Japan Art and Munakata Shiko: Son of Aomori (Buddhism and Shinto)

Japan Art and Munakata Shiko: Son of Aomori (Buddhism and Shinto)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Munakata Shikō (1903-1975) was born in Aomori prefecture. He became known for sōsaku hanga (creative prints) and mingei (folk art) art forms.

The British Museum reports, “Munakata was born in Aomori in northern Honshu, the sixth of fifteen children of a forger of steel blades. Leaving school at thirteen, he joined the family business, and moved to a lawyer’s office in the Aomori District Court at seventeen, which gave him time to sketch. In 1921 he first saw reproductions of Van Gogh’s works, which remained arguably his greatest inspiration throughout his life, and began to teach himself oil-painting.”

The prints in this article by Munakata were completed in the late 1930s. Accordingly, the above art piece is an homage to Shaka Nyorai.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art says, “Shaka Nyorai, or the historical Buddha Shakyamuni (the sage of the Shakya tribe who attained enlightenment), lived in India from about 563 to 483 B.C.”

Munakata’s early life witnessed poverty. His father was a blacksmith and brought up 15 children. However, despite Munakata only obtaining a primary elementary school education, he was blessed with great artistic attributes.

The Shingon Buddhist International Institute says, “One morning while seated under a large Bodhi Tree, he attained supreme wisdom and understanding and became an awakened being, or Buddha. After his enlightenment experience, he devoted the rest of his life to wandering from place to place, preaching to all who would listen to him. The Buddha died at age eighty.”

The Utoh Shinto Shrine was very important to Munakata. This concerns happy memories throughout his childhood when playing in the environs of this Shinto shrine. Also, the wedding ceremony to his beloved was held on the grounds of the Utho Shinto Shrine.

Shintoism was very important to Munakata. Accordingly, despite these images focusing on Buddhism, he vowed to be a successful artist at the Kifune Shinto Shrine.


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