When Mimi Gates moved to Seattle in 1994 to be director of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), it was the museum’s superb Asian collection that had lured her away from the Yale University Art Gallery after 19 years working there, 12 as curator and seven as director). At Yale, she had championed Oriental art within both the museum and community, backed by her doctorate from the university in Chinese art history. Marrying Bill Gates Sr. (father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates) in 1996 was, she says, “something unexpected and quite wonderful.”

Now Gates has brought the Seattle Art Museum’s Asian collection back to its Eastern roots for its first tour abroad. Titled “Luminous Jewels: Masterpieces of Asian Art from the Seattle Art Museum,” the 98 pieces, mainly from Japan and China, will travel to five Japanese museums. First stop is the Suntory Art Museum in Roppongi’s Midtown till Sept. 9.

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