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 12 23 May 2019 trip to Japan, organized, directed and commented by Christine Shimizu, Honorary Heritage Curator, was off the beaten path.

Kanazawa was the stronghold of the Maeda clan. At the foot of their castle lies Kenraku-en, one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. 11 ha landscape park of the Edo era dating from 1620, it was rebuilt in 1774, following a fire: artificial hills, waterfalls, lakes, streams, bordered with azaleas and irises, a famous stone lantern in Koto easel shape (zither), a tea pavilion of the XVIIe s., 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 and Jan Fabre. A temporary exhibition interested the group: Oscar Iowa, who will exhibit in Paris from September 17 2019 at the Cultural Center of Japan in Paris.

Kenraku-en Garden in Kanazawa © J. Gautier

Zen temple Zuiryū-ji.

The village of Shirakawa-go © J. Gautier

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

Along the Sea of ​​Japan, the east coast of the peninsula of Noto, is very hilly. Going to Wajima and its morning market, we take the express way 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 zen temple Zuiryū-ji was built in 1613 by Maeda Toshinaga, then enlarged by Maeda Toshitsune for the rest of the soul of his brother. National treasure but little known, it has all the characteristics of Zen architecture of the Kamakura era when the elites adopted this type of Buddhism. All in wood, without decoration, its double roof shingles has angles rolled up to the Chinese. The set 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 centers of ceramics. Korean potters at the Ve s. have introduced this kind of pottery baked in a tunnel kiln. At the end of the XIIe There were six main centers, still in operation. Fresh clay is collected in the rice fields. It gives oxidizing during cooking an irregular reddish color. Pine ashes in 1250 ° wood-burning kilns form a sort of enamel and straw while burning, leaving bright red streaks. The visit of Imbe, a very active village of potters, allowed to see a recently opened oven.

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), Kofun's Swords (250-600 AD), Nara (710-794 ). The big shrine of Izumo- Taisha is the oldest Shinto shrine and the highest. He 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 in the manner of 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.

Nikko is a syncretism between Shintoism and Buddhism. Far from the zen and the stripping, there reign the extravagance, the proliferation of the motives and the colors, the horror of the emptiness and the profusion of the gold.

Tōshō-gū Shrine (1630) Mausoleum at Ieyasu, premier shogun Tokugawa, is preceded by two portals. A few 200 stone steps lead to his tomb. After a very ornate five-storey pagoda, the stables (shinyosha) offer the famous frieze to the three monkeys, which clog the sight, the hearing and the mouth. The Taiyuin Mausoleum of Iemitsu, grandson of Ieyasu, is no less overburdened. The interior is filled with statues covered in gold and the painted ceiling is of 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. Remembrance of the merciless struggle between the Minamoto (Genji clan) and the Taira (Heike clan). Minamoto Yoritomo won. His wife dug a pond encircling the islands in the form of signs: on the right side Genji, they signify the birth (victory), on the left side Heike, death. The victory of the clan will be remembered forever.

The Great Amitābha Buddha, Buddha of Compassion, bronze statue of 11 meters high, formerly sheltered 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 the fallen soldiers during the Mongol 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 was held in a traditional Tokyo brewery. 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 the food and quality of containers, craft and delightful. Christine Shimizu's rich and exceptionally clear commentaries and presentations on a varied and complicated history of religions and arts were an exciting contribution to a journey that blended 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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