The Ken Domon memorial hall is a modern photography gallery dedicated to Ken Domon, a photographer whose collection of photographs display a range of traditional artefacts and scenes in Japan, specifically close to his hometown, Sakata. His works ‘’A pilgrimage through old temples’’ present large photographs on the amazing architecture and natural scenes and beautiful monuments. The building itself is also quite the spectacle, you can sit on the many sofa’s round the gallery and enjoy the view. The building is situated on a lake with large windows overlooking the natural landscape. The building was designed by Yoshio Taniguchi; Known for resign of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
We decided to take part in a kokeshi workshop in Yamagata city. The workshop was located in a shopping centre within a gallery space where there was a large collection of Kokeshi dolls. Many designed by the workshop teacher himself. The workshop consisted of planning the designs on paper first and then later painting with thick inks directly onto the prepared wooden dolls. The calligraphy paintbrushes are difficult tools to control especially if you are used to western paintbrushes. Everything was provided along with ink but to paint a kokeshi doll was a very difficult task, especially when it came to painting on the eyes. The last step was to rub wax onto the doll.
Overall the workshop was great and in a very calm atmosphere, the final dolls were photographed and then wrapped up to take home. In total the worksop lasted around an hour.
Pricing: Kokeshi doll workshop 300 Yen
written by Shana. L
Yama-dera is a historical site located North east of Yamagata city. It is a small mountain climb with steep steps which reach the peak where you can overlook the amazing mountainous landscape from a small open temple at the mountains edge.
On our arrival to Yama-dera we first crossed a red bridge that lead onto a small hill where souvenir shops were on either side of the road. The shops sold things such as sandogasa hats, dango and other local cuisine as well as a few fruit markets which had a delicious selection of apples. As you reach the near top of the hill we turned left to reach a small temple named konponchudo temple and a pot of burning incense.
Continuing down, you will eventually come across the temple gate after passing a few other shrines and smaller temples. You will have to pay a small entry fee to begin your climb up Yamadera to Risshakuji temple.
The climb up is interesting but beware as the stairs can be a little narrow. The climb goes through a forest with amazing cedar and various other large trees, you will pass many wooden temples and there are interesting stops along the way. Oyamiishi is a cliff face and engraved into it is a something which is difficult to discern but many people had stuck coins into the crevasses for good luck and making wishes. This is a common occurrence up yamadera and you will see coins that have been placed into various trees, shrines and sculptures along the way. Nearer the mountain peak you will go through niomon gate where the ni-yo guardians ‘a’ and ‘un’ (which mean the beginning and the end of all things) stand at either side of the entrance.
Near the mountain peak there is a small cluster of wooden temples and houses and is quite a site to see. You are able to walk along the mountain paths and look down at the steep valley below or continue up the path to open temple viewing point, I was recommended to come here either in the early summer or winter when the skies are clearer to be able to see further into the valley. Along the right hand path if you look across the valley you will see a small wooden house on the mountain cliff edge which is an amazing sight to see and for me was a highlight of visiting yama-dera. At Risshakuji temple I bought a fortune slip and picked up a ‘moderate fortune’.
Unfortunately I cannot read kanji and had trouble making sense of what my fortune was, but overall it was telling me to ‘enjoy and not to rush my work and be careful when travelling from west to east’, this was both coincidentally accurate to my current situation and had be feeling rather apprehensive. But overall was great fun to translate with the help of my friends. Many people tie their paper fortunes to the wooden beams or trees in the area but I decided to take mine along with me because of the small but nice illustrations that are on the slip.
On the way down it began to get very busy but there are a few hidden paths and shortcuts in the amongst the forest to look out for to avoid the crowds.
Back at the base of Yamadera we came across a small shop selling many hand made ceramics and stone carved sculptures such as the roundish ‘o-jizo’ figures. They also had a kokeshi doll workshop where the daughter of a local kokeshi painter was running the workshop. Just outside of the shop was a small vendor selling freshly made dango. This is highly recommend after you finish your climb up yamadera as konjac is a healthy and filling snack.
written by Shana L.
Welcome to Johgi Nyorai
Johgi Nyorai Saihoji Temple is a Buddhist temple in Sendai, Japan. Our most sacred treasure is a painted scroll of Amida Buddha which is kept in the main temple pictured above. This holy painting of Amida Buddaha is called Johgi Nyorai because Johgi is the name of this location, and Nyorai means Buddha. This is a secret Buddha, and the center door is opened only five times each year. Johgi Nyorai is believed to bring good luck to those who pray regularly for their family’s happiness such as happy weddings, easy childbirth, health, or success in business. Many people, attracted by Buddha’s miraculous virtues, continually visit here in order to pray. ( From a guide of Johgi Nyorai Saihoji Temple)
This museum displays the work of world famous photographer Ken Domon. Domon’s powerful masterpieces the “Pilgrimage to Old Temples” and “Hiroshima” series, and his other photographs are on view. The work of top artists, such as the beauty of this building that complements the natural surroundings, the gardens, sculptures and the work’s name plates, all combine to create the artistic space in this museum.
(From the guidebook “Museums in Yamagata”)
About Ken Domon (1909 〜 1990)
A photographer, born in Sakata City, Ymagata Prefecture. He is a great master who established the realism in the photographic world. He was in a certain period called a demon for news photographic work and is now well known throughout the world.
” A Pilgrimage through Old Temples”, his lifework, is regarded as the pinnacle among his masterpieces and is followed by the similarly distinguished works, such as “Muroji Temple”, “Hiroshima”, “The Children in Chikuho”, “Bunraku Puppets”, “Features”, “Old Ceramics in Japan”, “Wanderings through Old Kilns”, “Lives of Japanese Master-hands” and many other works. Every work of these is famous respectively as a great monument.
