Outline of Exhibition

The Power of Poetry - Japanese Poetry through the Ages

Period of exhibition Tuesday, October 18 to Sunday, November 27, 2005/td>
Exhibition site Special Exhibition Galleries [ Access ]
Admission fee Included in general admission fee
[ Introduction To The Museum ]
Sponsors National Museum of Japanese History
the National Institute of Japanese Literature
Support The Association of Waka Poetry Studies


"Poetry" has wide-ranging "powers". From the middle of the Heian period when the "Kokin Waka Shu" (Collection of Ancient and Modern Waka) was compiled, waka (Japanese poems) were frequently recited at the Imperial court. However, waka was not simply a cultural accomplishment, it was a profession, ranking alongside Chinese poetry and ancient court music, accorded a political role for serving imperial court rituals. The families that took on this profession passed down the art forms and techniques of Japanese poetry from one generation to the next. For centuries, together with Chinese poetry and ancient court music, Japanese poetry was a highly esteemed "art form" that the emperor, the center of court rituals, was expected to acquire.

From the Middle Ages through to the Early Modern period, waka became established in wider circles that included warriors, priests and the rural elite living in the nation's political center, or bakufu, as well as more distant regions. Personal networks were formed centered on waka, which gave rise to a new system of political and economic interchange between the imperial court and bakufu and the regions.

Waka also had a profound impact on works of art and dress, giving birth to many exquisite pieces taking themes found in waka. We may also consider the power of poetry from this perspective.

This exhibition provides visitors an opportunity to see these various powers of poetry through materials such as books from the family of His Imperial Highness Prince Takamatsu held in the Museum's own collection.

Exhibition Talk

A talk on the exhibition will be given every Sunday for the duration of the exhibition.
(October 23, October 30, November 6, November 13, November 20, November 27)


Kokin Waka Shu
("Collection of Ancient and Modern Waka"),
Book of Fujiwara no Shunzei, 1161, Museum collection
Shin Kokin Waka Shu
("New Collection of Ancient and Modern Waka"),
Late Kamakura period, Museum collection
Portrait of Kakinomoto no Hitomaro
reportedly painted by Fujiwara no Nobuzane,
Early Kamakura period, Museum collection
Harubu Hyaku Shu
("One Hundred Spring Poems")
and Akibu Kyujukyu Shu
("Ninety-nine Autumn Poems")
in the Fushimi Tenno Shinkan Onka Shu
("Collection of Poems by Emperor Fushimi"),
edited by Hirosawa, Late Kamakura period, Museum collection

Tsuru Shita-e Waka Kan
(Poem on scroll against background of cranes),
poem by Hon'ami Koetsu, background painting by Tawaraya Sotatsu, Kyoto National Museum collection, Important Cultural Property

Taiheiki picture scroll, Early Edo period, Museum collection
Shihon Hakubyo Takafusa Kyo Tsuyakotoba Emaki
(Picture scroll depicting scene from poem of tragic love),
Kamakura period, Museum collection, Important Cultural Property
Hachinoki Moyo Furisode
(Long-sleeved kimono depicting poem and scene from Noh song "Hachinoki"),
Museum collection
Oka Moji Moyo Katabira
(Unlined kimono featuring cherry blossoms and written characters),
Museum collection