Outline of Exhibition

Documents from Medieval Japan: Functions and Styles
Period Tuesday, October 8 – Sunday, December 1, 2013
Venue Special Exhibition Galleries, National Museum of Japanese History
Admissions Adults: ¥830 (¥560)
Senior high school & college students: ¥450 (¥250)
* Fees in parentheses apply to groups of 20 or more
* Admission to permanent exhibitions included
* Free admission for elementary & junior high school students
* Free admission for senior high school students every Saturday

9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. (entrance closed at 4:00 p.m.)

Closed October 15, 21, 28, November 5, 11, 18, 25
Organizer National Museum of Japanese History


Outline of Exhibition

Documents are essential materials that teach history. Since they are written historical materials, the written contents receive attention first. Documents, however, represent more than their written contents. The styles, calligraphies, materials, and sizes represent various meanings about functions to be performed and relationships with target parties. Documents have continued changing historically and are very attractive as object materials.
Also, documents have significance not only at the time at which their contents are conveyed, but in the course of their being preserved and handed down, they perform secondary functions through existence and possession.
Focusing attention on various "functions and styles" as described above, we hold a comprehensive exhibition of documents from the Middle Ages that have been handed down until today.
Exhibitions of documents from the Middle Ages have been held so far, but many of them exhibited groups of documents that were handed down through particular samurai families or temples such as "xxx Family's monjo" or "xxx Temple monjo". At exhibitions of such documents, however, an overview of documents from the Middle Ages cannot be clearly seen, and aspects rich in variety and historical change cannot be fully understood. Therefore, at this exhibition, a rich collection of documents held by our museum together with other owners' materials are exhibited, making it an unprecedentedly comprehensive exhibition of documents from the Middle Ages.

At this exhibition, various approaches and explanations for general people are provided so that people who have no knowledge about historical documents and characters written in the cursive style can experience the "enjoyment of seeing" historical documents.

Highlights - Without seeing this exhibition, you cannot tell documents from Medieval Japan!

Unprecedented comprehensive exhibition of documents from Medieval Japan

It is doubtful that documents from Medieval Japan so rich in variety have ever been exhibited at one time before. At this exhibition, about 220 documents from Medieval Japan, each of which is a very valuable material, are on show. The documents indicate a comprehensive Medieval Japan history beyond genre and age. People who are interested in historical documents and people who like Medieval Japan should not miss this exhibition.

Suited for university students' study of historical documents

In particular, for those who study history at university, this is a must-see exhibition. In paleography, various styles of documents and their relationship with historical background are of primary importance. This exhibition offers a precious opportunity to study paleography through very real things. Since various documents, which are not limited to certain fields of documents such as samurai families' documents or temple documents, are exhibited, you can gain an overview of Medieval Japan paleography by looking around.

Many famous materials exhibited

Many documents, each of which is famous or rare, are exhibited. It is said that only two of "Minamoto Yoshitsune's holograph letters" exist in the world. In addition to "Minamoto Yoshitsune's holograph letter", holographs of Taira no Munemori, Emperor Godaigo, Ashikaga Takauji, Ichijo Kaneyoshi, and Sanjonishi Sanetaka are exhibited. The list of documents by historically famous people is endless.

Even if you cannot read the documents, it's okay! This is an exhibition of historical documents you can enjoy seeing.

Historical documents are apt to be given a wide berth because of "being unreadable". But at this exhibition, you do not need to read the contents. The prime purpose is to read information represented by "appearance" such as style, how names are written, and paper size and color. Therefore, it's okay even if you cannot read characters written in the cursive style. People who want to try to read them are also welcome, of course! For each of all the documents, writing in printed letters is displayed, and audio guidance using a smartphone is also available.

Enjoyable experience corner

You can not only see or read but also make documents. How is a document folded? How is a written seal placed? You can experience the feeling of being a person living in Medieval Japan for a while.