The artistic value of Ken Domon is said to lie in his snappings at the beauties of Japan and minds of the Japanese. His achievements in photography are highly evaluated and he won not only the first Ars Photographic Culture Prize in 1943, but got many excellent prizes. He was decorated in 1972 with a Purple Ribbon Medal, and in 1980 with the Fourth Order of Merit with Minor Cordon of the Rising Sun.
(From a guidebook of Ken Domon Museum of Photography)
Situated at the southern tip of Yamagata Prefecture, the City of Yonezawa is most famous for one of its traditional crafts, the Otaka-poppo. These intricate wood carvings in the shape of a hawk are individually handcrafted by artisan woodworkers. The word poppo comes from the Ainu word for “toy.” Otaka, meaning “hawk,” refers to Uesugi Yozan, a famous daimyo of Yonezawa, and symbolizes nobility and splendor. These carvings are imbued with prayers for success in life and the realization of ambition, and thus, they decorate the living rooms and hallways of many homes as talismans of good fortune.
Cherry bark ware, liven-up your everyday life
DENSHIRO is brand of Fujiki Denshiro Shoten Co., Ltd., a manufacturer of fine Cherry bark ware. We have been producing Cherry bark ware over six generations since its foundation in 1851. Using selected materials with various appearances, superior skills proven over the 200 years of history, and designs in harmony with today’s living spaces, DENSHIRO collection liven-up your everyday life.
Kabazaiku is made of wild cherry bark. It is an eco-friendly material as it regrows after being peeled off. The origin of the name Kabazaiku comes from a song in Manyoshu. In it the author expressed wild cherry bark as ” kaniha”, which later changed to “kaba”. Kabazaiku has two patterns: the one that brings out the appearance of wild cherry bark is called “Shimofuri” or Marble, the other is called “Muji” or Natural, whose surface is thinly scraped to polish. The surface of tea caddies and other products will acquire shine as you cherish them with your hands on a daily basis. You can enjoy a growing shine of wild cherry bark. ( From a Pamphlet of Fujiki Denshiro Shoten )
Keiji Mashimo (1914-1993) was a painter born in Yamagata prefecture who lived until the age of 79. With a painting career spanning 60 years, his works focused almost exclusively on Yamagata’s famed Mogami River. Unfazed by even harsh winter weather or heavy snowfall, he refused to do his painting work anywhere but on the banks of the Mogami River, and it was not unusual for him to paint similar scenes numerous times.
According to Mashimo, “The air and the light are always different, so a landscape is never the same. In this world, there is no such thing as a landscape that remains unchanged.” Flowing over 200 km from its headwaters to the Sea of Japan, the Mogami River is entirely contained within the borders of Yamagata prefecture, and Mashimo traveled from its upper to lower reaches in every season to document the many faces of this beloved river. (Takashi Nakamura )
It is traditionally said that this five-storied pagoda was built by Taira no Masakado, a famed military commander , between the years 931 and 937. A classic text says that Fujiwara no Ujiie, a court noble, rebuilt the pagoda in 1372. It is a 29 meter high, 5 storied, plain wood building roofed with shingles. It is designated as a national treasure.
This museum opened in 1947 to promote regional culture. The museum is housed in Si-enkaku, a former villa of the Homma family that was built in 1813, with the garden Kkubu-en , which is an nationally designated scenic spot. There is also an annex completed in 1968. (From the guidebook of “Museums in Yamagata” )
The History of the 16 Buddhas
The 16 Buddhas are carved into the cliffs which run for several hundred meters against the rough waves of the Sea of japan. They were sculpted by Ishikawa Kankai, the 21st priest of the Zen Buddhist Kaizen-ji Temple, between the years of 1864 and 1868. We give thanks for his hard work and devotion in skillfully carving this divine monument of 22 statues into the cliff face.
Having had the idea to carve the statues, the Priest went to Sakata seeking donations to fund the work. When enough money had been raised, he supervised local masons in carving one statue, and continued in this way until the project was complete.
The statues are all busts and are arranged around the figures of Shaka, Monju and Fugen. They were carved to fit in with the shape of the rocks and even complement of the natural beauty of the area. The 16 Buddhas monument reaffirms the faith of all those who come here and is a testimony to the benevolence of the priest who created it.
Fukura, Yuza Town.
Situated in the north-eastern part of Yamagata Prefecture, Shinjo is a town of 40,000 people known for its tremendous snowfall. During the winter, when the town is transformed into a mountain of snow piled deeper than two meters, the people of Shinjo spend their days shoveling and ploughing. When the harsh winter subsides and spring comes to Shinjo, the citizens celebrate the changing seasons with an event called the Kadoyaki Festival, where they eat Pacific Herring (which they call Kado in their local dialect). In summer, they parade grand festival floats around town to celebrate their Shinjo Festival, which started 260 years ago. In fall, they hold a festival to fly traditional kites. Shinjo Station is the terminal station for the Yamagata Shinkansen, which connects Tokyo and Yamagata, letting more people than ever to bask in the welcoming glow of these festivals. Visitors will delight in seeing the magnificent festival floats or the beautifully decorated kites.
Yamagata Prefecture is known for producing Japan’s best cherries. When the fruit ripens in June, cherry farmers start work at the dark hour of 4 a.m. to bring in their harvest. They carefully hand-pick the cherries one at a time and ever-so-gently, place them in bamboo baskets called biku so as not to harm a single one. One by one, the harvested cherries are then carefully sorted by size and color, taken that same day to markets and shops, and displayed as Asatori Sakuranbo, or Morning-Harvest Cherries. The cherries are exceptionally popular across Japan as a gift of early summer.