Monthly Archives: February 2012

Japanese art and Meiji period ukiyo-e (1868-1912)

Japanese art and Meiji period ukiyo-e (1868-1912)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Meiji Period (1868-1912) was very dynamic in many ways because new thinking, modernization, radical change, and a plethora of other factors, altered the cultural landscape in all major cities. However, the countryside often ticked to a different beat despite important reforms and major changes in the area of agriculture and amenities. In the field of ukiyo-e art it appears that the crème de la crème of Meiji ukiyo-e artists have been relegated or not acknowledged fully. After all, the emphasis in the past was mainly focused on Edo ukiyo-e artists.

Despite this, it is clear that you have many important Meiji ukiyo-e artists who blessed this art form. This notably applies to Chikanobu, Kawanabe Kyosai, Ogata Gekko, Yoshitoshi, Toyohara Kunichika, Utagawa Yoshifuji, Mizuno Toshikata, Kobayashi Kiyochika, and Ginko Adachi. The list could be added and for some of the above artists then clearly they began their careers during the Edo period but on each above individual the Meiji period impacted greatly on their art.

The Toshidama Gallery ( that “Whilst the date is significant, it is hard to say that prints produced before this date were ‘Edo’ and those made after were ‘Meiji’. There is however a clear trend in both subject matter, style and quality which becomes more apparent as the century progressed. Most striking is the use of colour. With progress came industrialisation and the ability to produce aniline dyes and commercial pigments. The distinctive reds, blues and violets of Meiji prints are hard to miss when compared to the vegetable and organic dyes of the early part of the century. Vibrant and sometimes harsh, only the great artists of the period such as Yoshitoshi and Kunichika were able to create subtlety or sophistication from the new colours. For an artist such as Kunichika, the new reds were the ‘colour of enlightenment’ and their use had political overtones as well as artistic purpose.”

“Subject matter for Meiji artists continued the tradition of picturing the still wildly popular kabuki theatre. In the case of artists such as Kunichika, the production of theatre prints still overwhelmingly made up the bulk of their commissions.  Historical subjects remained popular and often carried critical political undertones especially in the case of artists such as Yoshitoshi or Chikanobu who were sentimentally and politically attached to the previous administration. There was however, an increasing demand for picturing the new. In print series such as Yoshitora’s 53 Stations of the Tokaido Road of 1872, we see the use of telegraph poles as significant decorative devices – a sure reflection of the new era’s commitment to modernisation. Pictures of beautiful women had always been a staple of ukiyo-e production, but as in the case of Kunichika’s Mirror of the Flowering of Customs and Manners of 1878, these bijin pictures reflected the new western influences and stopped looking back to the dreamy floating world courtesans of Utamaro. Kunichika’s women are tougher, and have personalities and stories to tell and this is also the case in the work of Yoshitoshi, where women figure as identifiable characters for almost the first time in Japanese art.”

Obviously the dynamics of the time would inspire new thinking and creativity and the new vibrant color palette enabled new dimensions to develop. Other areas like multiple perspectival lines and detailed composition meant that times were changing. Of course, it is important to avoid generalizations because ukiyo-e artists in both periods of history, or who belonged to both the Edo period and Meiji period, had certain trademarks which belonged to each individual artist. However, the impact of modernization and the threat to ukiyo-e because of this meant that new focuses were needed in order to survive the Meiji period.

The reputation of some Meiji ukiyo-e artists is starting to grow and long may this continue. In the history of ukiyo-e the artists of the Meiji period had it hard because often the greats of the Edo period overshadowed them in popularity and international prestige. Also, unlike the ukiyo-e artists of the Edo period the changing world was challenging this art form because of multiple factors. Therefore, innovation was needed during the Meiji period because the power of photography was constantly growing and different art forms were gaining greater attention internally once Japan began to open up to the outside world.

Therefore, like I stated in an earlier article “Yoshitoshi was working against the onset of modernity because with the mass production of Western standards, for example in lithography and photography; he was fighting a losing battle.  However, he did keep the bursting dam at bay but the spark of passion could not keep the onrushing water out.  Therefore, Japanese woodblock print, which had been a beacon for Japanese art, succumbed to the onset of modernity and he, and countless others, must have felt the pain deeply.”

Yet despite everything the art work of Chikanobu, Kawanabe Kyosai, Ogata Gekko, Yoshitoshi, Toyohara Kunichika, Utagawa Yoshifuji, Mizuno Toshikata, Ginko Adachi, Kobayashi Kiyochika, and other Meiji ukiyo-e artists, was truly amazing. Therefore, each individual mentioned left behind many stunning pieces of art and they all provide a glimpse into the changing times of this period.

Meiji ukiyo-e artists just like Edo ukiyo-e artists should be judged on a case by case basis which applies to the art they produced. Of course differences will apply based on multiple factors but the issue shouldn’t be the period they belonged to. Instead, it should solely be based on the art they produced because both periods of history blessed the art world. – Stunning images from this website – Fantastic set of images which show the grace of Ogata Gekko

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Posted by on February 25, 2012 in Japan


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Japanese art and Yorozu Tetsugoro: famous artistic son of Iwate

Japanese art and Yorozu Tetsugoro: famous artistic son of Iwate

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Yorozu Tetsugoro was born in 1885 and died of tuberculosis in 1927 after severe complications from pneumonia which finally took its toll. Sadly, all too often many artists in this period died very young and the same fate awaited this genius from Iwate. However, despite his limited years on this earth Yorozu Tetsugoro left a lasting legacy because of his rich artistic skills.

Art became very important to Yorozu Tetsugoro at an early age and during his teenage years he read Suisaiga no Shiori (A Guide to Watercolors) by Oshita Tojiro. This book inspired Yorozu Tetsugoro because he began to paint watercolors.

