Exhibition Outlines

Special Exhibition No.4 Imperial Feasts -Beauty of Traditions- -A Special Exhibition in Commemoration of the 10th Anniversary of the Enthronement of His Majesty the Emperor- (1999/11/14 - 1999/11/28)

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Beauty of Traditions

The fourth and current part of the special exhibition commemorating the 10th anniversary of the enthronement of His Majesty the Emperor attempts to introduce some of the feasts and banquets held in the Imperial Household along with a variety of traditions related to them.

It has long been a custom in the Imperial Household to serve foods and drinks to those who participate in various Imperial festivities and ceremonies. Among such events, there are not a few, including the New Year’s Day Banquet, the Springtime Banquet on March 3 (the “Meandering Stream Banquet”) and the Chrysanthemum Festival on September 9, in which invitees are expected to offer music, dance and poetry to the Imperial hosts - a tradition which has made great contributions to the development of the nation’s literature and other arts. Of all such festive events, those which are particularly large in scale and magnificent in nature are referred to as “Daikyo” and “Taikyo” (grand banquets). In the Heian Period, there were several large-scale banquets, including the “Nigu Grand Banquet” in which Crown Prince and Empress received greetings from their subjects and offered them foods and drinks on New Year’s Day and the “Grand Banquet for State Ministers”.

There is no denying the fact that, in the course of history, the annual events of the Imperial Household have undergone a great deal of changes, some simply discontinued, others petering out and still others revived after a time. The ceremonies and festivities concerning the enthronement of the Emperor, however, have been handed down to this day without any interruptions and with almost all their traditions intact.

The “Great Food Offering Ritual” held on the occasion of the enthronement of an emperor, has long been conducted in the Imperial Household - a fitting celebratory event for Japan where rice cultivation as a principal food supply developed quite early in its history. It has been a time-honored custom to hold, after this ritual, a large-scale banquet called the “Toyo-no-akari Feast”. After the advent of the modern times, the “Toyo-no-akari Feast”, though firmly upholding the old traditions, has been gradually modified to suit the new status of the Imperial Household in the present-day Japan. The feast is now simply called the “Daikyo Banquet”.

The current exhibition centers around an entire set of furnitures and utensils used by Their Majesties the Emperor and the Empress on the occasion of the Grand Banquet with due attention paid to the historical nature of the furnishings and utensils used at the banquet as well as music and dances performed at the event. We organizers shall be more than fully rewarded if our efforts will be of some help for visitors to know about the hitherto little-revealed celebratory events of the Imperial Household and appreciate the beauty of traditions contained in them.