Art & Culture Projects

Artist Statement

🔶Vision of Eurasian Solidarity  (by Miro Ito)

野村万之丞五世の復元した真伎楽面(右4体) 「伎楽 仮面の道」 企画・制作:メディアアートリーグ 写真・文・監督:伊藤みろ 監修:笠置侃一 音楽:芝祐靖 

Four Gigaku masks (8th century, Todaiji Temple, Important Cultural Property of Japan [left]) + four ShinGigaku masks (Mannojo Nomura V. [right])
 

Our art & culture projects aim to send out messages for peace and understanding in the form of art for equality and solidarity as well as tolerance and perseverance; the eternal vision of  “cosmopolitanism” which will present some of the evidence for the links between ancient art & cultures as well as philosophical/religious teachings spanning the Silk Road from Rome to Nara across the Eurasian continent for more than twenty centuries.

Old map of Eurasian continent in Year 1508 (cropped) Map of Eurasian continent from 1508 (cropped)

A principal route called “The Royal Road” in writings of the Greek scholar Herodotus, was established as an official highway by Darius I. the Persian “king of kings” in the 5th century BC (Circa 450-420 BCE). Alexander the Great himself conducted explorations along these roads that changed history, charging ahead in search of “the end of the world” all the way to India. Among the Royal Roads, a route known as the “Oasis Road” from Samarkand via Merv, traversing through Teheran in Iran’s north, became the trade road for exchanging various cultural assets, connecting Europe and Asia from ancient times, and becoming known as “the Silk Road” in the 19th century. The routes from the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf, via India and South-East Asia, through to Southern China, were the crossroads of culture between the East and West for a long time. However, this expansive Eurasian geo-political region has endured a century of being the “crossroads of conflict” between East and West.

For the sake of world peace, we embark on the mission of a generation through this project aspiring to share the notion of “media=art + message” transcending religious differences and racial disparities, via ancient visions of tolerance and solidarity traversing the Eurasian continent for over twenty centuries —reaching from Nara/Japan via China, India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Jordan, and Greece all the way to Rome — from the Eastern and Western termini of the Silk Road. This new “Road of Light and Hope” will connect the past and the present, the East and the West, —retracing the path to the common origin of our diverse cultures around the globe.

Gigaku Mask of Tōdaiji Temple (Suiko-jū), Important Cultural Property of Japan, 8th Century Photo by Miro Ito

Gigaku mask of Tōdaiji Temple (Suiko-jū), Important Cultural Property of Japan, 8th century
Photo by Miro Ito

 

🔸Establishing Archives of “World Heritage of Life and Prayer”

Against the background of this mission and initiative, all 55 exhibits of my previous exhibition, Men at Dance – From Noh to Butoh: Japanese Performing Arts Past and Present in the United States centering on the lineage of body expression forms from noh to butoh at the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts have been donated to the permanent collection of the NY Public Library for academic and research purposes. These donated resources will be available for use for study by American researchers and theater/performing arts-affiliated specialists.

Following this exhibition, a new touring exhibition series entitled: “Road of Light and Hope” began at the United Nations HQ in New York in 2016.  It was followed up by exhibitions at the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan in Tashkent, the Council of Europe’s HQ as well as at le Lieu d’ Europe in Strasbourg, later that same year. Most recently the exhibition, “Road of Light and Hope: National Treasures of Todai-ji Temple, Nara” was held at the Japan Foundation, Toronto. Next it is scheduled to go to Chicago (1st – 28th November 2017), which is jointly organized with the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago and Japan Camera Industry Institute.

A film project under the same title is also being produced, which will present some of the evidence for the links between ancient art & cultures as well as philosophical/religious teachings spanning the Silk Road from Rome to Nara across the Eurasian continent for more than twenty centuries.

My art activities are committed to sharing the power of life and wisdom accumulated in selected forms of art expression from 1400 years of venerable traditions for the future. Over the long term, I endeavour to establish archives of  “World Heritage of Life and Prayer” in the global arena.

(September 2017)

Cross Media Project

🔶 “Signs of the Intangible”

🔸Cross-Media Project

“Signs of the Intangible” is the collective title for our ongoing cross-media project comprising photographs, media-art/movie installations and books etc., entirely based on our own research and archives (primarily photographic images, motion pictures and literature) from 2002 to present.

The main objective of this commitment is to present the spiritual aspects of Asian/Japanese performing arts as forms of prayer and dedication, including the notion of “metamorphosis” – that flourished in Japan for over 1400 years.  By portraying the human body as a metaphor of “undying light” in photographic & moving images, the project seeks to inspire an awareness for the interrelationship (“waraku”) between human energy and the intangible world.  By sharing the universal and timeless validity of Asian/Eurasian world cultural heritage deposited in Japan via the Silk Roads and largely remaining only in Japan today (ranging from gigaku masks & bugaku performances, Buddhist religious rituals like Shunie, sarugaku and noh, to contemporary butoh), this project seeks to instill an understanding of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all things.

Furthermore, Asian holistic notion of mind-body unity (心身一如) as a path to the fundamentals of life –a path to enlightenment– can show how the body is connected to the universe.

It is thought, that such an awareness will ultimately foster a mind-set of mutual understanding that transcends race and creed, disparities and differences, and is conducive to promoting peaceful coexistence.

Okina (archetypal ritual form of noh) Noh Performer: Hodaka Komparu / Photo by Miro Ito

Okina (archetypal ritual form of noh)
Noh Performer: Hodaka Komparu / Photo by Miro Ito

 

🔸As Individual Projects

Ancillary projects such as photo exhibitions, cultural exchanges, academic research projects are being proposed to museums, libraries, universities and educational institutions, etc.

The following are objectives for constructive collaborations.

1. Collaborations with curators and academics in lectures and events integrating photography and media-art & movie-installations/screenings presenting gigaku masks and bugaku, ancient Asian court theatre arts that entered Japan via the Silk Roads.

2. Examining how the origins of 600 years of such traditional performing arts as noh and kyogen and their connections with Zen, and contemporary butoh, have been seen, studied and presented by educational and cultural entities in the world.

3. Identifying common ground with International performing arts institutes as well as artists & creators that endeavor to create theatrical performances inspired by above-mentioned traditional and contemporary performing arts of Japan and Asia in the more extended context of the global performing art scene.

Exhibition Content

🔶Global Touring Exhibitions:Road of Light and Hope

Exhibits of photo art works in traditional hanging scroll style are being created by Miro Ito who, after experiencing 9/11 in New York firsthand, has been pursuing themes of the World Cultural Heritage and National Treasures in Nara, aspiring to serve as a bridge of the heart and mind between East and West. The portrayed treasures are preserved in the Tōdai-ji Temple and the Kasuga-taisha Shrine in Nara which respectively are part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site: Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara. These are extremely rare images, as many of the portrayed artifacts have not been photographed during the last 40 years or more.

Starting from the United Nations Headquarters in New York, this photo exhibition series “Road of Light and Hope” was shown around the globe in Tashkent (Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan), Strasbourg (at the Council of the Europe + lieu d’Europe co-organized by the Consulate General of Japan in Strasbourg) late 2016. Most recently the exhibition, “Road of Light and Hope: National Treasures of Todai-ji Temple, Nara” was held at the Japan Foundation, Toronto. Next it is scheduled to go to Chicago (1st – 28th November 2017), which is jointly organized with the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago and Japan Camera Industry Institute.

Our exhibition project “Road of Light and Hope” focuses on circumstantial “evidence” for our unity as well as the interconnectedness of East and West. For example, Hellenistic Greco-Buddhist statues as well as ancient Asian masks originating from the classical Greek mask theater may well have inspired, those masks that entered Japan via the Silk Road over 14 centuries ago.

For detailed information please visit the JFT website: http://jftor.org/event/national-treasures-of-todai-ji-temple/2017-03-15/

The exhibition “Road of Light and Hope” will visit many cities around the globe to show the links in the cultural origins of East and West along —and transcending— the Silk Roads as invaluable inspirations for the unity and solidarity of mankind.

Tentative venues in the touring exhibition (from 2018 onwards):  Athens, Sao Paulo, Cologne, Tokyo, London, etc., and ultimately Rome…

(September 2017)

 

🔸Road of Light and Hope– in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Japan’s obtaining Observer Status at the Council of Europe in 2016

Council of Europe (CoE) + Lieu d’Europe, November – December 2016

[Durations & Venues]

9th -18th November, 2016, the Council of Europe Headquarters, Strasbourg 19th-16th December, 2016, le Lieu d’Europe (exhibition pavillion), Strasbourg

 

 

🔸Road of Light and Hope– in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of Japan’s obtaining Observer Status at the Council of Europe in 2016

Council of Europe (CoE) + Lieu d’Europe, November – December 2016

[Durations & Venues]

9th -18th November, 2016, the Council of Europe Headquarters, Strasbourg 19th-16th December, 2016, le Lieu d’Europe (exhibition pavillion), Strasbourg

Co-organized by the Consulate General of Japan in Strasbourg /Media Art League /Japan Camera Industry Institute

[Credit]

Photo Art & Text: Miro Ito
English Editor: Andreas Boettcher
Special Support: Tôdai-ji Temple , Kasuga-taisha Shrine (Nara, Japan) Equipment Support: Canon Marketing Japan, Iino Media Pro
Printer: Canon

Short Movie Screenings

Short Movie Screening I (7.5 min.)

“Gigaku: Road of Masks” featuring Gigaku masks of Tōdaiji Temple (Important Cultural Property of Japan/Nara Period) + Shin Gigaku masks (produced by Mannojo Nomura V.) Creator: Miro Ito + Media Art League

Music: Sukeyasu Shiba

Performance: Ethnos

Short Movie Screening II (11 min.)

“Life of Masks – Bugaku : Kasuga-taisha Shrine and Wakamiya Onmatsuri Festival featuring Bugaku masks (Important Cultural Property of Japan/Nara Period) and performances as well as the Onmatsuri’s historical extensive performing arts of Japan

Creator: Miro Ito + Media Art League

Music & Performance: Nantogakuso Gagaku Troupe

Short Movie Screening III (7min.)