In 1903 the “search” within his soul led him to Tokyo because this inquisitive young man knew that art was part and parcel of who he was. Prior to moving to Tokyo he studied Japanese art with “great abandon” because his studies were independent and the passion that this freedom created inspired Yorozu Tetsugoro.

1906 proved to be pivotal because he ventured to America as part of a Buddhist Zen mission. This relates to studying Zen meditation under Taninaka Ryoboan who was a Zen priest. Therefore, the mission would have been a natural correlation for Yorozu Tetsugoro. Also, on his return in the same year he was accepted on a Preliminary Course at Tokyo Fine Arts School and this applies to the Faculty of Western Painting.

Yorozu Tetsugoro finally graduated at this institution in 1911 and clearly his art continued to develop in several directions. The Iwate Prefecture website comments that His graduation art piece, Nude Beauty, won much acclaim. It is considered to be a pioneering work of Japanese Fauvism. In the same year he participated in a Fyuzankai with Saito Yori and Kishida Ryusei. In the first exhibition he displayed his artwork, including, among others, Head of a Woman (Woman with a Boa).”


During this period of his life the Avant-garde Movement in Europe influenced Yorozu Tetsugoro greatly. However, just like he studied Japanese art independently during his early years, the free spirit remained because he desired to create his own unique style. Yorozu Tetsugoro would try to achieve and his paintings of landscapes, still-life paintings, and various self-portraits, highlight the inner thinking of this man of creativity.

It is also noticeable that in 1914 he returned to Iwate Prefecture therefore the soothing environment, connection of the past, and being free from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo must have liberated Yorozu Tetsugoro. This does not imply any negativity to his time in Tokyo because clearly his studies, connections with other artists, new thinking, and other vital areas, all enhanced his creativity and growing reputation. However, in order for Yorozu Tetsugoro to apply his art completely then the freedom of Iwate Prefecture was needed at this moment in his life.

Yorozu Tetsugoro fused many aspects of different art concepts from within Japan and outside of Japan. Artistic styles and movements are highlighted by art elites but often lay people get confused by the countless definitions. However, from a lay perspective the art of Yorozu Tetsugoro represents a time when new cultural perspectives were impacting greatly on individuals in the art world of Japan.

However, the serenity of Iwate Prefecture and his own individualism means that Yorozu Tetsugoro may have lived in “the new world” but fusions of the “old world” remained vivid within his soul. Also, new spurts of individual creativity enabled him to break free and create stunning art irrespective of the art movement it is deemed to belong.

The solitary nature of many images by Yorozu Tetsugoro is striking and clearly his rich artistic talent continues to inspire vast numbers of people in the modern period.

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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Japan


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Tokyo fashion: Kimoken and Koenji fashion in vibrant Tokyo

Tokyo fashion: Kimoken and Koenji fashion in vibrant Tokyo

Sarah Deschamps and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Kimoken ( highlights the fashion district of Koenji in Tokyo and this can be seen by the images he takes and the passion of his love of fashion. The different vibes of Koenji are gradually making waves in the media in Tokyo because the international press is mainly focused on Aoyama, Ginza, Harajuku, Omotesando, Shibuya, and Shinjuku. However, in Koenji you have a different side of fashion and many upcoming designers are focused on this district in Tokyo because of many factors. Also, the vintage angle is exceptional in Koenji and this factor enables individual styles to flourish.

The individual Kimoken (Kenta Kimoto) was born in 1979 and this year was very revolutionary in the international arena. This applies to the Iranian Revolution and other global events. However, the “revolution” within Kimoken would turn out to be fashion and the independent spirit of Koenji suits his philosophy.

Kimoken ( that his favorite phrase is “Wara e ba wara e. Ware ga nasu koto ha ware nomi zo shiru” (If you want to laugh at me, then do it. What I do is known only by myself). This is a very powerful phrase and the daring fashion styles of fashion in Koenji, Harajuku, Shibuya, and so forth, which can often be viewed, suits this phrase. After all, only the individual knows the “real self” and why should people be constrained by others?  Therefore, this phrase is both enlightening and based on inner confidence.

If you want to connect this phrase with fashion in Tokyo then the fashion scene of Koenji flows naturally. Kimoken, therefore, takes photos of the daring fashion scene of Koenji which can be viewed at the above websites which have already been highlighted.

A partial list of vintage fashion companies in Koenji applies to Spank!, Yuri, Safari, Zool, Yakusoku, Bernet, Kuro Benz, Peep Cheep, Kiki, Jinjer, dai-dai, Chiruru, Sokkyou, Hikari, Mad Tea Party, Mouse, and Pheb, Vivid, Hoy-Hoy Station, Now Or Never, UK Extra, Re’all, and many others like Cord. This list is not the complete list of vintage fashion companies in Koenji therefore it is important to browse around in this fashion district. Also, the Kita-Kore building is growing in reputation and you have a special buzz in this place.

The beauty of the websites of Kimoken is that you can not only see his passion of fashion but you can feel the sheer vibrancy of the area he focuses on.  Kimoken highlights the freshness of fashion in Koenji and he does this with an individualistic style. Also, unlike some fashion websites which have a high commercial aspect the beauty of Kimoken and his thinking is that fashion is the central theme.

Kimoken was born in the prefecture of Ishikawa and he graduated at Osaka Bunka Fukushoku Gakuin in 2000. This fashion institution focuses on individuals to express their unique fashion styles and thinking. Also, the fashion scene in Osaka in places like Umeda and Namba, and other districts, is very vibrant. Therefore, Koenji fashion in Tokyo and the Osaka Bunka Fukushoku Gakuin have many similar characteristics because individualism, expression, freedom of thought, and so forth, are essential aspects of both Koenji and this fashion institution which is highly acclaimed.

