The Way of the Kami

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By Angela Hickey

The Way of the Kami is an exhibit available for viewing in the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery which presents a wonderful depiction of Japan’s rich culture and history. 

Opened on May 11, the exhibit displays and celebrates through an artistic lens many of the traditional Japanese art styles, but is most specifically centered around the traditional Shinto faith and art style, which usually consists of classical wooden sculptures and ink wash paintings. 

Shinto is named after an ancient region in Japan. This indigenous faith focuses on the Kami which are deities in Japanese culture. The Kami are believed to be within deceased ancestors, within the landscape, and also within natural phenomena, such as natural disasters. 

Shintoism beliefs also tend to focus on the world, and, unlike most religions, Shinto beliefs do not adhere to original sin but it mainly supports the improvement and development of the human soul, gearing it towards a better society. 

According to a legend from the Kojiki from 712 AD , otherwise known as Records of Ancient Matters, the islands of Japan are said to have been formed when the gods reached down from heaven and stirred the earth with a jeweled spear. This text lays the mythical foundations for a key part of Japanese religious practice: Shinto, or “the Way of the Deities.”

Previously shown in cities such as Cleveland, the exhibit houses around 75 works from nearly two dozen Japanese leaders, 20 of which were classified as Important Cultural Properties by the Japanese government.

The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the museum currently housing the exhibit, is well known for being the national museum of Asian culture in the United States. 

“As part of the Smithsonian Institution the galleries both are dedicated to advancing public knowledge about the arts and cultures of Asia through exhibitions, publications, research and education,” said

The Freer Sackler Museum serves as an international crossroads and a global destination. They care for one of the world’s most important collections of Asian art, with more than forty thousand objects—and counting—dating back from the Neolithic period up to today. Masterpieces from China, Japan, Korea, South and Southeast Asia, the ancient Near East, and the Islamic world are displayed with the utmost respect in order to educate viewers on the arts and cultures of eastern cultures. 

The exhibit has been open for a while, drawing attention from all crowds. By providing aspects of interest to art lovers and historians alike, giving something precious to all viewers. Admission to the exhibit is free and will be available for viewing from 10 am to 5:30 pm until November 11th.

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