(AGI) Rome, July 29 - An exhibition entitled "Capolavori della scultura buddhista giapponese" (Masterpieces of Japanese Buddhist Sculpture) has opened in Rome. Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, sent a statement to the Italian Presidential Palace for the occasion, affirming that "Both Italy and Japan have a wealth of culture and traditions stemming from a historic evolution". Visitors will be able to witness the splendors of Japan's culture till Sep. 4. Twenty-one pieces from the Asuka period (7th-8th century AD) and 14 more from the Kamakura period (1186-1333 AD) will showcase Japan's "aesthetic sensitivity" in Italy for the first time. The exhibition includes wooden statues of absolute beauty: cult images that were once difficult to move and nearly inaccessible, kept in the semidarkness of Japan's temples and sanctuaries or protected between the walls of its national museums. The event is part of the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the first Friendship and Trade Treaty signed by Italy and Japan on Aug. 25, 1866, which launched diplomatic relations between the two countries. The exhibition was organised by the Bunkacho (Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs) in collaboration with Rome's Palaexpo and with the support of MondoMostre. It was curated by Takeo Oku, one of the Bunkacho's foremost experts. Visitors will be taken on a fascinating journey among the large wooden statues that probe the many shades of the human soul, which turn into the archetypes for fear, action, calmness and anger. Among these are two wooden masks for Gigaku, the musical and theatrical art introduced in Japan in 612 AD. The two exceptional specimens were used during the consecration ceremony for the Great Buddha in the Todai-ji temple during the Nara period. There will also be the Twelve Divine Generals, statues shaped like armoured demons which date back to the Kamakura period. The pieces display the supreme ability of Japanese wood sculptors, who achieved a level of expressivity unmatched in any other period of world art. Some of the figures are marked by serenity and simplicity, such as the smile on the enigmatic face of a meditating Buddha. This is contrasted by the vibrant garments, hairdos, jewellery, and elegance of the bodhisattvas that assist him. (AGI). .