After Kimoken finished his studies he became a DJ in the Kansai area but in 2005 he decided on a fresh break and moved to Tokyo. While being based in Tokyo he works and connects with people in various fields. This applies to movie directors, actors, comedians, street-performers and script writers. At present Kimoken primarily works as a scriptwriter where creativity is needed. However, other important areas apply to performing and continuously taking photos of the fashion scene in Tokyo and this notably applies to Koenji.

To understand the importance of fashion to Kimoken and why he is so passionate about this area, then you have to turn the clock back. This applies to the 1990s when he was a junior high school student because it was this period of his life when fashion became an important aspect to Kimoken.

At first he tried many different styles but he couldn’t find anything which expressed himself. However, this experience and searching around for the right fashion style for Kimoken was a valuable time for him because it broadened his understanding of fashion and highlighted how important it was to his life. Therefore, Kimoken now looks back at this time with fondness because it set him up on the future path that he would take.

In the 1990s he liked the 60’s Mod fashion which hit Japan in the 1970s and he connects this with why he adores the fashion of Koenji in Tokyo. After all, Koenji in Tokyo is famous for vintage fashion. Given this, Kimoken places Koenji to be number one for fashion in Tokyo based on the fashion scene which he is passionate about.

Kimoken’s favorite shop is the ( Mad Tea Party and( Intoler-Art is highly respected by him because of the freshness of this website which focuses on creativity. Also, the fashion area he clicks with the most is the fashion style of 15 years ago and according to Kimoken the fashion scene in Koenji is based on many aspects. This notably applies to the vintage scene, up and coming designers in Tokyo, a fusion of the old mixed with the vibrant energy of youth and young adults, individualism, and where the only boundary is the “self.”

The style of Kimoken when feeling at his best applies to a shirt made from gauze, bell-button pants, and an opera hat to compliment everything.

If you want to view the vibes of Koenji then the Kimoken websites below are a must because they highlight the freshness of this fashion district. Not only this, the individual taking the images is passionate about fashion and you can feel his unique style and thinking within the images he takes.

ALL IMAGES IN THIS ARTICLE BELONG TO KIMOKEN / Kimoken (fashion images and news) Kimoken (fashion images and news)

I have produced online-comics.(Fashion & LoveStory comics)

Kimoken highlights this website

Lactose Intoler-Art

Boutiques in Koenji and Pheb Bernet Chiruru Cord dai-dai Hoy-Hoy Station Jinjer Kiki Kuro Benz Mad Tea Party Mouse Now Or Never Peep Cheep Re’all Safari Sokkyou Spank! UK Extra Vivid Yuri Zool

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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Japan


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Japanese art and Kamisaka Sekka: Rimpa and modernism

Japanese art and Kamisaka Sekka: Rimpa and modernism

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Kamisaka Sekka (1866-1942) lived in a very fascinating period of history in Japan and likewise his art encompasses much about the inner-struggles of this nation. He was only two years old when the Meiji Restoration of 1868 happened but during his teenage years many changes were occurring in this revolutionary period. However, irrespective of the “forces of light” or “forces of darkness” which engulfed vast parts of the world; from an artistic point of view Sekka lived in a period of new horizons. Therefore, he was free to fuse many aspects of traditional art and mix this with new ideas from outside of Japan.

Sekka was born in Kyoto and the power of this part of Japan must have impressed him greatly. From a young age it was clear that Sekka had been blessed with many talents in the field of art and design. His artistic path in the early period was firmly based on the traditions of Rimpa but he was open to new styles and the modernism theme was a very important aspect of his thinking.

In 1910 the Japanese government sent Sekka to the United Kingdom and while he stayed in Glasgow the Art Nouveau style would influenced him greatly. Sekka was also fascinated by Japonisme and he wanted to understand the attraction of Japanese art in the West and which areas appealed the most. Therefore, his time in Glasgow was most rewarding because his studies enlightened him in many areas.

Also, the trip to Glasgow in 1910 further cemented his deep admiration of aspects of European art. His earlier trip to Europe in 1901 had impacted greatly on Sekka because the Paris International Exposition opened up his eyes to new fresh ideas and concepts.

The combination of studying the masters of Rimpa in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the trends of the West in the early twentieth century; meant that a new creative spark was being ignited within his artistic soul. Sekka also embraced the traditional dimensions of Rimpa and this applies to a broad array of areas. The upshot of this was that Sekka focused on hanging scrolls and painted screens, lacquers, ceramics, books based on woodblock-prints, and textiles.

The Art Institute of Chicago comments that “Sekka was born when Japan was emerging on the world stage and redefining itself in the face of the West. Centuries-old schools of art, such as the decorative Rimpa style with its quintessential Japanese literary and seasonal themes, had become unfashionable. To help keep the country’s unique artistic culture afloat, the government established a policy to upgrade the status of traditional artists that encouraged them to infuse their craft with a dose of modernism. Consequently, in 1910 Sekka was sent abroad to Glasgow, where he was heavily influenced by Art Nouveau. He came home to teach at the newly opened Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts. Thanks to Sekka, the Rimpa tradition remains a signature of Kyoto design to this day.”

La Chambre Des Reines also pays a rich compliment to Sekka because it is stated that “Kamisaka Sekka is considered one of the greatest Japanese artists of the first half of the twentieth century. He was the final master of a historic Japanese artistic tradition known as Rimpa, founded in the early seventeenth century, and through his collaborative work in many media and as a proponent of the development of modern crafts, he is known as the father of modern design in Japan.”

The legacy of Sekka is extremely rich and when viewing his artwork it is more than apparent that he had a special gift in many areas. Sekka was indeed “the father of modern design in Japan.”

