Exhibit: Road of Light and Hope
Find Eurasian Relics through National Treasures of Todai-ji Temple
Exhibition “Road of Light and Hope: National Treasures of Todai-jii Temple”
has been held at the Japan Information Center, the Consulate General of
Japan in Chicago until November 28. It is one of commemorative events
to celebrate the 120 anniversary of the Consulate in December and co-organized
by Japan Camera Industry Institute and Media Art League.
The exhibit aims to show the links in the cultural genesis of the East
and the West along the Silk Road, which came to the easternmost terminal,
Japan’s capital Heijo-kyo in the eighth century where Todaji was located.
Relics of Hellenistic cultural heritage can be seen in the sculptural
masterpieces in Todaiji. Origins of gigaku masks could be traced back
to the mask theater of ancient Greece and brought via the “Oasis Silk
Road” while intermingled with folklores and local theaters.
Miro Ito majored in the Aesthetics at Keio University and lived in Germany as a researcher. She wanted to build a bridge between the West and the East; however, she could not find what she could do. Then she moved to the U.S. and experienced the tragedy of the September 11 attacks. She strongly felt that she should do something for the world peace, and a flashback suddenly brought a divine will to her mind.
She returned to Japan and began studying Buddhism and Shinto. She was
drawn to the work of Prince Shotoku, who adapted Buddhism as the national
religion for peace, then she became interested in the Emperor Shomu, who
built Todaiji and the Great Buddha to realize the principle of mutual
coexistence and co-prosperity for all the living creatures.
Gigaku was promoted by Prince Shotoku 1400 years ago but had been extinct a long time. It used to be a comical dancing theatre, which told stories through performance. It had 14 different characters with 23 different masks. The details are unknown, but a memorandum written by Komano Chikazane briefly described about gigaku.
Kyogen master Mannojo Nomura reproduced gigaku and showed it at 2012
folklore festival in the Smithsonian Museum. The theme of the festival
was “Silk Road” and was produced by Yo-Yo Ma. Ito met both people and
they became closer.
Ito said, “What you need to pursue your mission comes to you spontaneously.”
She met ballet dancer Shunso Arai, who had been in the National Theatre
Ballet of Brno, Czech Republic and knew about dance both in the West and
the East. The two created gigaku ballet, which was consisted of four parts.
Ballet dancer Shunso Arai performs gigaku dance at the photo exhibition.
The photos below are some of gigaku masks.