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Okakura Kakuzō (岡倉覚三, February 14, 1862 – September 2, 1913; also known as 岡倉 天心 Okakura Tenshin) was a Japanese scholar who contributed to the development of arts in Japan. Outside of Japan, he is chiefly remembered today as the author of The Book of Tea.

Biography

Born in Yokohama to parents originally from Fukui, Kakuzō attended Tokyo Imperial University, where he first met and studied under Ernest Fenollosa. In 1890, Okakura was one of the principal founders of the first Japanese fine-arts academy, Tokyo Bijutsu Gakko (Tokyo School of Fine Arts) and a year later became the head, though he was later ousted from the school in an administrative struggle. Later, he also founded the (Japan Art Institute) with Hashimoto Gahō and Yokoyama Taikan. He was invited by William Sturgis Bigelow to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in 1904 and became the first head of the Asian art division in 1910.

Okakura was a high-profile urbanite who had an international sense of self. In the Meiji period he was the first dean of the Tokyo Fine Arts School (now the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music). He wrote all of his main works in English. Okakura researched Japan's traditional art and traveled to Europe, the United States, China and India. He gave the world an image of Japan as a member of the East, in the face of a massive onslaught of Western culture.

His book, The Ideals of the East (1904), published on the eve of the Russo-Japanese War, is famous for its opening line, "Asia is one." He argued that Asia is "one" in its humiliation, of falling behind in achieving modernization, and thus being colonized by the Western powers. This was an early expression of Pan-Asianism. Later Okakura felt compelled to protest against a Japan that tried to catch up with the Western powers, but by sacrificing other Asian countries in the Russo-Japanese War.

In Japan, Okakura, along with Fenollosa, is credited with "saving" Nihonga, or painting done with traditional Japanese technique, as it was threatened with replacement by Western-style painting, or "Yōga", whose chief advocate was artist Kuroda Seiki. Beyond this, he was instrumental in modernizing Japanese aesthetics, having recognized the need to preserve Japan's cultural heritage, and thus was one of the major reformers during Japan's period of modernization beginning with the Meiji Restoration.

Outside of Japan, Okakura had an impact on a number of important figures, directly or indirectly, who include philosopher Martin Heidegger, poet Ezra Pound, and especially poet Rabindranath Tagore and heiress Isabella Stewart Gardner, who were close personal friends of his. For more on this subject, see Benfey, below.

Works

  • The Ideals of the East (London: J. Murray, 1903)
  • The Awakening of Japan (New York: Century, 1904)
  • The Book of Tea (New York: Putnam's, 1906) : [1]

References

  • "We Must Do a Better Job of Explaining Japan to the World". Asahi Shimbun, August 12, 2005.
  • Benfey, Christopher. The Great Wave: Gilded Age Misfits, Japanese Eccentrics, and the Opening of Old Japan. New York: Random House, 2003. ISBN 0375503277.
  • Westin, Victoria. Japanese Painting and National Identity: Okakura Tenshin and His Circle. Center for Japanese Studies University of Michigan (2003). ISBN 1929280173

External links

ro:Kakuzo Okakura

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