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Turkey’s Cultural Treasures in Japan
2003 / May

When the Turkish naval frigate Ertugrul sailed for Japan in 1889 on the orders of Sultan Abdülhamid II, no one could have foreseen that this would be the beginning of a firm friendship between the two nations. Prince Komatsu, nephew of the Japanese emperor, had paid a visit to Istanbul in 1887, and Sultan Abdülhamid wished to make a gesture in return, so encouraging the development of political and cultural relations between the two countries. Following the Reform Edict of 1839 the Ottoman Empire had stepped up its policy of westernisation, and Japan, which had achieved notable advances in this respect, was regarded as a model by many Ottoman intellectuals. On Sunday 14 July 1889 the Ertuğrul, with a crew of nearly six hundred men and carrying many gifts for the Japanese emperor, including a jewelled Order of Merit, sailed from Istanbul with a ceremonial sendoff.

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Turkey’s Cultural Treasures in Japan
2003 / May

After a difficult journey of nearly a year the ship anchored in Yokohama Harbour on 7 June 1890, and the captain Osman Paşa presented two letters from the sultan and the gifts he had sent. Official ceremonies and banquets were held in honour of the Turkish delegation, and on 15 September 1890 the ship left Yokohama. Three days later the ship was struck by a violent hurricane and wrecked off the island of Oshima. News of the disaster was sent to Tokyo and from there to Istanbul. Both Turkey and Japan mourned the tragedy. From this time on the friendship which had begun between the two countries at the end of the 19th century continued with increasing warmth and sympathy. Now, 114 years after the Ertugrul set out on its fateful voyage, Japan has proclaimed the year 2003 to be Turkish Year as an expression of this friendship.

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Turkey’s Cultural Treasures in Japan
2003 / May
In celebration of the occasion events are being held in many Japanese cities, one of the most interesting of all being an exhibition organised by Sadberk Hanim Museum and entitled Turkish Cultural Treasures from the Sadberk Hanim Museum Collection. The exhibition is commencing its visit to Japan at the Suntory Art Museum in Tokyo, and over the year it will tour Fukuoka State Museum, and the Iwaki, Okazaki and Shizuoka art museums. The 621 exhibits cover a time span ranging from the Neolithic age into the first half of the 20th century, and focus particularly on the theme of women. This magnificent exhibition bringing together Assyrian Colony, Hittite, Urartian, Phrygian, Roman, Byzantine, Seljuk and Ottoman works of art, includes figurines of the ancient mother goddess, jewellery and costumes arranged in chronological order, accompanied by information about the cultures to which they belong.
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Turkey’s Cultural Treasures in Japan
2003 / May
There is an anthropomorphic pottery vase, figurines of Aphrodite, Eros, Telesphoros, and other gods and goddesses, each as splendid as heroes out of Homer's Iliad, and figurines of various types symbolising womn'si fertility. Numerous examples of jewellery, including diadems, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings and belts worn by women thousands of years ago are among the most interesting pieces in the exhibition, which also includes perfume bottles, lamps, cuneiform tablets which are among the world's first written documents, and coins belonging to King Croesus the celebrated Lydian ruler of western Anatolia. Exhibits from the Ottoman Turkish period are equally fascinating, with examples of womn'sl costumes between the 17th and early 20th century, manuscript Korans, calligraphic panels and Koran cases reflecting the arts of both calligraphy and illumination, and some of the beautifully crafted tools used by scribes,
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Turkey’s Cultural Treasures in Japan
2003 / May

such as an ivory makta used for sharpening the nips of reed pens, paper shears and cases known as divit, in which calligraphers carried their pens, ink and other equipment. Then there are prayer beads and examples of the renowned Iznik tiles, with which so many Ottoman Turkish monuments are adorned. In addition to Ottoman garments made of various rich fabrics, with their glowing colours and ornate embroidered decoration, there are examples of the embroidered articles which Ottoman women made for their own homes. One section of the exhibition is devoted to a quite different subject, that of arms, and includes swords, daggers, axes, maces, helmets, and bows and arrows. This exhibition from Sadberk Hanim Museum brings a new dimension to cultural exchange between Turkey and Japan, and gives insight into a land that has been home to some of the most remarkable civilisations the world has known.

* Abdullah Kiliç is a journalist

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