Photo: PR Times
lifestyle

Japanese temple stirs criticism with naked men paintings

30 Comments
By grape Japan

In an attempt to attract younger visitors, particularly women to its grounds, Kokujoji Temple in Niigata Prefecture has installed panels of an art series titled “Ikemen Kanno Emaki” (Scroll of Handsome and Sensual Men) within the temple. Head priest Kotetsu Yamada says that he wants to dispel the old-fashioned and boring image of the temple to appeal in particular to young women, and so the temple has teamed up with Kyoto-born artist Ryoko Kimura to create scrolls of art depicting five famous historical and mythical figures -- bathing naked together.

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The scrolls match up perfectly with Ryoko Kimura's specialty, which includes replacing the courtesans and other women in found in traditional Japanese art with handsome men, of erotic art.

The artwork features handsome anime-style depictions Uesugi Kenshin (a 16th century warlord), Musashibo Benkei (a brigand monk), Ryokan Taigu (a Zen master) Minamoto no Yoshitsune (a 12th century general) , and Shuten Doji (a drunken demon leader) naked, with deliberately placed flowers and towels covering their privates. All five figures have some historical relevance to the temple.

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However, according to the Asahi Shimbun, while the artwork seems to have drawn in visitors, it's also stirred up controversy. Members of the city's board of education state that the temple did not file to receive permission to install the artwork, which is required when making changes to a cultural party. As such, the board has told the temple to remove the panel, and further stated that they were inappropriate for children.

Kokujoji Temple has responded firmly, saying that they intend to keep the artwork displayed, even if it means losing their status as a cultural property.

Source: PR Times

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© grape Japan

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30 Comments
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I see. Half-naked women advertising sexual services on billboards and the covers of men's magazines, women in bikinis in suggestive poses on train advertisements and in izakaya, booklets for porn channels in hotel rooms, and displays of sex toys in window - all where kids can see them - are all okay. But paintings of cultural value that depict half-nude men are "inappropriate for children." Of course, that's sexist or self-serving at all.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

But paintings of cultural value that depict half-nude men are "inappropriate for children." Of course, that's sexist or self-serving at all.

So are you saying that Japan should become more prude, and also see sexualized women as being inappropriate and not just men, or are you saying it should become less prude, and be cool with the sexualization of men as well as women?

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Art. Culture. History.

I don't see anything wrong.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

What strikes me, and perhaps what some Japanese are taking exception to, is that the portrayals are rather homoerotic.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

@Jeff Huffman

+1

Not that there's anything wrong with it.

No, not at all.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

It is poorly done, though, whatever you think of the content. It looks cartoonish, and doesn’t fit well into its background.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

We wouldn't be having this conversion if the paintings depicted naked women.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

As such, the board has told the temple to remove the panel, and further stated that they were inappropriate for children.

How so? They aren't even fully naked. Where does this weird -imo un-japanese (onsen culture)- puritanism come from?!

Defo some (not-so) thinly veiled homoeroticism here, but not only. They all look pretty ambiguous/androgynous to me (esp the red-head & dark-haired/ white skin ones in the top pic. Initially thought they were women - amazon/scythian type).

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The only thing I don’t like about it is the Exile guy with dyed hair and the goatee. It dates the picture too much and makes it look “cheap,” but it’s not bad for kids. Just bad style.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Nudity was not a problem at all before Westernization. Men and women all bathed in the same baths at the public bath. We should return to our cultural roots. Picures way way more graphic can be found in Pillow Books (春画), whicih are not censored. Nobody had a problem with that in the old days.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

They are quite beautiful.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Members of the city's board of education state that the temple did not file to receive permission to install the artwork, which is required when making changes to a cultural party. As such, the board has told the temple to remove the panel, and further stated that they were inappropriate for children.

I find that demand highly offensive. What right does the government have to tell a religious organization how they may paint their temple? Once again, the government is overstepping their bounds, and these narrow minded old bureaucrats often do.

