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Ryuzo Mikimoto and the Ruskin ‘Relics’ Exhibitions of 1926, 1931 and 1933

Ryuzo Mikimoto et les expositions des « reliques » de Ruskin de 1926, 1931 et 1933
Haruka Miki

Résumés

L’un des Ruskiniens japonais les plus éminents, Ryuzo Mikimoto (1893-1971), organisa une exposition Ruskin à Tokyo du 6 au 8 Février 1926. Cet événement, qui attira environ 2 000 visiteurs fut la première exposition au Japon du critique d’art et réformateur victorien John Ruskin. Y étaient présentées les premières éditions de The Seven Lamps of Architecture et The Stones of Venice, le journal préraphaélite The Germ, ainsi que les manuscrits autographes de Ruskin, ses dessins, photographies et lettres acquises par Ryuzo en Grande-Bretagne dans les années 1920s, soit près de 150 au total. Fils du « Roi de la Perle », Kokichi Mikimoto, Ryuzo était censé réussir dans l’univers de la joaillerie, mais préféra se consacrer à faire connaître la vie et l’œuvre de ce grand esprit victorien qu’était Ruskin. Plus tard, il organisa des expositions consacrées à Ruskin non seulement à Tokyo, mais aussi à Kyoto et à Kobe, où le mouvement social chrétien insufflait un puissant élan aux mouvements en faveur de la paix mais aussi pour la défense du monde ouvrier. Comme dans le tableau A Stray Child (1902) de Taikan Yokoyama, montrant un Japonais entouré de philosophes et de sauveurs occidentaux et orientaux, les jeunes intellectuels japonais faisaient face à une crise spirituelle suite à l’arrivée de la pensée occidentale dans leur propre pays et les changements sociaux et culturels qui s’ensuivirent, provoquant l’occidentalisation du Japon. Ryuzo, chrétien protestant, affirmait qu’il avait choisi Ruskin plutôt que Karl Marx, Buddha et Christ. En réalité, il vénérait Ruskin qu’il considérait comme un sauveur capable de résoudre les problèmes d’un pays moderne industrialisé. Prenant appui sur des sources primaires (un catalogue de l’exposition de 1926, des articles de presse en lien avec cette manifestation, The Journal of the Ruskin Society of Tokyo publié par Ryuzo), cet article reconstruit les expositions, met en perspective le Ruskin de Ryuzo dans l’histoire de la pensée religieuse dans le Japon moderne, et révèle les efforts de Ryuzo — motivés par son pacifisme et dépourvus de tout élitisme — pour diffuser dans son propre pays les idées de Ruskin sur l’art et la société.

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Notes de la rédaction

Translations by Miki of the original Japanese titles of books or journals are placed in square brackets.

Texte intégral

In a sense, Western civilization has been a civilization of conflict and war. Pain and fear are still prevalent today. Our misfortune is that we have had little choice but to digest too much of this civilization. Some have found solace in the gospel of Christ’s love. Others are about to kneel before the mercy of Buddha or the social love of Marx. Though my knowledge is superficial, I have chosen Ruskin.
Ryuzo Mikimoto,
Thoughts on Ruskin (1926)

Introduction

1A Japanese ‘disciple’ of John Ruskin (1819–1900), Ryuzo Mikimoto (1893–1971) organised Ruskin exhibitions in Tokyo, Kyoto and Kobe in 1926, 1931 and 1933, and displayed Ruskinalia he had collected in Britain in the 1920s. His name might be relatively unknown except for the Mikimoto Memorial Ruskin Lecture hosted by Lancaster University since 1995. Yet he played a crucial role in the reception history of Ruskin in modern Japan.

