April 28th of this year saw the 60th anniversary of the beginning of diplomatic relations between Japan and Sri Lanka. In order to celebrate this milestone, the Japanese Embassy in Sri Lanka launched a series of cultural events; its pinnacle an exhibition entitled “Wisdom of Japanese” on the “Culture of Kyoto” now on at the BMICH in Colombo.
This exhibition, which began on July 14th and ends on Wednesday 25th, was co-organised by the governments of Japan and Sri Lanka through the Embassy of Japan and the Western Province Governor’s Office in Sri Lanka, as well as the Honganji Foundation and the Municipality of Kyoto City, Japan.
This multi-faceted exhibition, offers an insight into the foundations of Japanese culture which began in Japan’s first capital, Kyoto, over 1200 years ago. Some 60 exhibits both visual including DVDs and photo text panels, as well as artefacts help bring out the everyday life of the Japanese at this time.
Sri Lankans are invited into the core of Japanese religious and cultural values in Kyoto, originally “Heian-Kyo”, which translates as “capital of peace” and furthermore of stability and tranquillity. The origins of Mahayana Buddhism practised in Japan today can be traced back to this city, for it was here that an appreciation for openness and harmony was first formed, which shaped the Shinto beliefs. These beliefs, when fused with those of Buddhism are thought to have formed the doctrines on which Japan’s present religion is based.
First Secretary (Information and Culture) of the Embassy of Japan in Sri Lanka Kiyohiko Hamada, said that it was important for the embassy to mark this anniversary in order to celebrate the flourishing cooperation between the two countries, as well as the empathy that they share. The countries are connected on one level through religion as nations with a Buddhist majority, as well as through increasing trade links, but have also been united through their mutual support and concern for one another’s interests.
President J.R. Jayawardene’s speech (he was then Minister of Finance) at the San Francisco Peace Conference in 1951 is a testimony to the ties the countries share. For, using the words of the Lord Buddha, “Hatred does not leave by hatred, but by love”, Jayawardene urged other nations to accept Japan into the folds of the international community, and to spare no expense in its reparations, following the devastation of the Second World War.
Hamada comments that Japan has not forgotten Sri Lanka’s kindness and the exhibition pays homage to the countries’ mutual support in times of need. A section devoted to The Great East Japan Earthquake of last year has photographs showing the aid offered to Japan from Sri Lanka, similar to Japan’s assistance in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami.
The exhibition says Hamada, acts as a way of further cementing ties between countries which are already close, through exposing a Sri Lankan audience to the essence of Japanese culture by way of traditional handicrafts, Noh theatre costumes and Buddhist altars and ritual plates and much more.
The Hongangi Foundation launched the exhibition in the hope that “Kyoto’s culture will serve as a source of inspiration....for humankind in this age of turmoil”. The emphasis placed by Kyoto for harmony within a community is as the President of the Foundation Most Venerable Ohtani Choujon, says “perfectly aligned” with the “highest goal of the united nations....to increase awareness for the history and culture of various nations and promote respect for cultural diversity”.
It is hoped that as many people as possible will have the opportunity to view the exhibition, highlighting a city so important for both the Japanese and international community. The exhibition is open to the public free of charge from 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.