The Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies, founded in 1968, is an international liaison and research center designed primarily to serve European and American scholars whose main area of study focuses on medieval Japan.

The overall purpose of the Institute is to encourage research on all aspects of premodern Japanese civilization, especially the medieval period (primarily, but not exclusively, the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, 1185-1600), centuries which, until the 1970s, had been relatively neglected among Japanese and Western scholars alike.

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Fall 2003 Events

December 2002 IMJS Report

October 14th Press Release

The Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies
is pleased to commemorate its 35th Anniversary.
We would be honored to have your presence
at our celebration. Please save the date.

Wednesday, October 29th, 2003
at the Rotunda of Low Library
Columbia University

in honor of the memory of eleven nun-artists
Celebrating Buddhist Art
by Edo-Period Princess-Nuns
by Prof. Patricia Fister of the Int’l Research Center for Japanese Studies, Kyoto
in honor of the memory of the eleven imperial abbesses whose religious art we celebrate.
“Ave Suavis Dilectio” Motet, Opus 6 (1676)
by the Italian nun Isabella Leonarda (1670-1704)
“Fuki”(kumi uta), songs for the koto
A World Premier “Das Cartas” (2003)
for mixed chorus, harp and koto by Hiroya Miura
“ear for EAR(antiphones)” (1983) by John Cage
“Dan no ura” by Kinshi Tsuruta & Yoko Mizuno
performed by eminent biwa artist
Kakujo Nakamura
A reception will follow at 7:00pm

On October 29, 2003 the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies, located at Columbia University, celebrates in New York the 35th anniversary of its founding and the 10th anniversary of its Imperial Buddhist Convent Research and Restoration Project in Kyoto and Nara, Japan.

The 2003 anniversary year began this spring with the Institute’s world-premier exhibition at the Nomura Art Museum in Kyoto of “Art by Buddhist Nuns: Treasures from the Imperial Buddhist Convents of Japan,” the first ever exhibition of Edo-period religious art created by Japanese nuns.

The celebratory events planned for New York include a richly illustrated public lecture by curator of that exhibition, Professor Patricia Fister of the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, Kyoto, who will speak about the Japanese royal princess-nuns of the 17th and 18th centuries whose amazing talent and faith produced some of the Edo period’s most moving Buddhist artworks, none of which had ever been seen before by the Japanese public. Her lecture, entitled “Celebrating Buddhist Art by Edo Period Princess-Nuns,” will be followed by a concert of Western and Japanese vocal and instrumental music presented as an offertory (kenkyoku) to honor the memory of the eleven royal princess-nun artists who are the focus of this event. The program will include works composed by the 17th-century Italian nun, Isabella Leonarda (1620-1704), who lived during the same years as the Japanese nuns - - an offering from Western nun to Japanese nuns who shared life on our earth at the same time. There will also be koto music that would have been familiar to the Japanese princess-nuns, as well as a USA-premier of a modern work for voice and koto that incorporates waka poetry well-known to the princess-nuns from the card game played in both court and convent, based on “One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets” (Haykunin Isshu).

The program will conclude with the virtuoso biwa artist Nakamura Kakujo, who will perform a biwa-accompanied canticle based on the terrible 12th-century battles that destroyed the Heike clan and led to the tonsure of the empress, offered as a lament against war and a prayer for peace that transcends nations and centuries.

These celebrations reflect the Institute’s long-term efforts to bring to light the sorely neglected history of the many women who, over the centuries, made major contributions to Japanese cultural matters. It highlights as well the Institute’s continuing efforts to bring traditional Japanese music and musical instruments into the mainstream world of 21st-century music.

These events, which are free and open to the public, will take place from 5:00pm through 7:30pm on October 29, 2003 in the Rotunda of Low Memorial Library, Columbia University, at Broadway and 116th Street. Please come and join us.

Behind all these events lies the philosophy that moves all the Institute’s activities: a belief that the touchstone of history can provide perspective and remedy to present-day dilemmas; that keeping in touch with the legacy of forebears inspires us, in the words of Abbess Mugai Nyodai, “to polish our own hearts.”

We will be grateful if you consider supporting our work. For details contact:
Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies
509 Kent Hall, MC 3906
Columbia University
New York, NY 10027
Phone: (212) 854-7403
Fax: (212) 854-1470

The facilities of the Institute at Columbia University in New York City are available to all scholars and students of medieval Japan from any academic institution.

In September 1999, the Medieval Japanese Studies Foundation was established as a Not-for-Profit corporation to further the financial support of the activities of the Institute. All gifts to the foundation are tax-exempt.

Readers of our web page are urged to click on "Medieval Japanese Studies Foundation" for instructions on how you can become a vital participant in our programs by becoming a donor. Both the Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies located at Columbia University as well as the Center for the Study of Women, Buddhism and Culture, in the Buddhist Convent Daikankiji in Kyoto are totally dependant on funding from the Medieval Japanese Studies Foundation, made possible by the philanthropic support of people like you. Every dollar or yen counts. Please take a moment to review your charitable intent for this year and consider including the Foundation in your plans.


Last Updated : 10/01/2003. For comments and questions, please contact Miho Walsh. The Institute extends its profound appreciation to Axel Karpenstein and Annie Chu, former Program Assistants, for helping to design  this website, and T. Mark Kuba and Amit Singhal, for updating and maintaining this website.
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