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The special exhibition ‘HŌNEN AND PURE LAND BUDDHISM’ will be held at the Tokyo National Museum Heiseikan (平成館) (Ueno Park) from Tuesday 16 April to Sunday 9 June.

Tokyo Venue: Heiseikan, Tokyo National Museum
Dates: 16 Apr (Tue) – 9 Jun (Sun), 2024
Closed: Mondays, 7 May (Tue) *Open on 29 Apr (Mon) and 6 May (Mon)
Opening hours: 9.30am – 5pm *entry up to 30 minutes before closing
Official website:

Purpose of holding

At the end of the Heian period, the world was in turmoil and people were exhausted by repeated civil wars and frequent disasters and epidemics. After studying on Hieizan (比叡山) and coming into contact with the teachings of Zendo (善導, 613-681), a Tang dynasty Chinese believer in Amida Buddha, Honen (法然, 1133-1212) founded the Jōdo (浄土) sect in 1175, teaching that everyone could be saved equally by Amida Buddha through the invocation of his name and be reborn in the Pure Land of Ultimate Bliss. The Jodo sect was founded in 1175. His teachings were supported by many people, from the aristocracy to the common people, and have been handed down through the ages to the present day.

On the occasion of the 850th anniversary of the founding of the Jodo Sect in 2024, this exhibition traces the 850-year history of the Jodo Sect, from the founding of the sect by Honen, to the founding of various schools and the establishment of culture by his disciples, to its major development through the devotion of the Tokugawa shoguns. The exhibition traces the history of the Jodo Sect’s 850-year history, from its establishment to its major development under the Tokugawa Shogun’s rule. This is a valuable opportunity to experience the way of life of Honen and his disciples, who aimed for the salvation of all people without distinction in difficult times, and the cultural assets that have been carefully protected and handed down.

Highlights of this exhibition

This is the first ever exhibition to provide a comprehensive overview of the art and history of the Jodo sect, one of the major sects of Kamakura Buddhism, from the Kamakura period to the Edo period. This is a definitive exhibition of the greatest treasures of the Jodo sect, held with the cooperation of the various sects of the sect on the occasion of the 850th anniversary of the founding of the sect.

The exhibition brings together a large number of cultural properties, including many national treasures and important cultural properties, such as the important cultural properties ‘Senchaku Hongan Nembutsu Shu (選択本願念仏集)’ and ‘Shichikajo Seikai (七箇条制誡)’, which are associated with the founder of the sect, Honen.

Visitors can view a wide variety of cultural assets related to the Jodo sect, including masterpieces of Jodo art such as the national treasures ‘Tsuzure-ori Taima Mandala (綴織當麻曼荼羅)’ and ‘Amida 25 Bosatsu Raigozu (阿弥陀二十五菩薩来迎図)’, as well as large-scale masterpieces such as the ‘Butsune hanzo (仏涅槃像)’.

The images of Honen and his successors, who faced wars, natural disasters and epidemics and aimed to save people, will give us hints for living at a turning point in the modern age.

Representative works

Portrait sculpture of Honen, one of the few made in the Kamakura period ‘Honen shonin zazo’

Seated Portrait of Master Hōnen, Kamakura period, 14th century, Taima-dera Oku-no-in Temple, Nara, Display Period: 16th April – 12th May

This is one of the few statues of Honen made in the Kamakura period. The flat, angular top of the head is characteristic of Honen as seen in his portraits, but the head of this statue is round. His age is younger than in many images, and he appears to be in his mature years. It is possible that he was not copied from a portrait but created from memory.

Fundamental religious text of the Pure Land sect, the beginning of which is said to be in the autograph of the sect’s founder, Honen ‘Senchaku hongan nembutsu shu’

Passages on the Selection of the Nenbutsu in the Original Vow (Senchaku hongan nenbutsu shū), Rozan-ji Version Kamakura period, 12th–13th century, Rozan-ji Temple, Kyoto, Display Period: 16th April – 12th May

Compiled by Honen in 1198 at the request of Kujo Kanezane (九条兼実). This is an important document in the history of Japanese Buddhism, systematically stating that nenbutsu is a practice suitable for the age of the Latter Day of the Law. This book is said to contain Honen’s own handwriting at the beginning.

A lengthy scripture that traces the footsteps of the sect’s founder, Honen ‘Honen shonin eden’

Illustrated Biography of Master Hōnen (Hōnen Shōnin e-den), Kamakura period, 14th century, Chion-in Temple, Kyoto, Display Period: 16th April – 12th May

This is a large biography of Honen in 48 volumes. It is a compilation of many biographies of Honen, including not only his production, but also the achievements of his disciples and the court nobles and warriors who took refuge in the Pure Land sect. It is also known as the ’48-volume biography’ or the ‘Imperial Biography’, as it is said to have been compiled at the order of the Emperor Go-Fushimi (後伏見).

*The exhibition is subject to scene changes during the exhibition period.
*The part on display changes depending on the venue.

About Tokyo national museum

Founded in 1872, the Tokyo National Museum is the museum with the longest history in Japan. The museum collects, preserves, restores, exhibits, researches, educates and disseminates various cultural assets, including art and archaeology from Japan and the East. The museum has a collection of approximately 120,000 items, including national treasures and important cultural properties.

Adress: 13-9 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 110-8712, Japan
・By Public Transport
(JR Line) 10 minutes’ walk from Ueno or Uguisudani Station
(Ginza or Hibiya Tokyo Metro Line) 15 minutes’ walk from Ueno Station
(Chiyoda Tokyo Metro Line) 15 minutes’ walk from Nezu Station
(Keisei Line) 15 minutes’ walk from Keisei Ueno Station
・By Car
5 mins from Ueno Exit, off the Shuto Expressway Ueno Route.
For visitors with wheelchairs, please consult our General Affairs section.
Parking facilities are available near Ueno station, as listed below.
Tokyo National Museum official website: