Buson-Dera - Treasures of Myohoji Temple -

Yosa Buson(1716 -1783) visited Sanuki, Kagawa Pref., several times from the fall in 1766 till the summer in 1768. The purpose of his visit was to paint and to seek new possibilities as an artist. He had established his status as an artist and poet by his 50's. The long trip to Sanuki must have revitalized his creative energy by exposing him to exotic landscapes, as well as Sanuki's local art, literature and tradition.
During Buson's stay in Myohoji, he drew six masterpieces as listed below. The temple has treasured them and kept them in good care. This is the reason why Myohoji is called "Buson-Dera".

"Sotetsu zu (the Cycad)": ink drawing on four- fold paper screen
"Take no zu (the Bamboo)": light ink drawing on paper hanging scroll
"Jurojin no zu (Saint Jurojin)": light ink drawing on paper hanging scroll
"Sansui zu (Landscape)": light ink drawing on three-fold paper screen
"Sansui zu (Landscape)": light ink drawing on paper screen
"Kanzan Jittoku zu (St. Kanzan and St. Jittoku)": light ink drawing on paper sliding screens, drawn on four sides
All were designated as important national assets on June 22, 1971.

In 1766, when Buson was 51 years old, he left Kyoto for Sanuki. At that time, numbers of Haiku poets, who belonged to the school of Mochizuki Soya, lived in Sanuki and Kotohira district. One of the members was Kan Bogyu, who happened to be a parishioner of Myohoji Temple.
On the way to visit his colleagues in an autumn evening, Buson stopped by Myohoji and asked to stay the night. It is said that Buson had no money and was dressed like a hobo when he came into the temple. Rev. Shinkan was the 10th head priest of the temple at that time. Thus he met Rev. Shinkan who had a deep appreciation for art, and they immediately took an interest in each other.
Thereafter, he visited the temple several times, and one time he stayed for several months. To express his thanks to the head priest for his warm hospitality, he did bindings of the sliding screens and drew pictures on them. At his leaving the temple for Kyoto he composed the following Haiku:

Nagajiri no haru wo tatasete shuro no hana. (Having stayed too long, the spring is about to go with the cycad flowers.)

This haiku expresses the poet's feeling that he must leave the temple with pleasant memories of Sanuki.

"Sotetsu zu", "Sansui zu", and "Kanzan Jittoku zu" were originally drawn on the sliding screens of the main hall. "Sotetsu zu" was the eight pieces drawing on the four screens, and each of the two "Sansui zu" was the six piece drawing on the seven screens respectively.
In 1862, after a hundred years since these Buson's masterpieces were drawn,
Rev. Shinkan, the 15th Head Priest of Myohoji, had them remade from the sliding screens to folding screens for preservation purposes.



Sotetsu zu (the Cycad)

The V shaped cycad plant with stretching arms is wildly placed in the center. The artist's vigorous brush strokes are very powerful. He depicts the plant with superb craftsmanship in gradation of dark to light ink. The most appealing point may be the fresh and moist monochrome ink color itself. The unexpected contrast between the exotic plant from the south in a Japanese garden probably inspired Buson's inspiration. The comments imply that he was offered some sake by Rev. Shinkan. Some believe this picture was drawn in no time, after having a few drinks. No one would deny that this is his masterpiece, representing his Sanuki period.
The signature and comments:
Kaizen touki@Sui Shun Sei Sha.



Take no zu (the Bamboo)

This is a copy of the piece originally drawn by the Chinese artist Tokisho. In this drawing, Buson expresses the subtle movements of the bamboo leaves. He had thirty-six pen names in accordance with the 36 mountain peaks of Kyoto Higashiyama.

The signature and comments:
Gi Tokisho Kyo Do Sha.






Jurojin no zu (Saint Jurojin)

Jurojin is one of the saints of the Seven Lucky Gods. The indigo colored rock expands the picture and gives it stability. Light pink brushed on the saint's cheeks expresses that he is mellow with drink. The gentle touch of Buson's brush tells of Jurojin's warm and relaxed personality. It also portrays the artist's enjoyment of this work.

