A small red building upon a cliff of craggy coast of Izura— it is Rokkaku-do, built by Tenshin Okakura. It can be seen as if it stands still under pine trees or it claims its existence to the Pacific Ocean with pride and dignity. Why did Tenshin move here in Izura and build this curious building?
Tenshin Okakura worked hard for modernization of Japanese culture in the first half of his life. And then he faced the framework itself that has supported his work and put questions to trends of the modernization only pursuing the Western culture. Tenshin thought that there should be a principle of culture quite different from in Asia.Thus Tenshin left Tokyo remarkably modernized, and moved to Izura richly endowed with nature, which was his second starting point in life, and Rokkaku-do symbolized his determination and ambition that he boldly went beyond the bounds of the modern times.
A man who tried to go beyond the bounds of modern times in the middle of modernization
Being successful as an international person at his early age, Tenshin Okakura (Kakuzo Okakura, 1863-1913) greatly contributed to the modernization of Japanese culture. He was impressively active in many spheres: creating and teaching new Japanese-style paintings, foundation of the Tokyo School of Fine Arts(present Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music), improving of art museums, and pioneering activity of cultural property protection. Modernization of Japanese culture promoted by Tenshin would mentally support Japanese people, being uneasy to lose the identity through the rapid change into a modern nation.
However, those achievements represent only one aspect of Tenshin.
Arts in China and in India are essential for Japanese arts. While visiting these countries, Tenshin became convinced that there was a unique principle of the Eastern culture that is different from the Western one. In Asia, the arts exist as part of environment: for example, acts of drinking tea and of arranging flowers; or tools such as tea utensils and folding screens. They cannot be detached from the daily life. The concept of the European art that clearly separates the arts and the crafts does not completely correspond to the Eastern one.
Since Tenshin thought that there must be art created in a life in nature, not making a break with tradition, he left the big city of Tokyo and moved to Izura, where he guided painters. At the same time, he became a Curator of Oriental Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, introducing and familiarizing the Eastern art there (1904-1913). He showed specifically that the Eastern art is on an equal footing with the Western one, though they have different sense of values.
In the midst of the modernization, Tenshin explored for a new art and new life style based on the nature and the tradition. Although he lived about a hundred years ago, he tried to go beyond the bounds of the modern times, anticipating the 21st century.
Seeking a new place for his artistic activities, Tenshin found Izura coast in 1903, when he was about 40 years old. In 1905 he built his residence at Izura and Rokkaku-do (Hexagonal Hall), designed by himself. And the next year, he called Taikan Yokoyama(1868-1958) and his other pupils to Izura. Working energetically at home and abroad, Tenshin was based at Izura until the end of his life. In 1942, from his bereaved family, Tenshin Memorial Foundation took over the management of the land and the buildings, which were donated to Ibaraki University in 1955; and the same year, Izura Institute of Arts (later renamed Izura Institute of Arts and Culture) was established and has been an important research facility of the university up to the present.