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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Japan


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Japanese art: Yuzo Saeki and “At Eternity’s Gate” by Van Gogh

Japanese art: Yuzo Saeki and “At Eternity’s Gate” by Van Gogh

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Shortly before Van Gogh died he painted “At Eternity’s Gate” in 1890 after doing the same image as a lithograph eight years before. The image is extremely powerful and the meaning can be transformed to mean many things. However, the initial impression during the first few moments of seeing this image conjures up thoughts related to despair, alienation, abandonment, and a person who is at the end of their rope.

This reality connects the tragic end of Yuzo Saeki but perhaps without an “Eternity’s Gate?” After all, Yuzo Saeki died in a strange land, isolated, confused, and with his mind wandering from the desire to paint more before “the gates of death” would take him from this world.

Yuzo Saeki, just like Van Gogh during his lifetime, experienced severe mental health problems during his final months on this earth. Therefore, this gifted artist from Japan died at the age of 30 because of multiple factors. This applies to having a nervous breakdown, tuberculosis which was eating away at his health, massive overwork, poverty, alienation from reality, and other factors which took away his life.

In this sense, “At Eternity’s Gate” by Van Gogh connects these two extremely gifted individuals because if you replace the image with a 30 year old man, in a room more sinister and frightening and coughing up blood; then an image into the last moments of Yuzo Saeki can be seen. However, even more disturbing is that Yuzo Saeki died in France where cultural differences in this period were enormous and when institutions were “more dark and foreboding.”

Therefore, Yuzo Saeki gradually slipped away from this world by being isolated, alienated, in destitution, and with little care from others in Paris if he died or lived. At home, he had a family which was deeply concerned but his reality in the last few months must have been like Dante’s hell.

Van Gogh died at the age of 37 in 1890 while Yuzo Saeki was born eight years later in 1898. If “a tortured soul of a genius” could migrate and transcend itself into an equally “troubled soul” in the final year of his life, then it certainly entered Yuzo Saeki. Of course, many individuals reject heaven and hell and the transmigration of the soul. However, the utter despair of Yuzo Saeki during his remaining period on this earth in 1928 does mirror aspects of the painting “At Eternity’s Gate” by Van Gogh. The same also applies to the troubled mind of Van Gogh when “the demons of life” entered his world.

Michael Brenson stated in the New York Times in an article called “When Japan’s Art Opened to Western Winds,” that “When European art began to question its own traditions, however, as it did increasingly during and after World War I, there was a potential for trouble. Artists could find themselves with neither a European tradition to learn from nor a Japanese tradition to hold onto. When Saeki Yuzo, who is perceived in his country as a tragic hero, the Japanese van Gogh, died at the age of 30 in an insane asylum in Paris in 1928 – perhaps a suicide – he had been trying to paint in this void. Saeki continues to be an example to Japanese artists abroad of the difficulties in reconciling East and West.”

Further down in the same article Michael Brenson comments that “His cafe windows and stores are filled with signs, some illegible. In his “Snowy Landscape,” figures are on the verge of illegibility. His signs seem like scars of an internal pressure to resolve a conflict between the independence and picturesque subject matter of Paris and a dependence upon his native calligraphic and woodcut tradition.”

Striking aspects of the comments by Michael Brenson applies to “died at the age of 30 in an insane asylum in Paris – perhaps a suicide,” “his café windows and stores are filled with signs, some illegible” and“His signs seem like scars of an internal pressure.”

Therefore, according to Michael Brenson not even the death of Yuzo Saeki is one hundred per cent known and this applies to what caused his death or if he killed himself. This fact brings back the image of “At Eternity’s Gate” by Van Gogh but with the backdrop being more sinister and perhaps with Yuzo Saeki being shriveled up in the corner of a cold and dark room. After all, it appears that nobody in Paris really cared about how he died in the final moments of his life – and this is indeed sad.

Also, the image of “At Eternity’s Gate” shows an individual in despair and Yuzo Saeki certainly felt the same pains and abandonment. Not only this, were the signs illegible in some of the art work by Yuzo Saeki because he felt alienated, rejected, and because he feared about upsetting local people?  Or was it a natural sign that he felt trapped between two worlds, a natural aspect of his art, the fact that he could feel “the gates of death,” or did it signify his growing inward feeling that he didn’t belong?

In an earlier article I wrote about Yuzo Saeki I comment that “…despite all the artistic, political and cultural convulsions which befell Yuzo Saeki, along with suffering from tuberculosis, he still produced some truly amazing art. Therefore, the real tragedy of the life of Yuzo Saeki is that he didn’t have enough time to escape the trappings of two cultures which were pulling away at his artistic soul.”

Van Gogh also had an intense struggle between religion and rejection in several areas of his life which led to emotional instability. Given this, Van Gogh and Yuzo Saeki share internal convulsions because of different factors and both fully understood poverty, feeling of alienation, rejection, and the darkness of asylum institutions.

Therefore, the image of “At Eternity’s Gate” by Van Gogh enables people to enter “a small glimpse” into the world of two extremely talented individuals.–a228566/yuzo-saeki-posters.htm Yuzo Saeki

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Posted by on February 18, 2012 in EUROPE, Japan


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Tokyo tourism: Chinzan-so garden, delicious food and rich in culture

Tokyo tourism: Chinzan-so garden, delicious food and rich in culture

Olivier LeCourt and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Chinzan-so is a stunning garden in Tokyo whereby you can view the natural beauty of an amazing Japanese garden, beautiful architecture, elements of Buddhism, the magical world of Shintoism, and so much more. Also, unlike the vast majority of stunning gardens in Tokyo which close early this doesn’t apply to Chinzan-so therefore at night the garden is also extremely beautiful and you have many restaurants to eat scrumptious Japanese food. However, being Chinzan-so, then even the restaurants blend in with the natural environment and clearly this beautiful place would bless any major city in the world.

