Vol. 10, No. 1 December, 2000

Associates of the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies


Tatsurô Akai (Nara University of Education)
Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania)

Research Associates

Ryûichi Abe (Columbia University)
Kaori Chino (Gakushûin University)
Anne Dutton (Yale University)
Patricia Fister (Hakuhô Women’s University)
Chizuru Fukuda (National Institute of Japanese History)
Maribeth Graybill (Swarthmore College)
Amy Heinrich (Columbia University)
Noriko Katsuura (Tokyo Women’s University)
Kazuaki Komine (Rikkyô University)
Hiroko Makino (Kantô Women’s Junior College)
Shunshô Manabe (Hôsen Junior College)
David Max Moerman (Barnard College, Columbia University)
Junko Nishiguchi (Sôai University)
Sadako Ohki (Yale University Art Gallery)
Yoshiko Oka (Otemae Women’s University)
Isao Okuda (University of the Sacred Heart)
Kiyoko Takagi (Ochanomizu University)
Masaru Tanaka (Hanazono University)
Kazuo Tokuda (Gakushûin Women’s University)
X. Jie Yang (University of Calgary)

Organizational Changes

Not-for-Profit Foundation Established

We are happy to announce the establishment of the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies Foundation, officially recognized in July 1999 as a 501 (c) (3) Not-for-Profit Corporation in the State of New York. This new financial structure has greatly facilitated the fund-raising for IMJS projects and also reduces our costs. Donors may become patrons of the Institute in general or may designate specific projects they want to support. All gifts to the Foundation are tax-exempt by the United States Internal Revenue Service.

Staff Changes

After two and a half years of outstanding service, Executive Director Tammy Allen left the Institute at the end of December, to pursue a graduate degree in Columbia’s School for International and Public Affairs. We wish Tammy the warmest congratulations and the best of luck. In January, the Institute welcomed Miho Walsh from the Consulate General of Japan in New York as the new Executive Director, and with her dynamic leadership and organizational skills, she has already made her own mark on all our programs. Elizabeth O’Brien also joined the Institute in January as our first full-time Publications Manager, whose many publishing responsibilities include production of this newsletter. Ken Aoki remains central to our staff, in charge of all Japanese language document management. As always, the Institute’s programs would not be possible without the hard work of our talented part-time associates. Many thanks to Tomoko Sumida, Tomoko Sugahara, Herschel Miller, Gina Cogan, Celina Lee, Chin Yoo, our Tokyo liaison Ota Terumi, and our music intern, Miyuki Ito. We also welcome warmly the new Executive Director of our Kyoto Branch, Oishi Kuniko.

New IMJS Research Associate Appointed

We are happy to announce the addition of Professor Okuda Isao of University of the Sacred Heart to our Imperial Buddhist Convent Survey Team and especially to the Restoration Project. Professor Okuda has had many decades of experience in monastery archival research and brings great strength to our convent project. We also welcome to the team Tanaka Masaru of Hanazono University, who is assisting in the computerization of cataloging at Hôkyôji convent and playing a vital role in the planning for the new Kyoto center.

Japan-Based Activities

IMJS Kyoto Branch Office Established

With the generous support of the eminent Tendai nun and celebrated novelist Setouchi Jakucho, the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies opened a small branch office this past January in Arashiyama, Kyoto. The office was established to facilitate IMJS’s liaison work with the Abbesses of the Imperial Buddhist Convents of Kyoto and Nara, as well as with the scholars and foundations in Japan involved in the convent survey and preservation work of the Institute. Ms. Oishi Kuniko has been appointed our new Executive Director in that office.

