Wednesday, May 13, 2015

"be thou clean" - Artist Hirayama from Hiroshima

Around Tokyo Bay

Artist Hirayama from Hiroshima

Ikuo Hirayama is one of the most highly appraised modern artists of Japan, though he died in December 2009.
Ikuo Hirayama (1930 - 2009), was a Japanese Nihonga painter. Born in Setoda-chō, Hiroshima Prefecture, he was famous in Japan for Silk Road paintings of dreamy desert landscapes in Iran, Iraq, and China.
On August 6, 1945, Hirayama was a 15-year old middle school boy who was forced to work in a factory with other students, instead of learning in school, to produce weapons for the Imperial Army and Navy as the Pacific War was so intensified at the time.

Around 8 a.m., he was prepared for the day's work.  Other students were in a hut near a big factory also preparing for work.  Hirayama was alone outside the hut, looking up at the sky.  Then he spotted a B29 bomber that dropped something.  Soon, a parachute opened from the bomb-like object.  Hirayama went into the hut, saying to his classmates, "Hey, a parachute was delivered by a US bomber!"  The moment, the atomic bomb blasted over Hiroshima City.

Hirayama saw extremely bright light and then a strong bomb blast attacked him.  He thought that ammunition stored around the factory blasted.  But, it was a blast of an atomic bomb.

Hirayama walked around devastated Hiroshima City after coming to himself.  He saw the real disaster of Hiroshima.  Finally, atomic-bombed Hirayama climbed a hill in the city to rest himself.  To the hill many wounded people came to take repose.  As night came, Hirayama slept there while listening to many agonizing voices of the atomic-bomb victims.  But early in the next morning, he woke up in silence; everybody around him died.

Hirayama returned to his hometown in a small island in the Seto Inland Sea on which Hiroshima is situated.  He spent days swimming in the sea.  As the war was still going on, he saw US carrier-based fighters invading the sky around his home-town island for air-raids.  He even observed, while swimming, that Japanese fighters flew up to the sky to engage in an aerial battle.

But on August 15, the Empire of Japan surrendered.  However, the young man Hirayama was neither surprised nor disappointed, since he had seen American advanced vehicles and weapons captured and sent by the Imperial military to the factory in Hiroshima while he was working there.  He had though that the Empire would probably be unable to defeat the US.  So, he heard rather coolly voices of the Emperor announcing, by radio, the Empire's surrender on August 15.

Hirayama later learnt in an art institute in Tokyo to be a painter, partly because one of his old relatives had been an artist.  But while he was an assistant in Tokyo University of the Arts, he became ill.  Hirayama understood it was caused by his exposure to strong radiation 15 years ago.  As he had not drunk water and eaten foods in Hiroshima City after the atomic bomb attack, he had not been so badly contaminated.  But his health became deteriorated in Tokyo.

While he was battling this serious illness so desperately, Hirayama one day read a newspaper article telling that Olympic flame would be carried to Tokyo from Greece through the Silk Road route, as the 1964 Olympics was decided to be held in Tokyo.  Suddenly, Hirayama drew inspiration from this article.  He got an image that he was wandering in the desert but was saved to find an oasis, since most parts of the Silk Road ran through the desert.

Based on this image, Hirayama painted one picture he thought could be his last picture in this world.  It depicted two Buddhist monks traveling in an oasis or a tropical forest.  After painting this picture, his health changed better.  The picture titled "Buddhism Coming (Bukkyo Denrai)" wan big attention; it was introduced in a major newspaper.  Hirayama got confidence and determined to take Buddhism as the main theme of his works.

As time went by, Ikuo Hirayama became a successful artist as well as a professor of Tokyo University of the Arts.  He produced many highly appraised pictures related to Buddhism based on the experiences of more than 150-time tours he made mainly around the Silk Road areas in Asia and Europe.

There are many factors of the success of artist Ikuo Hirayama, but the decisive one is his experience of the Hiroshima tragedy.

Some Japanese might say that the most valuable thing the Hiroshima atomic-bomb attack produced is Buddhism-related pictures by Ikuo Hirayama.

Buddhism Coming (Bukkyo Denrai) by Ikuo Hirayama

Going through the Afghan Desert and the Moon by Ikuo Hirayama

The Buddha Leaving the World by Ikuo Hirayama

Now Japan is losing more and more survivors of Hiroshima year after year.  When they have all gone in a decade or so, what would be left even if in any forms of art?

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Luk 5:13 And he put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will: be thou clean. And immediately the leprosy departed from him.