From Buddha to 'Super Robots', Japan stars in Monaco

17th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

A thousand years of Japanese history, from ancient Buddhism to "No" theatre or manga robots, takes centre stage this summer in Monaco with a giant show devoted to the land of the rising sun.

Some 600 artworks -- giant sculptures, cypress wood masks, exquisite silk kimonos or samurai armour -- loaned from around the world, went on display this week for two months until September 12 in the tiny Riviera principality.

"We wanted to show the continuity, the coherence of the Japanese world," said curator Jean-Paul Desroches, who secured several rare pieces for the show that had never before left Japan's Imperial Museum.

An 11th-century giant wood sculpture depicting the Buddhist fire deity Fudo Myo-o greets the visitor at the entrace to the Grimaldi Forum, Monaco's main exhibition space.

Follows an 11-headed statue of a bodhisattva of compassion, loaned from Nice in nearby southern France, whose tranquil gaze rests on the six-armed bodhisattva the Nyorin Kannon, loaned from San Francisco.

Sumptuous costumes from London's Victoria and Albert Museum fill a room devoted to "No" theatre, before the visitor reaches the samurai chamber, adorned with armour, helmets and silk and horsehair braids.

Across the hall, the bright glass-fibre and resin helmets of 1970s sci-fi hero "Kamen Rider" send out a modern-day challenge to the samurai warriors.

Delicate woodblock prints by the 19th-century master Utagawa Hiroshige, depicting the Tokaidi road from Tokyo to Kyoto, hang beside boards by manga artist Shigeru Mizuki, showing the same road peopled by serpent monsters.

Contemporary art also gets a look-in, with giant resin sculptures of a black panther and a white Eve by "Final Fantasy" artist Yoshitaka Amano.

But the show ends on a playful note, with a wink at manga's now-classic "Super Robots," such as Mazinger Z, known as Tranzor Z in the United States, that conquered the world from the 1970s onwards.

© 2010 AFP

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