2In 1982, Masami Kimura wrote about Ryuzo as the chief founder and promoter of the Ruskin Society of Tokyo and the Ruskin Library, both of which are still in Tokyo today, and also as a prolific writer for The Journal of the Ruskin Society of Tokyo and other publications (Kimura 235–36). At the exhibition held in both Britain and Japan in 1997, Ruskin in Japan 1890–1940: Nature for Art, Art for Life, Ryuzo was referred to as ‘the foremost Ruskinian and Ruskin scholar in Japan’, who published a translation of Modern Painters in 1932 and 1933, which is ‘the first complete translation in Japan’ (Watanabe 306–307). The exhibition held in Tokyo in 2000, John Ruskin: A Thinker’s Vision through Mikimoto Ryuzo Collection, presented artefacts Ryuzo assembled in Britain and introduced his extended efforts to disseminate Ruskin’s ideas on art and society in Japan. From the perspective of the history of Anglo-Japanese relations, Kusamitsu (2001) discusses Ryuzo as a Ruskin disciple and as ‘a free man of letters’, who ‘attempted to pursue the ideals of peace and scholarship in the conflict with the West and also with Japanese tradition’ (Kusamitsu 126). Checkland (2003) regards Ryuzo as a cultural bridge between Britain and Japan, and asks what motivated his Ruskinian endeavours. On the other hand, Lavery (2013) turns a critical eye on Ryuzo’s understanding of Ruskin and points to his ‘uncritical Ruskinism’ and ‘spasmodic bursts of genre-subverting adoration’ (Lavery 388). Lastly, Kawabata (2016) details the Ruskin Library and its Ruskin Tea Room, both of which were opened by Ryuzo in 1934, and also traces the process towards Ryuzo’s eventual bankruptcy in 1937, concluding that in the age of militarism, he created a place of relief for the visitors, some of whom were to lose their lives in the coming wars.

3Concerning the Ruskin exhibitions organised by Ryuzo, my previous research (Miki 2016) explored the details of the 1926 and 1931 shows. It was after 1920 that an exhibition comprised mostly of European paintings was first held in Japan (Miyazaki 286). Ryuzo’s Ruskin exhibitions were also located in the burgeoning Japanese art shows of European works in the 1920s, and reflected the increasing interest in art collection and its exhibition among wealthy Japanese industrialists.

4The aims of the present paper are firstly, to revisit the Ruskin exhibitions, focusing on the religious context of early twentieth-century Japan, which has been largely overlooked in discussion of Ruskin in Modern Japan, and secondly, to reconsider Ryuzo’s reception of the Victorian polymath as a trajectory of the spiritual struggles characteristic of young Japanese intellectuals of the time. A closer look at his Ruskinian efforts suggests that Ryuzo’s interest in Ruskin led to peace-oriented pursuits under an oppressive military regime.

Table 1. Ryuzo Mikimoto and his Ruskinian Endeavours.

1920s

Collected Ruskin material in Britain

1926 Feb

Ruskin ‘Relics’ Exhibition (Tokyo)

1931 Jan

Ruskin ‘Relics’ Exhibition (Tokyo)

1931 May

Founded the Ruskin Society of Tokyo

1931 Jun

Ruskin ‘Relics’ Exhibitions (Kyoto, Kobe)

1932-33

Published a translation of Modern Painters

1933 Feb

Ruskin ‘Relics’ Exhibition (Tokyo)

1934 Nov

Opened the Ruskin Library

A Brief History of Ruskin in Japan: 1884–1934

  • 1 Regarding Ruskin’s appearance in translations from the English, Samuel Smiles’s Self-Help was first (...)

5Ruskin had a profound influence on the culture and society of Modern Japan, as outlined in the 1997 exhibition catalogue. My research to date has focused on the Japanese reception of Ruskin during the period between 1884 and 1934 from an art historical perspective. In a journal published in 1884, an anonymous Japanese writer mentioned Ruskin as an art educator, which is probably the earliest Japanese reference to his name in art-related literature,1 and half a century later in 1934, Ryuzo opened the Ruskin Library in Tokyo.

