New Meets Old in 5 Kyoto Temples with Gorgeous and Modern Fusuma-e | Japan Guide

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Famed as one of the basic elements of Japanese room construction, fusuma (sliding screen doors) have been decorated in a wide variety of painting styles since time immemorial. The paintings on fusuma are called “fusuma-e”, and they can be found today in both historic buildings and everyday households. We’d like to present to you a collection of some of the temples of Kyoto where you can see contemporary fusuma-e influenced by modern style.

What are Fusuma-e

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Simply put, “fusuma-e” describes a style of traditional Japanese art. The “e” means “picture,” and as mentioned before the “fusuma” refers to a style of sliding door covered in Japanese paper and cloth and used to partition Japanese-style rooms. What makes fusuma so marvelous is that (as pictured) they can be slid or removed entirely to create a massive banquet hall-like space in an instant. This makes them perfect for changing a room to match use (e.g., when visitors come) and season. Similar to fusuma are shōji, also used as sliding separators.

The Fusuma-e of Kyoto

Kyoto may be reputed as a city that holds tradition and history in high regard, but it is also a place whose people are in an eternal pursuit of the cutting edge. This can be seen in the great number of exhibitions and events held annually that feature collaboration with contemporary artists. Fusuma-e is not an exception, and we’re certain you’ll discover a brand-new side of Japanese art and beauty when you see these modern designs painted on the basic white canvas of a fusuma.

No.1 Kennin-ji

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No.2 Shōren-in

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No.3 Hōgon-in

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No.4 Kiyomizu-dera

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No.5 Zuishin-in

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*There may be periods where the fusuma-e aren’t on display owing to limited public exhibition, etc. Please be sure to check ahead before you make your trip.

Though they’re all fantastic, if you have to see just one we recommend the fusuma-e at Shōren-in. Painted across dozens of fusuma panels, the beauty of the artwork here will leave you wordless, and when the fusuma are opened the sense of space and openness created only enhances the charm of the Japanese-style architecture. Additionally, the paintings have all been done using contemporary tools and paints for a freshness that lets you experience the modern amidst history and tradition.

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