Coincidental Shrine

After being almost entirely Internetless for a week I’m back and with plenty to say about Kyoto over the next few days. For now though, I’d like to talk about a coincidence that is really striking. Back when I made this blog a couple months ago and picked the cover art you see at the top of the page, I had no idea where I would be living in Kyoto. Well apparently the artist, Tosa Mitsuoki (土佐 光起), who painted this handscroll is enshrined in the small shrine that is just literally a 1 minute walk from my apartment building, and his grave is located in a nearby temple. This is one great thing about Kyoto – no matter where you go, next to regular houses or high-rise department stores you can find centuries’ old shrines and temples. My neighborhood is called Tanaka Hinokuchi (田中樋ノ口), and so the shrine is called Tanaka Shrine (田中神社).

Now about the cover art/artist. I selected this illustration because it is based on a scene in a very old book, called the Tale of Genji (Genji monogatari), that was written about an imperial prince in the eleventh century and describes events and locations in Kyoto. Before the Tokugawa Shogunate took power in 1603 and established Tokyo (Edo) as the capital city, Kyoto was the imperial capital. This scene in particular is from the “Yadorigi” (宿木) or “Ivy” chapter of the Tale of Genji. The chapter is about Prince Genji’s son essentially trying to seduce an imperial princess. (Actually the whole book is pretty much about Genji and his offspring trying to hook up with various princesses and daughters of aristocrats who have fallen out of favor with the Imperial Court.)

Though several artists have illustrated chapters in the Tale of Genji, Tosa Mitsuoki’s are among the most celebrated because they typify the traditional Yamato-e style of Japanese painting. Images on the computer don’t attest to the massiveness of these scrolls, so I hope to visit the Tokugawa Museum of Art in Nagoya some time later in the year to view the paintings in person.


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