The natural beauty of Chinzan-so is so refreshing because not only can you connect with stunning nature but also this garden is rich in culture and history. The stunning pagoda and aspects of Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism, and the sacred 500 year old tree, also highlights the exquisite nature of Chinzan-so.

Luxury can also be found at ( Four Seasons Hotel which can be found throughout the amazing city of Tokyo and internationally. The Four Seasons Hotel highlighted in this article applies to the hotel which is located in the same Chinzan-so area. Therefore, if you adore luxury, architecture, the backdrop of an amazing garden and so much more; then the sublime Four Seasons Hotelfused with your stay in Tokyo and the richness of Chinzan-so garden is an amazing break which will stay long in the memory.

Chinzan-so is like walking into the past and into a magical world where you can imagine the amazing animation film called “Spirited Away” by Hayao Miyazaki. This applies to the stone deities, aspects of Buddhism, small Shinto shrine, and famous religious tree. Therefore, the spiritual nature of Chinzan-so is a welcome dimension and at night if you have an “over imagination,” then you can feel the mystery of the old world which is also highlighted in the animation film called “Spirited Away.”

This stunning garden enables people to feel the hidden magic of the Edo period and the changing times of Japan in the Meiji period. Also, it is clear that the opulent wealth of the elites in the past developed this splendid garden and they did so with an eye on culture and aesthetics.

Prince Aritomo Yamagata built his magnificent mansion where modern Chinzan-so stands but of course modifications have been made. The name Chinzan-so means “House of Camellia” therefore you will find many types of camellia throughout this exquisite and stunning garden.

In a past article about Chinzan-so by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “The prestige of Prince Aritomo Yamagata and his importance and how Chinzan-so is viewed can be judged by the fact that the Emperor Meiji held many important meetings in this place, in order to plan the future with dignitaries who held important seats of power.  Therefore, it is abundantly clear that the stunning environment, remote settings where seclusion could be found from prying eyes and the cultural aspect of Chinzan-so meant that it was an ideal setting.”


“Much of the historical legacy today which can be viewed must be credited to Baron Heitaro Fujita because he utilized the stunning grounds and topography.  This applies to adding important historical monuments and many of these came from Kyoto and Toba. However, the stunning pagoda which is very beautiful was relocated from Hiroshima.”

Therefore, the historical legacy and richness of culture is abundantly obvious because Baron Heitaro Fujita utilized every positive aspect of Chinzan-so and today Tokyoites and tourists can witness many intriguing aspects of Japanese culture. Also, from a religious and philosophical point of view the Taoist images from ancient China fuses naturally with aspects of Buddhism and Shintoism. These images and the numerous stone lanterns are a wonder to behold and the delightful pond, exquisite pagoda, images of Taoism and Buddhism, small Shinto shrine, a sacred 500 year old tree, waterfall, and the stunning layout of the garden means that Chinzan-so is very special.

Throughout the grounds you also have many restaurants to visit and for tourists and Tokyoites you can enjoy not only the natural beauty of Chinzan-so, but you can also eat scrumptious food. This applies to “Kinsui”which is a traditional restaurant which is famous for the kaiseki cuisine; “Mokushundo” where they provide delicious Japanese box lunches, fondue, and barbecue; “Chuu-an” restaurant serves up Edomae sushi and other delicious food; and “Mucha-an” restaurant provides delicious food and is known for their delicious Japanese soba.

The beauty of all these restaurants is that they blend in naturally within the stunning grounds of Chinzan-so. Therefore, the dining experience is a real treasure because not only can you eat extremely delicious food, but the backdrop of the stunning scenery is really special. Not surprisingly, all these restaurants are of the highest quality and cater for different styles of Japanese food.

Also, you have a firmly established restaurant called “Camellia” in this stunning environment and this dining place is famous for its French cuisine. This restaurant is rich in history because for more than 50 years it remains highly acclaimed based on the mouth-watering food which is provided.  The view is also extremely majestic and the setting is spacious. Therefore, if you are a connoisseur of scrumptious French cuisine then restaurant “Camellia” will certainly please you.

Within the main hotel complex overlooking Chinzan-so you have “Café Foresta” which is very spacious and a great place to relax and drink tea, coffee, and other choices, and to eat a delicious cake and so forth “Café Foresta” also provides amazing views of Chinzan-so if you are lucky enough to find a place by the enormous windows. At night, the view is fantastic because of the lights which highlight the beautiful pagoda and other special areas.

Chinzan-so is a must place to visit in Tokyo because of everything highlighted in this article and so much more. Four Seasons Hotel

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Posted by on February 11, 2012 in Japan


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Japanese art and Buddhism: Sesshu Toyo and Sengai Gibon in opposite directions

Japanese art and Buddhism: Sesshu Toyo and Sengai Gibon in opposite directions

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Sesshu Toyo (1420-1506) and Sengai Gibon (1750-1837) are two famous individuals in Japanese history. However, despite belonging to the same Rinzai school of Buddhism both individuals had hugely different views of art and the faith they shared. Therefore, for Sengai Gibon he turned to art late in life after neglecting the hidden talents he clearly had because he wanted to focus on spirituality. Alternatively, Sesshu Toyo felt crushed at times by the rigid nature of Rinzai Buddhism during his lifetime.

Sengai Gibon also focused his art by turning away from depicting high culture and traditional forms. Instead his art highlighted humor but with a deeper message providing the individual shares the same mind concepts but of course the interpretation is left open for the individual to decide. Also, Sengai Gibon wanted to connect Rinzai Buddhism with all the people of Japan irrespective of status and light natured aspects of his art could reach a wider audience.

However, Sesshu Toyo focused on sublime art which based itself on the rich traditions of the time but fused with individualism and new thinking. Yet Sesshu Toyo, unlike Sengai Gibon, struggled with his love of art and the religious vocation which he had. Therefore, at times he felt trapped between the religious world and his inner-artistic nature which flowed throughout his veins.

