Category Archives: Japan

Kaikei Buddhist exhibit enlightens visitors

10:00 am, April 19, 2017
The Yomiuri Shimbun

NARA — Kaikei, one of the nation’s representative sculptors of Buddhist statues from the Kamakura period (late 12th century to early 14th century), developed a sophisticated form of sculpting that was followed by artists of later generations. An ongoing exhibition in Nara presents the various attractive aspects of Kaikei’s sculptures, helping visitors see why Japanese have been fascinated by the master’s works.

Kaikei, whose date of birth and death are unknown, has been seen as an equal to Unkei (d. 1223), whose father is said to have served as the young Kaikei’s teacher.

Currently being held at the Nara National Museum through June 4, “The Buddhist Master Sculptor Kaikei: Timeless Beauty from the Kamakura Period” is an unprecedented exhibition as the items on show include 37 works proven to have been created by Kaikei based on his signatures on the pieces or other clues. This accounts for 80 percent of such works definitely attributed to Kaikei today, both at home and abroad.

Kaikei carved out Buddhist images as a serious devotee of Amida (Amitabha), which can best be indicated by the Standing Amida Nyorai at Todaiji temple in Nara.

For some works, Kaikei used a signature that included Amida, as on the Seated Miroku (Maitreya) Bosatsu at Daigoji temple in Kyoto. The statue, on view from April 25, is described as the best work of the sculptor’s early years.

The signature can also be found on the powerfully carved, impressive Komokuten (Virupaksa) from the Four Guardian Kings at Kongobuji temple in Wakayama Prefecture. Continue reading

Base for giant pagoda could be first proof of mystery temple

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
February 10, 2017 at 17:50 JST

Trench digs at the Higashi-Yuge site in Yao, Osaka Prefecture, revealed the possible foundation of a pagoda where Yugeji temple is said to have stood in the eighth century. The foundation, marked by the white lines, is 20 meters by 20 meters. (Provided by the Yao education board)
Photo/Illustraion

YAO, Osaka Prefecture–Archaeologists have found a square foundation believed to have supported a towering pagoda that was part of a mysterious temple built by a powerful Buddhist monk in the eighth century.

The discovery at the Higashi-Yuge archaeological site was announced on Feb. 9 by a cultural property research group originally founded by the Yao city government.

It could be the first archaeological evidence proving the existence of Yugeji temple, which is said to have been built here in the Nara Period (710-784) by Dokyo, a Buddhist monk.

Dokyo rose in power after winning the favor of Empress Shotoku, one of the few female rulers in Japan’s history.

Her reign started in 764 and ended with her death in 770. Dokyo fell from power after she died, and he was relegated to what is now Tochigi Prefecture. The year of his birth is not known, but records show he died in 772.

Only a few historical documents mention Yugeji temple.

The research group and the Yao education board consider the square foundation, about 20 meters by 20 meters, as invaluable evidence in the search for Yugeji temple. They are now working to preserve the site.


The foundation was found in stratum dating back to the latter half of the eighth century.

According to Kazuhisa Hakozaki, a researcher of ancient Buddhist architecture at the Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, the sheer size of the foundation indicates that a relatively large pagoda stood on top. Continue reading

In Japanese movie ‘Silence’, Christianity in 17th century Japan gets the Buddhist treatment

51384-ipvndonemw-1487018501The 1971 version by Masahiro Shinoda successfully integrates the visions of the novelist and film director.

Narrative cinema has the ability to take a descriptive story and translate it into images and sounds that can be enjoyed in themselves. In the case of a literary adaptation, the descriptive power of these images and sounds is related to the degree of elaboration that the author offers in the original novel. A filmmaker chooses a particular novel only if the themes of the novel and the concerns of the author match his/her own cinematographic concerns.

This is most certainly the case with Masahiro Shinoda’s Silence (1971), a precursor to Martin Scorsese version that is being released on February 17. Silence, based on Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel by the same name, is about the gross violations committed by the Japanese in the 17th century against Christianity. The film centres on a priest, Rodrigues, and his struggles with the local feudal lords (the daimyo) and warrior communities (the samurai), until he is forced to give up his own faith. Rodrigues’s battle is played off against a Japanese Christian, Kichijiro, who voluntary gives up his faith.

Shinoda’s Silence is a successful adaptation primarily because the filmmaker’s concerns are the same as those of the novelist. Endo, a Catholic who suffered persecution in Japan, uses the diaristic form to describe the circumstances that lead to the conditions in which the novel plays out. This is most suited to Shinoda, who believed his cinema to be one of the catalysts in pitting the individual against the community.

The diaristic form points to the act of writing. Shinoda transforms this concern into speech, with Rodrigues speaking out lines from his diary in the lush Japanese countryside. The director often translates Endo’s descriptive passages into spoken dialogue, as if to suggest that cinema is a medium of showing and not telling.

