Vol. 11, No. 1 December 2001

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 premodern Japan. The overall purpose of the Institute is to encourage both individual and collaborative research on all aspects of premodern Japanese civilization, especially 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.

Barbara Ruch (Director)
Ryuichi Abe (Deputy Director)
Miho Walsh (Executive Director)
Ken Aoki (Japanese Language Documents Manager)

Associates of the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies


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

Research Associates

Ryuichi Abe (Columbia University)
Kaori Chino (Gakushuin University)
Anne Dutton (Yale University)
Patricia Fister (International Research Center for Japanese Studies)
Chizuru Fukuda (Tokyo Metropolitan University)
Maribeth Graybill (University of Michigan)
Amy Heinrich (Columbia University)
Masaharu Imai (Tsukuba University)
Noriko Katsuura (Tokyo Woman’s Christian University)
Marc Peter Keane (Landscape Architect)
Kazuaki Komine (Rikkyo University)
Hiroko Makino (Kanto Women’s Junior College)
Shunsho Manabe (Hosen Gakuen College)
Naoko Matsumoto (Doshisha University)
Terry Satsuki Milhaupt (Washington University, St. Louis)
David Max Moerman (Barnard College, Columbia University)
Sadako Ohki (Yale University Art Gallery)
Isao Okuda (University of Sacred Heart)
Cecilia Segawa Seigle (University of Pennsylvania)
Roberta Strippoli (Istituto Universitario Orientale, Naples)
Kiyoko Takagi (Ochanomizu University)
Minoru Takashima (Doshisha University)
Kazuko Tanabe (Indo-Buddhologist)
Masaru Tanaka (Hanazono University)
Kazuo Tokuda (Gakushuin Women’s University)
X. Jie Yang (University of Calgary)
Takushi Yoshida (Architect)

New IMJS Research Associates Appointed

During the year 2001 we were happy to welcome to our Imperial Buddhist Convent Survey Team the following new members:
Marc Peter Keane (Landscape Architect);
Naoko Matsumoto (Doshisha University);
Terry Satsuki Milhaupt (Washington University, St. Louis);
Cecilia Segawa Seigle (University of Pennsylvania);
Minoru Takashima (Doshisha University); and
Kazuko Tanabe (Indo-Buddhologist).

Collaborators and Partners In Japan

Kuniko Oishi (Executive Director, Japan Office, Medieval Japanese Studies Foundation)
Ikuo Hirayama (Foundation for Cultural Heritage, Tokyo)
Hisamitsu Tani (Foundation for Cultural Heritage, Tokyo)
Yasushi Sano (Foundation for Cultural Heritage, Tokyo)

Activities In Japan

Imperial Buddhist Convent Restoration Project

To update our report on this project from last year: we have been honored to be chosen by the World Monuments Fund (WMF) to receive a Robert W. Wilson Challenge Grant of $100,000 for the restoration of a private chapel within one of the Imperial Buddhist Convents of Kyoto. The World Monuments Fund is a New York-based non-profit foundation dedicated to preserving and protecting endangered historic monuments and architecture around the world. In its more than thirty-year history the WMF has supported restoration and conservation of historically and culturally important sites that are monuments to the spirit and achievements of humankind on all continents of the world, irrespective of nationality, religion or geography. It is only recently extending its support to sites in Japan, and we are deeply honored that the imperial convent project attracted their support. The imperial convent structure selected for restoration in Kyoto was once the private worship chapel of the tonsured imperial princess Kin no miya, daughter of Emperor Kokaku. The whole structure and its main object of worship, an Amida statue, was moved from the Kyoto palace to her convent after the death of her brother, Emperor Ninko. The chapel walls are covered with rare paintings of cranes and pines by Maruyama school painters, which have been severely damaged by the passage of time.

This challenge grant requires us to raise another $100,000, not in the U.S.A., but in Japan itself, to match the WMF pledge. We sincerely hope some of our readers in Japan will be moved to contribute whatever they can.

For those in Japan wishing tax abatement, our Tokyo partner, the Foundation for Cultural Heritage (Bunkazai hogo shinko zaidan) will gladly serve as receptacle for donations to this project. Please contact Kuniko Oishi, Executive Director of the Japan Office of the Medieval Japanese Studies Foundation, for information (in Japanese).

