Sunday, 10 June 2012

Pop culture and ancient tradition, all in one day at Takarazuka

Takarazuka is a one hour car drive away from Kyoto (or two hours by train). An otherwise unremarkable city that knows two tourist attractions that are complete opposites when it comes to culture. First, the Tessai Memorial Museum, a private museum within the grounds of a 1200 years old Kiyoshikojin Seicho-ji temple, a token of ancient tradition. Second, the Tezuka Osamu Manga Museum, the pride and joy of Takarazuka's more recent history of pop culture. Both of these locations are well worth a day trip, and why not combine the two for an interesting perspective?

Tezuka Osamu Manga Museum was founded in memory of their former resident Tezuka Osamu (1928 – 1989). Osamu was a Japanese cartoon- and manga artist, born in Osaka Prefecture and famous for creating Astro Boy, Black Jack and Kimba the White Lion. The last would later become the subject of great controversy between Tezuka's Mushi Production and the Walt Disney company. Disney never wanted to acknowledge that the movie, 'The Lion King' was based on characters and situations from Tezuka's 'Jungle Emperor'. The Walt Disney company states that the similarities are all coincidental…

Apart from this, there is a whole lot more interesting about the work of Tezuka Osamu since the 'Godfather of Anime' produced 700 manga in the 60 years he lived. Apart from being renowned for his work in manga and the inventor of the 'large eyes style', he was a well know activist for nature. He even started creating manga stories as a way to try and inspire people to care for the world. Something that he has been using as an important subject in his works all though his life.

The happy, little museum has a charming atmosphere, starting with rows of tubes telling the history of Osamu and Mushi Production (mushi means 'bug' in Japanese). The museum also has a library where you can actually read the manga, a screening room, temporary exhibits of Osamu's work, a Jungle Cafe, shop, manga workshop space and some more.

After a dose of pop culture it's time to take a trip to Kiyoshikojin Seicho-ji temple complex up in the hills, for some Buddhist art (pictures below). A taxi will cost between 800 and 1000 yen, or you can take the bus, once every hour or so.

The complex is set in one of the most beautiful places I've seen for a temple. Apart from the food, incense and flower stalls leading up there, a quite and remote atmosphere takes hold of you once you enter through the San-mon Gate. I imagine it can get really crowded, but on a regular day, you're virtually on your own. Take a look around, specially at the Gohô-dô (Hall to protect Buddhist teaching). Here you'll find strings of hundreds of origami paper folded cranes hanging in colorful clusters.

The temple grounds hold two museums. The first you'll see is the museum of History and Art. A wonderful contemporary building existing of glass panels on all four sides. It is built to offer a relaxing place for body and mind, through the attention that went in climate control and lighting, but also coming from the the water panels and the lawn surrounding the glass building for instance.

If you then stay to the right and walk past the statue 'Mizukake Jizô', the path winds up to the Tessai Museum. A more stern looking building, with a tranquil atmosphere nonetheless and very exquisite although introvert through the use of the best materials, like wood, fabric and tiles. The Kiyoshikojin Seicho-ji temple has had a strong connection with Buddhist calligrapher and painter Tassai Tomioka (1836-1924) and accumulated over a thousand of his works through the years. All year different exhibitions are held showing work of Tessai.
Personally Tessai's art is not my cup of 'cha', but I would recommend to visit the exquisite temple grounds and who knows? You can visit one or two exhibits and might like what you see there also!

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