6I divide this fifty-year period into three phases. In the first phase from 1884 to 1899, Ruskin’s ideas on art were introduced by the American orientalist and art critic Ernest Francisco Fenollosa (1853–1908) and the Japanese art critic and educator Kakuzo Okakura (1862–1913) at the Tokyo Fine Arts School, founded in 1887. Also the life and works of Ruskin became known to the general public through newspapers and periodicals issued mainly by Christian journalists and educators.

  • 2 The textile Moon over Venice, made after the painting, is now kept in the British Museum.

7During the second phase after his death in 1900 to 1916, Ruskin’s writings reached a broader Japanese audience, thanks to articles and translations of his works appearing in art journals. Ruskin was widely recognised as a word painter and an art critic who advocated J. M. W. Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites, and harshly criticised J. M. Whistler. My previous research has identified the following four major figures who played a significant role in this phase: the Japanese-style painter Seiho Takeuchi (1864–1942), whose exquisitely rendered Moon over Venice (1907) was inspired by European veduta paintings of the Italian city, including those by Turner;2 the European-style oil painter and educator Keiichiro Kume (1866–1934), who studied painting in Paris from 1886 to 1893 and later taught at the Tokyo Fine Arts School; the mountaineer and travel writer Usui Kojima (1873–1948), who published books on the Japanese Alps—the mountain ranges in mainland Japan—accompanied by watercolours and engravings produced by Japanese painters of the time; and one of the first Japanese art historians Yukio Yashiro (1890–1975), who studied under Bernard Berenson in Florence.

8In the third phase, beginning with the Russian Revolution of 1917, Ruskin as a social thinker came into focus, as exemplified by articles on Unto this Last written by Hajime Kawakami (1879–1946), a Kyoto Imperial University professor of economics, under whom Ryuzo studied Ruskin. Ryuzo spent his adolescence during the second phase and was to make his Ruskinian endeavours in the third.

9Through the half century of the reception history, numerous translations of Ruskin’s writings were published in Japanese. For example, the early translations of passages from Modern Painters, such as ‘Definition of the term “beautiful”’ in the chapter ‘Of Ideas of Beauty’ in volume I, appeared in a journal in 1889 (Ruskin 1889, 227), while parts of the chapter ‘Of Classical Landscape’ in Volume III were published in 1896 and 1897 (Ruskin 1896, 8–16; Ruskin 1897). As stated above, a complete translation of the treatise was first produced by Ryuzo, and was published by a major press in 1932 and 1933 as one of the world’s classics (Ruskin 1932; 1933). Unto this Last was translated by five professors of English literature, and was printed in 1918, 1925, 1928, 1929 and 1931 respectively (Ruskin 1918a; 1925; 1928a; 1929; 1931). There were no less than five complete translations of Sesame and Lilies, published in 1911, 1918, 1928, 1934 and 1935 (Ruskin 1911; 1918b; 1928b; 1934; 1935). It should be noted that most of these translations were reprinted. This large number of translations, to which Ryuzo greatly contributed, clearly reflects Japanese interest in the Victorian critic, and enabled easy access to Ruskin’s thought.

Ryuzo Mikimoto and Ruskin

10Ryuzo was born in 1893, the year his father Kokichi Mikimoto (1858–1954), the later ‘Pearl King’ of Japan, first succeeded in producing hemispherical cultured pearls. The jewellery business, ‘Mikimoto’, was founded in Ginza, Tokyo in 1899. In 1914, Ryuzo entered Kyoto Imperial University and read Ruskin under Professor Kawakami, who was to convert to Marxist political economic theory in the early 1920s. After leaving the university, Ryuzo began to work for his father’s company, but put increasing energy into his Ruskin studies. Drawing on Ruskin’s words, he criticised his family business in a book dedicated to Kawakami: in his Time and Tide, ‘Ruskin says that “whether you get your ceiling painted by a Paul Veronese or get a goblet cast by a Benvenuto Cellini, it is left to your opinion; but you ought not to employ a hundred divers to seek for pearls in the bottom of the sea and adorn your dress”’ [Ryuzo’s English] (Mikimoto 1931a, 15). In fact, Ryuzo made minor yet important changes to the original text: ‘You may have Paul Veronese to paint your ceiling, if you like, or Benvenuto Cellini to make cups for you. But you must not employ a hundred divers to find beads to stitch over your sleeve’ (Ruskin 1867, 425). By deliberately changing ‘beads’ to ‘pearls in the bottom of the sea’, Ryuzo cast a critical eye not only on his father’s business but also on his own luxurious life sustained by the labour of ‘a hundred divers’.

