NAVITIME Travel - Japan Travel Guides, Transit Search and Itinerary Planner

Uncho Ishikawa - The Michelangelo of Echigo

One of the things that draws people to Japan is its unique art and culture, which resulted from centuries of isolation. In the centuries before the Meiji Restoration, Japan developed its own fashion, government, music, religion, and culture that were distinct from surrounding nations while also sharing certain similarities. The art of old Japan is especially celebrated for its contrast with the art being created in the West at the time.

  • Uncho Ishikawa - The Michelangelo of Echigo

    Uncho Ishikawa - The Michelangelo of Echigo

    Most people outside of Japan are aware of specific pieces of Japanese art, but few people know the names of the artists unless they take a university course on the subject. Surprisingly, the works of Uncho Ishikawa are relatively unknown in the West; in Japan, however, he’s known as the “Michelangelo of Echigo.”

    Uncho Ishikawa - The Michelangelo of Echigo

    Uncho Ishikawa - The Michelangelo of Echigo

    Uncho Ishikawa lived from the early to late 19th century in Echigo Province, which is now known as Niigata Prefecture. Centuries after Michelangelo created the Sistine Chapel, Uncho Ishikawa was working on similar masterpieces in temples in the region. Uncho was not only an accomplished painter, but also a master carver.

    Uncho Ishikawa - The Michelangelo of Echigo

    Uncho Ishikawa - The Michelangelo of Echigo

    The legend is that he moved from Edo to Echigo for the price of “good sake and chisels for life.” You can see his intricate relief carvings at many temples in Niigata, but he’s probably best known for his work at Eirinji Temple, where he spent 13 years. One of the interesting things about his carvings, which feature dragons and people from folk legends, is that he rarely followed in the steps of previous Buddhist art. This willingness to deviate from the expected makes a visit to his pieces a bit more interesting than a trip to a regular temple.

    Uncho Ishikawa - The Michelangelo of Echigo

    Uncho Ishikawa - The Michelangelo of Echigo

    Saifukuji is another Buddhist temple that showcases another of Uncho’s masterpieces. The large ceiling carving in the temple’s main hall is said to have taken him six years to complete and is widely considered to be his greatest work. The carving depicts the story of the famous monk Dogen in his encounter with a tiger in China. The legend says Dogen’s walking stick turned into a dragon to defend him. Both temples that house his work are well worth checking out, and the good news is that you can get to both of them in one day.

    Uncho Ishikawa - The Michelangelo of Echigo

    Uncho Ishikawa - The Michelangelo of Echigo

    To get to Eirinji Temple, you’d be better off with a car. If you’re taking public transportation, you can take the Joetsu Line to Koide Station. From the station, you can take a bus to Tado and take a 15-minute walk to the temple. Admission is 500 yen for adults, 300 yen for children ages 13-15, and 100 yen for elementary school students.

    Uncho Ishikawa - The Michelangelo of Echigo

    Uncho Ishikawa - The Michelangelo of Echigo

    Saifukuji is open from 9 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. and admission costs 500 yen for adults, 300 yen for teenagers, and free for children in elementary school or younger. You can also get off at Koide Station to get here, but it’s about 5.4 kilometers in the opposite direction of Eirinji Temple. You can take a city bus to the Mushinokami Kuchi stop and then the temple is just a kilometer away.

    Eirinji Temple
    Address
    Nigata Pref. Uonumashi Negoya 1765
    Phone
    0257942266
    Saifukuji Temple (Kaisando)
    Address
    Nigata Pref. Uonumashi Oura 174
    Phone
    0257923032
    Koide
    Address
    Nigata Pref. Uonumashi
    Phone
  • Facebookでシェアする
  • Twitterでシェアする

Recommended new articles