Center for the Study of Women, Buddhism, and Culture

In March, Setouchi Jakucho and Barbara Ruch announced the establishment of a Center for the Study of Women, Buddhism, and Culture to become a multi-purpose center in Sagano, Kyoto, where the history of Kyoto convents first began. The center will serve as 1) a liaison office for the survey projects in Imperial Convent archives 2) a liaison office for the Restoration of Convent Treasures Projects being funded by the World Heritage Foundation, headed by the eminent artist Hirayama Ikuo 3) an archive to preserve microfilm and research materials on convent culture 4) a meeting place for Buddhist nuns from Southeast Asia, Taiwan, the People’s Republic of China, Korea, and Japan 5) a resource center for graduate students from Europe, Asia and the Americas who are studying aspects of women and Buddhism and 6) a site for public lectures, exhibitions and programs related to the culture of convents. Sen Sôshitsu, the iemoto of Urasenke and Professors Akai Tatsurô, Manabe Shunshô, Ueda Masaaki, and Donald Keene have been invited to sit on the Board (Rijikai.) The Center is currently seeking legal status in Kyoto city and will be hiring a full-time Director in Kyoto as soon as fund-raising is completed. Also advising the Center are President Kurokawa Mitsuhiro of Toraya, Inc.; President Hata Masataka of Shoyeido, Inc. In the United States, Professors Ryuichi Abe, Martin Colcutt and Jacqueline Stone have been invited to be advisors. We warmly welcome all interested to help us make this Center a successful resource for scholars, students, the Buddhist clergy, and the Japanese public. Temporarily, the IMJS Kyoto Branch office is serving as the planning office for the Center. A formal launching of the Center is planned for the spring of 2001, the first year of the new century. We hope readers of this newsletter will want to get in on ground floor as financial patrons, as project proposal initiators, and in other creative ways.

Imperial Buddhist Convent Restoration Project

The Institute has been deeply honored to receive the personal interest of Empress Michiko in our Imperial Buddhist Convent Survey Project. As our readers are well aware, the Japanese court, whose members for almost one thousand five hundred years had close ties to Buddhism and were major patrons and devotees, was forced to renounce Buddhism at the overthrow of the Tokugawa Shongunate, when the Meiji government adopted a policy of strictly separating Buddhist and Shinto faith and proscribed the taking of Buddhist vows for the royal family. Post-war land reforms further destroyed their economic base by depriving imperial convents of their income-producing estates. As a result, only about a dozen imperial convents remain today. Sympathetic to our efforts to study these endangered convents and preserve their history, Empress Michiko has given us not only warm encouragement but also has even donated royalties from her recent book of poetry and children’s literature–the only funds over which she has sole authority. Despite government policy, she has made it clear that the imperial family looks upon these convents as part of their own roots, and that ancestral ties cannot be denied. Through her intervention we have also been blessed by the cooperation of the eminent artist Hirayama Ikuo who is the founder and director of the internationally famous Foundation for Cultural Heritage, known affectionately and quite realistically as the “World Cultural Treasures Red Cross.”
Its goal is to repair and preserve humankind’s heritage as found in treasures across the world, irrespective of nationality or religious affiliation. He has now taken on the responsibility on our behalf of raising a special fund dedicated to the repair and restoration of cultural art treasures in the imperial convents, the condition of which is sorely threatened and which the convents themselves cannot afford to repair. The first corporate donor to join us has been Sagawa Kyûbin, Inc., with a pledge of close to $30,000 a year. Since overall cost will be at least ten times that much yearly, we are eagerly seeking other donors, both individual and corporate, who would like to join Hirayama Ikuo and indeed Empress Michiko in this effort to preserve one of Japan’s most important cultural heritages, unique in the world.

IMJS Director Receives Yamagata Bantô Prize

The staff of the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies extends our warmest congratulations to our Director, Professor Emerita Barbara Ruch, for being named 1999 recipient of the Yamagata Bantô Prize. Established in 1982 by the distinguished Japanese novelist Shiba Ryôtarô, the prize is administered by the Osaka Prefectural Government Department of Civic and Cultural Affairs. It is awarded annually to one Japan specialist from Asia, Europe, or America, nominated by experts in various fields at Japanese research institutes, universities, and international cultural exchange organizations around the world.

