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Eternal Treasures from Kasuga-taisha Shrine


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  • Special Exhibition
    Eternal Treasures from Kasuga-taisha Shrine

    17 January – 12 March 2017
    Tokyo National Museum

    Kasuga-taisha Shrine constitutes a part of “Cultural Heritage of Ancient Nara”, one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. It was established in the early Nara era to pray for the protection of Heijyo-kyo (present Nara, the capital city in the eighth-century Japan) and the prosperity of its people. For the shrine, the deer has a special significance, as it has been regarded as a divine messenger (“shinroku”). Today a herd of deer reside in the precincts in Nara Park, where the shrine building glows in shades of vermillion in a stunning contrast to the gentle green of the surrounding cedar forest.

    This exhibition presents to the public numerous treasures of Kasuga-taisha Shrine, including some of the renowned masterpieces donated to the shrine during the Heian period (8 – 12 century) and precious medieval swords and armour. Fine paintings and sculptures related to the belief will also be exhibited.

    ※ Reproduction of photos without permission is strictly prohibited.


    ◆ The genesis of Kasuga-taisha is attributed to the mythical deity Takemikazuchi-no-mikoto, who, mounting on a deer, descended on the land of Kasuga. Various materials and paintings depicting the shrine’s genesis and works related to the “divine deer” will be on display.

    「春日大社 千年の至宝」展 東京国立博物館(amuzen article)
    Deity Departing from Kashima Shrine
    Nanbokucho to Muromachi period (14th-15th century), Kasugataisha Shrine, Nara
    (displayed throughout the exhibition period)

    ◆ During the Heian period (8 – 12 century), a number of fine objects and treasures were donated in dedication to the shrine’s deities. Some of them are designated as National Treasures.

    「春日大社 千年の至宝」展 東京国立博物館(amuzen article)
    Sword Mounting, Tachi (long sword) – style, with tweezer – shaped opening (detail)
    Heian period (12th century), Kasugataisha Shrine, Nara
    (17 January – 19 February 2017)

    ◆ In the context of syncretic Buddhism and Shintoism, the shrine’s deities were also venerated as Buddhist gods. Aristocrats were among the worshippers.

    「春日大社 千年の至宝」展 東京国立博物館(amuzen article)
    Kasuga gongen genki-e (Illustrated Miracles of the Kasuga Deity)
    Kasuga version, Scroll 12 (detail)
    Edo period, dated 1807 (Bunka 4), Kasugataisha Shrine, Nara
    (throughout the exhibition period [scenes will be changed])

    ◆ A number of arms and armour figure among the precious articles dedicated to Kasuga-taisha Shrine. The shrine’s patrons and devotees included nobles and samurais.

    「春日大社 千年の至宝」展 東京国立博物館(amuzen article)
    (National Treasure)
    Oyoroi-type Armor with Red Lacing Ornaments of bamboo, tigers, and sparrows
    Kamakura to Nanbokucho period (13th-14th century), Kasugataisha Shrine, Nara
    (14 February – 12 March 2017)

    ◆ The days at Kasuga-taisha Shrine are punctuated by numerous rituals and ceremonies. Among them, Wakamiya Festival held in December is designated as a cultural heritage of national significance (called “Important Intangible Folk Cultural Property”). Some exhibits pertain to traditional performing arts dedicated to the shrine’s deities.

    「春日大社 千年の至宝」展 東京国立博物館(amuzen article)
    (Important Cultural Property)
    Bugaku Mask, Nasori
    Heian period (12th century), Kasugataisha Shrine, Nara
    (throughout the exhibition period)

    ◆ The complex of Kasuga-taisha shrine is repaired and partly rebuilt once every 20 years or so. The latest repair was in 2016, undertaken for the sixtieth time. Related records, as well as objects removed from the building at the time of repair work, will be displayed.
    「春日大社 千年の至宝」展 東京国立博物館(amuzen article)
    Shishi Lion (right) and Koma-inu Dog (left) Guardians (First shrine)
    Kamakura period (13th century), Kasugataisha Shrine, Nara
    (Throughout the exhibition period)

* The above is the information known at the time of publication and subject to change without prior notice.

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