Collection of Esteemed Works
NISHIKAWA Shundō ＜1847-1915＞
Nishikawa Shundō was a renowned calligrapher of many talents, his works having a great impact throughout the Meiji, Taisho, Showa, and even Heisei periods. Nishikawa was born in the Edo period, and at age 5 he started learning calligraphy under Nakazawa Setsujō, who was a disciple of one of the greatest calligraphers of the Edo period, Maki Ryōko. After the Meiji Restoration, he worked for the Ministry of Finance, and then immersed himself in the study of calligraphy.
10 Rinsho Byobu
MAEDA Mokuhō ＜1853-1918＞
Maeda Mokuhō is well-known for his contribution to the world of calligraphy by editing and publishing important Chinese books of calligraphy and poems. He eventually published his own calligraphy works as well.
The characters he wrote here using a goat hair brush are those achieved only through the diligent study of carved stone calligraphy. The subject of this piece is auspicious themes of good fortune, longevity, and abundance.
11 Fuki Choumei Kankai Hyakushi (1904)
NAKABAYASHI Gochiku ＜1827-1913＞
Nakabayashi is one of the top calligraphers of the Meiji period. He was born in Saga, and when he moved to Edo, he studied calligraphy under famous calligraphers of the Edo period, such as Ichikawa Beian. After his study in Edo, he returned home, and it was at this time that he found the works of Yogenbi, a member of the Qing ministry representatives in Japan. It was this influence that prompted him to absorb work after work of famed Chinese calligraphers.
This piece was done when he was 78 years old. It symbolizes his pride in living a long life and succeeding in his endeavors. At around this time, he also started to make great works with a lot more freedom than in the past, and there are several stone monuments of his works still remaining today within the Naritasan compounds.
12 Shisho Byōbu
NAGAO Uzan ＜1864-1942＞
Born in Takamatsu, Nagao worked as a teacher. In the year 1903, he went to Shanghai for 10 years to study Chinese ideology. Eventually, he became active in the field of calligraphy.
The byōbu, or folding panel, on the right is a piece depicting the words of a Chinese scholar, Saishigyoku, while the one on the left depicts the words of another Chinese scholar, Sima Guang. These are the first two sentences, with each talking of lessons for life.
“Don’t speak of the shortcomings of others; don’t praise the virtues of one’s own.”
“Don’t dwell on the content of what you are given by others, but rather think of the act that you were given something at all.”
13 Shunshoku (1989)
CHIYOKURA Oshū ＜1912－1999＞
Chiyokura was born in Chiba. After the Second World War, he spent time at an internment camp in Siberia. Before his internment, he wrote very calligraphy with very delicate strokes and a sense of grace, reminiscent of the classical Japanese style, but after his harsh experience in the camp, his works completely changed. He became very experimental in his pieces, and sought to create calligraphy that would be modern.
This piece is a poem that only uses the character “る” (pronounced “ru”). Visually, it’s reminiscent of tadpoles swimming around. Surely this piece has a very Spring-like quality to it. At a massive length of 21 meters, this piece of calligraphy is almost more like a painting. Although Chiyokura produced this late in his life, you can still feel the vitality and his passion towards calligraphy radiating from it.
14 Chōshinseiryo Guzai Hittan
OGAWA Gaboku ＜1911-2000＞
Born in Chiba, Ogawa Gaboku studied under Ueda Sōkyū. He was proactive in international circles with his works. He studied the composition of the beauty of lines, and created very experimental pieces, using mediums such as canvas and oil paint, and created three-dimensional pieces which sometimes didn’t even use written characters. Although most of his works are avant-garde pieces, he has also left behind some pieces like this one which are more classical. The meaning of this calligraphy is, “If you clear your mind in quiet, your spirit will appear at the top of the brush.”
15 Nanzan Kenjushō (2009)
FURUTANI Sōin ＜1924-2018＞
Born in Kyoto, Furutani Sōin was a great admirer of Nakano Etsunan, and chose to follow the path of a calligrapher because of his influence. He became a disciple of Tsujimoto Shiyū and Murakami Santō.
He studied many calligraphy works, starting with the works of Wang Xizhi, who is considered as the greatest Chinese calligrapher in history, as well as works from monks like Mokkan and Ryōkan of the Edo period. In his pieces, Furutani’s brush strokes are characteristic for their vitality.
MATSUI Joryū ＜1900-1988＞
Matsui Joryu was born in Akita, and studied under Yoshida Hōchiku. For work, he took a teaching job at a university. He was also famous as a poet, publishing works of tanka, or short poems. The meaning behind the calligraphy written here is “the preference for old things.”
17 Ishiyamagire fukusei Byōbu
MATSUZAKI Shunsen ＜1895-1981＞
Shunsen was born in Saitama and worked as a teacher. He studied under Nakamura Shundō. His achievements include publishing a calligraphy magazine. He collected many old calligraphic works, and was also known as a master of writing sutras.
He also was able to replicate the national treasure, Honganji-bon Sanjūroku-nin Kashū, the Honganji Collection of 36 Calligraphers, all by himself. Not only did he replicate the calligraphy of this collection, but he also even tried to reproduce the paper and the binding of the original piece as well, and was quite successful.
18 Poem from the Manyōshū – Aratamano (2003)
TAKAGI Seikaku ＜1923-2017＞
Takagi was born in Okayama, and studied under Uchida Gaku-un. He learned mostly classical calligraphy from his master. His strokes have a lot in common with those of famed classical Chinese calligrapher, Wang Duo, and he combined kanji and kana to create large-sized works with kana.
This piece says “Once the New Year comes, dear nightingale, I hope it is my garden in which you will sing first.” It was presented to Naritasan at the commemorative ascension ceremony for the current head priest of Naritasan.
19 Rakan (1962)
TSUDA Suitai ＜1911-2000＞
Tsuda was born in Tokyo. He studied old Chinese rubbings by himself, and being influenced by his brother, Murata Ryōtai, he eventually took over the calligraphy school family business. Although he emphasized the properness of the characters, occasionally he would have wild outbursts of unique expression as well.
The title of this piece, “Rakan”, refers to the enlightened saint in Buddhism. Here he also used paints that are commonly used in traditional Japanese paintings, to give an overall mysterious feel to the piece. It almost looks as if the characters are dancing.
20 Tabi-bito – Traveler
KURODA Kenichi ＜1947-＞
Kuroda Kenichi is a modern calligraphy artist. This piece is a poem from the Manyōshū.
It talks about an envoy ship departing, and a single mother praying for the safe trip of her son who is an envoy on that ship.
TSUCHIHASHI Yasuko ＜1956-＞
Tsuchihashi Yasuko is a modern calligraphy artist. This piece is a poem from the Manyōshū, which talks about the poet’s feelings on the way to return to his hometown. While looking in the direction of his hometown, the poet hopes to himself, “Dear tachibana flower, please wait for me, don’t scatter before I arrive.”