Exhibition highlights splendors of the past
The annual exhibition gives visitors the opportunity to admire many artifacts from the vast collection of the Shoso-in repository in Nara. The collection includes many items conveying the refined culture of the Nara period (710-784) and pieces that were brought to Japan through active international exchanges in ancient times.
Among the featured items at this year's exhibition is "Hei Raden Hai no Hakkaku Kyo," a mirror owned by Emperor Shomu (701-756). Its back is gorgeously decorated with mother-of-pearl inlay, amber, turquoise and other materials.
The exhibition was first held in the fall of 1946, when the Japanese people were still suffering greatly from the nation's defeat in World War II. It became a source of encouragement and has been held regularly ever since, continuing to enchant visitors.
Treasure house of art and history
The term "shoso-in" originally meant an area including "shoso," a repository for storing rice and treasures, at governmental offices and large temples in ancient times. These shoso repositories were abolished as time went by, except the one at Todaiji. As a result, the term came to mean the facility at Todaiji.
The Shoso-in building still remains. It is 33 meters long, 9 meters wide and 14 meters tall. Its length is about 60 percent of the Great Buddha Hall at the temple. The building is constructed with the azekura style, in which three-faceted timbers are laid horizontally upon one another, intersecting in the corners. The building is a designated national treasure.
Its interior is divided into three sections, respectively called Hokuso (north section), Chuso (middle section) and Nanso (south section). Items associated with Emperor Shomu are stored in the north section. The middle section contains pieces dedicated by Imperial family members and aristocrats at the consecration ceremony of the Great Buddha statue in 752, and also stores written materials dating back to the Nara period. The south section stores masks and costumes of bugaku, traditional Japanese court dancing accompanied by music, and Buddhist objects. All these items constitute the Shoso-in collection.
Today, these treasures are stored in modern repository buildings made with reinforced concrete located near the Shoso-in building.
Taimai Raden Hakkaku no Hako ( 39.2 cm in diameter, 12.7 cm high)
Saikaku no Nyoi (58 cm long, 5.9 cm wide at its head)
Nishiki Murasaki Aya Beni Rokechi Ashiginu no Manui no Mo (86 cm long, 81 cm wide)
Nui no Sengai (No.1) (27.5 cm long, 7.6 cm wide)
Jiko (38.3 cm long, 22 cm in diameter at its openings, 10.9 cm in diameter at its center)
Hakkaku Kyo (32.8 cm in diameter, 0.7 cm thick at its brim, weighing 3,514.8 grams)
Jinko Mokuga no Hako ( 12 cm long, 33 cm wide, 8.9 cm high)
Admission: 1,100 yen for adults, 700 yen for high school and university students, and 400 yen for elementary and junior high school students.
Prices are reduced by 100 yen for advance tickets (on sale through Oct. 26) and for groups of 20 or more.
Late-entry tickets to visit the museum 90 minutes before closing can be purchased at the museum from 2-1/2 hours before closing. They are priced at 800 yen for adults, 500 yen for high school and university students, and 200 yen for elementary and junior high school students.
An advance pair of tickets for an adult visiting with a child of elementary or junior high school age costs 1,100 yen.
Venue & organizer: Nara National Museum
Supporters: Iwatani Corp., Nippon Telegraph and Telephone West Corp., Kansai Electrical Safety Inspection Association, Canon Inc., Kyoto Arts And Crafts University, Kintetsu Railway Co., Central Japan Railway Co., West Japan Railway Co., Shionogi Healthcare Co., Daikin Industries, Ltd., Daiwa House Industry Co., Hakutsuru Sake Brewing Co., Maruichi Steel Tube Ltd. and Yamato Noen Co.
Special cooperation: The Yomiuri Shimbun
Cooperation: Minerva Shobo Ltd., Yomiuri Telecasting Corp. and others
The venue is usually busiest in the mornings on weekends and national holidays, and less crowded later in the afternoon on weekdays. On Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays, its opening hours are extended to 8 p.m. so that people can admire the exhibits in the evening.
Visit www.narahaku.go.jp/english/index_e.html for more information.