The Yamagata Bantô Prize is named for the eighteenth-century merchant-scholar Yamagata Yoshihide, a major financier who contributed to the economic reconstruction of late feudal Japan and who wrote prolifically on a wide range of subjects including Confucianism, Astronomy, and Western sciences under the pen name Bantô. In keeping with Bantô’s legacy, Professor Ruch was selected “as one of the leading Japanese cultural researchers of the world, including Japan, to honor her outstanding creativity, vitality, and achievements.” At the award ceremony held this March in Osaka, Professor Ruch gave a commemorative lecture, speaking about the thirteenth-century female Zen master Mugai Nyodai, an important but little-known figure who captured Professor Ruch’s scholarly attention and led to the Institute’s current projects on the previously neglected topic of women’s role in Buddhist institutional history. Professor Ruch has donated the three million yen prize award to the new Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies Kyoto Branch to further scholarly work on Women and Buddhism.

Programs Highlighting Japanese Culture

Visit of Chief Abbot Fukushima Keido

On March 7, 2000, the Institute hosted the annual visit of Fukushima Keido, Chief Abbot of Tôfukuji monastery in Kyoto. Chief Abbot Fukushima presented a series of programs including an offering of sutras to Abbess Mugai Nyodai, a lecture entitled “Chinese Zen Master Jôshu’s Zen,” a Zen calligraphy demonstration and finally, a zazen meditation session for all levels. Chief Abbot Fukushima supervises more than 300 temples in the Tôfukuji sect of Rinzai Zen Buddhism, a religion that dates back to the thirteenth-century Japan. He has been a major supporter and advisor to the Institute’s research work in Japan.

Rare Book Workshop

On January 29, 2000, the Institute presented a workshop on early Japanese books, led by Suzuki Jun, Professor of the National Institute of Japanese Literature in Tokyo. The event, which was co-sponsored by the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture and C.V. Starr East Asian library, provided a select group of New York-vicinity scholars and graduate students with hands-on knowledge of Edo-period books, including information about their historical significance, binding and formatting, and publishing practices of the day. All the materials used came from the Japanese rare book collection of the C.V. Starr East Asian Library and were selected by Ms. Mihoko Miki, Japanese Studies Librarian.

Abbess Fushimi Seikan’s Photo Exhibit

In June, the Institute was honored to present “Meditations at Sunset: Drawn to the Evening Sun of Amida’s Western Paradise,” an exhibit of photographs by Abbess Fushimi Seikan of Tokujô Myôin Convent, Kyoto. The Abbess came to New York for the duration of the exhibit, which was held from June 12th-June 23rd in the Rotunda Gallery of Low Memorial Library at Columbia University.
A nun of the Pure Land sect of Japanese Buddhism since age fourteen, sixty-one-year-old Abbess Fushimi has traveled the world extensively on pilgrimages to Buddhist holy lands. While she has avidly photographed her travels over the past thirty years, she began more recently to take a thematic approach to photographing sunsets in countries such as India, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Nepal. She addressed the connection between her religion and her art by explaining the significance of the setting sun in her Pure Land faith: “We believe that where the sun sets is the Western Paradise, and the Amida Buddha is there, welcoming all those who have passed out of this current lifetime. Whenever I see a sunset, whether I am photographing it or not, I always imagine Amida Buddha on the western horizon.”
Abbess Fushimi was born on December 1, 1938 in Tokyo, Japan. She is the great-granddaughter of Japan’s last shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the granddaughter of Prince Fushimi Hiroyasu, and the daughter of Count Hirohide and Countess Toyoko Fushimi. She entered Tokujô Myôin convent at the age of nine in 1948 and took the tonsure five years later. She graduated form Bukkyô University, a Pure Land denominational school, in 1962.

In addition to being an amateur photographer of high acclaim, Abbess Fushimi is also an accomplished poet, calligrapher, and iemoto master of the Keihô Schools of Tea Ceremony and Flower Arrangement. On June 12th, the public was invited to celebrate the opening of the exhibit with a program of events featuring a talk by the Abbess and demonstrations of the tea ceremony and flower arrangement. We are grateful to the Japan Foundation, the Toshiba Foundation, and the Tides Foundation for making this event possible.

