“Amamonzeki: A Hidden Heritage

Treasures of the Japanese Imperial Convents”



Catalogue from the exhibition held at the University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts, Ueno Park, Tokyo

April 14 through June 14, 2009.

Published by exhibition funder: Sankei Shinbun, Tokyo.

9×11 inch softback; 384 pages; full color.


This exhibition is the culmination of more than a decade of research and restoration work carried out in Kyoto and Nara by the Chūsei Nihon Kenkyūjo directed by Barbara Ruch and with a research team led by Patricia Fister and Monica Bethe and including numerous Japanese professionals.


This bilingual (Japanese and English) catalogue illustrates in full color all 194 exhibited items and includes detailed essays and labels by eleven scholars. It is the first book in any language to give the histories of all 13 remaining Japanese Imperial Buddhist Convents (Amamonzeki Jiin) and the biographies of their founding abbesses and later restoration abbesses.


These elite women, who date from the 7th century through the Edo period, are represented by a wide range of religious and secular works they themselves created or are associated with them. New discoveries include kesa belonging to 13th-century abbesses. Never before made public calligraphed, painted, and sculptured works by these nuns are included, as are a wide range of textiles made into altar cloths and hangings that are transformations from robes and Noh costumes brought to the convents by these women or gifted from their families. The pre-20th-century Chūgūji Imperial Convent altar was reconstructed in the exhibition as was the Jodan no ma royal reception suite from Reikanji Imperial Convent. Numerous portraits of abbesses are shown for the first time.


The catalogue can be purchased in Japan in Japanese on line or through the Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku Bijutsukan shop. (Price \3000 + shipping) http://www.geidai.ac.jp/museum/ for domestic shipping only.

For English language inquiries and dollar orders contact Medieval Japanese Studies Institute for information:  http://www.chusei-nihon.net/ EMS shipping is in the neighborhood of \3600 for one copy (weights 1500gr.)