Mitsui Memorial Museum
This special exhibition is being held to offer prayers for the recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake, in honor of the completion of the major Heisei-era restoration of the National Treasure designated Hondō of Zuigan-ji in Matsushima, and in commemoration of the 450th birth anniversary of Date Masamune. We hope that this exhibition will broaden visitors’ understanding of the history and culture of Zuigan-ji and the Sendai clan, which symbolized the co-existence of the Momoyama forces near Kyoto and the so-called Michinoku district of Tohoku provinces centered on Sendai.
Zuigan-ji is located in Matsushima, renowned for its pine-studded islands and considered one of Japan’s three major natural beauty sites, along with Itsukushima and Amanohashidate. The temple has a 1,200-year history as one of the spiritual and cultural pillars of the Michinoku region. It was founded in the Heian period by Jikaku Daishi Ennin as a Tendai sect temple named Enpuku-ji. In the Kamakura period it became a Rinzai sect temple also named Enpuku-ji but with a different character used for “en.” The Rinzai temple welcomed Rankei Dōryū (Daikaku Zenji, 1213-1278, founder of Kamakura’s Kenchō-ji), as its second-generation head priest, and the temple greatly developed as the focal point of the Rinzai Kenchō-ji sect in the Tohoku region. The temple’s fortunes declined at the end of the Muromachi period, but Date Masamune, first daimyō of the Sendai clan, revived it during the Keichō era. At that time the temple was renamed Zuigan-ji, the name it still bears today.
Zuigan-ji is home to numerous temple treasures, from the National Treasure-designated Hondō (main hall) and Kuri (kitchen), to the architectural decorative sculpture on those structures, as well as 150 wall and panel paintings designated as Important Cultural Properties. This exhibition presents some of these wall and panel paintings, transom sculptures, umpan (flat) gongs, a seated sculpture of Date Masamune (dedicated 1652, Keian 5), and many other superb works. Of particular note is the first display outside of the temple grounds of the Five Great Myōō sculptures, dated to the early Heian period and designated Important Cultural Properties.
The Sendai City Museum is cooperating with this exhibition by sending a variety of important artworks and historical materials related to Date Masamune and his circle, such as the Important Cultural Property designated-Five-piece Cuirass Armor and Black Wool Jinbaori (surcoat) with Red Mountains Motif worn by Date Masamune, letters, waka (poetry) scrolls, folding screens and lacquer furnishings. These various items will shed light on the cultural side of Date Masamune, the Warring States military general of the Tohoku region who was nicknamed Dokuganryū, or the one-eyed dragon, for wearing an eye patch over one damaged eye.
Zuigan-ji was built during Date Masamune’s period to pray for the peace and security of the nation and its people. The exhibition will also convey how Zuigan-ji is overcoming the unprecedented peril of the Great East Japan Earthquake as it continues its prayers for the nation.