Kashima :
Thank you for coming and sparing your time in the midst of your work.
I have heard that you are well acquainted with modern paintings and calligraphic works. Today, I would like to discuss in depth about that. How old were you when you first started being interested in the calligraphic works of ancient sages?
Kinami :
I was 23 years old when I acquired the calligraphic work of Jiun Sonja.
Originally I was interested in the studies and thoughts of the ancient sages and was studying them. Prosopography is the basis in the study, so at first studying the calligraphy itself was not in the picture. However, as coming to understand the magnificence of the person, I developed an interest in the handwriting and wished to see it in real. I suppose this is quite a natural thing. I hanged the scroll of the calligraphy that I longed to acquire in an alcove, read the written words and phrases / prose and poetry, mused over the meaning cultivating my heart and spirit.
Kashima :
"Writing and nature often agree" has been said from ancient times. Is it possible to see the human nature of the calligrapher from the written piece?
Kinami :
You can feel the quality of character. The depth of education, and the warmness or the soul / virtue of the person emerges from the calligraphy, I can say. And so, the important thing will be to appreciate and enjoy how magnificent the calligrapher was and how much meanings the words hold. I would like to advance the discussion a little. The number of handwritings of confucianists, monks, Japanese classical scholars and the literati of Edo era are a sizable amount, which you can read my "Senken Iboku (calligraphic works of the ancient sages)" to get the summary though, it was when I was in university that I developed interest in Confucianism and in particularly I was interested in and studied Kogigaku (Study of Ancient Meaning) of Ito Jinsai. In the process of researching Ito Jinsai, I cultivated a wish to see Jinsai's calligraphy. However Jinsai was a renown and important scholar since in his times, and also there are only few of his written pieces, I could not easily get a chance to see one. 
But as "pray, and you'll be heard", it took me some time, though I was able to acquire some pieces starting with finely written sophisticated calligraphies from his later years. I did have the advantage of the terrain, living in the suburbs of Kyoto and Osaka. As forcalligraphies written by the people of Osaka Kaitokudo, I have viewed many of, starting from Miyake Sekian to Nakai Chikuzan / Riken. In the middle of studying the studies and thoughts of Kasuga Senan from Kyoto and Ikeda Soan from Tajima, interest to see their calligraphic work too developed, and gained a slight for sore eyes. This I guess I have to say is certainly due to my geographical advantage.
Kashima :
Hmm no, I must say, I think it is more due to your passion. Sure enough, your deep knowledge of Confucianism has drawn many calligraphic pieces, I think.
Kinami :
The writing of a person who is respected as a master will be held in high regard from the people studying under him, and will be passed down from generation to generation.
The spirit too that has been put into the calligraphy will be handed down as well, which becomes a style that passes down, and so schools or denominations are created. The calligraphy style of Kogido and Kaitokudo which I mentined earlier are as so too, and also the writing of the monk Obaku is a Chinese style calligraphy though many similarities of the style can be observed in the successive monks.
Kashima :
By the way, I have also heard that you have researched about and have deep understanding of the ideology of Nakae Touju.
Kinami :
Studying the academic discipline and the achievements of Nakae Touju whose title of honor is Omi Seijin (saint), I have been impressed by and highly respect teacher Touju for his righteous spirit, and his praiseworthy character.
This is only a picture, though this is teacher Touju's calligraphy. The writing is magnificently done, the prose is meaningful, the Touju's appeal as a human being is well portrayed. However his calligraphic works are only very few, which I too only possess 2, 3 pieces. If the opportunity arises, I would like to show them to you.
Kashima :
Thank you so much. I will be looking forward to seeing it. From my side, I have prepared calligraphies by Jiun Shonja and by Gensei Shonin of Fukakusa to show you today.
First, what do you think about the Gensei Shonin's "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo (Lotus Sutra)"?
Kinami :
An innocent hanging with highly excellent scripts. Not the distinctive Nichiren Hige-Daimoku (writing the 6 letters other than "ho" lengthening the lines as a moustache), Gensei Shonin's writing is in a normal style which is more approachable and friendly. This "Souzan" is a word originated in the Fukakusa area south of Kyoto where Gensei Shonin lived, Fukashigi is another his name. He also composed verses as well as Chinese poems, and his kana (the Japanese syllabary) too is considerably graceful, which is why it is used in wabi-cha (a style of Japanese tea ceremony) and is decidedly expensive. Not only his kana, but there are also calligraphies with dignity and grace using Chinese characters. I am treasuring one that is a large horizontal piece with 5 Chinese characters written.
Kashima :
Please show us that piece of Gensei Shonin too sometime when we have another chance. Next, what do you think about the other one of Jiun Sonja?
Kinami :
