Ryusuke Asami of the Tokyo National Museum says on April 20, “We will hold a record large-scale exhibition of Unkei’s Buddhist statues.” TV personality Tomoe Shinohara says, “Unkei created so much inspiring jewelry art for his statues that I feel that he had been a jewelry designer.”

Dozens of works by Unkei, the most acclaimed Buddhist statue creator in Japan’s history, will go on display during a special exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum in autumn.

Only 31 works of the 12th-13th century artisan are believed to have survived. Of them, 22 statues will be exhibited during the event from Sept. 26 to Nov. 26.

The Special Exhibition Unkei, in fact, will feature 74 artworks, including those of Unkei’s sons and father.

“We would like visitors to feel a strong impression with the Unkei world,” said Ryusuke Asami, who heads the planning department of the museum.

These treasures, known for their graphic, powerful and dynamic styles, include the Bodhisattva standing statues of Mujaku and Seshin. These government-designated national treasures belong to Kofukuji temple in Nara and are world-acclaimed masterpieces.

The Bodhisattva standing statue of Shokannon, a government-designated important cultural property, will be taken out of Takisanji temple in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture, for the first time and put on display at the exhibition.

Also for the special exhibition, the Bishamonten standing statue, one of Unkei’s most renowned artworks and a government-designated national treasure, will be temporarily removed from Ganjojuin temple in Izunokuni, Shizuoka Prefecture, for the first time in 42 years for a domestic showing.

Five government-designated important cultural properties, including the Amida Sanzonzo statue, housed at Jorakuji temple in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, will also be featured.

It will be the first time for all five statues to be displayed together in Japan outside the temple in 42 years.

“We will analyze the inside of the statues through X-ray and CT scanning, which might lead to new discoveries of Unkei’s works hidden inside,” Asami said.

The Special Exhibition Unkei is sponsored by the Tokyo National Museum, Kofukuji temple, TV Asahi Corp. and The Asahi Shimbun Co.

For further information, check the website (in Japanese) of Unkei Gakuen (Unkei School) (http://unkei2017.jp/gakuen/) featuring lectures and club activities by illustrator Jun Miura and TV personality Tomoe Shinohara.