“The Great Buddha Lives!” featuring Vairocana Buddha (National Treasures of Japan /

Nara – Kamakura – Edo Period) and Tōdaiji Temple

Produced & Directed by Miro Ito + Media Art League

Music: Yasuhiro Morinaga

Photographic Presentation of National Treasures & Important Cultural Property of Japan

[Durations & Venues]

9th -18th November, 2016, the Council of Europe Headquarters, Strasbourg 19th-16th December, 2016, le Lieu d’Europe (exhibition pavillion), Strasbourg

[Credits]

Photo Art & Text: Miro Ito
English Editor: Andreas Boettcher
Special Support: Tôdai-ji Temple , Kasuga-taisha Shrine (Nara, Japan) Equipment Support: Canon Marketing Japan, Iino Media Pro
Printer: Canon

Short Movie Screenings

Short Movie Screening I (7.5 min.)

“Gigaku: Road of Masks” featuring Gigaku masks of Tōdaiji Temple (Important Cultural Property of Japan/Nara Period) + Shin Gigaku masks (produced by Mannojo Nomura V.) Creator: Miro Ito + Media Art League

Music: Sukeyasu Shiba

Performance: Ethnos

Short Movie Screening II (11 min.)

“Life of Masks – Bugaku : Kasuga-taisha Shrine and Wakamiya Onmatsuri Festival featuring Bugaku masks (Important Cultural Property of Japan/Nara Period) and performances as well as the Onmatsuri’s historical extensive performing arts of Japan

Creator: Miro Ito + Media Art League

Music & Performance: Nantogakuso Gagaku Troupe

Short Movie Screening III (7min.)

“The Great Buddha Lives!” featuring Vairocana Buddha (National Treasures of Japan /

Nara – Kamakura – Edo Period) and Tōdaiji Temple

Produced & Directed by Miro Ito + Media Art League

Music: Yasuhiro Morinaga

Photographic Presentation of National Treasures & Important Cultural Property of Japan

      • Photographic Presentation of National Treasures & Important Cultural Property of Japan: Photo art scrolls: 33 rollsimage of the World of the Lotus Sanctuary (Tōdaiji Temple, National Treasure, 8th century)image of the seated bronze statue of Vairocana Buddha, erected in 8th century, restored in the 12th and 17th centuries (Tōdaiji Temple, National Treasure)6 images of the standing statues of the bodhisattvas Surya-prabha and Candra-prabha (Tōdaiji Temple, National Treasure, 8th century)12 images of the standing statues of the Four Great Kings (Caturmahārāja) (Kaidan-dō/Todaiji Temple, National Treasure, 8th century)8 images of Gigaku masks (Tōdaiji Temple, Important Cultural Property, 8th century): Chidō, Konron, Suiko-ō, Suiko-jū, Baraom/Suiko-jū, Taikofu, Karura, Rikishi)5 images of Bugaku masks (Kasuga-taisha Shrine, Important Cultural Property from the 9th-14th centu- ries): Chikyū, Sanju, Korobase, Nasori, Kitoku (Koiguchi)

Miro Ito's Speech at the commemorative ceremony

Miro Ito’s Speech on the 9th of November  (in the foyer of the Council of Europe)

Bonjour, mesdames et messieurs, Guten Tag, verehrte Damen und Herren! Good Afternoon,ladies and gentlemen!

First of all I’d like to extend my heartfelt gratitude for the kind invitation of the Consulate General of Japan in Strasbourg as well as the Council of Europe by which this exhibition “Road of Light and Hope” could be realized here in the heart of Europe, where we can sense the justice and humanity of the European Union.

The core message of “Road of Light and Hope” refers to the ancient Eurasian wisdom which arrived in Japan 1300 years ago, via the Silk Road, and even today survives in the form of art.  This wisdom shared by East and West can be found in a philosophy like: “Eternity exists in a moment and the whole world is contained in a speck of dust”. Thus, if one universe is a part of the bigger one, and if “all is one and one is all”, we can regard all ourselves as one — from the tiniest atom to the largest universe.

This wisdom came to Japan as a core teaching of Hua-yen Buddhism, the fundamental philosophy behind the Great Buddha statue, built 1300 years ago, that has some commonality with the Neo-Platonism in ancient Greece.

While Nara was the capital of Japan, it was de facto the easternmost terminal of the Silk Road. If we were to seek a bridge connecting its westernmost terminus, Rome, with Nara, it might be found in the sculptural art work, embodying the ideals of the human spirit, as well as the free and vivid movements influenced by the classical style of ancient Greece.

Various hints and inspirations can be found in the histories of numerous exchanges and fusions permeating the Silk Roads that linked Europe, Asia and Arabia in one expansive network. Through the exploration of this all-inclusive interconnectedness —from ancient times— of all of us, I would like to search for a common ground that will foster tolerance and solidarity in our time.

As a cue to inspire such awareness, I would like to propose the notion of a “Road of Light and Hope” as a message from the Silk Road of 13 centuries ago, tracing back from Nara to Rome.

On this occasion of the 20th anniversary of Japan’s attaining Observer Status at the Council of Europe, it is a great honour to have my humble exhibition presented here.

Thank you! Danke schoen! Merci!

