Japan art and rinpa: Buddhism and high culture

Japan art and rinpa: Buddhism and high culture

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

One of the most distinctive art forms in Japan is the delightful cultural art of rinpa (rimpa). This art movement developed in Kyoto in the early Edo Period of the seventeenth century. Therefore, the two founding fathers – Hon’ami Kōetsu and Tawaraya Sōtatsu – set in motion a treasure that continues to enrich Japan.

Nichiren Buddhism also played an instrumental role in the founding of rinpa. For wealthy Nichiren Buddhist merchants in Kyoto desired to fuse the ethics of their faith, with the high cultural traditions that bless Nara and Kyoto. The upshot was traditional aristocratic families and Nichiren Buddhist merchants seeking an art form that blended ethics, high culture, and classical traditions.

Ogata Kōrin (1658-1716) and Ogata Kenzan (1663-1743) took over the mantle of Kōetsu and Sōtatsu after both of the founders passed away. These gifted brothers cemented the longevity of rinpa art because other esteemed rinpa artists followed in their footsteps.

The most notable rinpa artists include Sakai Hōitsu, Ogata Kenzan, Suzuki Kiitsu, Hon’ami Kōetsu, Ogata Kōrin, Kamisaka Sekka, and Tawaraya Sōtatsu. It is fair to say that Sekka (1866-1942) is the most experimentalist of all rinpa artists.

Similarly, Hōitsu (1761-1829) revitalized the rinpa art movement. Indeed, Hōitsu reintroduced the magnificent art of Kōrin (1658-1716). Therefore, the lineage of rinpa art that began in the early Edo Period continued at an amazing level under Sekka in the twentieth century.

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


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