Suibokuga is a type of painting drawn with ink and brushes using mostly monochromatic color. It uses ink to draw not only lines but also to describe a three dimensional space by applying a brushstroke technique of shading to create a sense of depth with light and dark.
Ink painting that does not use graduated shading, blotting or blurry style is called Hakubyou and is regarded as a separate style from Suibokuga.
The origin of Suibokuga dates back to the end of Tang Dynasty in China and was established as one of the techniques of Sansuiga, Chinese-style landscape painting. It was during Sung Dynasty that Zen Buddhism began being broadly accepted and the fact that Buddhism fables and phrases and portraits of priests were usually drawn with black ink helped Suibokuga to become widely known to the general public in China.
Suibokuga was introduced in Japan along with Zen Buddhism in Kamakura period. As Zen Buddhism was protected and promoted by Ashikaga Clan, a ruler of Japan during Muromachi period, Japanese Suibokuga saw its golden age.
During that time, Suibokuga had gradually developed and serious landscape paintings started being drawn. Toward the end of Muromachi period many prominent artists emerged such as Josetsu, Shuubun and Sesshuu whose work still fascinates people today and are evidence of the excellence of Suibokuga.
A monochromatic world expressed only with black and white is simple yet possesses a sense of infinite profundity. It captivates viewers and brings them to a simpler graphic world.
Zenshoji is an old temple of the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect. It originates in a hermitage built by Priest Genshin, who wrote “Ojo Yoshu (Essentials of Salvation)” in the Heian period (794-1192). The temple is said to be the most beautiful in the Hida region, and is counted as one of the ten fine temples in the country. Its garden was designed by Kanamori Sowa, the founder of Sowa Ryu tea ceremony school. This elegant garden includes a tea ceremony house and a stroll style garden of Banzaido, where the rocks named Daruma-ishi, Zazen-ishi and Reihai-seki are beautifully arranged.
Inside the temple building, the masterpiece of Sesshu “Happo Nirami Daruma” is displayed, which is worth seeing. The precinct has a calm and peaceful atmosphere. The 1,200-year-old huge cedar tree, which is designated as a National Natural Monument, is really overwhelming. Being close to Gero Hot Springs, a lot of tourists visit this temple all through the year.
The Sesshu Garden at Sho'okuji Temple in Sao, Hiji, Hayami County, Oita Prefecture, was reputedly built by the famous Zen monk and artist Sesshu.
Sho'okuji Temple belonged to the Kinoshita family, who were the Hiji domain heads. This family continued for 16 generations and there are more than 40 gravestones at the temple, including that of Asahi-no-kata, mother of Kita-no-Mandokoro.
The temple garden includes the Manryu Garden, which Sesshu is also reputed to have built, and which contains the largest cycad in Japan, designated as a national natural treasure.
After his return from Ming China in the first year of the Bunmei period (1469), Sesshu set up his studio somewhere around Oita. He later moved to Yamaguchi, then Shimane, and so on. His fame has never diminished and even today, he continues to be admired as a god of painting.
Sesshu Garden features a nearby mountain as a 'borrowed landscape' and has a pond shaped like the Chinese character '心' for 'heart'. Sesshu's artistry and sensibility continue to astonish us today.
Chinda Waterfall, located in Oita Prefecture, is made up of a male waterfall which diverges from the main streams of the Ono River, and a female waterfall which branches off the Hirai River tributary.
The male waterfall measures 17m in height and 93m in width, and the female waterfall measures 18m in height and 4m in width. Due to the steepness of the drop and its great width, Chinda Waterfall is called 'the Niagara Falls of Bungo'.
During the Muromachi period, Sesshu, one of the most prominent masters of suiboku (ink painting), stayed in Bungo, Oita, on his return from Ming China. He painted a picture called 'Chinda-bakuzu', which took Chinda Waterfall as motif and inspiration. 'Chinda-bakuzu' is one of the most famous and renowned landscape paintings of Japan, with its strong, yet magnificently beautiful brushstrokes.
Chindai Waterfall Fellowship Park, located alongside Chindai Waterfall, was created by local citizens themselves: the cutting and planting took about 3 years to complete. The view of the waterfall from the observatory tower is simply astounding.
Bicchu Kokubunji is a temple that has been designated as a National Historical Relic Site. It is situated in Soja district, Okayama Prefecture.
Also, Bicchu Kokubunji was built at the Emperor's behest in the Nara period. However, the original temple was destroyed by fire in the Nanboku-chō period. The present structure was rebuilt in the mid-Edo period. The Sangharama, or monastery, was built after the reconstruction. The five-storeyed pagoda is a famous site of Kibiji and Okayama Prefecture. The pagoda has been designated as an important cultural asset. It took over 20 years to build beginning in 1821 and demonstrates the wealth that the country of Bicchu had back then.
Iyama Hofuku-ji is a temple of the Rinzai Zen Buddhist sect, and is located in Soja, Okayama Prefecture.
The Sangharama monument here is said to be very rarely seen in this area. Within the temple precincts is the second oldest three-tiered pagoda in the prefecture and it is designated as an important cultural asset.
Iyama Hofuku-ji is associated with a legend about a 'rat' and Sesshū, a famous ink-landscape artist. Sesshū was put in the temple for ascetic training when he was young. However, he only liked to draw pictures and did not like to recite sutras. One day he was punished and tied to a column by a senior monk. When the monk decided to forgive Sesshū and untie him, he saw a large rat. The monk tried to chase the rat away, but it stayed still. Staring at it closely, he saw it was a rat drawn by Sesshū using his foot and his tears. The priest began to understand that the boy had an extraordinary talent for drawing and later he did not reproach Sesshū from drawing any more.
Ikou Temple is located in Masuda, in Shimane Prefecture.
Sukanji Temple, built in the year 1363, was the predecessor of this temple. Later, Souken Masuda combined the two into the new Ikou Temple.
The big gateway remaining at the entrance to the temple originally came from Masuda Castle after the battle of Sekigahara. During the Edo period, the temple reformed its roof in Ryugu style. The temple became affiliated with the Masuda clan.
The garden, created by the 5th resident priest, Sesshu, is still there. The garden’s samurai-manor style, with its crane shapes and the turtle rock inside the lake, has Muromachi-period characteristics. The garden follows the shape of the pond. It is designated as a historical spot of national importance.
There is a sense of Sesshu’s ink painting here in the garden, from the trimmed ericaceae on the slope at the back, to the linear stone arrangements, and the groupings of the cherry trees that blossom in the spring.
It is a garden that has different faces for each season.