Tofukuji Temple in Nishiizu Town in Shizuoka Prefecture is a temple of the Rinzai sect. The principal object of worship is Amida Nyorai. It was founded during the Tenpuku era (1233-1234) and originally called Tenpukuji Temple. It was relocated, however, to the present place during the Kagen era (1303-1305) and renamed Tofukuji Temple.
The temple is famous for the frescos of 500 Rakan (Buddha’s disciples) painted on the ceiling of the main hall. The frescos were painted by Toshimitsu Tamura, a Buddhist painter of the Taisho period (1912-1926), who was known as a deep drinker. It is said that it took him 4 years and 8 months to finish the work.
With the dragon in the center, the heavenly maiden at every corner and 500 Rakan surrounding them, this pictorial diagram of the heavenly world is really magnificent. The plastered ceiling and walls give the three dimensional effect to the marvelously colorful paintings.
Among Sendai Hariko (papier-mache), a kind of toy made from molded and colored paper, probably the most common item is the Matsukawa Daruma doll. This daruma is colored ultramarine around its face, and the body is decorated with a relief motif of a bringer of good luck such as a treasure ship, the god of wealth, the pine, bamboo and plum trees, Ebisu, a carp swimming up the waterfall, and “Ichi-fuji, ni-taka, san-nasubi (Mt. Fuji at the first, hawk at the second, eggplant at the third).” It is distinctive that real hair is used to make its eyebrows and it has glass-made eyes. This daruma is a long-beloved item as a mascot or a bringer of good luck.
According to one widely-accepted opinion, Matsukawa Daruma was named after Matsukawa Toyonoshin, a retainer of the Date clan and the person who created this daruma about 170 years ago. The daruma dolls were produced by low-ranked warriors of the domain as their side jobs. Different from daruma dolls made in other areas, Matsukawa Daruma has black eyes. According to one opinion, this was because warriors were concerning about their one-eyed lord, Date Masamune.
Matsukawa Daruma was originally made in a much more simple style. It was Takahashi Tokutaro (1830-1913), or the Buddhist sculptor Mentoku II, that improved it into the present gorgeous doll.
Daikoji (Sadowara-cho, Miyazaki City, Miyazaki Prefecture) is a temple of the Myoshinji school of the Soto sect. It was founded in 1335 by the Zen priest Gakuo Choho with the patronage of the 4th provincial lord, Tajima Sukefusa. Then in the Edo period (1603-1868), the temple was protected by the domain lords, the Shimazu clan, being enfeoffed with the territory of 75 koku of rice, and reached the height of prosperity.
It was during this period when the renowned Zen monk Kogetsu, who was born in the local village of Sadowara, became the 42nd chief priest of the temple and was actively engaged in missionary work for the local commoners. He is called the restorer of Daikoji Temple.
The statue of Monju Bosatsu sitting atop a roaring lion and guarded by four warriors was carved by a Buddhist sculptor Koshun in 1348. The statue is designated as a national Important Cultural Property. The temple possesses a lot of historic documents collected under the policy of the chief priest Kogetsu. They are now being used as precious data of the history.
Daisenji Temple located in Daisen, Daisen-cho, Saihaku-gun, Tottori Prefecture is a temple of the Tendai sect. It was founded in the Yoro era (717-723) during the Nara period. The main hall with vermillion pillars and green latticed windows used to be called the Dainichi Hall (the hall that housed the statue of Dainichi Nyorai), which was the main hall of Chumonin Temple, one of the three main temples among over 100 sub-temples that composed Daisenji Temple in the ancient times.
The Amida Hall built in the early Heian period (794-1192) is thought to be the oldest existing building in the present Daisenji Temple. It houses the principal image of Amida Buddha, which is said to have been carved by a master Buddhist sculptor Ryoen. The statues of Kannon Bosatsu and Seishi Bosatsu surround the 2.79 m tall Amida Nyorai. The Amida Hall was destroyed by a landslide in 1529. Later in 1552, it was rebuilt into the present form. The building and the statues inside are designated as National Important Cultural Properties.
