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  • Thumbnail for Sanjusangendo or Thirty-three Bay Hall
    Sanjusangendo or Thirty-three Bay Hall

    Interior of hall showing statues of the Sentai Senju Kannon Bosatu, approx. 165-168.5 cm in height, dating from the Kamakura period.

  • Thumbnail for Muroji, 002, relief carving of Miroku Buddha on bluff above the Muro River, detail
    Muroji, 002, relief carving of Miroku Buddha on bluff above the Muro River, detail

    This enlarged version of part of the image in file no. ecasia000001.jpg shows some of the lines engraved in the stone to depict an image of the Miroku Buddha. Again, the carving dates from 1207 or 1208, and is along the bank of the Muro River, along the approach to Muroji. The pattern of parallel curved lines in the image is stylistically interesting and might be compared with the linear pattern of the robe folds in the sculpture that is the central image in the kondo at Muroji, a sculpture that dates from the Heian period (image I.D. ecasia000007.jpg) or with the sculpture of the seated Shaka (ecasia000012.jpg), from the Mirokudo, Muroji, which dates from early Heian period.

  • Thumbnail for Minamoto Yoritomo
    Minamoto Yoritomo

    One of the earliest extant examples of formal secular portraiture. The sitter is traditionally identified as Minamoto Yoritomo (1147-1199), the first shogun of Japan. After the death of the retired emperor Go-Shirakawa in 1192, Yoritomo received from the court the coveted title of Seiitaishogun (Great General Who Quells the Barbarians).

  • Thumbnail for Gate at Todai-ji
    Gate at Todai-ji

    The enormous scale of this enormous gate at Todai-ji is hard to imagine until one sees people standing next to it.

  • Thumbnail for Great Buddha sculpture at Kamakura, interior view
    Great Buddha sculpture at Kamakura, interior view

    This rather unusual image is a view of the inside of the sculpture of the Great Buddha at Kamakura, taken half way up the stairs inside the figure, looking up into the head of the figure. The dark circles visible inside the head are the coils of hair of the figure. -- Aside from the remarkable scale of the sculpture, which one senses powerfully as one climbs the stairs inside of the sculpture, the striking feature of this photograph is probably the illustration of the manner in which the sculpture was made, fabricated. It appears that it was cast in sections or plates, which were then assembled to create the finished sculpture (look at the outside of the sculpture in the image, ecasia000062). Also of very particular interest here are "brown" elements on the neck and upper torso of the figure. During the great Tokyo earthquake, the head of the sculpture separated from the rest of the figure and ended up in the lap of the figure. It was mounted back in position but, by the late 1940's or early 1950's, stress cracks had begun to appear in the neck. The brown elements visible here are strips of an early plastic compound that were places on the interior of the neck at that time to attempt to reinforce the structure; there was some doubt that the plastic would prove adequate or that it would retain its strength but, obviously, it has served well. (information re: the reinforcement, thanks to Tokyo metalsmith and sculptor, Kosugi Takuya, former metals professor at the National University for the Arts in Tokyo)

  • Thumbnail for Muroji, 011, Mirokudo, exterior, seen from porch of the kondo
    Muroji, 011, Mirokudo, exterior, seen from porch of the kondo

    This is the Mirokudo, the Miroku Hall, also called the Maitreya Hall, at Muroji, as seen from the veranda of the kondo. The Mirokudo is a smaller hall, and later in date than the kondo, having been moved to this site from Kofukuji during the Kamakura period. It contains a main center altar and two smaller side altars. The center altar, as seen in the next image, ecasia000012, is devoted to a figure of the Miroku Bosatsu, and one of the side altars, image ecasia000013, holds the wooden carved sculpture of the Seated Shaka, an exceptional example of ninth century (early Heian) sculpture.

  • Thumbnail for Muroji, 001, relief carving of Miroku Buddha on bluff above the Muro River, along the approach to Muroji.
    Muroji, 001, relief carving of Miroku Buddha on bluff above the Muro River, along the approach to Muroji.

    Muroji (Muroo temple) is perhaps 15 miles southeast of Nara City, in the "mountains" of Nara Prefecture (mountains similar to the American Catskills or the foothills of the Appalachians). One takes a train from Nara station into the countryside, then transfers to a local train to reach the station near Muroji. From that station, one takes a bus that runs hourly to travel the several miles along a winding, two lane road to the small village of Muro. Muro village shares with the road a narrow strip of flat land between the Muro River and the steep hillside that rises perhaps 100 yards from the river embankment. It is a small rural village and retains something of the feel of the Japan of decades past. Whether because of its relative inaccessibility or because it is not listed in tour books, the temple of Muroji does not attract the crowds that daily visit the temples of Kyoto and Nara, and few of the visitors to Muroji are not Japanese. [During the summer and fall of 2000, the road was being straightened out some and widened. It will be interesting to see whether this brings more visitors and more commerce to Muro village, and changes the feel of the community.] The road from the train station to the village of Muro parallels the Muro River for most of the way. -- Perhaps a mile or two from Muro village, one comes upon this surprising sight on the opposite side of the river. Carved into the stone of the bluff on the bank of the river is a shallow relief carving of the Miroku Buddha and, to the lower left of the Miroku figure, a mandala carved in stone. The carving is almost flat, and is more in the nature of a linear engraving on the stone than it is a 3-dimensional sculptural work. The carving dates from the very early Kamakura period, around 1207 or 1208. Image ecasia000002 is an enlarged version of this image and it shows detail of some of the lines in the engraved image. The carving was asssociated with Onodera, another temple, besides Muroji, associated with Kofukuji in Nara. Along with the construction of the Miroku Hall at Muroji, the stone Miroku is an expression of Kofukuji's devotion to the Miroku.

