Unryu-zu: Shohaku Soga
I went to Tokyo National Museum to see a special exhibition “Japanese Masterpieces from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.” Boston Museum, established in 1876, is known for owning great Japanese art items. The exhibition was a rare opportunity for me to see so-called “home coming” pieces.
It’s interesting to know the reason why the Boston museum owns such a huge Japanese art collection. It’s related to a contribution of Ernest Fenollosa (1853-1908) who was invited to Japan to teach at University of Tokyo. He became a big fan of Japanese arts and made an effort to introduce it widely.
The time was in the middle of Japan’s Westernization movement. People were very eager to adopt Western cultures and technology. At the same time, there was an anti-Buddhist movement and many temples were abolished and important statues and religious tools were being taken away. Fenollosa and other American collectors picked up those art pieces one by one and it became the base of the collection of Boston museum.
The highlight of the exhibition was picture scrolls and Shouhaku Soga’s paintings. My favorite one is Kibi Daijin Nyuto Emaki scroll. It’s kind of a science fictional adventure that Kibi Makibi had. He was a Japanese envoy to the Tang Dynasty China in the 8th century. It’s fun to see how Makibi used some psychic power when he had to go through some difficult situations in China.