Home Podcasts Japan Station Japan Station 22: Discovering Buddhist Sculptures w. Michael VanHartingsveldt

Japan Station 22: Discovering Buddhist Sculptures w. Michael VanHartingsveldt

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On This Episode

On this episode of the Japan Station podcast we’re digging deep into the world of Japanese Buddhist statues and iconography.

About Michael VanHartingsveldt

Michael VanHartingsveldt is an expert on Buddhist art and iconography. In 2016, Michael obtained a Master’s degree in East Asian Art Business through a joint program offered by the Sotheby’s Institute of Art and Claremont Graduate University. He then went on to work as a Collections Management Technician at the Los Angeles Country Museum of Art (LACMA). At LACMA Michael worked in the East Asian Art Collection and handled everything from ukiyo-e woodblock prints to Buddhist statues. Michael has also curated art exhibits and given lectures at the Japan Foundation in Los Angeles. In the fall semester of 2019, Michael entered into a PhD program at the University of Kansas. There he will further his research on Japanese Buddhist art and statues.

Topics Discussed

  • How backpacking around Japan led to an interest in the art and history of Buddhism (and Shinto) in Japan
  • A few tipes for visiting Fushimi Inari Taisha (an important shrine in Kyoto dedicated to the fox god, Inari)
  • Nara’s famous Tōdai-ji temple
  • Who the Niō (Two Benevolent Kings) at the entrance of Tōdai-ji are
  • The hierarchy of celestial beings in Buddhism
  • Who Fudō Myōō is
  • What Shugendō is
  • The statues of Zaō Gongen that are at Kinpusen-ji temple on Mt. Yoshino in Nara Prefecture
  • Sanjūsangen-dō in Kyoto and its many statues
  • The bodhisatva Kannon
  • The origins of Amida Nyorai
  • The origins of the Nami-kiri Fudō
  • Who Takuma Kamine is
  • And much more!

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Links, Videos, Etc.

If you would like to learn more about what was discussed in this episode (or related topics), a great place to start is the series of articles that Michael VanHartingsveldt wrote for Buddhist Dorr Global. Check out the full list below.

Michael has appeared three times on the Classical Ideas podcast. You can find all three pisodes below.

Episode 47: Japanese Buddhist Art Buddhist

Ep 92: Gyotaku

Episode 107: Should You Do a PhD?

The statue of the deity Zaō Gongen (蔵王権現) that is mentioned in this episode is housed at Kinpusen-ji (金峯山寺) temple in the Mt. Yoshino area of Nara Prefecture. Actually, there are three statues housed at Kinpusen-ji and they are all hibutsu. Because of this they are only opened to the public on special occasions, like during the cherry blossom season. Check out the video below to see footage of both Kinpusen-ji and the statues.

You can check out the brochure for Takuma Kamine’s exhibit, Myō-ō in the Shell. The exhibit was held at the Japan Foundation in Los Angeles in 2019.

Myō-ō in the Shell

The video below shows a complete playthrough of the 1988 Famicom game, Fudō Myōō Den (The Legend of Fudō Myōō or The Legend of Acala). The game was released about a year later in North America for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) under the title Demon Sword. Must, if not all of the obvious references to Buddhism found within the backstory of the original version were omitted for the game’s North American release.

Special Thanks

Opening/Closing song: Oedo Controller (大江戸コントローラー) by Yunomi featuring Toriena (Used with permission from Yunomi)
To listen to more of Yunomi’s music, check out his Soundcloud page or YouTube channel.

Japan Station cover art: Provided by Erik R.

Featured image: Courtesy of Michael VanHartingsveldt

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