Buddha of Medicine/Healing – Nov. 2013

November 16th, 2013

YAKUSHI NYORAI (Buddha of Medicine and Healing). This 18-page report features over 50 photos and numerous manifestations of Yakushi in Japan, including Yakushi’s role in curing life-threatening illnesses and eye ailments,  and in granting “this-worldly” benefits. The devotional cult of Yakushi was one of the first to develop in Japan after Buddhism’s introduction to the Japanese archipelago in the mid-sixth century. Concrete evidence of Yakushi’s worship on Japanese soil dates from the late seventh century. This report relies heavily on the research of scholar Yui Suzuki, an associate professor at the University of Maryland. This primer also includes five side pages that explore Yakushi’s twelve vows while still a bodhisattva as well as Yakushi’s twelve warrior generals (Jūni Shinshō) and two attendants (Nikkō & Gakkō). Enjoy.


Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of Medicine and Healing


VIDEO. Length = 5.44 minutes. 15th-16th century Niō statues on the world art market. Join Mark Schumacher as he explores the iconography of the Niō guardians at Tōdaiji Temple, Nara, Japan. Promotional video for the auction of a Muromachi-period set of Niō temple guardians that are modeled/styled after the famous Niō pair at Tōdaiji Temple. The auction site is here.


Guidebook to Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods – August 2013

August 25th, 2013
Jump to the INTRO PAGE for Japan'S Seven Lucky Gods

Cutified modern drawing of the Seven Luckies. Click image to get started.

Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods (Shichifukujin 七福神) are an eclectic group of deities from Japan, India, and China.  Only one is native to Japan (Ebisu). Three are deva from India’s Hindu pantheon (Benzaiten, Bishamonten, Daikokuten) and three are gods from China’s Taoist-Buddhist traditions (Hotei, Jurōjin, Fukurokuju).  In my mind, it is more fruitful to explore the seven within a Deva-Buddha-Kami (Hindu-Buddhist-Shintō) matrix rather than a standard binary Buddha-Kami model. For that reason, special emphasis is given to the three Hindu deva. Although the group’s Japanese origin can be traced back to the 15th century, the set of seven did not become stadardized until the late 17th century.  By the 19th century, most major cities had developed special pilgrimage circuits for the seven. These pilgrimages remain well trodden in contemporary times, but many people now use cars, buses, and trains to move between the sites.  Today images of the seven appear with great frequency in Japanese art and media, but unlike olden times, the seven are now often portrayed as cute, lovable and childlike.  The “cutification” of religious icons in modern Japan is widespread and part of a much larger social trend toward cuteness in billboard advertising, corporate branding, sports mascots, street fashion, product design, and a host of other areas. This integrated primer explores the seven’s historical development in Japanese art and lore.  Enjoy.  Popcorn not included.

Guidebook to Japan's Seven Lucky Gods. Click image to get started.

Guidebook to Japan’s Seven Lucky Gods. Click image to get started.


Statues of these deities can be purchased at our sister site,  Buddhist-Artwork.com.



Japan’s Doll Festival – March 2013

March 3rd, 2013

Japan’s Doll Festival (Hina Matsuri 雛祭) has a very curious history, one largely forgotten in contemporary times. Held on March three every year since the mid-to-late Edo period (1600-1867), it was originally a day for ritual purification known as Jōshi no Sekku 上巳の節句 (literally “Seasonal Festival of the Snake”) when people would rub their bodies with crude human-shaped figurines made of paper, straw, clay or wood. These figurines served as “scapegoats” for exorcising spiritual pollution and bad karma. The word for snake (Jōshi) sounds like the word for girl (Joshi 女子), and the festival eventually became geared towards girls. The first sekku 節句 (seasonal festival) after the birth of a baby girl, it is now a day when charming dolls are set out for display to symbolize the family’s wish that their daughter will be healthy, free from calamity and able to obtain a happy life with a good husband. But it was not always so. Click the image below to read more, or click here.

The doll collection of Keiko (Kamioka) Schumacher

The doll collection of Keiko (Kamioka) Schumacher