TSUMUGU Project Promoting, Restoring and Preserving the Beauty of Japan’s Art

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What’s “TSUMUGU”?

The TSUMUGU Project was initiated by Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs, Imperial Household Agency and The Yomiuri Shimbun (Tokyo) as a joint effort to promote the beauty of Japanese art across the nation and abroad. The web portal you are viewing was launched in August 2019 as an essential part of this project.

Giving special attention to Japan’s national treasures, important cultural properties and excellent artwork associated with the Imperial Household, the two government agencies and leading national newspaper in 2018 agreed on a comprehensive plan to establish a virtuous cycle of “promoting, restoring and preserving” the nation’s precious legacies. Subsequently, the TSUMUGU Project was set up to implement the plan.

Tsumugu is a Japanese verb used in sericulture to mean “weave” or “spin.” Here, we use it to mean “weaving beauty,” to convey the idea that by implementing the plan, Japan’s artistic beauty can surely be handed down to future generations.

To be more specific, the project will continue to promote Japan’s fine arts by organizing special exhibitions and other events, while using part of the proceeds from these events and contributions from sponsors to help restore/repair cultural properties. The web portal will serve as a site where high-definition images of excellent artwork are archived, as well as a hub where useful information related to Japanese art and culture can be easily accessed.

The project officially and successfully kicked off in March 2019 with the grand opening of the special exhibition “Cultural Exchanges of the Emperor and Empress: Sharing the Beauty of Japan” at the Tokyo National Museum (Ueno Park, Tokyo). Another special exhibition, the “Masterpieces of Japanese Art: From Sesshu and Eitoku to Korin and Hokusai,” opened in May. On March 28, a forum discussion to commemorate the initiation of the project was held at the Yomiuri Otemachi Hall in Tokyo with the attendance of Commissioner for Cultural Affairs Ryohei Miyata.

Repair work under the TSUMUGU Project is already underway for “Raigo of Amida (Amitabha) and Twenty-five Attendants,” a 14th-century hanging scroll owned by Chion-in Temple in Kyoto.

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Chronology

2018

Nov. 29

The Agency for Cultural Affairs and The Yomiuri Shimbun announce the launch of the Tsumugu Project

2019

Feb. 20

A selection committee of experts determines eight cultural assets to be repaired under the Tsumugu Project

March 3

Two Tsumugu Project special exhibitions are selected to be held as part of the Nihonhaku (Japan Cultural Expo)

March 4

A ceremony to celebrate the launch of the Tsumugu Project is held in Tokyo

March 5

Special Exhibition “Cultural Exchanges of the Emperor and Empress: Sharing the Beauty of Japan” opens at the Tokyo National Museum (-April 29)

March 13

Emperor and Empress (current Emperor Emeritus and Empress Emerita) view the first special exhibition

March 31

Prime Minister Abe views the special exhibition

April 11

Repair work of “Raigo of Amida (Amitabha) and Twenty-five Attendants,” a 14th-century hanging scroll owned by Chion-in Temple in Kyoto, starts

April 15

Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko (current Crown prince and Crown princess) view the special exhibition with their two daughters Princess Mako and Princess Kako

April 24

Crown prince and Crown princess (current Emperor and Empress) view the special exhibition

May 3

Special Exhibition “Masterpieces of Japanese Art: From Sesshu and Eitoku to Korin and Hokusai” opens at the Tokyo National Museum (-June 2)

Aug. 20

TSUMUGU : Japan Art & Culture web portal kicks off

2020

Feb. 17

Seven assets including the nine wooden statues of seated Amida Nyorai (government-designated national treasure) of Joruri-ji temple in Kyoto are selected as recipients of funds granted by the Tsumugu Project to help repair Japan’s cultural properties in FY2020. The number of assets repaired under the project since FY2019 reaches a grand total of 15

March 10

The UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Special Exhibition “The World of Traditional Performing Arts” is cancelled due to the spread of COVID-19. Other Tsumugu-hosted exhibitions including the “National Treasures of Kyoto” and “Sacred Treasures from Ancient Nara: The Eleven-headed Kannon of Shorinji Temple” also are later either cancelled or postponed

March 20

The Futama Kannon (wooden statues of standing Kannon Bosatsu, Bonten and Taishakuten) goes on display at the To-ji temple in Kyoto after repairs. The repair work of the government-designated important cultural property was the first to finish under the Tsumugu Project. At the end of March, Buddhist scrolls found from the wooden statue of standing Shukongoshin and the wooden statue of standing Jinja Daisho, both of which are designated important cultural properties and owned by the Kongobuji temple in Wakayama Prefecture, went on display at the Reihokan Museum, the treasure house of the temple

July 13

The Tsumugu Project ties up with Waseda University (Tokyo) to hold an online lecture on Japanese art history with Prof. Satomi Yamamoto of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences

Sept. 21

The “Kogei — 2020 The Art of Crafting Beauty from Nature” exhibition opens at Tokyo National Museum’s Hyokeikan. Craft work by 82 artists including a few “living national treasures” are put on display at exhibition halls designed by architect Toyo Ito

Oct. 6

“Momoyama: Artistic Visions in a Turbulent Century,” a Tsumugu special exhibition, opens at Tokyo National Museum’s Heiseikan to showcase Kano Eitoku’s “Chinese Lions” (Sannomaru Shozokan, The Museum of the Imperial Collections) and other magnificent works of art from the Momoyama period

Nov. 16

The “TSUMUGU: Japan Art & Culture” website wins an excellence award for business-to-consumer websites at the 2020 Web GRAND PRIX hosted by Japan Advertiser Association’s Web Advertising Study Group.

Dec. 8

The “Japanese Architecture: Traditional Skills and Natural Materials” exhibition opens at the National Museum of Nature and Science (Ueno, Tokyo), and later at Tokyo National Museum’s Hyokeikan (Ueno, Tokyo) and the National Archives of Modern Architecture (Yushima, Tokyo)

Dec. 14

Six assets including the nine wooden statues of seated Amida Nyorai (government-designated national treasure) of Joruri-ji temple in Kyoto are selected as recipients of funds granted by the Tsumugu Project to help repair Japan’s cultural properties in FY2021. The number of assets repaired under the project since FY2019 reaches a grand total of 21

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