Shinoda’s conception of cinema is one in which the figure is subsumed into the landscape. Much like Endo’s novel, Shinoda’s film is eventually Buddhist in form, as it puts forth a vision in which the elements of nature are to be worshipped. This Zen-like approach makes the concerns of communicating the sufferings of the Christians seem paradoxical, for the film in itself takes a paganistic approach to the content.

For Shinoda, the struggle is not between an individual and his faith but between the individual and nature. Cinema has the ability to transform words into spaces. Shinoda’s approach to space is closer to a documentary. He carefully places the camera at a distance, almost making nature a character with the landscape as its face. This is communicated in a carefully constructed colour scheme. Whereas Christianity is communicated through man-made warm tones such as reds and light browns, the Buddhist elements of nature are communicated in cool greens and blues. This creates a number of interesting juxtapositions. The figure of Christ, represented by Rodrigues, is invariably dressed in an inorganic red and placed in a natural background comprising cool tones.

Shinoda’s cinema often crossed genres, evading easy classification. Silence nestles within the jidai-geki, or the historical drama genre. Jidai-geki uses historical content, with the lead character, invariably the samurai, presenting a vision of contemporary Japanese society. In Silence, the intolerance of the Buddhists is pitted against the fate of Rodrigues, who becomes the opposite of what he seems to preach, thus underlining the hypocrisy of Japanese mores.

The film uses variable techniques and approaches to tell Endo’s story. The documentary style of naturalism is juxtaposed with architectural interiority, and the two create a tension that translates into a cinematic grid, with light serving as its basis. The ending, which contradicts Rodrigues’s ideas on fidelity, is communicated through freeze frames belonging to that most anarchic mode of film-making – the avant-garde or experimental approach.

Although Silence was a successful adaptation on most counts, Shinoda, an atheist, changed the ending of Endo’s text to the author’s chagrin. Shinoda could not engage with Endo’s belief of Christianity as a universal religion. The ending of the book is deeply religious, but Shinoda translates this religiosity in sexual terms.

Silence is a masterpiece for its ability to translate the novel’s concerns at the level of content into cinematographic concerns at the level of form. Most importantly, it is able to integrate the visions of the novelist and film director with the vision of cinema to produce a satisfying cinematic experience that transcends mere storytelling.In Japanese movie ‘Silence’, Christianity in 17th century Japan gets the Buddhist treatment
The 1971 version by Masahiro Shinoda successfully integrates the visions of the novelist and film director.

In Japanese movie ‘Silence’, Christianity in 17th century Japan gets the Buddhist treatment
Feb 15, 2017.
Devdutt Trivedi
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Narrative cinema has the ability to take a descriptive story and translate it into images and sounds that can be enjoyed in themselves. In the case of a literary adaptation, the descriptive power of these images and sounds is related to the degree of elaboration that the author offers in the original novel. A filmmaker chooses a particular novel only if the themes of the novel and the concerns of the author match his/her own cinematographic concerns.

This is most certainly the case with Masahiro Shinoda’s Silence (1971), a precursor to Martin Scorsese version that is being released on February 17. Silence, based on Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel by the same name, is about the gross violations committed by the Japanese in the 17th century against Christianity. The film centres on a priest, Rodrigues, and his struggles with the local feudal lords (the daimyo) and warrior communities (the samurai), until he is forced to give up his own faith. Rodrigues’s battle is played off against a Japanese Christian, Kichijiro, who voluntary gives up his faith.

Shinoda’s Silence is a successful adaptation primarily because the filmmaker’s concerns are the same as those of the novelist. Endo, a Catholic who suffered persecution in Japan, uses the diaristic form to describe the circumstances that lead to the conditions in which the novel plays out. This is most suited to Shinoda, who believed his cinema to be one of the catalysts in pitting the individual against the community.

The diaristic form points to the act of writing. Shinoda transforms this concern into speech, with Rodrigues speaking out lines from his diary in the lush Japanese countryside. The director often translates Endo’s descriptive passages into spoken dialogue, as if to suggest that cinema is a medium of showing and not telling.

Play
Silence (1971).
Shinoda’s conception of cinema is one in which the figure is subsumed into the landscape. Much like Endo’s novel, Shinoda’s film is eventually Buddhist in form, as it puts forth a vision in which the elements of nature are to be worshipped. This Zen-like approach makes the concerns of communicating the sufferings of the Christians seem paradoxical, for the film in itself takes a paganistic approach to the content.

For Shinoda, the struggle is not between an individual and his faith but between the individual and nature. Cinema has the ability to transform words into spaces. Shinoda’s approach to space is closer to a documentary. He carefully places the camera at a distance, almost making nature a character with the landscape as its face. This is communicated in a carefully constructed colour scheme. Whereas Christianity is communicated through man-made warm tones such as reds and light browns, the Buddhist elements of nature are communicated in cool greens and blues. This creates a number of interesting juxtapositions. The figure of Christ, represented by Rodrigues, is invariably dressed in an inorganic red and placed in a natural background comprising cool tones.