Taiko Performance

On September 5, 2000, Japanese taiko drums heralded the first day of classes at a noontime concert held on Columbia’s Low Memorial Library steps. The Institute proudly sponsored this free concert by the Shumei Taiko Drum Ensemble, belonging to the Shinji Shumaikai of Japan, a world-renowned troupe that visiting New York City to perform at the first World Peace Summit held at the United Nations. The powerful drumming drew a crowd of more than 800 people. The Donald Keene Center for Japanese Culture co-sponsored the event.

Satsuma Biwa

On October 17, 2000, the Institute presented an evening of Satsuma biwa music and narrative songs by Fumon Yoshinori, the foremost living exponent of the oldest style of the Satsuma biwa tradition extant today. Before the concert, Hugh de Ferranti, a traditional Japanese music specialist at the University of Michigan, spoke about the Satsuma biwa instrument, a type of long-necked lute, and the song style that originated in southern Kyushu in the former Satsuma domain. In between songs, Fumon-sensei’s student Thomas Charles Marshall gave a demonstration of the instrument and took questions from the audience. The event, which drew a standing-room-only crowd, was co-sponsored by the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture. The Institute was honored to host the eminent Fumon-sensei, who at age 89 was making his first visit to the United States.

Shô Performance

In a continuation of the Institute’s on-going efforts to encourage the globalization of Japanese music, the Institute welcomed Miyata Mayumi, Japan’s foremost contemporary performer on the ancient gagaku wind instrument, shô, for a concert at Columbia on November 10, 2000. Ms. Miyata performed the night before at Carnegie Hall at an event held in conjunction with Music From Japan’s 25th anniversary. Our event included a keynote speech by John Rockwell, editor of the Arts and Leisure section of The New York Times; a demonstration of shô music; and a panel discussion moderated by Sharon Ann Nakazoto with Mr. Rockwell, Ms. Miyata, and the composers Toshio Hosokawa, Karen Tanaka, and Lois V Vierk. The event was co-sponsored by the Donald Keene Center for Japanese Culture and by Music From Japan.

Tsugaru Shamisen

As part of the Institute’s efforts to encourage the globalization of traditional Japanese musical instruments, on February 15, 2000, the Institute hosted the Tsugaru shamisen player Takahashi Chikuzan II. Chikuzan II brought her distinctive musical gifts to a packed performance in Dodge Hall, sponsored jointly by the Institute, the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture, and the New York-based Music From Japan. Takahashi started studying the shamisen at age eleven, and at age eighteen she began an apprenticeship with shamisen master Takahashi Chikuzan I, whose name she took in 1997. The “Tsugaru” type of shamisen originated in the Aomori region of northern Japan, and Chikuzan’s repertoire includes many Tsugaru folk songs, as well as more contemporary pieces of her own creation. Her mesmerizing performance was prefaced by a lecture on traditional Japanese music by the distinguished musicologist Professor Kojima Tomiko.

Lectures on Japanese Culture

Setouchi Jakucho Lectures at the Institute

On November 16th, 1999, the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies was honored to present a lecture and discussion by the distinguished Buddhist nun and author Setouchi Jakucho. To a tightly-packed audience on the Columbia campus, Reverend Setouchi spoke on the topic of “Josei no shukke to Genji monogatari” (“The Tale of Genji and Women Entering the Religious Life”). She wove together her own experience of becoming a nun with her interpretation of sections of The Tale of Genji, in which women characters take the tonsure.
Seventy-eight-year-old Setouchi Jakucho, who in her younger years wrote under her secular name of Setouchi Harumi, is still a prolific author of many short stories, novels, and essays. She recently translated The Tale of Genji from classical Japanese into the modern Japanese language, and her skilled translation became a bestseller, rendering this famous work accessible to a large readership.
Earlier this year, Reverend Setouchi’s generous support enabled the Institute to open our Kyoto branch office. We remain deeply grateful to her and look forward to welcoming her back to the Institute soon.