Ironically, we will never know the real artistic skills of Sesshu Toyo and Sengai Gibon but for different reasons. After all, Sesshu Toyo had suffered beatings by Rinzai Buddhist priests because of his love of art over religion when he was young. Alternatively, Sengai Gibon had the ability to express more sophisticated art if he had desired but clearly his main emphasis in life was on spreading the Rinzai Buddhist message and connecting the richness of Buddhism with ordinary lay people.

At no point does Sesshu Toyo reject Buddhism but the beatings of his earlier life and later constraints meant that he felt artistically unfulfilled. This can be seen by a very intriguing piece of art called “Huike Offering His Arm to Bodhidharma” because many aspects of this painting raises serious issues.

In an earlier article related to the “Huike Offering His Arm to Bodhidharma” I comment that “Sesshu Toyo shows Huike who had cut his arm off after Bodhidharma had rejected Huike many times. However, if this was to show the deep admiration of Huike to Bodhidharma then at no time is this expressed in“Huike Offering His Arm to Bodhidharma.

“On the contrary, while the art piece provides a mysterious aura to Bodhidharma and shows his power by being ranked higher to Huike, it does not show any piety from Huike. Therefore, why did Huike cut his arm off if no love, passion, piety or admiration?”

“It doesn’t matter if the image was a metaphor or not because the real power is the interaction and lack of respect. Maybe the image is showing that Huike is the real master and that power belongs to him but this would imply a deep devotion to Huike and a profound religious statement.”

“However, Sesshu Toyo wasn’t a religious fundamentalist and it wasn’t about a power shift. After all, in early Christianity some people were Pauline in thinking and revered St. Paul but St. Paul warns about this during his lifetime.”

The significance of Sesshu Toyo highlighting such an intriguing image in the late period of his life should not be lost. Therefore, I believe that Sesshu Toyo is highlighting his inner-anger towards the hierarchy of Rinzai Buddhist leaders. This means that the image of Bodhidharma is depicting Rinzai Zen Buddhism and Huike is the real Sesshu Toyo.

In this sense, Huike is Sesshu Toyo in this piece of art and he is showing his disrespect towards the institutions of Rinzai Buddhist leaders who desire to limit his artistic nature. Also, this stunning piece of art shows no feeling towards both individuals and clearly you have little reverence and respect in this art work between Bodhidharma and Huike. This also implies that the artistic passion of Sesshu Toyo was crushed and that Bodhidharma (Rinzai Zen Buddhism) only cared about power and keeping a watchful eye on individuals who desired to express themselves.

Of course, this is based on my own interpretation and the truth is that nobody will ever know because Sesshu Toyo took his true thinking to the grave. However, something is amiss in Huike Offering His Arm to Bodhidharma.”

Likewise, but for very different reasons, the real art ability of Sengai Gibon will never be known but unlike Sesshu Toyo he limited his artistic nature in order to focus on Rinzai Zen Buddhism. Therefore, Sengai Gibon only focuses more on art when he reaches the later stages of his life. Not only this, but Sengai Gibon wants to enlighten all and sundry towards the Buddhist faith he holds dearly.

It must be stated that at no time does Sesshu Toyo reject Buddhism because his qualms are related to institutionalism and clamping down on his artistic nature. Also, the approach of both individuals to art is very different and the sense of humor that Sengai Gibon was blessed with shines through deeply within his artwork.

Michael Dunn in an article published by The Japan Times comments that “As an artist, Sengai was not only an outsider to the established art schools and academies, but a free spirit, whose manifesto expounded that painting was not a subject that could be limited by rules. This philosophy is apparent at first sight in any of his paintings, which look sketchy, improvised and perhaps — to the Western eye — unfinished. No careful studies of light or color impressions here; expression is all! And yet they each convey some profound Zen principle or aphorism in an easily understandable form, much like the pithy insight seen in parables, proverbs or political cartoons.”

“Despite the hastily sketched roughness of his paintings, Sengai was perfectly in command of brush and ink, an artistic discipline — unlike oil painting — where the result of ink contacting paper is final, leaving no chance for mistakes to be rectified. This mastery is apparent in his painting of bamboo that matches in skill the best efforts of the Nanga (Japanese literati) painters of his time, or his evening view of Hakozaki Beach, where a single broad brush stroke shades from black through gray to capture the volume of a sea embankment.”

Art for Sesshu Toyo took pride of place in his heart but for Sengai Gibon art was a tool to express humility, humor, Buddhism, and thought provoking questions. The reason I state “humility” is because Sengai Gibon had huge potential but in time “all potential turns to dust” and only “a shell” remains of people who are remembered in history. Therefore, reality is clouded based on different perspectives and how individuals view the world.

Meanwhile, for the 99.99% per cent of other individuals then in time nothing is remembered and all names are forgotten. In a way, the art of Sengai Gibon was aimed at the 99.99% of individuals and only elites through reinterpretation have put them on a higher plain based on “images of Zen.” However, “the real Zen,” just like the “real Christianity,” the “real self,” and so forth, is nothing more than an illusion based on multiple factors.

For Sesshu Toyo art was deeply impassioned within his heart and religious dogma and tradition ate away at his soul. Yet for Sengai Gibon art was rejected in his earlier life in order to focus on Rinzai Zen Buddhism. Therefore, the art produced by both is not only a million miles away but their real spiritual and artistic vocations meant completely different things to both Sesshu Toyo and Sengai Gibon.

Neither rejected Rinzai Zen Buddhism or art but clearly their paths and passions went in different directions. However, in a world based “on interpretation” then what is “real” and what is “false” is up to the individual to decide.