11From the 1870s to the 1910s, Japanese society underwent a radical transformation: a rapid modernization and industrialization to catch up with the West. The industrial capitalism that developed after the Sino-Japanese War increased the gap between the rich and poor in Japan, and the economic downturn following the Russo-Japanese War triggered a greater number of conflicts between workers and employers, which led to social conditions similar to those in Victorian Britain. The eruption of the Russian Revolution also brought the issue of class antagonism to the fore. In 1918, a Japanese labourer wrote emphatically, ‘I want to become a “human being”. No, I have to be. I want to obtain human rights and freedoms . . . I am treated like a machine of the kind needed for production, not as a human being with a personality’ (Sumiya 99–100). This was the social background in which Ryuzo spent his early life as the son of a capitalist.

12In 1920, Ryuzo first visited Britain, and began to collect Ruskin artefacts. The total amount of money he devoted to this enterprise was said to be nearly four hundred thousand yen (Ishikawa 113). Considering the average yearly income per head of household in the 1920s was only about 1100 yen (Yano Tsuneta Kinenkai 490), we can imagine how financially privileged he was. Later he fell into bankruptcy, yet it was his father who bought back his collection.

Ruskin ‘Relics’ Exhibitions in 1926, 1931 and 1933

  • 3 According to the 2018 Annual Report of Bridgestone Museum of Art, the museum houses an oil painting (...)
  • 4 The exhibition of these engravings after Turner was held at Mikimoto Hall in 2014.
  • 5 Each of the four issues sold less than 100 copies (Stauffer 76).

13Ryuzo formed his Ruskin collection in the 1920s. Compared to the major collectors J. H. Whitehouse (1873–1955) and W. G. Collingwood (1854–1932), both of whose remarkable collections were built during Ruskin’s lifetime, the Ryuzo collection was amassed in the last decade before the Ruskinalia at his former home Brantwood went up for the first auction in 1930. According to his own account, Ryuzo acquired Ruskin’s works and related materials at antiquarian bookshops, such as Maggs Bros. and Henry Sotheran in London, and also obtained Ruskin memorabilia directly from Arthur Severn, husband of the critic’s cousin (Mikimoto 1931b-2, 65). His collection amounting to 800 items is now kept in the Ruskin Library of Tokyo,3 including Ruskin’s drawings, autograph manuscripts and letters, engravings after Turner, such as The Slave Ship, The Fighting Temeraire, and Rain, Steam and Speed,4 and some rare books: the four issues of the Pre-Raphaelite journal The Germ (1850),5 Arena Chapel, Padua (1860) accompanied by an explanatory notice by Ruskin and published by the Arundel Society, and The Nature of Gothic (1854) in the 1892 Kelmscott Press version.

14The original Japanese title of the 1926 exhibition literally means ‘a small exhibition of things left by the late Professor Ruskin’, which I translate into the ‘Ruskin “Relics” Exhibition’ for the reason that Ryuzo himself used the phrase ‘Ruskin Relics’ in a short report of the 1931 exhibition (Mikimoto 1931b-2, 65).

The Structure and Exhibits of the 1926 Exhibition

15From 6 to 8 February 1926, Ryuzo opened the first Ruskin exhibition in Tokyo and displayed about 150 items from his collection, commemorating ‘the 107th anniversary of the hero’s birth’ (Mikimoto 1926a, 2).

  • 6 One copy is in the Ruskin Library of Tokyo and the other is in the possession of the author as a gi (...)

