Hasegawa Tōhaku, Hideyoshi, and the Secret Hidden in Chishaku-in Temple.
The Ambitious Tōhaku and the Checkered Fate of Both Men
Clouds of an unrealistic golden hue adorned with flowers from some fantasy world.
There isn’t a tree that grows leaves of the same size, nor is there a sakura blossom that remains in bloom all year. Or is there? After all, Hasegawa Tōhaku painted landscapes filled with vitality real enough to make us think otherwise.
The repository at Chishaku-in Temple houses paintings made by the Hasegawa School during the Azuchi-Momoyama Period. Its head was Hasegawa Tōhaku, many of whose paintings are designated as national treasures and are a must for any Japanese art museum.
Born in Ishikawa Prefecture to a samurai family, he was adopted by the Hasegawa family at the age of ten. Influenced by his foster father, a painter of Buddhist images, Tōhaku studied painting at a young age. After his foster father’s death, Tōhaku moved to Kyoto, the old capital, and aspired to be the best painter in the country. However, with the death of Sen-no-Rikyū, who had discovered his talent, as well as the sudden death of his son, Tōhaku was plagued by countless tragedies in his life. The mural painting (shōheki-ga) in Chishaku-in Temple is, in fact, the first and last masterpiece he worked on with his son.
What kind of life did Tōhaku live? Why does such an important mural painting reside in Chishaku-in Temple? In all of this, Toyotomi Hideyoshi plays an inextricable role. Hideyoshi is, after all, the reason why Chishaku-in Temple was opened in Kyoto in the first place.
Some of Japan’s most iconic mural paintings and one of Kyoto’s most iconic temples. Let’s delve into the story of the checkered fate that ties these two together.