Rug’s secrets to unravel in Gion


Staff Writer

The results of a nifty piece of historical sleuthing are on display in Kyoto through July 18 in an exhibition timed to coincide with the city’s renowned Gion Festival.

Visitors to that famed festival in years past will remember that each of the majestic, multistoried yama floats in the monthlong festival’s climactic parade (held each year on July 17) is adorned with an intricate tapestry.

One in particular, the Minami Kannon Yama float, which is traditionally the last in the parade and is dedicated to Yoryu Kannon and Zenzai Doji (Sudhana), features a tapestry that suggests the influence of the 15th-century Kano School of painting, with graceful depictions of natural scenery. So far, so ho-hum.

But now the plot thickens: A very similar tapestry was recently discovered in the Tapi Collection, a well-known collection of tapestries in India. Established by the Shah family, which operates India’s successful Garden Silk Mills company, the collection houses Indian fabrics dating back to the 14th century — many of which were made for export.

Thus the exhibition will reveal how the Minami Kannon Yama tapestry was likely to have been a gift made to Japan by representatives of the Dutch East India Co., probably in the 18th century. Its Japanese-style decoration was probably made with its ultimate owners in mind.

“Tapi Collection in Kyoto Gion Matsuri” will be held at Kyoto Seikatsu Kogeikan-Memeisha in Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, through July 18 (10 a.m.-6 p.m.). For more information, call (075) 221-1317.