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saihoji.jpg

Keinen yū-ka (Saihoji Temple)

Oil on canvas

100.0 × 65.2cm | 25 1/2 × 39 1/4in

Saiho-ji Temple, belonging to the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism and located in western Kyoto, is the motif of this work.

The temple’s garden is covered with approximately 120 kinds of beautiful moss, which is why it is also familiar to everyone with its nickname, the Moss Temple.

 

It was late October in 2022 when I visited this temple having a history stretching back over 1200 years.

 

Saiho-ji Temple used to be the 4th most visited temple in Kyoto, but the increasing number of visitors caused “tourist pollution” in and around the temple.

 

The late chief priest wished to preserve and pass on the temple’s authentic religious atmosphere to future generations, so in July 1977 they decided to adopt a small-group visiting system which requires reservations.

 

45 years have passed since the previously used entrance gate for the visitors was closed, and the approach to the temple has been off-limits to tourists ever since.

 

Due to these reasons, they were sometimes scolded with strong words such as “Temples should be open to anyone in the first place.”

 

However, this system has never prevented the steady flow of visitors to the temple. While moss doesn’t grow where people walk, it thrives abundantly when people no longer tread there.

 

Now, vigorous and beautiful moss is growing in abundance on the path after a long time closure to the visitors.

 

Soon after the closure, I was born into this world.

 

The rich moss growing on the path in the tranquil atmosphere may have been born in the same period as me and have lived through the same passage of time.

I was motivated and created this work, inspired by the gradual return of nature to its original state during the course of time as well as plants’ vitality and dignity.

 

In the early stage when this system – limitation of the number of visitors, closure of the entrance gate and off-limits of the approach to the temple – was implemented, there was a controversy.

However, having passed so many years, this area has become a symbolic place of Saiho-ji Temple known for its quiet and solemn atmosphere.

 

This landscape which I depicted on the canvas is a sacred place reflecting the thoughts of the late chief priest and the determination of Saiho-ji Temple.

 

Now, I am reaffirmed that my art woks can be achieved thanks to the benefits of nature.

 

With gratitude ….

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