Conservation Workshop

At the request of the abbesses of the Kyoto and Nara Imperial convents, a private workshop was held on November 2, 2001 to discuss basic methods of storage and preservation useful to the nuns responsible for their convents’ documents, scrolls and art treasures. The workshop was led by Professor Shunsho Manabe, head of the convent art survey team and by Mr. Iwataro Oka, president of Oka Bokko-do, one of the most prominent art restoration studios in Japan.

Electronic Buddhist Text Initiative (EBTI)

As many of our readers know, the Electronic Buddhist Text Initiative (EBTI) pioneered by Professor Lewis Lancaster (University of California, Berkeley) and others has been a major effort to computerize and make available online all Buddhist sutras and related commentaries, thereby creating a database immediately accessible anywhere in the world. Considering the various Asian languages involved in this enormous task, the difficulties are obvious. But major advances have been made and over the past decade meetings have been held almost every year in the U.S.A., Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, where efforts are made to overcome the barriers posed both technically and by the idiosyncrasies of Asian scripts.

In conjunction with the Institute’s involvement in surveying and archiving historical materials related to Buddhist convents, we have felt it imperative to keep abreast of what is happening at the cutting-edge of database-making in the Buddhist context. This past May the Institute was represented at EBTI’s international conference at Dongguk University in Seoul by Japanese Documents Manager, Ken Aoki, who reported on our unique problems of text preservation for scholarly use, while at the same time honoring the requirements of privacy demanded by Imperial convents.

On the Seoul trip Ken Aoki was accompanied by Kuniko Oishi, Executive Director of the Medieval Japanese Studies Foundation’s Japan Office, Eko Tanaka, Deputy Abbess of Hokyoji convent who is herself attempting to record her archives electronically, and Masaru Tanaka of Hanazono University, one of our Research Associates who is a direct aide to Deputy Abbess Tanaka.

Renge Shojoji Commemorated

The now vanished Kyoto convent Renge shojoji was restored, at least to memory, by the efforts of Daishoji monzeki and supporters in October 2001. A commemorative service was held at Daishoji and a stone was raised at Renge shojoji’s now vacant site in the Saga area of Kyoto. The convent was founded in the thirteenth century by Emperor Go-Uda’s consort Yugimon’in and later, in the seventeenth century, given by Emperor Go-Mizuno’o to Daishoji monzeki as a retirement retreat for Daishoji’s eighteenth Abbess Yotokuin no miya. The stone bears the convent’s name calligraphed by Jikun Kasanoin, Daishoji monzeki’s present Abbess.

Ritual of Offertory Music

During the October 21 meeting at Daishoji announcing the erection of the stone monument that commemorates the historic site of Renge shojoji convent, the Abbess of Daishoji who also has a love of traditional Japanese music held a recital of the rare one-string koto as kengaku offering before the altar. We hope increased donations to the Medieval Japanese Studies Foundation will make it possible for us to introduce such music to American audiences.

A Place of Great Rejoicing

In our last IMJS Reports we told of the great generosity of the Tendai nun and celebrated novelist Jakucho Setouchi, who lent us a modern apartment in Arashiyama to serve as our preparatory office for a new Center for the Study of Women, Buddhism and Culture until we could establish a permanent office in Japan. We had anticipated being able to move into a permanent site in Saga in the spring of 2001, but experienced a setback when the site was designated by Kyoto City for a different purpose. However, all is well that ends well. In November, during a visit to Kyoto by Barbara Ruch, the Abbess of Daishoji monzeki, Jikun Kasanoin, presented us with an extraordinary gift. She has lent us for the permanent office the unoccupied two-story nun’s residence attached to a small nearby temple that serves as the memorial chapel for past generations of Daishoji Abbesses. The name of this temple is Daikankiji, or Temple of Great Rejoicing. As you can imagine, our gratitude and our rejoicing is great indeed. The spring of 2002 will be spent setting up the Japan Office of the Medieval Japanese Studies Foundation and the new research center.

