Description of Works

First floor                    

Collection of Esteemed Works


9 Hyakufukuju

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.


16 Kokou

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.


21  Ama-ai

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.”

Second floor

Special Spring Exhibition

The Art and Calligraphy of Naritasan


 Matsu ni Botan-zu

– Draft of Pine with Peony (1928)

MATSUBAYASHI Keigetsu <1876-1963>

Part of the Naritasan Shinshoji Collection

Depicted here is a gracefully-blooming large peony, a beloved flower in China. Appearing together with a pine tree, the subject of this painting is very auspicious.


2 Oharame Ōshitazu

– Rough Draft of “Women of Ohara” (1915)

TSUCHIDA Bakusen <1887-1936>

Part of the Naritasan Shinshoji Collection

Tsuchida was born on the island of Sado. He apprenticed under famous artists such as Suzuki Shōsen and Takeuchi Seihō. Oharame, or “women of Ohara,” refers to the women with flowers or kindling on their head, who would go around Kyoto peddling their wares. This piece is still in the sketch phase, doing well to show the process that went into the final piece depicting the harsh lifestyle of these women. Although this is still a rough draft, you can see the level of detail that the artist has put into this piece, drawing and redrawing parts until they were perfect.


3 Fudō and Drafts of Fudō  (1966)

KODAMA Kibō <1898-1971>

Part of the Naritasan Shinshoji Collection

Kodama was born in Hiroshima, and studied under Kawamura Gyokudō. This piece is one of his greatest works, which he completed towards the end of his life. The reason he decided to paint a piece depicting the deity Fudō Myō-ō was because when his daughter became seriously ill, he prayed to Fudō Myō-ō for her to get well. Her recovery was his motive for the painting, and the first of many Buddhist-themed pieces to come.

Fudō Myō-ō, who is the main god of Naritasan, is the most supreme Buddha of the Shingon Esoteric Buddhism sect, and a manifestation of the Dainichi Nyorai Buddha. His expression is that one of anger, in order to protect and prevent us from losing our way.


4 Manabite shikaru nochini

tarazaru wo shiru (1915)

INUKAI Tsuyoshi <1863-1931>

Part of the Narita Kōtō Gakko High School Collection

In 1931, Inukai Tsuyoshi became Prime Minister of Japan, but was assassinated the next year. He would often write calligraphy and favored kanji in his works. The meaning of this piece is, “The more you learn, the more you know what’s missing.” The piece on the right side of this one says, “If you seek something, you will gain something. If you seek nothing, you will gain nothing.” These words are also displayed on the school building of the school that Naritasan is associated with.


5 Ekikyō Issetsu

KATSU Kaishū <1823-1899>

Part of the Naritasan Shinshoji Collection

Katsu was a politician active during the Edo and Meiji periods. He studied Western studies and tactics, and was successful in establishing the navy. This piece is an excerpt from the I Ching, and in it you can find the word “fudō”. The word fudō is symbolic of Naritasan, meaning “immovable.” It also refers to the Fudō Myō-ō deity of Naritasan, so it can be assumed that this piece was made specifically for Naritasan.



YAMAOKA Tesshū <1836-1888

Part of the Naritasan Shinshoji Collection

Yamaoka was a politician who was active during the Edo and Meiji periods. He excelled at swordsmanship, Zen, and calligraphy. Written swiftly and in one stroke, his characters have quite a bold feel that reflects that strength, as well as a relationship to Zen. He also visited Naritasan, and was good friends with the successive top priests here as well.


 Shisei Doutenchi Seigi Kankishin

ISHIKAWA Shōkin <1869-1924>

Part of the Naritasan Shinshoji Collection

In 1894, Ishikawa received the position of top priest at his temple, becoming the 15th head priest to receive the title. In the history of all of Japan, he was the first to expand teachings of enlightenment to various aspects of society, such as culture, education, and welfare. This piece praises the virtues of honesty, hard work, and justice.


8 Kinran Fukyūhi (Rubbed Copy) (1897)

ASADA Kyōetsu <1856-1909>

Part of the Naritasan Shinshoji Collection

Asada Kyōetsu adopted the Asada name through marriage into the family, becoming a doctor and continuing the family business of Asada Sōhaku, the man who invented “Asada-ame”, a cough medicine. Although he didn’t gain much fame for his calligraphy, his mastership of Yan Zhenqing’s (a famous Chinese calligrapher from the 700s) script style is first-rate.

The original stone monument used for the rubbing displayed here was constructed by Ishikawa Shōkin, the 15th successive head priest of Naritasan.  The contents of the monument praise the friendship between Asada Sōhaku, Kyōetsu’s father-in-law, and the 13th head priest of Naritasan, Haraguchi Shōrin. “Kinran” is a word that refers to deep friendship. Currently, this stone monument sits on a small hill, just a short walk from the entrance of Naritasan’s park.