- Feature Exhibition: Olympia Meets Japanese Art
- June 5, 2021 - July 4, 2021
The Kyoto National Museum is pleased to present treasures from its collection to compare and contrast the ancient Olympics in Greece and religious folkways in Japan. The people of ancient Greece worshipped many gods and goddesses, and among the famous Panhellenic Games held to honor their deities, the most important and famous were the games held every four years at Olympia. Sacred ground to all Greeks, Olympia was a center of religious worship and the location of a magnificent temple to Zeus, lord of the heavens and almighty in the Greek pantheon. The athletes who competed at Olympia trained their minds and bodies to compete before these gods. The victors were feasted for days on end and gained the right to dedicate a statue of themselves on the temple grounds. In their home communities they were honored for the rest of their lives.
Like the ancient Greeks, Japanese since distant antiquity worshipped many deities, competed with each other in the presence of the divine, trained themselves mind and body, celebrated their victories, and feasted together with their gods.
This exhibit introduces art of Japan and East Asia that resonates with the stories and legends of the ancient Olympics, creating what we hope will be an opportunity to enjoy the arts of Asia while learning more about the world of ancient Greece.
The Greek myths were passed down by poets and bards, and as new stories were added, the gods and goddesses underwent various changes. The kami deities of Japan, too, had not always taken the form of humans and they were not always represented in the same way. Animals, too, were sometimes deified, or they were thought of as messengers of deities. White mice, white snakes, horses and oxen, deer and monkeys, the "three-legged crow," and the eight-tailed fox—these all inspired awe and reverence as creatures linking this world to another world of spirits and specters.