Right now the fourth Shinjuku Creator’s Festival is taking place mainly around Shinjuku station, but with far flung satellite exhibitions taking place around Shinjuku ward, like Hatsudai, Ichigaya and even Kagurazaka. I went to see the work of famous artist Yoichiro Kawaguchi, which you might remember from this blog last year.
This year Mr. Kawaguchi exhibits two statues called Ficco at the Zenkokuji temple in Kagurazaka, famous for its statue of the Bishamonten which is only uncovered for the public on special days. The temple was originally erected in Bakurocho in 1595 but moved to Kagurazaka in 1793. In 1945 the original temple was destroyed in air raids, the only thing that survived was the unusual guardians from 1848, which here are actually tigers whereas they are usually lions or foxes: these are the only guardian tigers in Shinjuku ward. You can see the patchwork of repairs on one of the tigers in the third image.
So in a sense, placing these to Ficco on either side off the temple guardians makes perfect sense. The Shinjuku Creator’s Festa goes on for one more week, ending on the 7th of August.
As Japan modernized and aligned with the rest of the world during the Meiji period of Japan (1868-1912), not only science, politics, religion and technology changed, but also art. Japanese artists were eager to understand and to master the new modern art styles of Europe and wealthy patrons sent out scores of promising artists to study abroad. One of these was a young man from Nagano prefecture, Rokuzan Ogiwara (1879-1910) who studied modern sculpture in both the US and France where he received instruction from the famous Rodin himself. Rokuzan was also a christian convert from an early age and a member of the temperance movement. His rather short life was ended by tuberculosis.
Almost as interesting as the man and his work themselves are the museum put up in his name in Hotaka, Azumino City. The main structure is built like a church and was funded by donations from local school children and teachers who also took part in the construction itself, which took many decades to finish in 1958. There is another completely modern concrete construction as well, and an almost ancient looking logg house construction put up completely by local students and teachers. Junior high school kids were pretty crafty back then! Everything in the garden and tiny museum grounds is designed, from the concrete tables to the hidden spouts of the rain gutter. It is easy to tell that a lot of people put a lot of effort in this place.
You can read more about the museum here on their official website.
If, like so many other tourists in Tokyo, you are planning to visit Asakusa this Golden Week I recommend making a slight detour to the seventh floor of the Asakusa Tourist Information Center building to see the Kyugetsu Ningyo, or Japanese traditional doll exhibition that is currently on display there. There is no entrance fee and it is a great stop after having taking in the views of Asakusa from the 8th floor viewing balcony. The dolls are handmade by different members of a traditional doll making society and are all wonderfully exquisite. There’s a good mix of traditional types as well as modern versions and some avant-garde types. The dolls are of a type called Kimekominingyo (木目込人形). The doll bodies are carved in wood and clad in silk by a unique way of pushing the material into intricately carved folds in the wooden body base. The heads are often sculpted in clay and attached after all other parts have been made.
There are also several fantastic Oshie “paintings” (押絵), which is a kind of collage that is made by wrapping sculpted pieces of clay or thick paper in silk to create a pop-out 3D effect. It can be very beautiful when done correctly, as in the works of art exhibited here. There is a description with good photos here, it seems easy but I guess it really isn’t. It is the same technique as used in the traditional hagoita new year’s decorations. I wish I had time to learn more about this fascinating art form!