Showing posts with label sculpture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sculpture. Show all posts

Friday, July 28, 2023

Yamata no Orochi


Yamata no Orochi is a mythical serpent with 8 heads that appears in the Izumo cycle of ancient Japanese myths set in the time before the descent of imperial lineage.

In the myth, Susano defeats the serpent and marries a local princess who was to be sacrificed to the serpent, and so and begins the rise of Izumo culture that predates and later contributed to Yamato culture.

All these photos are of a modern sculpture depicting Orochi outside the Okuizumo Tatara Sword Museum, in Yokota, Shimane. Orochi appears everywhere throughout Izumo, on draincovers and giving its name to many products, including the tourist train I took to get here.

Yokota is on the River Hi which runs through Okuizumo and it is generally held that the 8-headed serpent refers to the 8 tributaries of the river that is at times violent and dangerous. Some commentators suggest that Orochi represents a tribe that fought the Izumo, but so much evidence suggests it was the river. Near here is the shrine for Kushinada, the princess saved from the serpent, and downstream are shrines to her parents. Nearby also is one of the sites said to be where Susano "descended", and spots downstream said to be Orochi's nests are found in narrow gorges where the river would have been particularly dangerous.

The idea of sacrificing humans to a river is fairly widespread around the world as well as here in Japan. I found a riverbank monument to a local lord who was praised by locals when he switched from burying live humans in the river bank to burying clay figures, and stories of human sacrifice to protect new bridges and castle walls are fairly common.

The museum here is on the ancient method of making iron and swords, and Okuizumo was a major centre. In the Orochi myth Susano discovers a sword in the tail of the dead serpent and this went on to be one of the Three Imperial Regalia.

Tatara, a kind of forge used to make iron from iron sand, the method used in Japan, was said to be introduced from mainland Asia, and once again the myths suggest that it was Susano who brought the technology over from Korea. A shrine south of here near Izumo Taisha attest to this.

later I will post on the fascinating history of iron and swordmaking on display in the museum, but in the meantime you may enjoy a wild and dramatic display of Orochi in videos of our local kagura.

The previous post in this series exploring Okuizumo was the Yokota Folk Museum.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Tadao Koga Sculpture Forest

Tadao Koga Sculpture Forest

Tadao Koga Sculpture Forest.

Within the grounds of what was Saga Castle, adjacent to the reconstructed palace, are the Saga Prefectural Museum and the Saga Prefectural Art Museum. Between them and the moat is the Tadao Koga Sculpture Forest.


Tadao Koga (1903-1979) was a Japanese sculptor born in Saga and many of his works are on display in this outdoor exhibit. I suspect there is more of his work inside the art museum but I did not go in to find out.

Tadao Koga Sculpture Forest.

The works on display are larger-than-life bronzes that reminded me of socialist art of the mid-20th century.


Other than a statue of Saigo Takemori in Kirishima, he does not seem to have produced anything of note, though he was chairman of the Japan Sculpture Society.

Tadao Koga Sculpture Forest.

The top piece is Hoshin, 1960. The second is Spring Cloud, 1963, the third is Gamecock & Man, 1958. The fourth is Limit, 1965. The fifth is Grow Next Generation, 1956.  The sixth is Factory Night Watchman from 1938, and the final photo is Three Fishermen from 1954.


It's a nice, free, public art space that is worth a look if you are visiting the castle.

Tadao Koga Sculpture Forest.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Surreal & Psychedelic Shisa of Ishigaki Island


Just across the road from Yonehara Beach in central Ishigaki Island, Okinawa, is the Yoneko Yaki craft centre where you can see and buy, among other things,  examples of traditional Okinawan shisa.

However, outside you can see a wide variety of large, colorful statues that seem to be based on shisa.

Their shaes seem alien and surreal, and their color schemes are very vibrant and somewhat psychadelic. 

They are sray-painted so also have the feel of graffiti art.

We were there in the off-season and the lace was closed so were unable to find out about the origin and history of them.

However, they were whimsical without being kawaii, the Japanese cultural style that seems to be growing into a dominant format, that also seems to be very popular. I personally find kawaii somewhat offensive, but then I don't enjoy Marvel superhero movies , so what do I know.

Ishigaki Sea Salt

Friday, April 16, 2021

Some Art at Horakuji Temple


Buddhist temples in Japan, like temples, shrines, and churches all over the world, are often repositories of a lot of art. Some temples have a little in the grounds, ornamenting the architecture, and inside on the aktars, etc. Some however are rich in artworks amd can be like visiting a museum or gallery.

