It’s common for Japanese temples to boast prepossessing works of art on their walls, with pieces often dating back several centuries. The depictions at this temple in Niigata, however, raise more eyebrows than other spiritually-inspired portraits of their kind.
The painted fusuma (sliding doors) blend in with their surroundings well enough with the classic visuals of natural scenery against a gold background. But when you observe the beings in the paintings, you’ll find that these saucy portraits are anything but the traditional relics you’d expect at an ancient temple like Kokujoji. In fact, the featured art – which first appeared at Kokujoji in 2019 – is the work of contemporary Japanese artist Ryoko Kimura, who is famous for her cheeky, provocative interpretations of classical Japanese art.
Even from the temple’s exterior, you’ll see bare buttocks, chiselled abs and homoerotic onsen scenes. The characters featured here are famed figures who are associated with the history of Kokujoji Temple, like the monk Benkei and the powerful demon known as Shuten-doji.
Sadly, the artworks won’t remain at the temple for much longer – but not as a result of any controversy, apparently. To preserve the works from environmental damage, Kimura’s sliding doors will be removed from the site in May 2022. Better plan a trip to see them before then.
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