Japan’s sacred hubs

Japan’s sacred hubs

Kazuyoshi Miyoshi’S photographs are an ode to the sacred wooden architecture of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, says Surabhi Jajodia

Eye-arresting Japanese lanterns and aesthetic Indian rangoli have been put strategically outside the venue and give a hint as to what awaits you inside. The two, compliment each other and represent the amalgamation of Indian and Japanese cultures at the photographic exhibition-  which focuses on the Sacred Places Pilgrimages in Japan. Held at The Japan Foundation, New Delhi, the exhibition displays a collection of 67 stunning images from the World Heritage Sites in Japan which has been captured by renowned photographer, Kazuyoshi Miyoshi.

The Land of the Rising Sun is steeped in religion and culture. It  is dotted with temples and shrines. The sacred places and pilgrimage traditions of Japan have been conditioned equally by geographical features as by cultural and religious factors. The exhibition encapsulates the beauty of these places of peace and power.  “All the temples in Japan are very old and are made up of wood and the area does not have any modern architecture so that the  purity and aura can be maintained. Temples in Japan are often built near a lake, something which is similar to Indian temples”, said Aditi Vats, exhibition PR.

The maximum number of sacred places in Japan are in Kyoto, followed by Nara, Hiroshima, etc. as these are the country’s ancient cities, where architecture has been well preserved. These cities are different from Tokyo and other developed cities. In fact, Kyoto is like Banaras in Japan. And not surprisingly, Benares is the place that most Japanese tourists visit  as they find a deep relation between Kyoto and Banaras due to their temples.The Japanese throng their temples in huge numbers during New Year and other festivals to pray for their deceased as well as their future.

In order to preserve humanity’s cultural heritage for future generations, the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Culture and Natural Heritage was adopted by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1972. The countries which ratified the treaty have pledged to protect and preserve the World Heritage Sites within their borders. “As of July 2016, 20 sites in Japan have been added to the World Heritage List: 16 cultural sites and four natural sites. In addition, the category of ‘intangible cultural heritage’ has been created to preserve oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, and festival events. Recently, UNESCO declared washoku (Japanese cuisine) to be an intangible cultural heritage” Vats added.

Like we say- ‘A picture speaks a thousand words’, the beautiful photographs at the exhibition were ample testimoony to the beauty of Japan’s temples.

The photograph of Shimogamo-jinja Shrine in Kyoto, displays the  shrine’s grounds and outlying area are thickly forested with kyu trees and flora indigenous to the Yamashiro plain from ancient times. The temple is situated north of the location where Kamo-gawa and Takano-gawa Rivers join.

Another photograph by Miyoshi is of Horyu-ji Temple, Nara.  Originally built as a private temple by Shotoku Taishi Wakakusagaran in 607 AD, the present one came into being when the old structure burnt down. The new building was constructed to the northwest of the original site and it functions as the West Temple of Horyu-ji, Sai-in. The construction was completed in the early days of the Nara era, at about the same time as the five-storied pagoda and Kondo, the Hall of Deities.

 Miyoshi who clicked all these photographs was born in Tokushima Prefecture, Japan, and graduated from Tokai University. Shortly after graduation, he founded his own photo agency, and received the Kimura Ibei Award for his photography book Rakuen (Paradise). At 27, Miyoshi was the youngest photographer ever to receive the award.

 Beginning with a visit to Okinawa at the age of 13, Miyoshi has travelled to regions as diverse as Maldives, Tahiti, Africa, India, the Himalayas, and Antarctica. His works are included in the permanent collection of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film in the USA.

Miyoshi’s book of photographs, The World Heritage in Japan, was published in 1998. Since 1999, The Japan Foundation has purchased 67 photos (as of August 2012) from World Heritage Sites in Japan in order to promote Japanese culture. New photographs are added to the collection each time a new site is listed. The World Heritage Sites in Japan Photography Exhibition has been held in many locations throughout the world. Since 2007, he has been taking photographs of national treasure Buddha statues in Kyoto and Nara, as well as the Gosho Imperial Palace and the Katsura-rikyu Detached Palace in Kyoto.



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