Exhibition Lineup

I.Document Styles and Its Historical Background

  1. Kushikiyo-monjo (documents prescribed in the Ritsuryo code) and Kugeyo-monj (documents used by court nobles)
    1 Kushikiyo-monjo, 2 Kugeyo-monjo
  2. Bukeyo-monjo (documents used by people in samurai families)
    1 Minamoto Yoritomo's document, 2 Various styles of samurai families' documents

II.Creation, Delivery, and Preservation of Public Documents

  1. Issue of documents and preservation
    1 Life cycle of documents observed with shihai-monjo (documents written on the reverse sides of others)
  2. Order and execution
    1 Formation of agreement between court nobles and samurai and conveyance, 2 Gunchu (military war service records) and approval, gratuity and commendation, 3 Application and settlement ― Combined documents
  3. Decision making and execution by court nobles and bureaucrats
  4. Combination with records ― Documents pasted in a diary

III.Creation, Delivery, and Preservation of Documents with Limited Circulation

  1. Ticket of land sale and certificate of loss
    1 Ticket of sale in the Heian period, 2 Ticket of land sale ― Tetsugi-kenmon, 3 Certificate of loss
  2. Contract and Kisho (request for approval)
    1 Keijo (agreement), 2 Kishomon
  3. Documents related to organizations
    1 Organization and management of temples and shrines, 2 Origin of villages and inhabitants, 3 Household management of court nobles, 4 Organization of court nobles, 5 Organization of a samurai family and courtesy

IV.Materials and Usage

  1. Kinds of ryoshi (writing paper) and use
    1 Materials and paper making method, 2 Colored paper, 3 How to fold and place a document in an envelope
  2. Public announcement document 1.-Kishinjo (list of donations or donors) written on wood or stone
  3. Public announcement document 2.-Seisatsu (signboard where edicts and prohibitions are posted)
    1 Style of seisatsu, 2 Function of seisatsu

V.The Change of Documents from Medieval Japan to Early Modern Japan

  1. Inpanjo (seal inscription)
    1 Inpanjo of Sengoku Daimyo (territorial lord in the Sengoku period), 2 Inpanjo of Oda Nobunaga, 3 Inpanjo of the Toyotomi government

Epilogue. The Secondary Usage of Documents

  1. Document from the Middle Ages as identification
  2. Kao-tekagami (written seal mark book)
  3. Tokonoma-kazari (alcove decoration)
  4. Seikan-monjo

【Main Artifacts】

* During the exhibition period, some of the exhibits will be replaced.

Classical books and documents formerly in the Tanaka Yutaka Collection (Museum Collection), classical books and documents formerly in the collection of the Hirohashi family (Museum Collection), ** Echizen-Shimazu-ke monjo (Museum Collection), Bungo Wakabayashi-ke monjo (Museum Collection), Iwami Kamei-ke monjo (Museum Collection), ** Eisan-ji Temple monjo (Museum Collection),** Kozan-ji Temple monjo (Museum Collection), ** Wakasa Hata-ke monjo(owned by the Kyoto University Museum), ** Sanetaka Koki (owned by the Historiographical Institute, University of Tokyo), and Kinsei (prohibitions) documents addressed to folk dwellings in Qingdao by the General Headquarters of the Japanese Brigade, October of 1914(owned by National Institute of Japanese Literature)

(**: Important cultural property)

Minamoto Yoshitsune's holograph letter (1185)
【Important cultural property】
Documents of the Kozan-ji Temple (Museum Collection)
Minamoto Yoritomo Kudashibumi (1192)
(Owned by Kanagawa Prefectural Museum)
Exhibition period:October 8 to November 4
Kanto gechijou (with the signatures of Hojo Yasutoki and Tokifusa) (1235)
(Museum Collection)
Emperor Godaigo rinji (with the signature of Nakamikado Tsunesue) (1333)
【Important cultural property】
Echizen Shimazu-ke monjo (Museum Collection)
Ashikaga Takauji legion's reminder (1351)
【Important cultural property】
Echizen Shimazu-ke monjo (Museum Collection)
Myou-amidabutsu yachi kishinjo (1366)
(Museum Collection)
Hosokawa Masamoto seisatsu (1482)
(Owned by Wada Temple, Hyogo Prefecture)
Kishomon by people living in villages, Omi Minami-gun (1572)
(Museum Collection)
Oda Nobunaga shuinjo (1581)
Iwami Kamei-ke monjo (Museum Collection)
Hojo-ke tenmategata (1587)
(Museum Collection)
Kitano engi-e (Iwamatsu Miyamoto) 14th century
(Museum Collection)

Note: Please note that items in the exhibition are subject to change.