IMJS First Distinguished Lecture on Shinto and Culture

On February 18, 2000, Professor Karen Smyers of Wesleyan University delivered the Institute’s First Distinguished Lecture on Shinto and Culture. Her talk, entitled “Shinto and Shamanism: Multiple Interpretative Worlds at the Fushimi Inari Shrine,” illustrated with slides, centered on the shamanic component of the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, which is the subject of her newly published book The Fox and the Jewel: Shared and Private Meanings in Contemporary Japanese Inari Worship (University of Hawaii Press, 1999).

Recent Publications

Seasons of Sacred Celebration: Flowers and Poetry from an Imperial Convent shares with the public for the first time eighteen rare shikishi and tanzaku preserved for centuries at Daishôji, the highest ranking Imperial Buddhist Convent in Japan. This 113-page bilingual book contains full-color reproductions of the beautiful poetry cards, as well as translations of the poetry, and essays in English and Japanese. Published by the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies and Weatherhill, Inc., each copy costs $16.95 plus shipping and handling. To order copies, please write or call the Institute. (ISBN 0-8348-0464-6)

Days of Discipline and Grace: Treasures from the Imperial Buddhist Convents of Kyoto is 44-page bilingual full-color exhibition catalog containing photographs of calligraphy, ritual objects, portraits of abbesses and furnishings related to the daily lives of Imperial Japanese Buddhist nuns. Organized by the Institute at Columbia University in November and December 1998, it was the first time these treasures had ever been exhibited in public. Each copy costs $10 plus shipping and handling. To order copies, please write or call the Institute.

KanaClassic: An Electronic Guide to Learning Classical Japanese kana Writing is a path-breaking CD-ROM developed by Prof. X. Jie Yang (University of Calgary) with the assistance of Dr. Sadako Ohki (Yale University Art Gallery) and Prof. Sonja Arntzen (University of Toronot) and sponsored by the Japan Foundation and the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies. Classical handwritten kana writing is a complex syllabic writing system that evolved from cursively written Chinese characters. Widely used in documents from the tenth through the nineteenth centuries, a knowledge of it is crucial for all scholars of pre-modern Japan. The CD-ROM displays in full motion the writing process for kana characters, presents interactive reading practice with medieval and pre-modern masterpieces, and offers the capability to produce the user’s own kana work using a standard keyboard and mouse. (System requirements: English or Japanese version of Windows 3.1–with AVI driver–or Win95/NT, VGA, or SVGA, or SoftWindows for Macintosh 5.0, with 256-color or higher graphic card, CD-ROM drive, sound card, and mouse.) Copies are available for $49.95 each from the Institute or from Columbia University Press. Call 800-944-8648 or fax 800-944-1844.(ISBN 0-231-11604-7)


The Institute’s activities are entirely dependent upon external funding through donations, grants and gifts. We need your financial support. Please form a kechien link with us by considering the Institute when you are making your financial donations or planning your estate. You can also help us in the short term by donating art or property, the sale of which will provide needed support for the extremely costly task of preserving and photographing religious and cultural treasures from the Imperial convents that belong to the world for posterity.

(All donations are tax exempt. Check should be payable to the IMJS Foundation.)

About the Institute

The Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies, founded in 1968 at the University of Pennsylvania and since 1984 located at Columbia University, is an international research and liaison center designed to serve all scholars, regardless of nationality, whose main area of study focuses on pre-modern Japan. The overall purpose of the Institute is to encourage both individual and collaborative research on all aspects of Japanese civilization relative to the medieval period, centuries which, until the 1970s, had been relatively neglected among Japanese and Western scholars alike. The facilities of the Institute are available to all scholars and students of medieval Japan from any academic institution.

The logo of the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies is the monogram (kaô) of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1305-1358), which was selected for the Institute in the year of its founding by the late Professor Atsuyoshi Sakakura of Kyoto University.