Japanese Version

Yoshida Shojun-san: Metal Sculptor

If I knew nothing about Yoshida Shojun-san at all, I think that his smile and his energy would be enough for me to seek him out as a friend. That he is a Soto-Zen priest, a former high school teacher and an iron sculptor living in the most enchanting town on earth, Omori-cho, only confirms what his eyes, his smile and his energy were saying all along. I first saw his works just prior to meeting him, about eight years ago. It was on my first visit to Omoricho, a town that, over a 25-year-period, had been transformed from an eye-sore to a place that my old friend David Allen aptly referred to as, “…the finest combination of aesthetics and consciousness I have ever seen.”


Years ago, Yoshida-san and his wife came to live in Omori-cho (pop. 500), and it is here that they raised their three children. After restoring their own house in the center of the village, he became instrumental in the continuing restoration of the town, itself. His works of sculpture can be seen throughout Omori-cho, along the street, in the court yard of Abeke House, at the Gungendo company, in front of Bura House shop. Crafted in iron that he carefully chooses to produce the perfect balance of rust and longevity, his works are whimsical, unobtrusive, wonderfully fun. They add dramatic presence and they look as if they naturally belong wherever they are placed. They are surprisingly light, and he is able to easily ship them to anywhere in the world.


One place where Yoshida-san’s works show particularly well is in Omori-cho’s community Gungendo Candle House. This 200-year-old dwelling was purposely restored without the convenience of electricity, obliging all visitors to light candles for illumination. The Candle House has become the neighborhood meeting place, and the color of Yoshida-san’s works become richer by the golden light of the hand-made candles that are burned there.

Gungendo Night

A couple of years ago, Yoshida-san took an early retirement from school teaching to devote himself more completely to his art. Also, he makes regular trips back to his family Zen Temple to assist his father in various Buddhist functions. When he is not creating works of art, or at the temple, you can usually find Yoshida-san at Omori-cho’s spectacular Abeke House, a 250-year-old dwelling that has been restored as a guest house for the town. I have stayed there many times, and love to look out of the upstairs windows to the yard, where Yoshida-san’s sculptures sit, perfectly rusted and perfectly planted in the garden.



Author: stevebeimel

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