  • Thumbnail for Great Buddha
    Great Buddha

    The Daibutsu or "Great Buddha" in Kamakura.

  • Thumbnail for Great Buddha (Daibutsu)  at Kamakura
    Great Buddha (Daibutsu) at Kamakura

    The great statue of the Amida Buddha at Kamakura, cast in 1252. This image gives a good sense of the physical context in which one sees the sculpture today.

  • Thumbnail for Yishan Yining Zen Priest
    Yishan Yining Zen Priest

    Yishan Yining (1237-1317), known in Japan as Issan Kokushi (National Teacher), was an erudite priest of Chinese Rinzai Zen Buddhism who came to Japan in 1299 CE. This portrait of him is made of polychromed wood using Japanese cypress.

  • Thumbnail for Muji Ichien
    Muji Ichien

    Portrait sculpture ["chinso"] of the Zen priest Muji Ichien, born in 1226 in Kamakura. Made of polychromed wood.

  • Thumbnail for Snowfall in Kyoto
    Snowfall in Kyoto

    A snowfall in Kyoto doesn't prevent Todaiji, housing a large Buddha, from looking majestic.

  • Thumbnail for Japanese wooden statue of the Juni Shinsho
    Japanese wooden statue of the Juni Shinsho

    20 1/2h x 8 1/2w x 6 1/2 d Wooden statue of one of the Juni Shinsho, (12 Devine Generals) Guardian attendants for Yakushi Buddha.

  • Thumbnail for Todaiji, Nandaimon, the Great South Gate, Nara
    Todaiji, Nandaimon, the Great South Gate, Nara

    This is a photograph of the Nandaimon, the Great South Gate, at Todaiji in Nara. Taken in early December, with mist and fog in the chilly late afternoon air, it conveys a sense of mood of time and place. It was taken from inside the outer precinct of the temple, looking out through the gate - i.e., this is the gate viewed from inside the temple compound. -- In retaliation for support of the Minamoto clan by armed monks from Todaiji, at the end of the Genpei civil war, the Taira clan burned the compound at Todaiji to the ground in 1180. When the Minamoto emerged victorious, they vowed to rebuild the Todaiji compound and did so by the end of the 12th century. -- The other buildings in the Todaiji compound have been damaged by fire or earthquakes over the centuries and most have been rebuilt in different styles. The Nandaimon, the Great South Gate, alone, remains in its original form, that which was built in the late 12th century.

  • Thumbnail for Great Buddha statue at Kamakura
    Great Buddha statue at Kamakura

    The Great Buddha (Daibutsu) at Kamakura, a representation of Amida Buddha, was cast in 1252. The wooden building that surrounded it was swept away by a tidal wave, but the figure of the Buddha was unharmed and it has withstood repeated earthquakes, fires, and other calamities. It is 13.5 m (about 44 feet) high, making it the second largest statue of the Buddha in Japan, after the Daibutsu of Todaiji, Nara. Built without imperial or shogunal support, completed entirely with donations from the faithful, it is all the more impressive in its heroic scale.

  • Thumbnail for Muroji, 012,  Mirokudo, interior view, center altar
    Muroji, 012, Mirokudo, interior view, center altar

    This image shows the center altar in the Miroku Hall at Muroji. The sculpture on the altar is a carved wooden figure of the Miroku Bosatsu, a sculpture that is perhaps 3 feet high, dating from the 8th century. Dr. Fowler points out that this sculpture almost certainly was not the original sculpture on the center altar, which would have been a figure of the Miroku Buddha, rather than a bosatsu. -- Although some of the ritual objects in Buddhist temples vary somewhat from one sect to another, some objects are used in all sects. In this image we see the cushion on which the celebrant would sit in formal Japanese sitting posture, knees bent, sitting on the ankles. The rounded bronze object to the right is a "bell," with its open end at the top; it is struck on the outside with a padded stick, which produces the rich, resonant sound that accompanies and punctuates Buddhist chants. Also evident are three items found at all Buddhists altars, namely, flowers, incense, and light (candles). Often, as here, there also are offerings of fruit.

  • Thumbnail for Muroji, 019,  Kanjodo, Main Hall, front exterior view
    Muroji, 019, Kanjodo, Main Hall, front exterior view

    This is a view of the front of theMain Hall, the Initiation Hall at Muroji. Like the kondo, it is quite modest in size and is set into its natural setting on the side of the mountain, feeling integrated with its surroundings, rather than feeling imposed upon the setting or apart from it. The hall is symmetrical, being five bays wide and also five bays deep. The front portion of the hall is open, but the rear portion is only to initiates. This edifice has been designated as a National Treasure.

  • Thumbnail for Oyoroi  Samurai Armor
    Oyoroi Samurai Armor

    Oyoroi (literally "great armor") was the loose-fitting defensive armor of mounted archers that was developed late in the Heian period. It is made chiefly of leather and iron bound together to form horizontal tiers.

  • Thumbnail for Daibutsu Close-up
    Daibutsu Close-up

    A close-up of the daibutsu in Kamakura reveals a goatee, among other things.