Japan art and continuity despite rapid political changes: Sakai Dōitsu (1845-1913)

Japan art and continuity despite rapid political changes: Sakai Dōitsu (1845-1913)

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Sakai Dōitsu (1845-1913) was a Japanese artist who witnessed the demise of the Edo period and the rapid changes of the Meiji era. However, he actually died during the early Taisho period that promised further modernization and greater liberty. 

The artist Dōitsu remained rooted in the past concerning art despite the encroachment of various Western art forms. Hence, Dōitsu focused on rinpa (rimpa) art – unlike many Japanese artists who experimented with various Western art forms and greater experimentation throughout the Meiji period.

His father (Yamamoto Sōdo) influenced his son in many areas of life. This equally applies to art and Confucian concepts because his father was a scholar of Confucianism. Artistically, his father also adored rinpa art. This notably concerns Sakai Hōitsu (1761-1828) and Suzuki Kiitsu (1796-1858). Therefore, Dōitsu understood the importance of continuity. 

Dōitsu understood the changing artistic times during the Meiji period. Yet, he equally understood that the old artistic world of rinpa was worth preserving. Henceforth, he felt an obligation to inform the next generation about this delightful art form.

Dōitsu studied art under Nozaki Shin’ichi (1821-1899). Thus, the Confucian values of his father, classical rinpa artists including Hōitsu and Kiitsu, and his art teacher all impacted heavily on Dōitsu. Therefore, despite the rapid changes in society, he felt a deep connection to the past. 

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