TOP
 >> Exhibitions
 >> Izumo and Yamato: The Birth of Ancient Japan

Izumo and Yamato: The Birth of Ancient Japan

Izumo and Yamato: The Birth of Ancient Japan / Heiseikan Special Exhibition Galleries   January 15, 2020 (Wed) - March 8, 2020 (Sun)

  
Healing Buddha Yakushi Triad (Purportedly), Asuka to Nara period, 7th–8th century (Ishii-dera Temple, Nara Prefecture, Important Cultural Property)

The year 2020 marks 1,300 years since the compilation of Japan's oldest official history, The Chronicles of Japan (Nihon Shoki). The history contains two narratives: one of sacred lzumo inhabited by the gods of Shinto and ruled over by Ōkuninushi; and one of mortal Yamato, a place of human governance ruled over by the emperor. In partnership with their present-day counterparts, Shimane Prefecture (Izumo) and Nara Prefecture (Yamato), this special exhibition brings together rare and remarkable artifacts to explore these two foundational pillars of ancient Japan—the seat of sacred power in Izumo and the seat of political power in Yamato.

Highlights of the Exhibition

General Information

List of Works (1.85MB)

 

Highlights of the Exhibition

 

The Chronicles of Japan (Nihon Shoki)

Totaling thirty scrolls in length, The Chronicles of Japan is one of Japan's earliest historical accounts. The first two scrolls tell of Japan's creation at the hands of the gods. The remaining scrolls trace the line of imperial succession, beginning with Emperor Jimmu and ending with Empress Jitō in 697. The chronicle was completed in 720 and presented to Empress Genshō.

Izumo and Yamato

The opening scrolls of The Chronicles of Japan describe two worlds. One is the sacred world of the Shinto gods at Izumo Shrine, ruled over by the god Ōkuninushi. The other is the human, political world in Yamato, ruled over by the emperor.


(detail)


(detail)

The Chronicles of Japan (Nihon Shoki), Volume 2
Nanbokuchō period, dated 1375–1377
Atsuta Shrine, Aichi
Important Cultural Property
(On exhibit from February 11 to March 8, 2020)

 

 

 Chapter 1     The Colossal Inner Sanctuary at Izumo Shrine

Ancient legends tell of the founding of Izumo Shrine, renowned as one of the oldest shrines in Japan. It is dedicated to Ōkuninushi, the ruler of the sacred world of the Shinto gods. Allegedly, the shrine's inner sanctuary once stood at a height of 48 meters, and in the year 2000, enormous cedar pillars were discovered on the shrine's grounds. The Sacred central pillar (No. 12) and Central pillar at front of inner sanctuary (No. 13) supported the inner sanctuary during the Kamakura period (1185–1333) and attest to the majestic appearance of the once-towering shrine. Many valuable objects have been passed down at Izumo Shrine, including elaborate cosmetic boxes, armor, and paintings that once adorned the shrine.
This section features the colossal pillars that supported the inner sanctuary in the Kamakura period as well as Izumo Shrine's many ancient treasures.

 

 

Cosmetic box with deer in autumn field
Kamakura period, 13th century
Izumo Shrine, Shimane
National Treasure
(On exhibit from February 11 to March 8, 2020)

Armor with red and white lacing
Muromachi period, 15th century
Izumo Shrine, Shimane
Important Cultural Property
(On exhibit until February 9, 2020)

 

 

 

Central pillars at front of inner sanctuary
Excavated from Izumo Shrine, Izumo City, Shimane
Kamakura period, dated 1248
Izumo Shrine, Shimane
(In the care of the Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo)
Important Cultural Property

 

 Chapter 2     Izumo: The Origin of Ancient Rituals

Izumo developed a distinct local culture through its early exchanges with mainland Asia across the Sea of Japan. Until the mid-Yayoi period (ca. 2nd century-1st century BCE), rituals performed in Izumo featured the use of bronze artifacts (like those found at Kōjindani ruins and Kamo Iwakura ruins). From the late Yayoi period (ca. 2nd century—3rd century), Izumo became the first region to stop performing ceremonies with bronze artifacts and replaced them with ceremonies held at massive burial mounds with elongated corners. These distinctly-shaped tombs were found along the southern and northern coast of the Sea of Japan surrounding Izumo, pointing to a local ritual culture that differed from that of the Yamato region.
This section explores the origins of Izumo's ancient rites by tracing the changes in ritual objects dating from the 5th century BCE to the 3rd century CE.

 

 

Comma-shaped bead (magatama)
Excavated from Nishidani Tomb no. 3, Izumo City, Shimane
Yayoi period, 1st–3rd century
Department of Archaeology, Shimane University
(In the care of the Izumo Yayoinomori Museum)

 

Ritual bell (dōtaku)
Excavated from Kamo Iwakura ruins, Unnan City, Shimane
Yayoi period, 2nd–1st century BCE
Agency for Cultural Affairs
(In the care of the Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo)
National Treasure

 

(detail)

(detail)

 

 

Swords, Ritual bells (dōtaku), and Halberds
Excavated from Kōjindani ruins, Izumo City, Shimane
Yayoi period, 2nd–1st century BCE
Agency for Cultural Affairs
(In the care of the Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo)
National Treasure

 

