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.
In Fukushima Prefecture’s famous onsen town Iizaka, the oldest and most popular of their many public hot springs is Sabako-Yu. Japan’s most famous poet, Matsuo Basho is said to have bathed in it in 1689, and to this day, the spring is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Once known as Japan’s oldest wooden public bath, in 1993, it was refurbished using traditional cypress-wood construction. With a source spring of 51°C, the baths are so hot that you may feel as though you’re being cooked!
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 )
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.
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.
Sagara dolls have been made by many generations of the Sagara family of Yonezawa city, Yamagata prefecture since 1790. These dolls can take on many forms, but here we have a “Child Holding a Sea Bream.” In Japan, the sea bream is a symbol of prosperity and good fortune, and this particular doll embodies the hope for a child’s good health and future happiness. (Takashi Nakamura)
Kokeshi dolls are said to have originated around 1800 in the northeastern Tohoku region of Japan, in hot spring districts known for their healing properties. The craftsmen of these densely wooded and mountainous regions fashioned bowls, trays and other household goods out of wood, and the dolls they crafted out of leftover wood scraps are believed to be the first kokeshi dolls. Visitors to the hot springs bought these dolls as souvenirs, contributing to their spread throughout Japan.
At the entrance of a japanese temple, there is a gate called the Sanmon gate.This gate is guarded by two “Niouzou” Buddhist guardian spirits.
Their purpose is to prevent enemies from entering the temple.They are always a pair, one on the right side of the gate and one on the left.One’s mouth is open , the other one’s mouth is closed.Usually they have muscular bodies and angry expressions.
However, Niouzou at Yakushido Temple is different.He has an angry face but he is almost cartoonish.His body is not muscular, but sagging like an old man.He is a very atypical Niouzou. (Takashi Nakamura)