Exhibition: "Road of Light and Hope" at the Council of Europe (Co-organized by Consulate General of Japan in Strasbourg, Media Art League, Japan Camera Industry Institute)

Exhibition: “Road of Light and Hope” at the Council of Europe (Co-organized by Consulate General of Japan in Strasbourg, Media Art League, Japan Camera Industry Institute)

 

🔸Road of Light and Hope: Photo Exhibition of National Treasures and Important Cultural Property of Japan – The Eternal Cosmopolitanism Weaving Along the Silk Road

Ikuo Hirayama International Caravanserai of Cultures, October 2016

Organized by Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan /Japan Camera Industry Institute

Supported by Embassy of Japan in Uzbekistan

Exhibits: Photo Art & Cross-media Installation

Short Movie Screening (7.5 min.)
“Gigaku: Road of Masks” featuring Gigaku masks of Tōdaiji Temple (Important Cultural Property of Japan/8th century, Nara Period) + Shin Gigaku masks (produced by Mannojo Nomura V.)
Creator: Miro Ito / Music: Sukeyasu Shiba

– Photographic Presentation of National Treasures & Important Cultural Property of Japan: Photo art scrolls: 33 rolls

      • image of the World of the Lotus Sanctuary (Tōdaiji Temple, National Treasure, 8th century)
      • image of the seated bronze statue of Vairocana Buddha, erected in 8th century, restored in the 12th and 17th centuries (Tōdaiji Temple, National Treasure)
      • 6 images of the standing statues of the bodhisattvas Surya-prabha and Candra-prabha (Tōdaiji Temple, National Treasure, 8th century)
      • 12 images of the standing statues of the Four Great Kings (Caturmahārāja) (Kaidan-dō/Todaiji Temple, National Treasure, 8th century)
      • 8 images of Gigaku masks (Tōdaiji Temple, Important Cultural Property, 8th century): Chidō, Konron, Suiko-ō, Suiko-jū, Baraom/Suiko-jū, Taikofu, Karura, Rikishi)
      • 5 images of Bugaku masks (Kasuga-taisha Shrine, Important Cultural Property from the 9th-14th centu- ries): Chikyū, Sanju, Korobase, Nasori, Kitoku (Koiguchi)

Artist Statement as Preface — by Miro Ito (click for text)

[Artist Statement by Miro Ito, initiator of Media Art League]

A philosophy shared by East and West: “Eternity exists in a moment and the whole world is in a speck of dust”. Thus, if one universe is a part of the bigger one, and if “all is one and one is all”, we can regard all ourselves as one — from the tiniest atom to the largest universe.

This is the core message of my project about the ancient Eurasian wisdom which arrived in Japan 1300 – 1500 years ago via the Silk Road and even today survives in the form of art. The purpose of this project is to present this Eurasian trail where beauty and wisdom interacted as both a “Road of Light and Hope” and “Road of the Vairocana Buddha’s introduction to Japan”, where this all-inclusive vision was created as an inspiration for a future in which everyone is truly feels they are a part of everything and all seems interconnected.

While Nara was the ancient capital of Japan, it was de facto the easternmost terminal of the Silk Roads. If we were to seek a bridge connecting its westernmost terminus, Rome, with Nara, it might be found in the sculptural art work embodying the ideals of the human spirit as well as the free and vivid movements influenced by the classical style of ancient Greece.

Some examples would be: Buddhist statues influenced by Hellenistic culture, e.g. the Vairocana Buddha whose origins can be found along the Silk Road; Gigaku masks whose origins can be traced back to the mask theater of ancient Greece, brought all the way to Japan via the “Oasis Silk Road” and the southwestern route, while becoming intermingled with the folklore and dance of Sogdians (middlemen along the trade routes), and mask theaters in Tibet or Bhutan; Bugaku masks that integrated diverse court performing arts from various ancient kingdoms, including India, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Korea linked by the “Ocean Silk Road” crystallizing in this cultural heritage as our hope of realizing unity and solidarity: that is the quintessence of the cosmopolitanism of 13 centuries ago.

Various hints and inspirations can be found in the histories of exchanges and fusions permeating the Silk Roads that linked Europe, Asia and Arabia in one expansive network.

While exploring the virtually unknown history of numerous exchanges of races and religions, philosophy and art & culture, folklore —through such cultural heritage as sculpture and masks, arts and crafts, ornaments and structures— I would like to search for our common ground fostering tolerance and solidarity in our contemporary times.

As a cue to inspire such awareness, I would like to propose the notion of a “Road of Light and Hope” as a message from the Silk Road of 13 centuries ago, tracing back from Nara to Roma —through art and media, under the motto: “The medium is the message” (M.McLuhan).