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Posted by on February 11, 2012 in Japan


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Japanese art and Torii Kiyonaga: Ukiyo-e and bijinga

Japanese art and Torii Kiyonaga: Ukiyo-e and bijinga

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Torii Kiyonaga (1752-1815) was an extremely stylish ukiyo-e artist who belonged to the Torii school. His rise to the top of this school highlights many aspects of Japanese culture within the art world because he wasn’t related to the Torii family but despite this he rose to the top after the death of Torii Kiyomitsu who was his teacher and adoptive father. Therefore, biological factors which remain powerful in modern Japan appears not to have been a hindrance in old Japan within the art world because the Torii family focused on reputation and not bloodline.

The rich tradition of the Torii family was maintained by Kiyonaga and he would supervise Torii Kiyomine who was the grandson of Kiyomitsu. In time Kiyomine would succeed Kiyonaga and clearly his teaching would prepare him fully.

Kiyonaga is famous for nishiki-e (“”brocade picture” – multi-colored woodblock printing), bijinga (beautiful women), paintings of Kabuki actors, depicting courtesans and he also produced shunga (erotic art). However, Kansei Reforms in the 1790s which were based on other edicts did try to clampdown on shunga. Yet in time shunga would naturally fall by the wayside with the emergence of erotic photography in the Meiji period (1868-1912).

Turning back to nishiki-e then this technique innovation is credited to Kinroku and this form became an important development within the ukiyo-e art world in the 1760s. Suzuki Harunobu popularized nishiki-e in the middle of the 1760s and clearly Kiyonaga understood the importance of this new technique.

Bijinga was an area where Kiyonaga would excel and clearly the utilization of nishiki-e and elegant portrayals enabled him to produce many stunning pieces of art. Other notable bijinga artists apply to Utamaro, Suzuki Harunobu, Toyohara Chikanobu, and the last greatest producer of this art form being Ito Shinsui. Ogata Gekko also produced many stunning works of beautiful women and bijinga is extremely pleasing on the eye.

The Art Institute of Chicago comments on their website that “The artist Torii Kiyonaga has been described as the preeminent leader in…the golden age of ukiyo-e prints.” This comment is followed by a quote from Chie Hirano who stated that “He understood the human body much more thoroughly than other ukiyo-e artists, and by beautifying it he created a healthy and noble type of his own.”

On the Van Gogh Gallery it is stated that His work is less stilted and formal than that found in prints from earlier periods, and he presents female figures and their male admirers and suitors in outdoor and indoor scenes. These scenes offer distant landscapes, views of houses and roofs in diagonal patterns, and river and boating scenes. Kiyonaga was a great master of color, and he liked to paint diptychs and triptychs, which were printed on separate sheets of paper. Whether he used deep, sensuous tones or more delicate pastels and shades of gray and black, he applied the color freshly and with great taste. His delicate line delineated graceful and appealing women.”

“Kiyonaga’s work makes use of genre objects and architectural detail, and depicts what must have been for the people of Tokyo, a series of familiar places and activities. Unlike other Ukiyo-e artists, he also offered the general public a series of prints, depicting court ladies of the tenth and eleventh centuries, dressed in their stiff brocaded kimonos, with elaborate coiffures.”

Kiyonaga left behind a rich legacy in several areas of ukiyo-e because he clearly responded to changing techniques by utilizing nishiki-e. Also, the elegance of many art pieces by Kiyonaga means that aspects of high culture and changing styles can easily be imagined.–a8195/torii-kiyonaga-posters.htm

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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in Japan


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Tokyo fashion in Aoyama: style and sophistication in abundance

Tokyo fashion in Aoyama: style and sophistication in abundance

Sarah Deschamps and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The fashion scene in Tokyo is awash with many diverse districts and the attraction of this sector in Aoyama is based on style and sophistication. Therefore, areas like Aoyama, Ginza, Yurakucho, and a few other districts, are known throughout Japan and internationally for stunning boutiques, elegance, and architecture which highlights prestige and confidence.

The beauty of Aoyama which is located in an exclusive part of Tokyo is that the contrasting styles of European, North American, and Japanese fashion can be felt. Also, the emphasis on architecture, elegant displays, latest essential items, individual styles, and other fascinating areas, means that you can feel the natural energy of Aoyama. This reality means that many of the most famous boutiques in the world have an outlet in Aoyama or nearby in Omotesando, which is also a very exquisite fashion zone in Tokyo.

Roberto Cavalli who opened up a new store in Aoyama in 2011 commented that “Tokyo is on the world’s stage of fashion, glamour, and sophistication.  This is a city of energy and inspiration.” This statement by Roberto Cavalli is factual because fashion is a very powerful sector in Tokyo and the same applies to other major cities like Osaka. Therefore, exquisite fashion companies from all over the world desire to either maintain their visibility or to enter the market.

Roberto Cavalli continued in his praise of Tokyo by stating that “I wanted to create a boutique in which elegance dominates, for both women and for men, in a welcoming and exclusive atmosphere, in which each person can totally fulfill their dreams and desires. I have always been extremely interested in Japanese culture…..”

Another important aspect of fashion in Tokyo is that despite several decades of minor economic growth and times of stagnation in Japan, it is true that this didn’t stop the fashion scene from growing in reputation in this country. Not only this, but for many famous boutiques then Japan was often a saving grace during lean times. Therefore, while Europe and America was being hit by endless negative economic news in 2011, this didn’t prevent companies from desiring to expand or enter the Tokyo fashion market.

Roberto Cavalli, Miu Miu, Akris, Bally, Freitag, and many others, simply entered or expanded their operations in late 2011 in Tokyo despite the global economic slump. This in itself shows the importance of Tokyo for famous international boutiques. Also, it highlights the tenaciousness of fashion within “the soul” of many Tokyoites who value fashion dearly.