 Chapter 3     The Birth of Imperial Authority in Yamato

Keyhole-shaped tomb mounds were built in the Yamato region (now Nara Prefecture) as symbols of power and authority. They also functioned as platforms for rulers to use when presiding over rites and ceremonies. As Yamato developed into a cohesive state, further signs of centralized authority appeared, such as large terracotta tomb figures (haniwa) from the Mesuriyama Tumulus (No. 51–7) and numerous mirrors buried in the Kurozuka Tumulus with sawtooth patterning on their rims and designs of deities and animals (No. 52–1). The Yamato rulers were also able to acquire rare goods and technologies from East Asia. They gave these luxury imports, and goods inspired by them, to regionally powerful families to win their allegiances. As a result, the Yamato rulers gained inclusion in the East Asian political sphere and were able to consolidate Japan into an early nation-state.
This section examines the historical context in which the Yamato court was founded. It also introduces the rich developments in form and design occurring from the 3rd century to the 7th century, seen in artifacts such as tomb figures (haniwa) and burial objects.

Cylindrical tomb sculpture (haniwa)
Excavated from Mesuriyama Tumulus, Sakurai City, Nara
Kofun period, 4th century
The Museum, Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, Nara Prefecture
Important Cultural Property

 

 

 

Seven-branched sword
Kofun period, 4th century
Isonokami Shrine, Nara
National Treasure


(detail)

(detail)

 

 

Mirrors with patterned concentric bands and design of deities and animals; Mirrors with sawtooth patterns on rims and designs of deities and animals
Excavated from Kurozuka Tumulus, Tenri City, Nara
Kofun period, 3rd century
Agency for Cultural Affairs
(In the care of the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, Nara Prefecture)
Important Cultural Property

 

 Chapter 4     Buddhism and Politics

In the mid-6th century, Japanese society was transformed by the introduction of Buddhism along with other influences from mainland Asia. Belief in Buddhism spread from the imperial court to powerful families in the provinces and Buddhist temples replaced burial mounds as symbols of political power and authority. By the latter part of the Asuka period (593–710), Buddhist temples had been built throughout the country. Envoys returning from China's Sui and Tang dynasties brought back information on the latest developments in Asia, and the imperial court used these developments to shape their emerging state. The court also actively engaged in constructing Buddhist temples and guardian sculptures, such as the Four Heavenly Kings, under the belief that their devotion to Buddhism would be rewarded with divine national protection.
This section introduces forms of art that arose within the context of an emerging Buddhist state ruled by an emperor. These works embody their creators' prayers for a peaceful society and national stability.

Jikokuten (Dhrtarastra) of the Four Heavenly Kings
Heian period, 9th century
Manpuku-ji Temple (Ōtera Yakushi), Shimane
Important Cultural Property

 

 

 

Jikokuten (Dhrtarastra)
Asuka period, 7th century
Taima-dera Temple, Nara
Important Cultural Property
(Photo: Nara National Museum, Sasaki Kyosuke)

 

 

Healing Buddha Yakushi Triad (Purportedly)
Asuka to Nara period, 7th–8th century
Ishii-dera Temple, Nara
Important Cultural Property

General Information

Period January 15-March 8, 2020
Venue Heiseikan, Tokyo National Museum (Ueno Park)
Hours 9:30–17:00; Open until 21:00 on Fridays & Saturdays
(Last entry 30 minutes before closing)
Closed Mondays (Except February 24) and February 25
Admission Adults: 1600 (1400/1300) yen
University students: 1200 (1000/900) yen
High school students: 900 (700/600) yen
Junior high school students and under: Free 

*

Prices in parentheses indicate discount ticket prices for advance purchase and group rates (over 20 people).

*

Persons with disabilities are admitted free with one accompanying person each (please present ID at the ticket booth).

*

Advance tickets are available for purchase at museum ticket booths (during museum opening hours, excluding the last 30 minutes) and other major ticketing agencies from November 5, 2019 to January 14, 2020. End of sales

*

Special exhibition tickets are package tickets that include admission to the regular exhibitions on the date of entry.

Access 10-minute walk from JR Ueno Station (Park exit) and Uguisudani Station
15-minute walk from Keisei Ueno Station, Tokyo Metro Ueno Station and Tokyo Metro Nezu Station
Organizers Tokyo National Museum, Shimane Prefecture, Nara Prefecture, NHK, NHK Promotions Inc., and The Yomiuri Shimbun
With the Support of Agency for Cultural Affairs
Catalog, Audio guide The exhibition catalog (2,500 yen) is available at the Heiseikan Special Exhibition Shop and at the museum shop in Honkan (Japanese Gallery). Audio guide (Japanese, English, Chinese, Korean) is available for 560 yen.
General Inquiries 03-5777-8600  (Hello Dial)
Exhibition Website https://izumo-yamato2020.jp/english.html

 

FY2019 Japan Cultural Expo Project Presented and Co-presented by Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan, and Japan Arts Council
 

 

 

 
FY2019 Japan Cultural Expo Project Presented and Co-presented by Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan, and Japan Arts Council
 
 

Related Events

<Lectures>   Izumo and Yamato
Heiseikan Auditorium  January 24, 2020 (Fri) - January 25, 2020 (Sat)   13:30 - 17:00   RESERVE_FINISH
Heiseikan Auditorium  January 15, 2020 (Wed)   (1) 13:30-14:30, (2) 15:30-16:30   RESERVE_DAY