Especially ironic that it's the Board of Education making these outrageous demands. Maybe they should instead pay more attention to, for example, the miserable state of "education" in Japanese public schools.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

But paintings of cultural value that depict half-nude men are "inappropriate for children." Of course, that's sexist or self-serving at all.

So are you saying that Japan should become more prude, and also see sexualized women as being inappropriate and not just men, or are you saying it should become less prude, and be cool with the sexualization of men as well as women?

I was thinking the same thing. The argument made didn’t shoot itself in the foot as much as blowing its legs full off.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I honestly was just curious which she was pushing.

It was a condemnation, but I wasn't sure which side she was condemning.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

 I wasn't sure which side she was condemning.

I think it’s a “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” expressed as “the shoe is on the other foot.”

Or somewhere in between...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Temple porn, bring it on!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As a live long professional Artist, i have no issue with the local council speaking for what it feels is appropriate for the community. Art is NOT separate from life and has a responsiblity to be created with respect for values. Far too much trash is called art by egotistic would be artists who have no concept of the responsiblity of art and its correct place in life. Far too long has the label "art" and the political gambits of freedom of expression been used to trample on the senisibilities and values of society. Yes that local artist has his own enjoyment of his own desires in his art but that does not make it a valid form to make part of the fabric of a spiritual temple that is the result of generations of past devotion and respect. If he and the temple had been open and honest with themselves and the town, there would be no issue but then it makes a good story for the press. Hence I have many things i can wonder about. The pictures are very low quality and far from the level of sophistication of either older Japanese arts and of modern anime both of which have very high standards and can offer much more.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

and further stated that they were inappropriate for children.

There are certain types of festivals held here which are far more inappropriate than these panel paintings,

7 ( +7 / -0 )

There are certain types of festivals held here which are far more inappropriate than these panel paintings,

I think I know what you mean. I’ve seen pictures of a festival where people were parading something which would put a stallion to shame.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nudity was not a problem in the West during Greek and Roman times. Look at all those statues of naked men. They had no problem with that. What happened? Now that attitude is seeping into Japan. Really too bad.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't see any nudity here. There may be a question over the cultural heritage and what is acceptable.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

In what concerns nudity and eroticism, what we are shown here is not more that the Sixtine Chapel's drawings.

Japan should become more prude...or ... less prude,

Less tasteless. Nude in your sauna (where guests can choose to come see you) and nude in the subway (where people that asked nothing are forced to view that during 5 stations) are different. There is too much of the second style in Japan, vulgar posters in the streets, disgusting crap you get in letterboxes... Nobody wants to take the porn crap away from the old ossans, but it's reaching other people that are not asking for it, and young kids too. What is the board of education doing ? It's OK to display anything in the street where the kids walk everyday but not in a temple where they'd go only if relatives took them ?

inappropriate for children.

Even if that was the case (what we are shown here is not worse that the Sixtine Chapel's drawing)... even if that was porn, in what is displaying art for adults in "closed" location a problem ? A warning sign at entrance is all that is needed.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

coskuri

In what concerns nudity and eroticism, what we are shown here is not more that the Sixtine Chapel's drawings.

Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo is a beauty beyond belief. It one of the most remarkable art/paintings of all times.

I have had the great fortune to have visited it several times including seeing it before the restoration and after the restoration. A lot of for and against from the art experts but I prefer the restoration work.

I am a life time artist but no Christian but that work was made in heaven.

I see nothing wrong with these temple paintings and they are panels which can be removed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Nudity was not a problem in the West during Greek and Roman times. Look at all those statues of naked men. They had no problem with that. What happened? Now that attitude is seeping into Japan. Really too bad.

Don't think it's a 'western' thing as such tbh. I grew up in western europe in the 80/90s and we had full nudity on prime time TV (Ornella Mutti was probably the first woman i saw naked). Scandinavians, Germans, Dutch, French, Belgians and a few others are/were pretty 'liberal', i.e topless beaches (even city parks, sometimes), talk about (& have) sex all the time, few taboos, religion was a non issue etc.

