New Tenri Sankokan Museum Opens

The New Tenri Sankokan Museum opened its doors to the general public on November 1. Housed in the newly completed South Right Wing 1 of the Oyasato-yakata building-complex, the collection is displayed in extremely attractive settings. The Audio Guide provides visitors with interpretive information concerning some 80 exhibits, and video footages shown at seven locations illustrate how some selected items were used in the cultures that they represent. Other new features include a reading area, computer search area, classroom, and rest areas, as well as increased wheelchair accessibility.

Tenri Sankokan Museum was originally founded in 1930 by Shozen Nakayama, the second Shinbashira of Tenrikyo, who wished to provide missionaries going overseas with an opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the life styles and histories of the regions where they were aspiring to spread the teachings. Going overseas to spread the Tenrikyo teachings requires not only foreign language acquisition but also a background understanding of the ways in which people in other countries think and live, and historic and contemporary artifacts from those countries can help facilitate such an understanding. It goes without saying that these missionaries ought to be well versed in their own Japanese culture as well. Consequently, the holdings of this museum, which include archaeological and folk artifacts, were collected from both overseas and within Japan.

A portion of these holdings are now displayed under the themes “world cultures” on the first and second floors and “antiquities of the world” on the third floor. The former, ranging from Ainu handicrafts to Latin American weaving, is illuminated by items from such regions as the Korean peninsula, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, India, Mexico, and Guatemala, as well as Japan.

After passing through the spacious entrance hall, visitors first come to a section displaying fine examples of Ainu handicrafts, including household implements and clothing, which were well suited to their natural environments in northern Japan.

Proceeding along the recommended route, visitors can next explore the traditional Korean people’s spiritual world and their ideal cultural order by examining such artifacts as chan-seung, or pillar statues, which are found in rural areas, as well as masks and musical instruments used in festivals.

Visitors are then introduced to the quest for happiness and longevity in traditional China, illustrated by folk tools produced by people in China and Taiwan. Some of these exhibits relate to their traditional beliefs in spirits and ghosts that populate their pantheon.

The exhibits in the next section illustrate the Balinese people’s peaceful and dignified way of life, which is pervaded by their sense of intimacy with the gods. Visitors are then met with traditional tools and other items from Borneo, decorated with striking designs and colors. Artifacts from India then illuminate traditional Hindu society, which has produced rich and diverse cultures and art forms.

The next section, displaying boats and rafts, is devoted to the lifestyle of people living near the waters in Asia. Living in coastal areas as well as in riverside and lakeside areas, they have developed various waterside cultures, which attest to their love of the rivers and seas.

Visitors can then view some indigenous costumes from Mexico and Guatemala, which reveal their remarkable traditional weaving art. The last section on this floor introduces visitors to Papua New Guinea, where local residents traditionally believe that natural objects such as trees, streams, and rocks are inhabited by spirits who possess mysterious powers. Their feeling of awe led the locals to fashion masks and statues to give tangible expression to those spirits.

Items in the second-floor gallery include artifacts relating to Japanese emigration and Tenrikyo missionaries, people’s lives in Japan, and railways and other aspects of transportation in Japan dating from the late Edo, Meiji, Taisho, and Showa periods.

The third-floor gallery is devoted to archeological art from such regions as the Korean Peninsula, China, Japan, Egypt, and the Near East. In addition, artifacts unearthed from the Furu site near the museum, covering the Jomon and Kofun periods in particular, are also on display.

Prior to the general opening, a service was performed on October 29 in the Main Sanctuary with the Shinbashira presiding in order to express gratitude for the completion of the relocation of Sankokan Museum. This was followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the museum, an occasion honored by the presence of Prince Mikasa and attended by some 420 people. After cutting the ribbon, Prince Mikasa toured the museum in the company of the Shinbashira and the former Shinbashira.

Later that day, the opening of the new Sankokan Museum was marked by a ceremony held in Tenri University’s Gym #1 , where the Shinbashira, Prince Mikasa, and Director Takayasu Higuchi of Kashihara Archaeological Research Institute delivered their addresses. The Shinbashira, speaking first, emphasized the importance of bringing the mind into accord with the teachings in conducting any undertaking. He said that the relocation of Tenri Sankokan Museum into South Right Wing 1 of the Oyasato-yakata provided a perfect opportunity to ponder yet again the mission of responding to the original concept behind constructing the Oyasato-yakata as well as to God the Parent’s intention to hasten world salvation. He suggested that his listeners renew their understanding of the mission entrusted to Tenri Sankokan Museum, as well as Tenri University and Tenri Central Library, which had all been established to nurture and educate those aspiring to spread the teachings overseas. These institutions exist, he said, so that they might contribute to the path of single-hearted salvation, that is, serve to convey the path leading to the Joyous Life. With this in mind, he urged those concerned to make full use of this museum in the cause of single-hearted salvation. The Shinbashira concluded by asking his listeners to fully savor the constant and unchanging parental heart that could be perceived from the world’s cultures and their histories and, thereby, further deepen their delight of the Joyous Life.

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