NIPPONIA No. 45 June 15, 2008
Special Feature“Japan, the Land of Gold.” How True Is the Old Legend?
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Using art and space to highlight the Shogun’s power
This room in Nijo-jo Castle was part of the living quarters of the Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616) when he resided in Kyoto. Perhaps you can imagine him sitting formally here in front of the panel paintings gilded with gold leaf, having a conference with his daimyo underlings. Although the daimyo were powerful feudal lords themselves, they must have been awestruck. (Photo: Okamoto Shigeo)
Praying with gold
Trade between Japan and Sung China in the 12th century made Japan’s top military commander, Taira no Kiyomori, very rich. He donated this kyomon religious script to Itsukushima Shrine. Gold leaf is used to create a variety of decorative motifs. (Property of Itsukushima Shrine; photo credit: Benrido Inc.)
Repairing with gold adds opulence to beauty
Cracks in this earthenware bowl were filled with lacquer, and then gold powder was sprinkled on the lacquer before it dried. This technique is called kin-zukuroi (repairing with gold). The artisan, Hon’ami Koetsu (1558-1637), intended the repaired part to represent water flowing from melting snow. (Akaraku ware tea bowl, named Seppo. Property of Hatakeyama Memorial Museum of Fine Art)
Art for a lover of gold
The warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) liked gold so much he had a golden tearoom built for himself in his castle, Osaka-jo. The castle and tearoom were later destroyed, but this roof tile decorated with gold (left) was later unearthed from the site, offering a hint of the glorious gilded past. (Property of the Osaka Museum of History)