Institute Activities At Columbia

Visit of Chief Abbot Keido Fukushima

On February 26, 2001, the Institute hosted the annual visit of Keido Fukushima, Chief Abbot of Tofukuji monastery in Kyoto. Chief Abbot Fukushima presented a series of programs including an offering of sutras to Abbess Mugai Nyodai, a lecture entitled “The Zen Master Rinzai’s Zen,” a Zen calligraphy demonstration and finally, a zazen meditation session for all levels. Chief Abbot Fukushima supervises more than 300 temples in Tofukuji 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.

Seminars & Workshop by Professor Komine

Professor Kazuaki Komine (Rikkyo University), who has been a Research Associate of the Institute since 1993 and an active participant in the Imperial Buddhist Convents Research Survey, spent a month at Columbia University during the fall of 2001 as a Visiting Fellow of the Donald Keene Center of Japanese Culture and a Visiting Scholar in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures. During his stay here, Professor Komine taught mini-seminars on medieval Japanese anecdotal fiction (setsuwa bungaku), of which he is one of Japan’s most prominent experts. He also presented a public workshop on the same subject co-sponsored by the Institute and the Center in which he explored the interrelationship between such short tales and the visual media of picture scrolls (emaki), a format in which many such tales can be found. Professor Komine, the late Professor Rikizan Ishikawa, and Barbara Ruch constituted the “initial team” to enter Hokyoji monzeki convent when permission was first granted to enter and examine convent archives there. He has since played a key role in the documentation and photography of medieval and early modern literary texts held in the convent’s archive, which is known as “Dodo gosho bunko.”

New Opportunities for Shinto Studies

We are happy to announce that, through the efforts of Institute Deputy Director, Ryuichi Abe, who is Chair of the Department of Religion at Columbia University, the International Shinto Foundation (ISF) has established in his department a new graduate fellowship in support of research on Shinto. This builds upon earlier support whereby, the ISF provided the Institute with a research scholarship, supported our workshop on “Shinto Studies in the West,” funded our “Distinguished Lecture on Shinto,” and donated the monumental Shinto Taikei to the Columbia University C.V. Starr East Asian Library.

Forthcoming Publications

Engendering Faith: Women and Buddhism in Premodern Japan

The Institute is happy to announce publication early this coming spring of 2002 by the Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, of the first ever English language book devoted to the study of women and their role in the history of Japanese Buddhism from its first introduction to Japan until the Meiji Restoration.

This collection of pioneering studies represents many years of labor by 21 Japanese and North American authors and 12 translators. Publication has been made possible by the generous financial support of the Japan Foundation, the Tides Foundation, and the Medieval Japanese Studies Foundation. Further, the book has been greatly enriched by the addition of more than 90 illustrative plates, many in color, made possibly by the strong encouragement and a generous grant from the Toshiba International Foundation.

For inquiries and orders, please contact the University of Michigan Press at the following:
Inquiries: Email: umpress-www [at] umich.edu
Tel: 734-764-4388
Fax: 734-936-0456
Ordering: Email: umpress-orders [at] umich.edu
Tel: 734-764-4392
Fax: 800-876-1922

Gentleman Defeats a Demon at the Game of Sugoroku and Wins a Beautiful Woman

Professor X. Jie Yang (University of Calgary), is well-known to us all for his path-breaking CD-ROM, KanaClassic: An Electronic Guide to Learning Classical Japanese Kana Writing, sponsored by the Institute and the Japan Foundation. The Institute is now helping to support his next project, which is a CD-ROM presentation of the famous emaki work Haseo soshi, utilizing the three extant Edo-period picture-scroll versions. Professor Yang has already begun demonstrating his break-through method for studying and teaching this classic work by means of CD-ROM in academic conferences in Canada and Japan. Look for his new book just out from Kadokawa shoten, Oni no iru kokei: “Haseo soshi” ni miru chusei, which is an excellent companion to the forthcoming CD-ROM.


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 all our projects, especially the extremely costly task of surveying, preserving and photographing religious and cultural treasures from the Imperial convents that belong to the world for posterity. All donations are tax-exempt. Please contact the New York office for information.