 

🔸Road of Light and Hope: Photo Exhibition of National Treasures of Japan – Cosmopolitanism Embodied in the Great Buddha & Sculpures of the Tôdai-ji Temple

United Nations Headquarter South Wall (NYC), May 2016

Co-organized by the Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations / Media Art League /Japan Camera Industry Institute

Exhibits: Photo Art by Miro Ito

Photographic Presentation of National Treasures & Important Cultural Property of Japan

Photo art scrolls: 33 rolls

      • image of the World of the Lotus Sanctuary (Tōdaiji Temple, National Treasure, 8th century)
      • image of the seated bronze statue of Vairocana Buddha, erected in 8th century,
      • restored in the 12th and 17th centuries (Tōdaiji Temple, National Treasure)
      • 6 images of the standing statues of the bodhisattvas Nikkō Bosatsu / Surya-prabha and Gakkō Bosatsu / Candra-prabha (Tōdaiji Temple, National Treasure, 8th century)
      • 12 images of the standing statues of the Four Great Kings (Caturmahārāja)
      • Tamonten, Kōmokuten, Zōjōten, Jikokuten (Kaidan-dō/Todaiji Temple, National Treasure, 8th century)
      • 8 images of Gigaku masks (Tōdaiji Temple, Important Cultural Property, 8th century): Chidō, Konron, Suiko-ō, Suiko-jū, Baraom/Suiko-jū, Taikofu, Karura, Rikishi)
      • 5 images of Bugaku masks (Kasuga-taisha Shrine, Important Cultural Property from the 9th-14th centuries): Chikyū, Sanju, Korobase, Nasori, Kitoku (Koiguchi)

Exhibition Details

=====================================================

[Title] “Road of Light and Hope”
Photo Exhibition of National Treasures of Japan
Cosmopolitanism Emboded in the Vairocana Buddha of the Tôdai-ji Temple
[Venue] United Nations Headquarter South Wall (NYC)
[Duration] 16th to 27th May 2016
[Co-organizers] The Permanent Mission of Japan to the United Nations, Media Art League, Japan Camera Industry Institute
[Photo Art & Text] Miro Ito
[Special Support] Tôdai-ji Temple
[Special Advisor] Yasushi Akashi, former UN Under-Secretary General
[English Editor] Andreas Boettcher
[Equipment Support] Canon Marketing Japan, Iino Media Pro
[Backers] Canon USA, Nippon Care Communications, Nippon Computer Systems

====================================================

Preface (Excerpt) to Exhibition — by Miro Ito (click for text)

Gift from Eurasian History

This exhibition of photographs of Japanese National Treasures, entitled “Road of Light and Hope”, is being held on the occasion of the United Nations Day of Vesak, an annual celebration of Buddha’s birth which falls on the 20th of May in 2016. The exhibited photos portray the most prominent National Treasures of the Tôdai-ji Temple, where the Great Vairocana Buddha was erected by Shômu Tennô (701-756), which today constitutes part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site: Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara / Heijô-kyô (Japan’s Imperial capital from 710 to 784).

This photo exhibition is a tribute to obscure historical exchanges between numerous ethnic and religious groups, philosophies and teachings, art and artisanship as well as diverse folk cultures of the Eurasian continent. Amid today’s ongoing religious divisions and clashes as well as the countless –seemingly endless– conflicts, the Eurasian history of interactions might hold a key for bringing the world together…

 

Origin and Symbolism of Vairocana Buddha

The origin of Buddhist statues can be traced back to ancient times when images of Buddha with Greek-like features appeared in the Indian cultural sphere (primarily the Gandhara region of today’s Pakistan) around the 1st century BC. These figures’ external appearance was influenced by Hellenistic culture which appeared after Alexander the Great’s expeditions into Asia (334-324BC). Statuesque human-like figures of Buddha originating from ancient Greece spread from Gandhara or Mathura (in today’s India) all the way to East Asia via Central Asia together with such religious sites and monu- ments as cave temples and stupas.

The origin of the Vairocana Buddha (**) of the Tôdai-ji Temple being shown in this exhibition can be traced back to such practices. Concurrently, the Great Vairocana Buddha Statue visualizes the teachings of Hua-yen / Kegon Buddhism: vistas of a boundless universe are engraved on each of its pedestal’s giant lotus petals.

The statue embodies the tenet All is One and One is All where infinity can be contained in the Infinitesimal, and the maximum can be reduced into the infinitestimal, akin to neo-platonist philosophy (3rd-6th century) in ancient Greece.

Moreover, the Vairocana Buddha seated in the lotus position of enlightenment symbolizes the interdependence as well as interconnectedness of life and the universe.

(**) Erected in the 8th century, restored in the12th and 17th centuries

 

■Tenpyô Sculpture: Expressions of the Ideal Human Body

Also known as the easternmost end of the Silk Roads, Heijô-kyô (today’s Nara) was a capital along the lines of Chang’an (the Imperial capital of Tang Dynasty China) with a flourishing cosmopolitan culture accentuated by various cultural relics from the Eurasian continent. Nara preserves many examples of cultural heritage that have been lost in other countries. Particularly the numerous treasures of the Shôsôin Repository (*) of the Tôdai-ji-Temple show the very essence and variety of sophisticated Eurasian culture 1300 years ago. In the Tôdai-ji Temple, around the same time when the Great Buddha Statue was erected in 752, masterpieces of Tenpyô Era sculpture with their lifelike features brimming with vitality and wisdom were created in the major Buddhist sculpture workshop.

(*) Jurisdiction of the Shosoin now lies with Japan’s Imperial Household Agency.

 

Upon examining these Tenpyô Era sculptures, a similarity with ones from the Italian Renaissance (14th to 16th century) in which a revival of Platonism provided a philosophical basis for the arts and cultural activities in general to set free its humanity — accompanied by a respect for individuality in line with classic Greco-Roman culture. In Tenpyô Buddhist sculpture, regarding any of their realistic ―yet idealistic― physiques and lifelike expressions, their roots in ancient Greek culture become evident.