Different story across the channel/atlantic (well the whole anglo world tbh, pretty much the same in oz/nz). So puritanism/prudishness is definitely not a 'western thing'.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@goldorak Very interersting. Too bad I haven't been to that part of the world. And when I was a kid in the 80s, the stuff they used to show on late night TV, women's breasts, back nudity (no full frontal nudity), well, they just don't show that anymore (you can see it on YouTube).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@commanteer

I find that demand highly offensive. What right does the government have to tell a religious organization how they may paint their temple? 

It's simple, no planning permission relating a designated cultural property.

It's no big deal. It's the same as if you did anything else without having the correct permit in advance.

The deeper issue here is that nothing is purely the property of the individual/s involved. It also has a community value (and affect), and therefore the community has the right to an interest.

The way that works out in practice is through local governance and citizen groups.

@CrisGerSan

As a live long professional Artist ... The pictures are very low quality and far from the level of sophistication of either older Japanese arts and of modern anime both of which have very high standards and can offer much more

Given the long history of pederasty within the Buddhist tradition in Japan, the choice of such obviously homoerotic images is doubly contentious.

Are we sure the priest is really seeking to attract young women, or just saying that to make the truth more palatable?

If one was to be ultimately critical of the images, one would have to ask whether or not they were actually intent on normalizing that homosexuality where they are commonly exposed to children.

Given the ultimate position of any form of eroticism within Buddhism, it would seem rather at odds with the Buddha's message and the practise of Buddhism, like using the attractions of Sodom to encourage people to turn to Christianity.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

normalizing that homosexuality 

Kimura is a woman. She paints young men and that's about homosexuality ?

magine the uproar if they painted a disco queen Jesus and naked bathing apostles in the Sistene Chapel.

The images don't show in your browser or what ? My point is that's what there is already (minus the disco soundtrack), and most people just see the art, only weirdos have a problem with the nudity. You can even try to browse "Adam and Eve" and see if they often wear clothes in paintings. And tell me if you find many churches with their Jesus on the cross covered. Anyway, here it's not that influence. Japanese religious art has a long tradition of showing nude/lightly clothed/sexy characters. They imported it in the bundle with Buddhism from China/Tibet/India and mixed with their local habits/landscape. Naked men together in a bath is/was ever unusual in Japanese culture ?

It's no big deal. It's the same as if you did anything else without having the correct permit in advance.

There are permits to modify a building, not to exhibit paintings or give a stage representation. When they've shown Murakami Takashi's in Versailles's Palace, the Versailles board of education did not express any opinion.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Forget the homosexual overtones, the question is whether or not it’s appropriate for children to look at images of Exile wannabes, and if so, should they be accompanied by middle-aged female fans?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just a slightly different take on this.

Though the modus operandi is different, it is increasingly difficult for me to distinguish the institutional purpose Herman and Chomsky pointed to in 'Manufacturing Consent' taking advantage of the West's conceit of 'individual choice', and Vlastos's 'Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan', with Japan's oligarchy taking advantage with the cultural conceit of 'group harmony'.

More likely this is just another permutation of the birth, growth, and death of institutions (art, science, religion, government, health care, child care, education, etc.). Idealists tend to be on the heavy end of the bell curve at the beginning, and are gradually replaced by dark-triads (opportunists, narcissists, and psychopaths) in the final stages of the devolution of those institutions.

This also makes sense because what starts as small communities with empathy-driven morality tend to grow in scale, beyond Dunbar's Number, and so necessitating empathy-driven relationships with abstracted shortcuts — the rule-driven morality of traditions, laws, or algorithms. This gives an advantage to dark-triad personality types who don't have either the willingness or capacity for empathy-driven behavior.

Both Japan's 'harmony' and the West's 'individualism' appear to be epiphenomenon at best. The power games of hierarchical social primates seem to be more pernicious and salient. — JMHO.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

oops ... not that anyone would have read, much less commented on the above, but one of my more wordy sentences should have read ...

'... necessitating the replacement of empathy-driven relationships with abstract shortcuts ... '

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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