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 artist and poet by his fifty'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 fifty-one 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 a night stay. 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 immediately took interest in each other.
Thereafter, he visited the temple several times, and at a time he stayed for several months. To express thanks to the head priest for his warm hospitality, he did binding 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 Jurojin's warm and relaxed personality. It also portrays the artist's enjoyment in this work.

The signature :
Kyo Do Sha

Buson's drawings are not open to visitors. A set of picture post cards including Sotetsu zu (the Cycad), Take no zu (the Bamboo), and Jurojin no zu (Saint Jurojin) is available upon request by mail or e-mail (\200 per set plus postage fee).

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 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. Friendship with writer Ueda Shusei is also well known.
Buson was a traveler that 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 imaginations. 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.