■Cosmopolitanism as Proof of Ancient Interchanges between East and West

With the special cooperation of the Tôdai-ji Temple, this photo exhibition introduces the Statues of the Four Guardian Kings (Caturmahārāja) in the Kaidan-dô Hall (Kaidan-in) ‒ together with the pair of statues known as the Nikkô Bosatsu (Surya-prabha Bodhisattva or Brahma) and the Gakkô Bosatsu (Chandra-prabha Bodhisattva or indra) exhibited in the Tôdaiji Museum ‒ which represent the most outstanding achievement of Tenpyô Era Buddhist sculpture with clay. These figures of cosmopolitanism are evidence of ancient interchanges between East and West, along the Silk roads.

As expressions of light and enlightenment can be reached by disciplining one’s mind and body, they are found in much of the cultural heritage around the globe, transcending differences of time and culture.

By exploring ancient cultural heritages along the “Road of Light and Hope” connecting the western and eastern reaches of the Silk Roads, this exhibition casts a light of hope for global solidarity and therefore, towards true cosmopolitanism.

World of the Lotus Sanctuary (Padma-garbha-loka-dhatu), Tôdai-ji Temple, 8th century)

World of the Lotus Sanctuary (Padma-garbha-loka-dhatu)
Tôdai-ji Temple, 8th century, National Treasure of Japan
Photo by Miro Ito

 

 

🔸Men at Dance – From Noh to Butoh: Japanese Performing Arts Past and Present

This exhibition was shown at the NY Public Library for Performing Arts (Lincoln Center) in 2007/2008, as a tie-in exhibition of the NY Butoh Festival.

Preface (Excerpt) to the Exhibition — by Miro Ito (click for text)

It is my understanding that the body is the very “dimension of the soul” and the “soul is the dimension of the body” (Hakuin, Zen Master) where changing and recurring finite life encounter the sacred dimension.

In order to focus on this subject, I started to photograph body expressions of prayer and dedication in Japan. An initial result in the United States was a solo-exhibition of mine that contrasted noh andbutoh“Men at Dance: from Noh to Butoh” at the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts (Lincoln Center) in 2007/2008, as a tie-up exhibition to the NY Butoh Festival (supported by the NY Consulate General as well as the Japan Foundation).

In a sense noh serves as a linking passageway (hashikagari) bridging the worldly and the divine – beyond the abyss and dichotomy of many centuries of diverse spiritual traditions in Japan. As the origins of noh can be traced back to devotion by jushi in Buddhist rituals (in the syncretization of Shinto with Buddhism) in the 8th century, it thus created a drama of salvation for the soul within a Buddhist context.

In contrast to the hyper-stylized aesthetics of noh as “living statues”, characterized by their highly-sophisticated abstraction and symbolism, butoh was conceived in the 1950s —over 600 years after Kan’ami & Zeami (the great Noh develovers in the 14-15th century) — to become the leading contemporary performing art in Japan.

Butoh suggests the vulnerability of the changing and falling body looks like an entirely different type of nature from the noh performances in a viewpoint of body expression. Comparing with nohbutohperformance is overwhelmingly expressionistic; so much so that its erratic minimalist motion can be regarded as an alternative form of body motion on an inner quest interacting with the subconscious.

In a sense, butoh reflects the traditional common Japanese perception of the body-and-soul scapes (心身一如)with noh, where the way of life with prayer and dedication, Japanese philosophy on how to live and die, a hope for salvation, are deeply related in the horizon of spirituality.

Noh and butoh invite us to the invisible world ruled by connotations of silence and convergence. Innoh theater, “metamorphosis with masks” plays a central role, where the humans become deities, spirits and demons. Masks are yorishiro where sacredness is believed to manifest itself and concurrently function as means of transforming into supernatural beings, while serving as the sacred interface between the earth world and the Beyond.

In contrast, the bodies of butoh performers endeavor to form bridges between the conscious and the subconscious. Although the self should be most intimate with the body, it starts to search for the soul, as if it were a game of hide-and-seek between the body and the soul, between gravity and anti-gravity, being pulled beyond the unknown far-away world of the subconscious…

In this way, in noh and butoh the body transcends the visible and the invisible, the tangible and the intangible. And through the performers as the medium, one relives/experiences pathos and emotions submerged in the subconscious: trembling, trepidation, intoxication, impulsiveness and so on…

The body emerges as the “unity of the strange and the intimate” (Ko Murobushi, butoh dancer), connecting the infinite universe and the inner world. This is something akin to the Zen-like meditation of immersing oneself in a state of “mu”. There can be the sort of catharsis found both in noh and butoh

Prayer scene in noh play, "Atsumori" Noh performer: Fumiyuki Takeda / Photo by Miro Ito

Prayer scene in noh play, “Atsumori”
Noh performer: Fumiyuki Takeda / Photo by Miro Ito

link: http://www.nypl.org/events/exhibitions/men-dance-noh-butoh

World Cultural Heritage

🔶Photographic Presentations of Historical Art Work

UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara

🔸Tōdaiji Temple

[National Treasure of Japan]

