Japan Art and Inoue Yasuji: Buddhism in the Snow in Tokyo
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
Inoue Yasuji (1864-1889) died very young. He was gifted beyond his years. Henceforth, one can only imagine his legacy if life had been kinder to him.
The acclaimed Kiyochika Kobayashi (1847-1915) mentored Inoue Yasuji in the intricacies of art. Naturally, Kiyochika Kobayashi felt downcast and crestfallen after his death.
All three prints focus on Buddhist temples in Tokyo. The winter angle also creates a lovely dimension – to these prints.
Ironically, the tranquility of these prints is further away from the truth when viewing the Meiji Period (1868-1912) and anti-Buddhism. For example, the first print of the Zojoji Buddhist Temple in Tokyo – like countless numbers of Buddhist temples – felt the force of anti-Buddhism in this period of Japanese history.
In modern Japan, the prints by Inoue Yasuji and other printmakers of Buddhist temples during the Meiji Period gloss over the social and religious convulsions of this period of Japanese history.
Yet, in all faiths, the ticking clock of time and reality is often a million miles away. For example, while Muslims visit Mecca in modern-day Saudi Arabia, most would be shocked to know that you could still buy slaves up until the early 1960s in this land. Therefore, Inoue Yasuji – and other printmakers during this revolutionary period when depicting Buddhism – focused extensively on areas of beauty and continuity by highlighting a faith that shaped Japan.
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