- 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.
5. Competitions Dedicated to the Divine
Here we look at some of the competitions that were held in Japan to honor the deities—horse races (kurabe uma), mounted archery (yabusame), sumo wrestling, kemari (a type of football), falconry, poetry contests (uta-awase), singing, and dancing to entertain the deities. And in both Greece and Japan, people exerted themselves to the utmost to present before the gods the very best performance they could muster.