Relation of the Voyage to Japan of the Association of Friends of the Cernuschi Museum from 12 to 23 May 2019 by Hélène Lassalle

The trip to Japan from May 12 to 23, 2019, organized, led and commented by Ms. Christine Shimizu, honorary heritage curator, went off the beaten track.

Kanazawa was the stronghold of the Maeda clan. At the foot of their castle lies the Kenraku-en, one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. Landscaped park of 11 ha from the Edo period dating from 1620, it was rebuilt in 1774, following a fire: artificial hills, waterfalls, lakes, streams, bordered by azaleas and irises, a famous stone lantern in easel shape of Koto (zither), a XNUMXth century tea pavilions., and the oldest fountain in Japan that gushes out of water.

The XXI Museume century is the work of the architects who built the Louvre-Lens, the SANAA Agency (Kazyyo Sejima and Riyue Konishiga), Pritzker Prize. It features renowned international artists, Oliafur Eliasson, James Turrel, Anish Kapoor, Jan Fabre. A temporary exhibition interested the group: Oscar Iowa, which will exhibit in Paris from September 17, 2019 at the Center Culturel du Japon in Paris.

Kenraku-en Garden in Kanazawa © J. Gautier

Zen temple Zuiryū-ji.

The village of Shirakawa-go © J. Gautier

The old quarters, well preserved, recall prints from the Edo period: the Samurai quarter and the beautiful family home  Nomura or the old district of Geishas.

Along the Sea of ​​Japan, the east coast of the Noto peninsula is very rugged. Going to Wajima and its morning market, we take the expressway Chirihama Nagisa, a track of 8km that stretches at the foot of the cliffs, right on the sand, at the edge of the sea.

The Zuiryū-ji Zen temple was built in 1613 by Maeda Toshinaga, then enlarged by Maeda Toshitsune for the rest of her brother's soul. National treasure but little known, it presents all the characteristics of the Zen architecture of the Kamakura period when the elites adopted this type of Buddhism. All in wood, without decoration, its double shingled roof presents angles turned up in Chinese style. The whole has the shape of a human body. The sanctuary is the head, the portico is the sex, the two side buildings (whose zonden, dedicated to meditation) are the arms, the two constructions of the first court, the legs. This plan evokes the power of the Buddha.

In the mountain with distant snow-capped peaks and cryptomere forests cluttered with flowery lilacs, the village of Shirakawa-gō gathers very steep thatched roofs to drag the snow: the style gassho-zuzuri (in hands joined for prayer) which provide a great height for the breeding of silkworms.

In Gifu, the Museum of Ceramic Art (MOCMA), was built by the famous architect Arata Isozaki. Ceramics has become a major art thanks to the development of the tea ceremony in Zen culture. In the midst of an immense collection, one will remember the name of Araawa Toyoso who found in the 1930 years the ancestral techniques of the Shino dating from the twelfth century, and his son Tadeo, with sandstone with irregular surface, white or a glossy black due to iron oxide.

The Bizen region is one of the oldest ceramic centers. Korean potters at the Ve s. introduced this kind of pottery fired in a tunnel kiln. At the end of the XNUMXthe s., there were six main centers, still in operation. The fresh clay is collected in the rice fields. By oxidizing on cooking, it gives an irregular reddish color. The ash from the pine in wood-fired ovens at 1250 ° forms a kind of enamel on falling and the straw, on burning, leaves bright red streaks. The visit of Imbe, a very active village of potters, allowed to see a recently opened kiln.

Imbe ovens © J. Berthelot-Blanchet.

The museum of the art of ceramics in Gifu.

The Matsue Dungeon © J. Gautier.

On this land bordering the Sea of ​​Japan, the Izumo region has always been considered the place of Japanese origins. The Izumo Museum in Shimane reports on the rites and beliefs of these remote periods: Yayoi (500 BC-250 AD), the swords of Kofun (250-600 AD), Nara (710-794 ). The Great Izumo-Taisha Shrine is the oldest and tallest Shinto shrine. It is dedicated to the divinity of marriage. It is announced by torii monumental, characteristic porticoes. Above the forecourt hangs a huge shimenawa (rope made of rice straw that signals the sacred places).

The Matsue Keep is one of the twelve still preserved of this type, from the Edo period. With multiple roofs with rolled angles, acroteria and two fantastic marine animals standing on its ridge, it was built in 1611. As part of a defense and refuge system, its large inner pillars, on two floors, carry the weight of the upper parts on the lower.

In Matsue, the writer Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904) lived in a traditional house. He collected legends and myths from Japan, like an ethnologist, the first for Japan.

The collector Adachi Zenko designed for his private museum extraordinary gardens. The painter Yokoyama Taikan (1868-1958) is the most represented and the most remarkable. One of his works has entered the collections of the Cernuschi Museum thanks to the Society of Friends.

Passing west, without lingering in Tokyo, the route ended on two spectacular sites.

Nikkō is a syncretism between Shintoism and Buddhism. Far from zen and simplicity, there reigns extravagance, the proliferation of patterns and colors, the horror of emptiness and the profusion of gold.

Tōshō-gū Shrine (1630) Mausoleum at Ieyasupremier shogun Tokugawa, is preceded by two portals. Some 200 stone steps lead to his tomb. After a highly ornate five-story pagoda, the stables (shinyosha) offer the famous frieze to the three monkeys, which block their sight, hearing and mouth. The Taiyuin Mausoleum of Iemitsu, grandson of Ieyasu, is no less overcrowded. The interior is filled with gold covered statues and the painted ceiling is from the school Kano.

The five-storey pagoda of the Tōshō-gū Shrine in Nikkō. © J. Gautier.

Statue of Buddha Amitābha in Kamakura. © J. Berthelot-Blanchet.

The bell of the temple Engaku-ji in Kamakura.

Kamakura faces the Pacific. Innumerable sanctuaries make Shintoism and Buddhism neighbor one another.

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū is dedicated to Hachiman, the god of war. Remember the merciless struggle between the Minamoto (Genji clan) and the Taira (Heike clan). Minamoto Yoritomo won. His wife had a pond dug encircling islands in the shape of signs: on the right, Genji side, they signify birth (victory), on the left, Heike side, death. The victory of the clan will thus be remembered forever.

The Great Buddha Amitābha, Buddha of Compassion, 11-meter high bronze statue, once housed in the Hall Daibatsu-Den, alone resisted a tsunami in 1453 and then the 1923 earthquake.

The Engaku-ji Zen temple was founded in 1282 to honor the souls of soldiers who died during the Mongolian invasion attempt (1274-1281). A bell (Ogane) 2,5 m high is hanging at the entrance. According to legend, its vibrations allowed souls misled by the king of the underworld to find the path of the living.

The last dinner took place in a traditional Tokyo brasserie. Ms. Shimizu was keen to choose carefully, everywhere, restaurants and menus in a country where food is part of the culture with its aesthetic and symbolic dimension, explaining to us the dishes and the quality of the containers, artisanal and charming. The comments and presentations in all fields of Christine Shimizu, rich, exceptionally clear for a history of religions and the arts as varied as it is complicated, were a fascinating contribution, for a trip that combined past and modernity, in the warm and friendly atmosphere of the participants. .

The group in Shirakawa-go in front of the snowy distant mountains.



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