文字サイズを小さくする
文字サイズを大きくする

MEMORIAL ROOM

Home > Memorial Room

*This web site contains PDF documents that require the most current version of Adobe Reader to view. To download click on the icon below.
 Adobe Reader

OKAKURA TENSHIN MEMORIAL ROOM

OKAKURA TENSHIN  MEMORIAL ROOM
OKAKURA Tenshin(1863-1913), a well-known government official and an artistic leader, left the great legacy of having developed modern Japanese art in the Meiji era, a period during which dramatic westernization took place. His major achievements include revolutionizing Japanese art, preserving ancient art, and establishing the Tokyo Fine Arts School and the Nihon Bijutsuin (the Japan Art Institute). He was also a curator of the Department of Chinese and Japanese Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Tenshin was a man of international perspective; he published “The Book of Tea” in English and introduced Japanese and other East Asian cultures and art to westerners. In his later years, he moved to Izura, Ibaraki Prefecture, a place he regarded as suitable for developing an ideal art community. He relocated the Nihon Bijutsuin to Izura and recruited his pupils, including YOKOYAMA Taikan, SHIMOMURA Kanzan, HISHIDA Shunso and KIMURA Buzan, in order to develop new era of Japanese art.

In the Okakura Tenshin Memorial Room,his achievements in various fields are honored. We also introduce the historical importance of Izura, an area where Tenshin and other artists worked to create a new form of Japanese art.
top

Materials related to Tenshin's life

Sketches in a class at the Tokyo Fine Arts School
YOKOYAMA Taikan
YOKOYAMA Taikan

Sketches drawn by students in a class at the Tokyo Fine Arts School (the present Tokyo University of the Arts)
top
“The White Fox” manuscript
“The White Fox” manuscript

“The White Fox” is Tenshin's only opera.
Tenshin dramatized an old Japanese legend about a white fox; after being rescued by a man, the fox becomes human and repays his kindness.
top
Tenshin's last will
Tenshin's last will

Tenshin's will was made at Izura about a year before his death. He indicates the process for distributing his property to his family.
top
Letters from Priyambada Devi Banerjee
Letters from Priyambada Devi Banerjee

Letters from Banerjee, the Indian female poet, which she sent to Tenshin in his later years.



top

Okakura Tenshin's Life

AD Age Okakura Tenshin's Life
1863 0 Born in Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture.
1869 6 Began studying English at the James Ballagh School.
1875 12 Entered the Tokyo Kaisei School (Which later changed its name to the Univerisity of Tokyo).
1879 16 Married Ooka Moto.
1880 17 Entered the Ministry of Education after graduating from the University of Tokyo.
1886 23 Visited Europe and America with Lecturer Fenollosa in order to research European art.
1889 26 the Tokyo Fine Arts School opened and Tenshin became the president of the school in the following year.
1893 30 Traveled to China for the first time to research art.
1898 35 Resigned the position of the president of the Tokyo Fine Arts School and established the Nihon Bijutsuin (the Japan Art Institute)
1901 38 Traveled to India and visited Buddha-related sites over the following year.
1902 39 Started having a close friendship with Tagore, one of India's great poets of the time. Completed “The Ideals of the East” which was published in London the next year.
1903 40 Bought land and property at Izura.
1904 41 Became an expert of the Department of Chinese and Japanese Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. One of Tenshin's books, “The Awakening of Japan” was published in New York.
1905 42 Built a villa and the Rokkakudo (six-sided pagoda) at Izura.
1906 43 The Nihon Bijutsuin was relocated to Izura. And Taikan, Kanzan, Shunso and Buzan also moved there. “The Book of Tea” was released in New York.
1907 44 A Harvest Moon viewing party was held at Izura.
1910 47 Became a curator of the Department of Chinese and Japanese Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
1912 49 Departed for America and then visited India. While there, Tenshin met the Indian female poet Priyambada Devi Banerjee.
1913 50 After writing an opera script titled “The White Fox”, Tenshin returned to Japan due to illness. At a meeting of the Old Shrines and Temples Preservation Association, he made a proposal to preserve the wall paintings of the Kondo (Main Hall) in Horyuji Temple. Tenshin made a trip to Akakura in Niigata Prefecture, in order to recuperate. While there, he suddenly passed away.
1914   The Nihon Bijutsuin was reestablished