      • Seated bronze statue of Vairocana Buddha (Birushana or Rushana in Japanese), constructed in the 8th century, Nara Period; restored in the 12th and 17th centuries (Kamakura and Edo Periods)
      • Images of the World of the Lotus Sanctuary (Padma-garbha-loka-dhatu), 8th century, Nara Period (engraved on the lotus blossom petals of the Great Buddha)
      • Standing statue of Fukū Kensaku Kannon (Amogha-pasa Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva), hollow dry lacquer, gold leaf over lacquer, mid 8th century, Nara Period, Hokke-dō  Hall
      • Standing statues of Four Guardian Kings (Caturmahārāja), colored clay, cut-gold foil on clay, 8th century, Nara Period, Hokke-dō  Hall: Jikokuten/Dhṛtarāṣṭra, Zôjôten/Virūḍhaka, Kômokuten/Virūpākṣa, Tamonten/Vaiśravaṇa
      • Standing statues of Nikkō Bosatsu (Surya-prabha Bodhisattva or Brahma) and Gakkō Bosatsu (Chandra-prabha Bodhisattva or Indra), colored clay, cut-gold foil on clay, 8th century, Nara Period, Tōdaiji Museum
      • Inner Sanktum of the Nigatsu-dō Hall (Raidō), 17th Century, Edo Period

 

[Important Cultural Property of Japan]

      • Wooden standing statue of Senju Kannon (Sahasrabhuja-arya-avalokitesvara) and standing statues of the Four Guardian Kings (Caturmahārāja) in the zushi altar (a cupboard-like case with double doors), Senju-dō Hall of the Kaidan-in, 13th century, early Kamakura Period
      • Wooden standing statue of Senju Kannon (Sahasrabhuja-arya-avalokitesvara) , 9th century, early Heian Period
      • Wooden standing statue of the Jūichimen Kannon (Eleven-Headed Avalokiteśvara; Ekādaśamukha), Shigatsu-dō Hall, from the 11h-12h centuries, late Heian Period
      • Curved Wooden Gigaku masks (Chidō, Konron, Suikoō , Suikojū, Baramon/Suikojū, Karura, Rikishi, Taikoji). 8th century, Nara Period

 

🔸Kasuga-taisha  Shrine

[Important Cultural Property of Japan]

      • Curved Wooden Bugaku masks (Chikyū Sanjiu, Korobase, Nasori, Kitoku -Koiguchi, Shintoriso (from the 9th – 13 centuries)

 

[Other Distinguished Cultural Assets]

      • Curved Wooden Bugaku masks (Kitoku-Jinmen, Genjōraku, Ryōō, Batō, Ninomai, Kotokuraku, Somakusha)
      • Bugaku Costume (Ranryōō, Kitoku, Dakyū-raku, Koma-boko, Ban’e-shōzoku, Kochō, Azuma-asobi)
      • Curved Wooden Gigaku masks (used for Kōfukuji Busshō-e)
      • Kasuga Mandala
      • Kasuga Deer Mandala (Kasuga Shika Mandara)

etc.

Bugaku Mask of Kasuga-taisha Shrine (Korobase), Important Cultural Property of Japan, Heian Period Photo by Miro Ito

Bugaku Mask of Kasuga-taisha Shrine (Korobase), Important Cultural Property of Japan, Heian Period
Photo by Miro Ito

 

🔶Rituals / Ceremonies of Temples and Shrines on the UNESCO World Heritage Site Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara

Tōdaiji Temple, Kōfukuji Temple, Tōshōdaiji Temple, Yakushiji Temple, Gangōji Temple, Kasuga-taisha Shrine, etc.

 

🔶Photo Art of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity 

🔸Nōgaku theatre

Mannojō Nomura V (Kyōgen performer, Izumi School of Kyōgen)

Hodaka Komparu (Shite-kata Noh performer, Komparu School of Noh)

Yukifusa Takeda, Tomoyuki Takeda, Fumiyuki Takeda (Shite-kata Noh performer, Kanze School of Noh)

etc.

 

🔸Gagaku (Bugaku) theatre

Nanto-gakuso Gagaku Troupe (Nara)

Shitenoji-gakuso Gagaku  Truope (Osaka)

 

(random order)

Art Work Donation

List of Art Work Donation

🔶 Photo Art Works, Short Movies, Books

(click venues for details)

NY Public Library for Performing Arts (New York)

      • All exhibits (55 works) of Miro Ito’s exhibition; Men at Dance — from Noh to Butoh.

Tōdaii Museum (Nara)

      • 12 scrolls of photographic art of the standing statues of the Four Guardian Kings in the Kaiden-dō Hall (National Treasure of Japan, 8th century)
      • 6 scrolls of photographic art of the standing statues of Nikkō Bosatsu and Gakkō Bosatsu (National Treasure of Japan, 8th century)
      • 6 scrolls of photographic art of the standing statues of Senju Kannon in the Senjudō-Hall (Important Cultural Property of Japan, 13th century)
      • 8 scrolls of photographic art of curved  wooden Gigaku masks (Important Cultural Property of Japan, 8th century)
      • Short Movie“Gigaku:  Road of Masks” (7.5min.)
      • Short Movie“The Great Budha Lives! ” (7min.)