16Notes on the Ruskin ‘Relics’ Exhibition (Figure 1) is a 41-page booklet Ryuzo issued following the exhibition. Today only two copies are known to survive.6 On the front cover, Ruskin’s self-portrait with his signature was printed. This image looks similar to the frontispiece of the first volume of Collingwood’s Life and Work of John Ruskin (Figure 2), with the addition of Ruskin’s signature (Dearden 223). Other famous portraits of Ruskin by James Northcote and John Everett Millais were also used as illustrations.

Figure 1. Notes on the Ruskin ‘Relics’ Exhibition (1926)

Figure 1. Notes on the Ruskin ‘Relics’ Exhibition (1926)

The Ruskin Library of Tokyo

Figure 2. Frontispiece of Life and Work of John Ruskin (Vol. I)

Figure 2. Frontispiece of Life and Work of John Ruskin (Vol. I)

by W. G. Collingwood (1893)

17This booklet informs us that the exhibition was divided into six sections: (i) The birth and childhood of Ruskin; (ii) Ruskin as a poet and his adolescence; (iii) Ruskin as an art critic; (iv) Ruskin as a utopian and his moral economy; (v) Ruskin’s marriage and love life; (vi) Ruskin’s later years and death. It can be said that Ryuzo’s intention was to demonstrate Ruskin’s entire spectrum, not just his work but his life, not only as an influential art critic but also as a visionary social reformer.

  • 7 For further details, refer to my previous article (Miki 45).

18Among the 60 or so exhibits I have identified7 were the first editions of The Seven Lamps of Architecture, The Stones of Venice and The King of the Golden River; a letter to his father written at the age of nine, two letters about his wife Effie, addressed to Lady Davy, widow of the chemist Humphry Davy; autograph manuscripts of Fors Clavigera (a part of Letter 62); five beautiful Ruskin’s drawings, such as Baptistery, Pisa (Figure 3); and exhibits on the Ruskin Linen Industry and Ruskin Pottery. A number of interesting photographs were also put on show, as seen in a newspaper article dated 3 February, three days before the exhibition opening (Figure 4): a profile portrait by Frederick Hollyer, Brantwood, Ruskin’s Tea-shop, his grave in Coniston, and an epitaph on the Ruskin family tomb in London.

Figure 3. John Ruskin, Baptistery, Pisa (n.d.)

Figure 3. John Ruskin, Baptistery, Pisa (n.d.)

Graphite, wash and body colour on paper, 33 x 45 cm

The Ruskin Library of Tokyo

Figure 4. ‘Exhibition of the Late Ruskin Materials’ The Asahigraph (3 February 1926)

Figure 4. ‘Exhibition of the Late Ruskin Materials’ The Asahigraph (3 February 1926)

19As in Figure 5, the Ruskin Library has kept some of the exhibits the way Ryuzo originally displayed them. The set of Friendship’s Offering has been placed so as to show its masterly engraved illustrations.

Figure 5. Friendship’s Offering (from the top: 1836, 1837, 1843, 1833)

Figure 5. Friendship’s Offering (from the top: 1836, 1837, 1843, 1833)

The Ruskin Library of Tokyo

20The 1926 show attracted as many as 2,000 visitors (Mikimoto 1931b-1, 60), and was covered by major newspapers. In 1931 and 1933, Ryuzo held further Ruskin exhibitions in Tokyo, and also in Kyoto and Kobe in 1931. In addition to these, he displayed some of his collections on the stage of his lecture, as Figure 6 indicates.

Figure 6. Photograph of Ryuzo’s lecture on Ruskin held at Kyobashi Library, Tokyo on 29 March 1935

Figure 6. Photograph of Ryuzo’s lecture on Ruskin held at Kyobashi Library, Tokyo on 29 March 1935

The Journal of the Ruskin Society of Tokyo 5.3

Figure 7. Maruzen (on the left side)

Figure 7. Maruzen (on the left side)

Designed by Toshikata Sano and completed in 1910.

