Improbable Monument Proposal

The Heian era was one of the brightest periods of Japanese history. The era marked a flourishing of Japanese court life. Art, poetry, religion, astrology, and culture thrived in the capital at Heian-kyo. It is from the Heian period that we received such works as Murasaki Shikibu’s Tale of Genji, often argued as the first novel ever written. Many courtly traditions from the Heian period persisted for nearly a thousand years. Japanese poetry and literature as they are known today have their roots in this beautiful period. I plan to create a monument to honor this cultural jewel in Japanese history.


I would like to create an interactive homage to Heian court life. Inspired by the concept of historical reenactment, Renaissance fairs, and “live action roleplaying” or “LARP,” I want to invite visitors to participate directly in a scene of Heian court life. Tourists would be able to enter a recreation of a Heian courtly scene. They are assigned roles based on their gender and given a brief explanation of their roles. Then, they spend time participating in the court life scenario. I will use Ivan Morris’ World of the Shining Prince as my primary resource for developing the simulations and scenarios.

My plan is to draw on concepts like the CAVE virtual reality and the Star Trek holodeck to create an immersive simulated reality that can form differently each time the simulation is loaded. Using some sort of technology from “solid light” to nanotechnology, the monument would be able to create a simulated environment that could be different each time it’s loaded. Each experience could be unique, as visitors would not only be assigned different roles, but would also have new environments to explore.

This would become an homage to Buddhism in Heian court life. Heian nobles were very fond of the impermanence of reality in Buddhist belief. Their appreciation ran so deep that a nobleman was considered intelligent and romantic if he could spontaneously recite a poem that appreciated a thing for its beauty while also mourning its transient beauty. The monument’s simulated reality would never be the same twice, and would always disappear permanently at the end of the scenario. Thus, people would be encouraged to ponder this transient reality and appreciate it while it exists.

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