Hmmm, (picture reference), a fine piece. The antique taste of the mounting too is likable. You can even find wormage and damaged parts favourable as a fresh piece. The contrast between the blur of the two characters "Miroku" and the style after the words "Daishi" being fully written in ink is also interesting and magnificent. Sonja often used this phrase in sermons and wrote a few by himself.
Kashima :
What does the phrase mean?
Kinami :
Well, it means Shohoujisou (a concept that all things and phenomena reflect the truth), or to say nature itself is the enlightenment of Buuddha. It has been instructed as "Just look at a mountain as a mountain, water as water" as well.
I should say it is a stage of "Makumousou" (Do not be lost in delusion).
Sonja has written many phrases, though I think he must have considered the wishes of the people who requested one when choosing the words.
Many people preferred phrases such as "one who is free from desires directed outside, and have acquired true piece is a true holy one" and "one who knows what is sufficient will always be content" which are easy to understand, and probably having it mounted, hanged the piece in there alcove.
Sonja in his thirties was influenced by the writings of Ryu Rikyo and Hosoi Koutaku, in his mid-fifties he established his writing style as Jiun Sonja. And around seventy his unique style of distinctive quality emerges even more. The calligraphy we are looking at now is a piece from his seventies. After seventy his study of Shinto deepens and you can feel the refined simplicity, the sublime atmosphere from his latest year's writings.
There are people who claim, and that I agree, that among Sonja’s writings, the Myogo (names of Buddha) or Shingo (posthumous name) written in kaisho (block script) which he poured in his discretion and heart are precious. Though in general, it seems that words of Zen written in beautiful blur strokes are commonly known and appreciated as Sonja's writings.
Looking at kaisho is very important to discuss calligraphy because it expresses the writer's inner feelings and attitudes well. I have an acquaintance who highly respects calligraphies by Gocho Risshi and one time he took me a temple to show Gocho’s Amitabha Sutra written in gold on navy paper. Gocho's kaisho in that sutra in was so elegant and sophisticated, which made me almost straightened up myself when I looked at it. It was a distinguished piece and totally different from any usual piece of Gocho, even in terms of the class.
Mokuan also has written properly fine kaisho. It might be able to say that the semi-cursive style writing can only be executed when one mastered graceful kaisho style.
Kashima :
Sorry to go back a little but will you explain to us more about the relationship between Jiun Sonja, Ryu Rikyo and Hosoi Koutaku?
Kinami :
Yanagisawa Kien, usually known as Ryu Rikyo, was originally from a family served as a minister for the feudal lord in Yamato province. He was well-educated and familiar to various accomplishments, which certainly reflects on his calligraphy. Rikyo's sophisticated brush stroke also shows that he was highly talented as an artist as well. Rikyo learned calligraphy from Hosoi Koutaku in his youth. Hosoi Koutaku practiced Zen under Daibai zenshi of Soto school and he taught calligraphy to Daibai zenshi. Furthermore, Jiun Sonja practiced Zen for three years since he was twenty-four and was certified for enlightenment by Daibai zenshi. In fact, Jiun Sonja commented on calligraphy by Daibai zenshi, "Calligraphy is all about training." Considering these facts, assumingly both Rikyo and Sonja were influenced by Koutaku. It is quite clear to see when we look at actual calligraphies by these three to compare
There is an episode to let us know how the relationship was like between Sonja and Rikyo. When Sonja was fourty-one he opened Soryu-an on Mt. Ikoma and probably as a memory for it Ryu Rikyo painted Sonja's portrait and Sonja added his original poem to it. This painting, which still exists, became an original model of Sonja and fifty copies were produced by several people until his last years. Sonja added poems to those portraits, too. In comparison with the number of other Chinzo (a portrait of Zen monk) painted by followers, I should say that fifty is quite a lot, so it must have been very special. I have been discussing Sonja's calligraphy in his thirties and people around him, however, if I would add a charm of his calligraphy established in his later years at last, I think that is his unique way in positioning of characters. The space between the characters is beautifully set and it gives liveliness to his works. This is why Jiun's calligraphy can fit any size of space - large or small, I believe.
Kashima :
Although I was aware that your study on historical people covered diverse issues, now after today's talk, I found that your vase knowledge and deep insight was beyond my imagination. I wish to carry on discussion, however, due to the limit of the available pages, let's call it a day. I look forward to the next opportunity. Thank you very much.

*This article was published in the catalogue of BISAI 6 in autum 2009.


Kashima Morio

  • Kasima Arts Co., Ltd.
  • Kashima Morio
  • Founded Kasima Arts Co., Ltd for an art dealing company in 1988. Also established a secondhand book store. As a mail-order business, he has published a catalogue “Ochiho”.

Kinami Takuichi

  • Kinami Takuichi
  • Born in 1925 in Osaka. Graduated from Kyoto University. Professor emeritus of Tezukayama University in Nara. Specialised in Eastern philosophy. Published many books on Jiun Sonja and philosophers in Edo period

Top of Page