Kasugataisha Houmotsuden Treasury (Nara)

      • 9 scrolls of photographic art of curved  wooden Bugaku masks (including 6 masks designated as Important Cultural Property of Japan)
      • Short Movie“Life of Masks:  Bugaku at Kasuga-taisha Shrine & Wakaiya Onmatsuri “ (11min.)

Japan Camera Industry Institute (JCII), Tokyo

      • All Exhibits from “Road of Light and Hope” exhibition series (33 photo art scrolls)
        • 12 scrolls of photographic art of the standing statues of the Four Guardian Kings in the Kaiden-dō Hall (National Treasure of Japan, 8th century)
        • 6 scrolls of photographic art of the standing statues of Nikkō Bosatsu and Gakkō Bosatsu (National Treasure of Japan, 8th century)
        • 6 scrolls of photographic art of the standing statues of Senju Kannon in the Senjudō-Hall (Important Cultural Property of Japan, 13th century)
        • 8 scrolls of photographic art of curved  wooden Gigaku masks (Important Cultural Property of Japan, 8th century)
        • 5 scrolls of photographic art of curved  wooden Bugaku masks of the Kasuga-taisha Shrine (Important Cultural Property of Japan, 9th to 13th century)
      • All exhibits (35 works) of Mannojo Nomura’s NipponGaku
      • All exhibits (35 works) of Mannojo Nomura’s ShinGigaku
      • Portrait of Mannjo Nomura V (photographed with ShinGigaku mask [Konron])
      • All exhibits (30 workd) of Miro Ito’s exhibition: Monochrome Digital Bodyscapes

NPO ACT.JT (Tokyo)

      • All exibits (65 woks) of “Kamen, Gakugeki, Inochi (Masks, Performance, Life’s Energy)” featuring Mannojo Nomura  V.

Shimane Prefectural Foundation of Cultural Promotion

      • 5 exhibits (photographs) of DaiDengaku produced by Mannjo Name

Nara Prefectural High Schools

      • 100 books of Miro Ito’s photo essay “Kokoro no Sumika Nara; Inochi no Kongen narumono to no Deai (literally, Haven of Heart: Encounter with the Fundamentals in Nara)”

Nara University

      • Short Movie“Gigaku:  Road of Masks” (7min.30 sec.) for educational purpose

Supporters & Backers List

🔶Photographic Collaborators

Hodaka Komparu (Shite-kata Noh performer, Komparu School of Noh)

Yukifusa Takeda, Tomoyuki Takeda, Fumiyuki Takeda (Shite-kata Noh performers, Kanze School of Noh)

Mannojo Nomura V (Kyōgen performer, Izumi School of Kyōgen)

Nobuharu Yagyu (21st headmaster of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu Heihou)

Koichi Yagyu/Genshin Taira (22nd headmaster of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu Heihou)

Ko Murobushi, Goro Namerikawa, Kik Seven, Hizume Gigaku, Koichi Tamano, Yumiko Yoshioka (Butoh Performers)

Syunso (Kenjutsu/Ballet Dancers) etc.

Mt. Fuji — Koichi Tamano (Butoh Dancer)

Mt. Fuji — Koichi Tamano (Butoh Dancer)

 

🔶Editorial Supervision/Cooperation

Organizations: Tōdaiji Temple, Kasuga-taisha Shrine, Gangōji Temple, Tōshodaiji Temple

Individuals: Kosei Morimoto (Abbot Emeritus of Tōdaiji Temple), Kan’ichi Kasagi (Director of Performance and Music of Nantogakuso Gagaku Troupe, Professor Emeritus of Nara University), Kiyotaka Kimura (Professor Emeritus of Tokyo University, former President of Tsurumi University), etc.

 

🔶Music Collaboration

Sukeyasu Shiba (Gigaku “Gyodo-Ranjo”, “Karura”), Yasuhiro Morinaga

 

🔶Exhibition Organizers / Co-organizers

Permanent Mission of Japan to UN, Consulate General of Japan in Strasbourg, Japan Foundation Toronto, Japan Camera Industry Institute (JCII), Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, NY Public Library for Performing Arts, Canon Group, Association for Commemorative Events of the 1300th Anniversary of Nara Heijō- kyō, Nara Prefecture, Act JT, Tokyo Broadcasting System Television, Japanese Cultural Week in Frankfurt, etc.

 

🔶Backers

Embassy of Japan in Uzbekistan, Consulate-General of Japan in New York, Association for Commemorative Events of the 1300th Anniversary of Nara Heijō- kyō, Nara City Tourism Association, etc.

 

🔶Grant

Japan Foundation (JFK Fund)

 

🔶Equipment Support

Canon Marketing Japan, Iino Mediapro, Japan Camera Museum, etc.

 

🔶Technical Support

Nara Institute of Science and Technology / Information Science / Professor Chihara’s Laboratory (2009−2010), etc.

 

🔶Cosponsorship

Canon U.S.A., Nippon Care Communications, ND Software, Nippon Computer Systems, Agfa Gevaert Japan, Bank of Tokyo-Mistubishi in Germany (present Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ), All Nippon Airways (ANA), etc.

 

(random order)