Photo/Illutration“Byobu” folding screens depicting the 1614 winter campaign of the Siege of Osaka, restored using digital technology to reproduce original colors, are unveiled in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district on June 20. (Yasuhiro Sugimoto)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

When it comes to paint by number, it doesn't get more ambitious than this.

A pair of lost "byobu" folding screens portraying the 1614 winter campaign of the Siege of Osaka have been brought back to life after painstaking work to reproduce them, including their original colors, using digital technology and an artisanal touch.

The screens, titled "Osaka Fuyu no Jin Zu Byobu" (Byobu of the winter campaign of the Siege of Osaka), were unveiled to media outlets in Tokyo on June 20 following the completion of the restoration work by Toppan Printing Co.

The resurrected byobu are considered highly valuable, as there are apparently no original byobu or paintings in existence that depict the details of the siege's winter campaign, according to experts.

"They also offer a greater understanding of the actual conditions of Osaka Castle before it was buried by the Tokugawa Shogunate," an expert said.

The restored artifact is a left-and-right pair of six-panel folding screens. The two painted sections are about 6 meters wide and about 1.7 meters high in total when they are placed side by side.

The screens provide detailed portrayals of troops taking up their positions and fighting in the campaign, during which the shogunate's forces waged battle with Toyotomi clan troops.

Warlords believed to be Toyotomi Hideyori (1593-1615) and Sanada Yukimura (1567-1615), as well as other notable figures, are also featured in the illustrations.

The original drawings were apparently produced in the early 17th century. The byobu were reproduced based on numerous instructions written on replicas owned by the Tokyo National Museum.

Members of the restoration project referred to books and other publications to decipher the instructions. For instance, they interpreted the kanji for “roku” (six) in a blank area to mean “rokusho” (verdigris) color.

Under the supervision of experts, the project members restored the original colors with the help of digital technology. After an image was printed on paper, artisans manually placed gold leaf, gold and silver pigments and other materials on it to give it a 3-D look. It took one and a half years to complete the work.

“You can learn a lot about how Osaka Castle, which was referred to as an impenetrable fortress, defended itself at the time, and how the Tokugawa forces attacked it,” said Yoshihiro Senda, a castle archaeology professor at Nara University. “It may help research move forward dramatically.”

The byobu will be displayed from July 27 to Sept. 8 at the Tokugawa Art Museum in Nagoya.