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Sunday, April 3, 2011
Not by bread alone
The axiom "Man does not live by bread alone" is again demonstrated by scenes of quake and tsunami victims in shelters finding solace in recovered photo albums or in broadcasts of the Koshien high school baseball tournament. Those outside the immediate disaster areas as well have found respite from the crisis in the comfort of a familiar TV show, in a glimpse of spring coming to plum and cherry trees.
From Sendai comes a report of the joy of children able to read the popular manga magazine Shonen Jump at a local bookstore (Asahi Shimbun, March 26). Although the shop had no deliveries of new stock, a customer who had gone to Yamagata Prefecture in search of the latest issue brought it to the store after he was finished with it. Drawn by word of mouth, over a hundred children had walked or bicycled from up to 10 km away to take a turn reading it in the shop.
No doubt it is too soon for those still uncertain of a final roof over their head to find comfort in art and literature, but Japan's rich cultural heritage does remind us that Japan has overcome many calamities in the past. Perhaps Japanese can take a measure of pride in a Momoyama Period pair of screens, "Southern Barbarians Come to Trade," selling for a record $4.7 million at a Christie's auction in New York on March 23.
According to a recent report, nearly 300 cultural properties were damaged in the disaster, including cracks in the walls at Zuigan-ji temple at Matsushima in Miyagi Prefecture and the sweeping off to sea of the Rokkakudo, a hexagonal building designed by Meiji Era art critic Tenshin Okakura on the coast in Ibaraki Prefecture, in which he had spent much time with the painter Taikan Yokoyama. Several exhibitions have been postponed in the Tokyo area, but treasures surviving for centuries can be seen in the exhibition "Honen: The Life and Art of the Founder of the Pure Land Buddhist Sect" at the Kyoto National Museum (until May 8).
It is to be hoped that in the coming period of reconstruction, some support can still be spared for Japan's soul, its arts and letters.