Japan and Rinpa Art: Buddhist Ethics and Nichiren

Japan and Rinpa Art: Buddhist Ethics and Nichiren

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese art movement of rinpa (rimpa) is one of the most distinctive art forms to grace this country.

Accordingly, it is easy to imagine the Nichiren Buddhist merchants who sought to fuse art, culture, faith, and ideas that created this art form. Hence, the ethics of Buddhism inspired them. Therefore, alongside aristocratic families, Buddhist merchants supported this art form.

Nichiren (1222-1282), the revered Buddhist holy man, said: “If you light a lantern for another, it will also brighten your own way.”

The MOA Museum of Art says, “The Rinpa School is unique in that, unlike other schools such as Kanō and Tosa, the heritage was perpetuated not through familial lines or clan-retainership, but by those who had an affinity with the style. It came about in the early Edo period, with Hon’ami Kōetsu and Tawaraya Sōtatsu being forerunners, and it flourished during the years of Genroku (1688 – 1704) with the work by Ogata Kōrin and his brother Kenzan. Toward the end of the Edo period (the late 18th century), artists who admired Kōrin, such as Sakai Hōitsu and Suzuki Kiitsu, endeavored to revive the tradition. Throughout the period, these artists produced many different designs in a variety of genres not only painting on folding screens and hanging scrolls, but also kogei handicrafts such as writing boxes, kimonos, folding fans, portable containers and pottery.” 

The first art piece is by Watanabe Shikō (1683-1755). He was gifted from a very young age and influenced by the cultural traits of Kyoto.

Ogata Kōrin (1658-1716) created the second art piece. He also lived in Kyoto and was born during the first century of the Edo Period. Like all esteemed rinpa artists, you can feel the power of high culture in his sophisticated art.

Nichiren said: “Winter always turns into Spring. Never, from ancient times on, has anyone heard or seen of winter turning back to autumn.”

Finally, the last art piece is by Suzuki Kiitsu (1796-1858). He produced countless pieces of stunning art -and Suzuki Kiitsu also highlights the continuity of rinpa.

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