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.
Daishoji is located in today's Kaga city in Ishikawa Prefecture. This was once a thriving castle town within the highly productive million-koku branch domain of the Kaga Domain.
Daishoji is a place where history and tradition live. The streets still retain a mellow and relaxed atmosphere evocative of the Edo period. At the base of the Kinjo mountain castle are the old Zen and Nichiren Buddhist temples standing side by side. Visitors come all year round to see the historical sites here.
Among the temples, Jisshouin is famous throughout Japan for its beautiful wisteria. The gilt-painted shoji screens are also magnificent. Choryu-Tei pavilion and garden, located in the grounds of the Enuma Shrine and once part of the mansion of Daishoji's 3rd lord, seem to imitate the Kenrokuen garden. Here the elaborate and detailed drawing room and tea room are interesting. This garden is designated as an important national asset.
Miyamoto Musashi was a famous Japanese samurai of the early Edo period (1603-1868). In recent times, he is also recognized as a great thinker, who left the writings on art of living well and cherished mottos.
Musashi was born in 1584. At the age of 13, he fought a duel for the first time and won. Then he left his village and spent his time traveling and honing his skills in swordsmanship. During this time, he engagrd in as many as 60 duels, in which he never lost. His most famous duel is the duel with Sasaki Kojiro.
His swordsmanship was characterized by practical strategics. He was always seeking for the meaning of life through swordsmanship. Musashi created and perfected a two-sword kenjutsu technique called Niten-Iichi (meaning “two heavens as one”).
Musashi’s cleverness in the use of hands and his acute sensitivity brought him to the field of at, sculpture, calligraphy, and handicraft. Records also show that he had skills in town planning and landscape architecture.
Just before his death, he completed “Go Rin no Sho (the Book of Five Rings),” a book on strategy, tactics, and philosophy, which is still studied today.
Ukiyoe are woodblock prints depicting aspects of life in the Edo period. 'Ukiyo' means the present world and ukiyoe are pictures that take as their subject daily life, scenery and people during that period.
Lives of the common people were first depicted in Kyoto during the Azuchi-momoyama period. After that, ukiyoe spread and became popular among many people in the Edo period.
In the beginning, depictions of people were only painted by hand or printed in a few light colours. But with advances in printing techniques and the improvement in quality of paper, colorful prints called nishikie, were also made and became popular.
The subject matter of ukiyoe varies from figures, such as beautiful ladies, actors and samurai, to famous views and humorous stories.
Although the artistic level of ukiyoe is very high, they were only printed to be used as fliers or posters. In the Meiji period, they were even used as a wrapping paper for export pottery. Many foreign artists were influenced by the prints that they saw this way.
Ukiyoe is famous all over the world and attracts many people.
Hiroshi Tajima was born in 1922. In 1999, he was designated as a Living National Treasure in yuzen dyeing.
Just after he graduated from junior-high school, Tajima studied under Shoko Takamura and Ryuji Takamura, then he learned the yuzen technique on his own. When he was 32 years old, he became independent and sent works to many exhibitions, such as the Japan Traditional Handicrafts Exhibition. In a study group, he learned from a Living National Treasure, Nakamura Katsuma, and improved his techniques.
His technique is based on traditional yuzen dyeing and the various techniques he studied. Finally he invented his original 'sekidashi-yuzen'. This features raised patterns of sekidashi-yuzen, which are richly and beautifully colored by techniques such as direct rice-glue painting. The themes of his designs are mainly based on natural things, such as wild birds, cranes, eagles, gulls and wild flowers. His artistic works stir your poetic imagination.
The Yumeji Local Art Museum Branch, located in Setonai, Okayama Prefecture, commemorates the birthplace of Yumeji Takehisa, who lived here until the age of 16.
Yumeji Takehisa was a lyrical and roving artist/poet whose work is representative of the Taisho Romantic style. Yumeji was born in 1884 (Meiji 17) in the town of Oku. Surrounded by beautiful mountains and rivers, this environment must lie at the roots of Yumeji's art.
The Yumeji museum exhibits Yumeji's sketches and block prints. Near the window are drawing marks he made for his beloved sister who had married. There is a monument at the museum entrance with the words, 'Takehisa Yumeji was born here' by Ikuma Arishima, one of Yumeji's best supporters. Next door, there is a recreation of Yumeji's studio, designed by him and now called the Yumeji Youth Lodge. Yumeji fans should definitely pay a visit to the poet's birthplace.
Matsue brushes are a speciality of Matsue in Shimane Prefecture, and are also designated as a Traditional Hometown Handicraft. The history of these brushes goes back 400 years, when the brush-making skills of the Old Imperial Palace of Kyoto were adopted in the Edo period (1686). Matsue brushes use various hairs depending on what kind of brush is being made, of which there are over 56 . Sheep, raccoon, or mink hair may be used, and with each, the elasticity and adhesion changes accordingly. The brushes are completed in 10 steps. The botan (peony) style brush, with the tip dyed red and green, is one of the most popular. From normal to special, many brushes are made according to their use, ranging from painting, calligraphy to haiku poetry, or for the occasion, such as the celebration of the birth of a child, where the brush is made from the hair of the newborn baby. Orders can be taken starting from just one brush. Each Matsue brush is made delicately by hand and for ease of use. .
Kyoto-style fans are similar to Korean-style fans, in that they have many bamboo sticks inside the fan paper, and have a ‘Sashigara’ structure. With the ‘Sashigara’ structure, the fan side and the handle side of the uchiwa are made separately. As one of Kyoto’s handicrafts, this fan style has attained the summit of delicacy and elegance and its advanced techniques have been passed down firmly for generations. Kyoto-style fans are sometimes called ‘Miyako-uchiwa (capital fans)’ and having been used in the Imperial Palace for a long time, they have always been designed with elegant pictures. The use of fans first spread to Japan from China and Korea, during the Nara period when fans became popular among the aristocracy, not just for cooling oneself, but also for blocking wind and sunlight, as well as hiding one’s face, or just as an accessory. During the Warring States period, they were also used as generals war fans. The handles are made from moso bamboo, Japanese cedar and lacquer, while the faces of the fans are made from Minou, Tosa and Echizen paper. Decorations feature people, landscapes, haiku and waka as motifs, and use techniques from painting, block printing, hand-made dyeing, and carving to express a traditional beauty. Even now, due to the reaffirmation of the concept of “wa”, they are popular if only as decoration.