Okakura Tenshin's Achievment

Ernest F. Fenollosa
Ernest F. Fenollosa
Tenshin on his favorite horse “Wakakusa.” He is wearing the uniform of the Tokyo Fine Arts School.
Tenshin on his favorite horse “Wakakusa.” He is wearing the uniform of the Tokyo Fine Arts School.
The full board of members of Nihon Bijutsuin
The full board of members of Nihon Bijutsuin
“The Book of Tea”
“The Book of Tea”
The Nihon Bijutsuin at Izura
The Nihon Bijutsuin at Izura
Painters working at the Nihon Bijutsuin in Izura
Painters working at the Nihon Bijutsuin in Izura
(from the front Buzan, Shunso, Taikan, Kanzan)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Tenshin fishing at Izura
Tenshin fishing at Izura
Okakura Tenshin (whose childhood first name was Kakuzo) was born in Yokohama, the second son of Okakura Kan'emon and Okakura Kono. His parents were raw silk merchants who managed the shop called “Ishikawaya.”Tenshin enrolled in the Literature Department at the University of Tokyo and studied politics and economics. He met Ernest Francisco Fenollosa, who had come to Japan to teach philosophy at the University.

After joining the Ministry of Education, Tenshin and Fenollosa started visiting old shrines and temples in Nara and Kyoto areas. They researched old art works, such as Guze Kannon (the Guze Goddess of Mercy Statue) in the Yumedono Hall of Horyuji Temple. In 1889, Tenshin was appointed as a director of the Imperial Museum and head of the Department of Arts at the Museum. In 1896, Tenshin became a member of the Old Shrines and Temples Preservation Association and laid the foundations for preserving cultural properties.

In 1890, Tenshin became President of Tokyo Fine Arts School (the present Tokyo University of the Arts), which he had helped to establish. He wished to create new forms of Japanese painting based on traditional Japanese art. Graduates of this discipline include YOKOYAMA Taikan, SHIMOMURA Kanzan, HISHIDA Shunso and KIMURA Buzan.

Tenshin planned to establish an art institute, which would serve as a graduate program for students of the Tokyo Fine Arts School. Resigning as President of Tokyo Fine Arts School, he established the Nihon Bijutsuin (the Japan Art Institute) at Yanaka, Tokyo. The Nihon Bijutsuin was organized by a board composed of 26 members, including Taikan, HASHIMOTO Gaho as chief manager, and Tenshin as chief councilor.
Activities of the Institute included research, artistic work, exhibitions and the publication of bulletins. Under Tenshin's direction Taikan and other young artists endeavored to revolutionize Japanese style painting methods.

In 1902, he met the great poet Tagore in India. They mutually respected and Tagore became one of Tenshin's life-long friends.

In 1904, Tenshin relocated to the United States, in order to work on the East Asian art collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. While engaged in classifying and cataloguing Oriental arts, he visited China and India to research and collect art works for the museum. In addition to his curator activities, he also introduced East Asian culture to Western countries through his English publication “The Awakening of Japan” and “The Book of Tea”, as well as lectures and exhibitions.

Directed by Tenshin, Taikan and other artists sought to introduce the elements of European-style light and atmosphere into Japanese style painting methods; however, their experiments were heavily criticized as “Mouroutai; vague and fragile style”. The institute suffered financially due to this criticism and their attempts eventually faded.

Reviving the Institute’s activities, Tenshin relocated the Nihon Bijutsuin to Izura in 1906. In the same year, Taikan, Kanzan, Shunso and Buzan all moved to Izura along with their families. Although this movement was cynically labeled as “The Bijutsuin leaves Capital” by the newspapers, it eventually became known as the dawn of the Izura era of the Institute.

Under Tenshin's instruction, artists in Izura improved themselves through friendly rivalry. Their works exhibited in the early Bunten (an Art Exhibition sponsored by the Ministry of Education) were highly praised. In present times, these works were regarded as masterpieces in Japanese art history.

Tenshin occupied himself, serving the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for half of each year, and spending the other six months enjoying a quiet life of fishing and reading in Izura. He was so enthusiastic about fishing that he designed and built a fishing boat called “Ryuomaru.” He sailed the boat with a fishing master and learned fishing skills from him.
While visiting India in his later years, Tenshin met the female poet Priyambada Devi Banerjee. They remained in contact for about a year, until his sudden death in 1913.

Tenshin returned to Japan as his health was failing, and went to Akakura, Niigata with his family to recuperate. Unfortunately, his condition took a turn for the worse. His brother Yoshisaburo, and the artists Taikan and Kanzan were with him, when he died. He was buried at the Somei cemetery in Toshima-ku, Tokyo. According to his will, a portion of his ashes were buried at Izura, Ibaraki.
The next year, Taikan, Kanzan and their colleagues reestablished the Nihon Bijutsuin in time for the first anniversary of Tenshin's death.

top