Hon’ami Koetsu was a calligrapher and artist in the early Edo period. He was also well known as the leading tea master of the time.
Hon’ami Koetsu was born into a family of swordsmiths who created and sharpened swords in Kyoto. He showed talent in a wide range of fields including calligraphy, pottery, lacquer, publishing, architecture and landscape design.
He especially excelled in calligraphy and, along with Konoe Nobutada and Shokodo Shojo, he came to be known as one of the Three Brushes of the Kan’ei Era (Kan’ei no Sanpitsu) . He founded his own personal style known as Koetsu-ryu, developed from the Japanese calligraphy style.
Hon’ami is also credited with founding the Rimpa School in the field of painting, together with Tawaraya Sotasu and Ogata Korin. His works include Rakuyaki Kamigawa-chawan ceramic teacups and Funabashi Makie Suzuribako lacquer work- both of which are designated as National Treasures, and Tsurushitae-wakakan painting, designated as an Important Cultural Asset.
In 1615, Hon’ami began an artist community called Koetsu-mura or Koetsu village in Takagamine, north of Kyoto, in the land granted by Tokugawa Ieyasu. He developed his own artistic style further and was also believed to have supervised all the work there.
Daisetz Suzuki was a great philosopher, who introduced the highly crystallized concept of Zen to the western world. He was born in Ishikawa Prefecture in 1870. While studying at Tokyo University, he took up Zen practice at Engakuji Temple in Kamakura, where he lived a monk’s life. He studied Zen under the Zen monk, Soen, and given the name Daisetsu, meaning “Great Simplicity.”
Suzuki intended to introduce Zen to the West, acting as a bridge between East and West. What he wanted was the unity of East and West, for which he accomplished a great feat of translating Zen texts into English. Suzuki wrote a translation of “the The Tao Te Ching,” a Chinese classic text, and then “the Daijo Kishinron (the Awakening of Mahayana Faith).” In 1907, Suzuki published his first original book in English, “the Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism.” His had a great influence on intellectual persons in the western world. During the ear of the counterculture in the 1960s and 1970s, the world of Zen, which was introduced by Suzuki, inspired adoration for Oriental world among the westerners.
Suzuki kept practicing Zen over a lifetime, and thought and talked of deep-rooted social problems including races, religions and racial disputes through the quest for the spirit of Zen.
The Fukuzawa Residence, in Rusuimachi, Nakatsu, Oita Prefecture, is where Yukichi Fukuzawa spent his childhood and youth. It is designated a National Monument.
Yukichi was born in the Nakatsu-Hanzo Residence in Doujima, Osaka Prefecture, in the 5th year of the Tenpo era (1835). After his father's death, Yukichi returned to his hometown when he was a year and 6 months old, living in this house until he was 19.
The storehouse in the backyard was remodeled by Yukichi for the sole purpose of studying, while the main house was where he slept and ate. The Museum built next to the house has many exhibits from this period on display.
After reaching 19, Yukichi traveled to Nagasaki to take Dutch studies, but soon became keenly aware of the importance of English. He studied English by himself and boarded the "Kanrin-maru" ship in order to sail to the United States. Later, Yukichi wrote the famous book "Gakumon-no-susume", which sold more than 3.4 million copies, and he became the founder of Keio University.
The Fukuzawa Residence is an historic household that preseres the youthful origins of Yukichi Fukuzawa, the pioneer of democracy in Japan.
Kyoto woodblock printing began in the Asuka period. It was widely used as illustration, for patterns on common fabric, and on folding fans. This form of printmaking has an incomparable power, depth and individuality.
In the Asuka period, woodblock-printed sutra texts from Korea were copied in Kyoto, some of them with simple Buddhist pictures. By the Edo period, woodblock printing in Kyoto was flourishing. The inimitable art of Japan astonished the West when they first saw it at world expositions.
Kyoto woodblock printing gradually evolved as one of its classical forms of art and culture. It uses typical Japanese pigments, such as 'gofun' and 'kira', which are handmade using a method called 'Kyo-gonomi'. Even though this printing method became standardized in Japan, it still possesses the soul of Kyoto, beloved by contemporary people.