Shinoda’s cinema often crossed genres, evading easy classification. Silence nestles within the jidai-geki, or the historical drama genre. Jidai-geki uses historical content, with the lead character, invariably the samurai, presenting a vision of contemporary Japanese society. In Silence, the intolerance of the Buddhists is pitted against the fate of Rodrigues, who becomes the opposite of what he seems to preach, thus underlining the hypocrisy of Japanese mores.

The film uses variable techniques and approaches to tell Endo’s story. The documentary style of naturalism is juxtaposed with architectural interiority, and the two create a tension that translates into a cinematic grid, with light serving as its basis. The ending, which contradicts Rodrigues’s ideas on fidelity, is communicated through freeze frames belonging to that most anarchic mode of film-making – the avant-garde or experimental approach.

Although Silence was a successful adaptation on most counts, Shinoda, an atheist, changed the ending of Endo’s text to the author’s chagrin. Shinoda could not engage with Endo’s belief of Christianity as a universal religion. The ending of the book is deeply religious, but Shinoda translates this religiosity in sexual terms.

Silence is a masterpiece for its ability to translate the novel’s concerns at the level of content into cinematographic concerns at the level of form. Most importantly, it is able to integrate the visions of the novelist and film director with the vision of cinema to produce a satisfying cinematic experience that transcends mere storytelling.

[link]

Secrets of Buddhist Art: Tibet, Japan, and Korea at the Frist

February 10 – May 7, 2017
Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, Tennessee

Jijang Bosal (Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha) and the Kings of Hell, Korea, late 19th or early 20th century, late Joseon Period (1392–1912). Colors and cloth. Newark Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. John P. Lyden, 2001, 2001.75.1

Jijang Bosal (Bodhisattva Kshitigarbha) and the Kings of Hell, Korea, late 19th or early 20th century, late Joseon Period (1392–1912). Colors and cloth. Newark Museum, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. John P. Lyden, 2001, 2001.75.1

Related Programs
One-Day Educator Workshop: Secrets of Buddhist Art Thu, Feb 16, 2017
Tibet, Japan, and Korea all practice a form of esoteric or “secret” Buddhism. Called Vajrayana Buddhism, this form utilizes works of art that reveal a complex array of both human and divine figures. This exhibition showcases superlative works from the Newark Museum’s first-rate collection and will make its first appearance at the Frist Center, introducing a general audience to the dazzling aesthetics of Buddhist art and providing a basic understanding of these objects’ function within Buddhist practice.

This exhibition was organized by the Newark Museum.

[link]

ART OF JAPAN AND RINZAI BUDDHISM: BUDDHIST CONTEMPLATION OF SENGAI GIBON TO ARTISTIC OUTREACH

Modern Japan Times
October 8, 2016

Art of Japan and Rinzai Buddhism: Buddhist Contemplation of Sengai Gibon to Artistic Outreach

Lee Jay Walker

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Sengai Gibon (1750-1837) is a famous individual in Japanese art and history. This is based on his art, spirituality, and unique approach to life. He belongs to the Rinzai School of Buddhism and true to the nature of this remarkable individual he focused on art in the later stages of his life. Of course, art was always inside his soul but in the early stages of his life, he was more concerned about spiritual matters in relation to Buddhism.

The individualistic nature of Sengai Gibon meant that he focused on art from a unique angle outside of the trappings of high culture. Given this reality, humor became fused within his art, philosophy, and following the right path. However, just like the right path in Buddhism – or any major religion – he bestowed this virtue based on free will, alternative thought concepts, and challenging the individual to see reality through a vision of unreality.

Indeed, it could well be that the bigger picture wasn’t the concept being highlighted by Sengai Gibon in the first place. Similarly, the high culture that he tried to avoid may have materialized itself within the world of art and literature. Continue reading

Talk at Penn: Modern Japanese Buddhist Art

October 27, 2016, University of Pennsylvania

Modern Japanese Buddhist Art; Paula Arai, Louisiana State University; 3 p.m.; rm. 204, Claudia Cohen Hall (Religious Studies).

THE PRICE COLLECTION: THE BUDDHA AND THE FLOATING WORLD

1472255680231JAPANESE AMERICAN CULTURAL & COMMUNITY CENTER
Los Angeles, CA

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 18 – SUNDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2016

This extraordinary exhibition was envisioned by world-renowned collectors, Etsuko and Joe Price. It features silk scroll paintings depicting the everyday life of the Edo period (1615–1868) and divine images from the Buddhist world with an ikebana flower arrangement installation by three ikebana schools – Ikenobo, Ohara-Ryu, and Sogetsu School.