Higashifumoto Stone Cave Buddha is the images of Buddha carved in a stone niche located in Nojiri-cho, Nishimorokata-gun, Miyazaki Pref. Though there are a lot of Magaibutsu (Buddhist images carved on rock cliffs) found in Kyushu area, there are few that are carved in a stone cave. The images are presumed to have been made about 700 years ago, but the exact era and the name of the sculptor are unknown. The Buddhist images are carved on the stone wall in the deepest part of an elliptical dorm-shape cave, which is 138 cm tall, 184 cm wide and 166 cm deep. Being in the deep stone cave, these Buddhist images have been well protected from rain and wind and retain their original forms. A 50 cm tall image of Yakushi Nyorai is carved in the center on either side of which are 20 cm tall images of Nikko Bosatsu (Sunlight Bosatsu) and Kakko Bosatsu (moonlight Bosatsu) as siblings and Juni Shinsho (Twelve Generals) protecting and serving Yakushi Nyorai. This stone cave Yakushi Nyorai is called “Iwa-no-do Yakushi-sama (Yakushi in a stone cave)” by the local people and visited by a lot of worshippers who offer a prayer for recovery from illness.
Abe Monjuin located in Sakurai City, Nara Pref. is a temple of Kegon Sect. Its Sango (the name of the mountain on which it is located) is Abe-san. It is formally named “Abe-san Suikyoji Monjuin.” This temple is said to have been founded by Abe no Kurahashimaro, the Minister of the Left, in the year of Great Reformation of the Taika Era (645). It was relocated to the present place in the Kamakura period (1192-1333) and was so flourished as to be counted as one of 15 Large Temples in Yamato. It was, however, destroyed by fire during a battle in 1563, and was rebuilt later in 1665. The main object of worship is the image of Kishi Monju Bosatsu (Monju Bodhisattva in riding-lion form), which is a colorfully painted wooden image carved by Kaikei, a master Buddhist sculptor in the Kamakura period. It is the largest Monju Bosatsu in Japan. Abe Monjuin together with “Kirido no Monju” at Chioin Temple in Amanohashidate in Kyoto Pref. and “Kameoka no Monju” in Oshu-Nagai, Yamagata Pref. is counted as one of the 3 Large Monju Bosatsu in Japan. As Monju Bosatsu is the Japanese Buddhist deity of study and education, the temple is visited by a lot of students taking an entrance examination to a university.
Kamakura-bori is a traditional carved lacquerware craft from Kamakura in Kanagawa Prefecture.
During the Kamakura period, various artistic objects were imported from the Chinese mainland. Among these, carved red and black lacquerware (Chinese 'diaoqi' or 'tsuishu' and 'tsuikoku' in Japanese) had some of the greatest influence on Japanese craftsmen. Many of these craftsmen began to make their own designs, using these objects as models.
In the late Muromachi period, the tea ceremony became popular and Kamakura-bori were used as tea implements. In the Meiji period, carved wooden objects for everyday use were designed and used for broader purposes.
Powerful and bold designs in relief colored with Macomo Indian ink and expressed in peculiar forms emphasize the solidity of Kamakura-bori. These are features not seen in other wood carving in Japan.
Kamakura-bori embodies the warmth of Japanese trees, and expresses a depth of color and density of carving. As artistic objects, Kamakura-bori harmonizes these three characteristics..
Japan is well known as a country for doll-making. In particular, Kyoto has a long history in doll-making.
Kyoto ceramic dolls (Kyo-toh-ningyo) are colored and unglazed dolls made in Kyoto. Although these dolls have a naive, sweet image, they are also very delicate and have an attractive brightness.
Busshi (sculptors specializing in Buddhist statuary) and nohmenshi (sculptors specializing in Noh masks) also would sculpt dolls such as Kamo-ningyos and Gosho-ningyos for the nobility. However, dolls gained general popularity in the Edo period, when mass production became possible from cast molds.
Kyo-toh-ningyo is one type of doll-making that developed at this time, and was appreciated by the public as accessible, simple and cute dolls.
Today’s Kyo-toh-ningyo are integrated with late-Meiji Hakata-ningyo. These dolls set new trends at the time and achieved new aspects of artistry and creativity.
Generally, these figures are made in small numbers, though there are many varieties in shapes and forms. For instance there are Kyo-toh-ningyo dolls made for the doll festival (Hina matsuri), and for boys festivals, as well as historical figures, zodiac animals, and the dolls combined with bells. Zodiac dolls and bell-dolls are very popular, since they are believed to bring good luck.