Ikumi Kaminishi

Ikumi Kaminishi

Associate Professor
Director of Graduate Studies
Fine Arts House, Room 331
11 Talbot Avenue, Medford, MA


Ikumi Kaminishi specializes in Japanese art and culture with particular focuses on Buddhist art and medieval illustrated hand-scrolls (emakimono). She explores visual art as paradigms of Buddhist upāya (skillful means), a didactic method of helping others to enlightenment. In her book, Explaining Pictures: Buddhist Propaganda and ETOKI Storytelling in Japan (The University of Hawai'i Press, 2006), she examined the roles of prophetic didactic paintings used for Buddhist proselytization (etoki). Her current book project focuses on Japan's pre-modern visual culture with interests in political intrigues behind illustrated hand-scrolls, including the Kitano Tenjin scrolls and other major works. Her articles on the scrolls of Kegon-shū soshi eden (Legends of the Kegon Buddhist school founders) and the Kusōzu (Decaying corpse in nine Stages) focused on the issues of Buddhism and women. She teaches a variety of courses, including Japanese architecture, Buddhist Art, Arts of China, Zen and Tea Aesthetics, and History of Japanese anime.


  • PhD, The University of Chicago, 1996
  • MA, The University of Chicago, 1989
  • BA, The University of Chicago, 1984


Buddhist art and etoki (preaching with paintings); Buddhism and women; Japanese illustrated narrative hand-scrolls (emakimono); East Asian cultures

Research Interests

Asian art and architecture, Buddhist painting, and narrative studies

Selected Publications and Presentations

Explaining Pictures: Buddhist Propaganda And Etoki Storytelling in Japan. Honolulu: The University of Hawai'i Press, March 2006.

Journal Articles and Essays:

  • "Women Who Crossed the Cordon," in Women, Gender and Art in Asia, c. 1500-1900, ed. by Melia Belli Bose (London and New York: Routledge, 2016): 321-342.
  • "Zenmyo's True Colors: Demonstrating Non-Duality of Form and Emptiness in the Kegon Scroll," in Color in Ancient and Medieval Asia (Kansas: University of Kansas and Spencer Museum of Art, Kansas, 2015): 209-222.
  • "The Political Culture of a Scroll: Jien's Appropriation of Kitano Tenjin," Ars Orientalis, Vol. 44 (2014): 111-133.
  • "Animated Rhythms of The Illustrated Scroll of Major Counselor Ban," in Looking at Asian Art, eds. by Katherine R. Tsiang and Martin J. Powers (Chicago: The Center for the Art of East Asia, University of Chicago, 2012): 76-93.
  • "Dead Beautiful: Visualizing the Decaying Corpse in Nine Stages as Skillful Means of Buddhism," in A Companion to Asian Art and Architecture: Blackwell Companions to Art History, ed. by Rebecca Brown and Deborah Hutton (MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011): 513-536.
  • "ETOKI, or deciphering pictures, of Buddhist propaganda," Word & Image, volume 18, number 3 (July-September 2002): 191-209.