The signature :
Kyo Do Sha






Buson's Revived painting Mr. Mitsuharu Takechi
It was discovered in 1967 that "Sotetsu zu (the Cycad)" and "Kanzan Jittoku zu" were seen in an unexpected accident that they were scribbled with black oil-based felt pens by the work of unskilled people. The"Sotetsu zu" was a few places in the trunk and leaves, and the "Kanzan Jittoku zu" was a graffiti with false eyelashes on both eyes.
When it was designated as a nationally designated important cultural property in 1971, there was a condition that this addition be erased, but it was still judged that it did not detract from the value of an artistic cultural property.
Later, at the Agency for Cultural Properties Protection of the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the National Institute for Cultural Properties, attempted to remove ink with chemicals (pyridine) that act on oil-based inks. The Agency for Cultural Affairs has done a lot of work, but because it is technically impossible, the picture was returned to Myoho-ji without being completely restored.
Mr. Susumu Suzuki, a researcher at Buson Art, consulted with Mr. Mitsuharu Takechi, a paper and picture hanger of Nagoya, about the removal of oil-based ink. It was in 1977 that Mr. Takechi responded positively, "Because Japanese ink and oil ink are different, they should be taken.
Mr. Takechi researched and experimented with 200 kinds of chemicals with the cooperation of chemical specialists based on the research results of the National Institute for Cultural Properties. Finally, HMPA (Hexamethyl Phosphordo Amide) remained. This is a powerful chemical with an odor and it is a carcinogen. With this chemical, oil-based ink can be decolorized without affecting the sumi-e. This is unprecedented technology in the world.
The biggest problem was whether Japanese paper("Maniai-gami") with mud that was difficult to remove stains 200 years ago could withstand the ink removal process using a powerful drug called HMPA. However, with permission from the Agency for Cultural Affairs, "Sotetsu zu" and ""Kanzan Jittoku zu" were entrusted to Mr. Takechi in November 1982.
Mr. Takechi made a large glass cylindrical stirrer. The picture was wrapped with a stainless steel mesh, and the solvent chemical was sent to the cylinder by a pipe. The operation, keeping the temperature at 60 C. and slowly and slowly rotating the cylinder by hand, was carried out alternately. It took 50 hours to stain a single picture. Finally, the powerful chemical was neutralized by the solvent HMPA. When the picture taken out of the liquid from the tube that was blotted on Japanese paper, the stain of the oil-based ink was removed brilliantly. Since there were 8 kites for Suetsu and 4 kites for picking up Kanzan Jittoku zu, we succeeded in cleaning them in over 600 hours. This is an epoch-making restoration that combines craftsmanship, tenacity, with science and technology along with many years of skill. The picture of Buson was revived. In September 1983, the 200th anniversary of Buson, the "Sotetsu zu" and "Kanzan Jittoku zu" restored from Mr. Takechi in Nagoya.


Yosa Buson (1716 -1783)

Yosa Buson (Taniguchi Buson) is a Haiku poet and visual artist. He was born in Osaka and lived in the middle of the Edo period. He used many pen names as a part of his expressions. The names included Karamachi and Yahantei on poems, and painter's names Shunsei and Shain. His creativity attracted many followers, including Kito and Gekkyo. His friendship with writer Ueda Shusei is also well known.

Buson was a traveler who devoted his life to paintings and haiku.

In his 20's, he lived in Edo (Tokyo) and became one of Hayano Hijin's pupils to pursue Haiku art. After the master's death, he traveled the countryside of Eastern Japan for ten years. In 1751, he went to Kyoto and stayed in Miyazu (1754 ~ 1757), and then stayed at Kotohira and Marugame in Kagawa Pref.(1766 ~ 1768).

In 1766, he formed a Haiku association named "Sanka-sha", with Taigi and Shoha. The association developed to the larger movement involving Gyotai of Aichi Pref. and Chora of Mie Pref. Thus Buson became a famous Haiku poet representing the style of the An'ei and Tenmei period(1772 ~1783).
In 1777, he published a Haiku collection titled "Yahanraku", and "Ujiyuki" in 1783. He died on December 25 of the same year at age sixty-eight. At his deathbed he composed three poems. In the following year, "The Anthology of Buson's Haiku" was published, compiled by Kito.
His creativity as a painter was also reflected in his Haiku. His picturesque world of poetry was admired as masterpieces.
Nanohana ya tsukiwa higashini hiwa nishini (On the yellow colza flowers field, the moon is in the east and the sun in the west.)
Samidare ya taigawo maeni ie niken (Raining in May, the two huts stand before the mighty stream.)

Buson was inspired by some of the historical facts in the past;
Tobaden e gorokki isogu nowaki kana (Five or six samurai on horseback dash to Toba castle, in a wintry blast.)
Yukuharu ya senjawo uramu uta no nushi (In the passing spring, the poet blames on his judge).
He also composed Chinese style poems other than Haiku. Some of them are highly valued as one of the pioneer works of Modern Art;
Shun Pu Batei Kyoku (With the spring breeze, a girl sings at her home village).

Some of his masterpieces in the visual arts include "Sotetsu zu (the Cycad)", "Yashoku rodai zu(the snow covered town in the night)", "Juben Jugi zu" collaborated with Ike Taiga, among others.

Buson was a self-taught artist. He said, "I have never had teachers, but learned from historically great arts of the world." Buson established his own style by learning from the classical arts and seeking his own creative imagination. His paintings and Haiku poems are mutually influenced, and created a new genre, called Haiga (Haiku and Painting in a same space).

The picture on the left is "A portrait of Buson" by Buson's student Gekkei.