, click here.