2006/05/21

The Red Gazebo

Picking up from "The Greatness of Little Things" -
We arrived at Izura Kaigan, in the Northeast corner of Ibaraki Prefecture, our final destination of the day. We had chosen this place for many reasons, one of which was our connection to the ryokan and spas here.
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Itsuura Kanko Hotel

Last year K, with a bit of assistance from me, did translation work for an organization of "Okami" (the women in charge of guest services at Ryokan and traditional hotels in Japan) to create a tourist guide for Ibaraki Prefecture in both Japanese and English. Some of these establishments are in this area. But our main purpose was to see the home and gazebo of artist, author, and teacher Tenshin Okakura (1863-1913).

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Looking down on Izura Kaigan and the red gazebo - "Rokkakudo"

I tried to imagine how this looked a century ago and could see why Okakura had chosen this location for his home and art institute.


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The beach of Izura Kaigan (kaigan means sea shore) is behind Rokkakudo.

We moved the car closer to the grounds of the Izura Institute of Art and Culture and went to take a look close up. Being a holiday, parking was scarce, but eventually we got a place right in front of the entrance. The Okakura family put the land into a trust in 1986 and the public can now enjoy it for a mere 200 yen (about US$1.80) entrance fee. A small museum is also on the property.

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Tenshin Okakura's cliffside home.

Okakura bought the house and land in 1903. I don't know how old the house was then. He remodeled it to his liking and built two other buildings for his art institute. Down a winding path from the house one comes to Rokkakudo, the red gazebo that he built as place to meditate and be inspired by the natural beauty that surrounds it.

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The hexagonal gazebo.

From this point one is treated to ah panorama of the sea. The inner shallows are colored red and green and purple by seaweeds on the bottom, which sway rhythmically with the surge of the waves. On a clear day, even more of the coastline to the north would be visible than we could see today.

In addition to "The Book of Tea", Okakura wrote "The Ideals of the East" (also in English), which starts with the words "Asia is one." You can read these works online as by clicking the titles. "The Ideals" is a concise history of Asian art from a Japanese perspective. He distrusted the West and feared that Asia might lose its cultures and art if it merely mimicked the West rather than learned from it to create new Asian art. He derided those who wore Western style suits and silk top hats as well as Japanese architects who copied European buildings which themselves were nothing more than copies of ancient Greek and Roman themes. His analysis was deep and brilliant, if still controversial amoung art historians.

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View from the gazebo of the bay and coast to the north.


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View south.

An American art historian, Langdon Warner (1881-1956), studied under Okakura. Later, Warner followed Okakura's footsteps as curator at the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, and during WWII compiled a list of Japanese art treasures which the US would take into account and try to avoid in planning bombing raids. There is a bust of Langdon Warner at Izura.

Sadly, in 1913, on a trip to Tokyo to visit family, Tenshin Kakuzo Okakura died from influenza. He was 49 years old. Even worse, years later his work and the statement "Asia is one" was co-opted by Japanese nationalists and misrepresented to reinforce Japan's imperial aims and its phony "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere". But today, his work can be seen in a more accurate light and appreciated as it should be on its own merits. His legacy to Japan and to the West for a better understanding, appreciation and respect for Asian art and culture live on.

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Leaving Izura, we passed a shop selling smoked fish, sardines or mackerel perhaps.

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Further south, near Hitachi, the late afternoon sun made this lighthouse glow as surfers waited for a good wave below. I gave them a wave. (tee hee).

A long, slow trip along the crowded highways brought us home at last.
The return trip was 106 km or 66 miles and took 3 hours and 45 minutes. That works out to 28 kph (17.5 mph). Poor K. Ah, that modern marvel of personal transportation, the automobile! Next time I'll take the train.

8 comments:

The Moody Minstrel said...

Bulbous bouffant...

Macadamia...

Gazebo...?

(If you don't get it...)

Pandabonium said...

MM - Beluga

Robin said...

for the net, i learned that Okakura Tenshin (1862--1913) has played a big role in the Japanese crisis of national identity, 1880--1941.

His ideal of "Asia is one" was celebrated posthumously as the most powerful expression of Japanese wartime aspirations, and Okakura was considered a visionary of Japanese political ascendancy in Asia.

It is sad that such a simple artist with a beautiful idea, would resulted in so much suffering subsequently in ASIA.

Thanks for sharing this.

Pandabonium said...

It is sad.

In much the same way, the music of Richard Wagner was misused by the Nazis in Germany.

The statement "Asia is one" was really meant to contrast the historical and philisophical influenes on art throughout Asia with those of the West.
Not as some political slogan. One can debate that point, but it was not meant as a political statement.

Happysurfer said...

Pandabonium, I'm not familiar with this great personality but he could have done much more if not for his dying young. Thank you for sharing this story and your trip. Nice pictures too.

Pandabonium said...

Thanks Happy. I too think he would have been an even greater influence in the art world.

Anonymous said...

Langdon Warner was an unscrupulous thief who stole dozens of frescoes from the caves at Dunhuang China and spirited them to the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard. He should be roundly condemned for this shameless theft of China's cultural heritage!!! The Fogg should return those unlawfully unglued frescoes and make good on a crime committed in 1920's.

Pandabonium said...

Anonymous - thanks for the comment. I agree.