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June 28, 2012
An Overview of Denchu House and AtelierPosted by Mitsuo Inagaki, WMF Representative, Japan
The Yanaka and Ueno-Sakuragi neighborhoods where the Denchu House and Atelier is located have been a center for artisans and culture since the Edo period (1603–1868), especially after the Tokyo Fine Art School (now known as Tokyo University of the Arts) was established in Ueno in 1887.
Denchu Hirakushi looked up to Okakura Tenshin, one of the principal founders of fine arts in Japan, who served as the first dean of the Tokyo Fine Art School. Tenshin is the author of The Book of Tea, and, in 1904, was invited to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, becoming the first head of the Asian art department in 1910. Tenshin’s disciples include other leading artists of the early twentieth century, such as Taikan Yokoyama, Kanzan Shimomura, and Buzan Kimura, all of whom helped Denchu build his atelier in 1919.
The Denchu Atelier is a pioneering modern studio in Japan, with high ceilings and a north-facing skylight to capture the best natural light throughout the day. Fortunately, the East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011 did not damage the building: however some cracks on the wall and rain leaking through deteriorating roofs have been observed. Although no major structural alterations have been made to the site, a number of superficial changes were made that have disfigured some of the exterior. Aluminum sliding doors replaced traditional wooden doors, and parts of the wooden façade of the studio were replaced with sheet metal. The conservation program would return these elements to their original architectural forms.
The goal of Taito Cultural and Historic Society, the organization that is seeking to save the Denchu House and Atelier, is to get landmark protection for the site, raise funds for its restoration, and operate it as a public place.
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