The nature of Aoyama also meant that Roberto Cavalli decided on this exclusive district and the path chosen by Roberto Cavalli makes complete sense given the exquisite reality of fashion in this part of Tokyo. After all, within international fashion circles it is abundantly clear that Aoyama means sophistication and elegance. This is based on crème de la crème boutiques throughout this fashion district and the refinement of the architecture is also highly appreciated.

Therefore, you will find stunning boutiques in Aoyama which includes Comme des Garcons, Gucci, Prada, Roberto Cavalli, 10 Corso Como, Donna Karan, Loveless, Michael Kors, L’eclaireur, Vivienne Westwood, Issey Miyake, A Bathing Ape, Jil Sander, Yohji Yamamoto, Artisan, Stella McCartney, Red Valentino, Paul Smith, Cynthia Rowley, Helmut Lang, Hanae Mori, Mark Jacobs, Tsumori Chisato, Costume National, Carbane de Zucca, Diane Von Furstenberg, Undercover, Frapbois, Design Works, and many other refined companies like Deuxieme Classe.

Aoyama is also famous for the stunning architecture of many famous boutiques and shopping malls. This appealing aspect of Aoyama enhances the fashion buzz of this sophisticated district. Famous shopping stores in Aoyama include Boutique W, Dress Camp, Flair Aoyama, and Loveless.

Simply put, if you adore exquisite fashion then a visit to Aoyama is a must.

Partial list of boutiques in Aoyama

AOYAMA SHOPPING LINKS TO HELP TOKYOITES AND TOURISTS – Map of where the fashions companies are – Aoyama fashion

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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in Japan


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Japan tourism and Wakayama: Negoro-ji and stunning Buddhist temples

Japan tourism and Wakayama: Negoro-ji and stunning Buddhist temples

Walter Sebastian and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Wakayama prefecture is a perfect place to visit for tourists who adore culture, architecture, the richness of Buddhism, the indigenous faith of Shintoism, stunning beaches, an amazing castle, and because of multiple other factors. Also, the closeness of Wakayama to Nara, Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto, means that the entire Kansai region is a wonder to behold. Therefore, Kansai is a perfect location for tourists to enjoy the uniqueness of Japan.

If individuals are fascinated by the richness of Buddhism, Japanese architecture, culture, history, and adore stunning mountains, then the Negoro-ji complex of Buddhist temples is a must place to visit. After all, the pace of life in the modern world for many people is too quick and quality time is needed in order to refresh the mind, soul, and to connect with history, art, and culture.

Negoro-ji also further compliments the religious aspect of Wakayama because Koyasan and the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage routes in the Kii Peninsula are fantastic places to visit. The marvel of Wakayama is truly amazing because “another heart beats” strongly in special areas where nature, religion, history, culture, art, and other positive aspects of life can be found in abundance.

Negoro-ji in history is also extremely fascinating because the foundations of a major retreat for the Buddhist faith began in 1087. The individuals who laid the foundation stones for this amazing area were En no Gyoja and Hofuku-Choja. Indeed, the original name of the area was Hofuku-ji and given the natural beauty of the Katsuragi Mountains then it is clear why the area was picked.

Kakuban (1095-1143) is a very important person in the rise of the region because this holy Buddhist leader of the Shingon sect left a complex legacy. He revered Kukai (774-835) who was the founder of Shingon Buddhism but the times of Kukai and Kakuban were very different because divisions had emerged within Shingon Buddhism. Therefore, while the importance of Kakuban can’t be denied for increasing the significance of Negoro-ji, it is also factual that schisms increased during his time because of many factors.

Despite this, Kakuban was focused on the future therefore he laid the foundation stone for the construction of Enmyo-ji and Jingu-ji. These two new buildings were built within the Negoro-ji temple grounds. After the death of Kakuban the Negoro-ji area continued to expand and thousands of temples were built in and around this Buddhist complex.

Therefore, for hundreds of years the chants of Buddhism were powerful and many amazing temples were built. Also, Japanese gardens will have enhanced the serenity and the mountain peaks were deemed to be sacred. This period of history also witnessed the growing power of high culture within elite communities and for several hundred years after the death of Kakuban the future of Negoro-ji looked promising.

However, just like Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi also clashed with Buddhist sects who had military prowess and political ambitions. In 1585 the forces of Hideyoshi burnt nearly every temple to the ground apart from the odd exception and the main Pagoda surviving the devastation. Therefore, in this period of history in Japan it is clear that the central forces of Nobunaga and Hideyoshi feared the power base of several Buddhist sects.

Under Tokugawa Yorinobu in 1623 the grounds of Negoro-ji once more would witness a more serene period because he allowed the reconstruction of the grounds to take place. The area in time would gradually be transformed throughout the Edo period and in modern times you can see how this reconstruction created a stunning place to visit.

Therefore, for modern tourists or people who go on pilgrimage to holy places in Wakayama, it is difficult to imagine such past violence in history. After all, today you can hear Buddhist chants in Negoro-ji, view exquisite architecture, enjoy nice walks, and view tranquility in every direction. However, from an historical point of view it is clear that central forces in history in the sixteenth century did fear the power of Buddhism and because of this Negoro-ji paid a heavy price.

Yet time is a great healer and today you can only visualize a period of serenity in history. Also, people can only marvel at the stunning temples, exquisite architecture, and how nature and religion seems at peace with each other.

Negoro-ji is an amazing place to visit because places like this are the “heart of Japan” and with Koyasan and Kumano Kodo being based in the Kii Peninsula, then you have many choices to plan an extremely intriguing holiday. Not only this, the castle in Wakayama and the stunning beaches of Shirahama await and the same applies to other amazing places to visit in this beautiful part of Japan. (Nachi Katsuura) (Koyasan) (Kumano Experience) (Wakayama) (Shirahama) (Wakayama Castle)

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Posted by on February 9, 2012 in Japan


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