Japan art and Wada Sanzo: The workers

Japan art and Wada Sanzō: The workers 

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

The Japanese artist Wada Sanzō (1883-1967) witnessed times of rapid change throughout his life. In this article, Sanzō highlights everyday working people. Also, some of his art relates to work that will soon end. Hence, dying trades – or work that is distant in the modern world concerning the changing nature of society and technology. 

He studied at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts in the division focused on Western-style art. After this, he ventured to Europe and furthered his education. He also traveled to Burma (Myanmar), India, and Indonesia.

In the first art piece, a worker discusses business with a charcoal vendor – both seeking to make a living. The backdrop depicts a busy place of work. 

In the following art piece, the focus is on a group of miners. Hence, Sanzō is focusing on workers who face a hard life to survive financially: while health problems related to the lungs and other ailments – and disasters concerning miners were all too real.

In the final art piece, several shoe cleaners are trying to make a living by cleaning the shoes of more upwardly-mobile workers. The individual reading could be extremely polite – very busy – or denoting a sense of superiority: it is up to people to decide. However, it does highlight natural class divisions. 

Sanzō developed under Kuroda Seiki (1866-1924) when he was very young. Despite studying in Europe and India, Sanzō warned artists against just following new ideas “because of their newness.”

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