Six contemporary artists, including renowned cartoonists and art directors of popular video games, are creating paintings on "fusuma" sliding doors at Shinjuan, a sub temple at Daitokuji in Kyoto's Kita Ward.
Contemporary works on themes such as "gense" (the present world), "rakuen" (paradise) and "jodo" (pure land) are appearing in Hojo (main temple), an important cultural architectural property built in the early Edo period.
Shinjuan was founded in the late Muromachi period by Ikkyu, a Zen Buddhist monk and poet. It houses fusuma paintings by Hasegawa Tohaku from the Azuchi/Momoyama-Edo period and Soga Jasoku from the Muromachi era. Both important cultural assets, they are being removed for restoration and replaced with new fusuma.
Priest Sosho Yamada, 63, asked six people, including a friend of his who is a cartoonist and members of a zazen meditation session he organizes in Tokyo, to create paintings on 45 plain fusuma and work began in January last year. One of the artists lived at Shinjuan and drew as he worked, cleaned and meditated there.
In the central room of the Hojo building, cartoonist Kenichi Kitami, the creator of the popular Tsuribaka Nisshi, created rakuen paintings with views of Yoron Island in the Amami island chain in Kagoshima Prefecture.
Under the gense theme, animation studio chief Hiroyuki Yamaga, 55, in charge of the Hojo east wing room, created black ink paintings of rough waves in the Sea of Japan, black-tailed gulls, fighter aircraft and the like. Yamaga's company was involved in the production of the popular anime title "Neon Genesis Evangelion."
In the west wing room, Isamu Kamikokuryo, 47, a video game director best known for his work on role-playing video game series Final Fantasy, worked under the jodo theme and painted "Kannon Bodhisattva", the goddess of mercy. Kamikokuryo invited members of pop group Exile as models for the fearsome gods of nature on each side of Kannon.
In addition, an illustrator from NHK animation "Otona no Ikkyu-san" and artists from Kyoto University of Art and Design and Kyoto Seika University are also involved in the project.
Yamaga, who spent around half a year living at Shinjuan, said, "Tohaku's paintings on fusuma were next to me, so I felt like I had lodged with him."
Kamikokuryo said, "I was painting in solitude but I am overjoyed that I am at the stage where (my work) can be viewed."
The works are expected to be completed by the summer and set for viewing at a special opening on Sept. 1.
Priest Yamada said, "Hopefully the younger generation will come and take a look and feel a closer connection to the temple."


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