It can be quite bewildering trying to know exactly what you are looking at. The massive array of deities, buddhas,  and other characters on display can be obscure. I myself spent my first decade in japan primarily visiting shrines, and have a pretty good grasp of kami and such, but it was not until I started walking the pilgrimages that I started to take note of Buddhist related figures, and while some I am pretty sure of being able to identify, I am by no means an expert.

This third phot I am pretty sure is Shoki, a Daoist demon-quelling figure. A lot of Daoism was imported into Japan through Buddhism, though there was probably some before that. Much of what is called shinto has roots in daoism though it is often referred to as "Chinese folklore". Shoki is well known to people in Iwami because he is the main character of a popular kagura performnce.

This photo of a young priest may be Kobo Daishi as a young man. Horakuji is a Shingon temple and their website says they have a modern statues of him. It may be Jiun, a famous 18th century monk who began his studies as an acolyte here when he was 13 and went on to become famous as both a sanskrit scholar and as a religious leader who emphasized a return to an earlier, less "degenerated" form of Buddhism.

This last one is obviously an onigawara, a demon rooftile to ward off evil. Quite a similarity to the "demon queller".

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Anger From the Bottom by Beat Takeshi

As I was climbing up towards the first mountain temple on the Shodoshima Pilgrimage I spied ahead of me what I guessed was a kind of shrine. When I got to it I was faced with a stainless steel figure with big red eyes and an axe embedded in its skull.

Anger From the Bottom is a sculpture by "Beat" Takeshi Kitano and Keniji Yanobe, originally produced for the Setouchi Art Triennale that takes place in the area. It is one of the artworks that is now permanently on display.

Originally there was no roof over it, and the statue was below ground only rising up for 5 minutes every hour. Takeshi is famous in japan as a comedian and TV presenter, but internationally he is known as a film-maker. The unexpected and surprising is a large part of why I enjoy my walks around rural Japan......

Monday, July 22, 2019

Isshiki Kazari Komainu

Isshiki Kazari is a unique form of folk art that origjnated in Hirata up in Izumo. The essence of the art is that sculptures are made out of everyday objects. Nothing too original in that, but its the further rules that make it so. The objects cannot be broken, drilled, nor glued. Afterwards the sculpture can be disaseembled and the objects returned to use.

Ceramics are the prime material, but not the only material for Isshiki Kazari. The sculptures were/are made as offerings for the local shrine, but nowadays as part of the matsuri they hold a competition to choose the best each year.

I was taken by these komainu in a tableau of the shrine. The competition entries are temporarily on display around the old part of town, although there are many other more permanent examples that are not part of the competition

Monday, June 17, 2019

Ikuchijima Island-Wide Art Museum

On the second day of my walk from Honshu to Shikoku along the Shimanami Kaido I left Kosanji Temple and started walking down the west coast of the island. On the beach looking westward was this statue, a Jizo I think.

A little further, set on a rock in the water was an unusual modern sculpture, "Wings of the Waves" by Susumu Shingu, one of 17 modern sculptures located around the island in what they call the Island-Wide Art Museum

Sunset Beach runs down the coast almost to the Tatara Bridge which crosses over to Omishima.

At the southern end of the beach another couple of sculptures. In the foreground is "Calm Time-Red form / Inclination by Keiji Uematsu, and in the background "Clairvoyance" by Shin Matsunaga.

Art can take many forms, but this old bus is not part of the Island-Wide Art Museum.

Purchase a selection of ema from GoodsFromJapan

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Weird & Wonderful Folk Statues of Takanabe Daishi

On a hill overlooking Takanabe on the Miyazaki coast are a strange collection of large and small statues. Some of them are Buddhist deities, and some are Kami.

They were the creation of a local man who was concerned about the spirits of the deceased in a series on ancient burial mounds nearby. He employed a sculptor to carve a set of statues, and then after having watched him at work he set about creating his own unique statues and devoted the rest of his life to it.

They are quite primitive and unsophisticated in their execution, but therein lies their charm. At times looking like Native American totem poles, at other like the Easter Island statues, but most of all they are child-like.

For more photos and a lot more information please check out this longer article I wrote

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Drowned Buddhas

Tadaji, an old temple in the hills outside Hamada has a rather strange collection of wooden statues in their main hall.

They were fished out of the sea on the coast down below the temple, and had obviously spent some time in the water. More than likely they had been thrown into the sea, or a river, during the Haibutsu Kishaku, the "destroy Buddhism" campaign in the late 19th Century.

The campaign was officially rescinded, and many areas did not really go along with it, but some places went for it with a vengeance. The Oki Islands, for instance, destroyed every single Buddhist temple.

Experts say some of these statues probably date from the Kamakura Period and so are quite old. The current along the coast comes from the west so these statues were put in the water further west, down in Yamaguchi or somewhere near there......