Venues of the Exhibitions

21The venue of the 1926 exhibition was Maruzen, a major importer and seller of foreign products, a business which continues to the present. Those interested in Western culture went there to encounter new knowledge and foreign goods ranging from imported books and magazines, fountain pens, typewriters to Western-style clothing. Figure 7 shows the main shop and office built in Nihonbashi, Tokyo in 1910, which burned down in a fire following a massive earthquake in 1923, and Ryuzo’s exhibition was held on the second floor of the newly-built shop (Figure 8).

Figure 8. Maruzen (1927)

Figure 8. Maruzen (1927)

Photo : Maruzen-Yushodo

  • 8 The 1933 show at Shiseido is not included in the list of Ryuzo’s exhibitions and lectures compiled (...)

22In 1931 and 1933, he held his Ruskin exhibition again in Tokyo. The venue of the two shows was Shiseido (Figure 9), a famous cosmetics company, also, like Maruzen, still in business today. The gallery was on the second floor (Figure 10). Little was known about the 1933 show from previous research,8 but Shiseido has preserved the record of the second exhibition held at the gallery on 8 and 9 February 1933 (Toyama 125). Moreover, the March 1933 issue of The Journal of the Ruskin Society of Tokyo provided a report on the show, written by a staff member of the society. According to the report, some 200 visitors came in the afternoon of the first day alone, and ‘it was a rare case that such a large number of people came to the gallery in a day’ (Araki 1933, 41). The visitors included notable figures of the time: the newspaper magnate and journalist Soho Tokutomi (1863–1957), a professor of English literature Kojo Kuribara (1882–1969), who translated Ruskin’s works, and the tennis player and poet Isoko Asabuki (1889–1985), who was one of the forerunners of sportswomen in Japan. Of great significance is that students, including female students, who read Ruskin under Kuribara and other professors such as Bunji Uraguchi (1872–1944), also came to see the display of Ruskin materials. This means that Ryuzo’s exhibition attracted at least two generations of Japanese readers of Ruskin.

Figure 9. Shiseido.

Figure 9. Shiseido.

Designed by Kenjiro Maeda and completed in 1928.

Photo: Chuo City Kyobashi Library

Figure 10. Shiseido Gallery

Figure 10. Shiseido Gallery

23The cosmetics giant Shiseido was a pioneer of modern industrial design in Japan, and the venues Ryuzo chose in Tokyo—Maruzen and Shiseido—represented the centre of consumer culture. By contrast, in Kyoto, it was the Christian Congregational institution, Doshisha University, that served as the venue of the 1931 exhibition (Figure 11). The university newsletter reports that the show was mounted at the request of the Department of Literature (Funahashi 3), and that people flocked to the display (Anonymous 1931, 11). Lastly in Kobe, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) provided a venue (Figure 12). A photograph of this show appeared in a newspaper article dated 8 June 1931, as in Figure 13.

Figure 11. Byron Stone Clarke Theological Hall, Doshisha Univeristy (the Current Clarke Memorial Hall)

Figure 11. Byron Stone Clarke Theological Hall, Doshisha Univeristy (the Current Clarke Memorial Hall)

Designed by Richard Seel and completed in 1894.

Figure 12. Kobe YMCA

Figure 12. Kobe YMCA

Designed by William Merrell Vories and completed in 1921

Figure 13. Photograph of the Ruskin exhibition in Kobe YMCA

Figure 13. Photograph of the Ruskin exhibition in Kobe YMCA

Kobe Yushin Nippo (8 June 1931)

24Geopolitically, Kyoto and Kobe had a history of active social movements. Major shipyards were completed in Kobe after the opening of its port in 1868, and the largest labour dispute in pre-war Japan broke out there in 1921 with the direct involvement of Toyohiko Kagawa (1888–1960), another famous Japanese Ruskinian and Christian. In Kyoto, where many universities had been founded, young intellectuals were actively engaged in various social movements. In 1925 and 1926, there were serious political incidents in which the Japanese police raided the homes of Kawakami and other professors as well as students to make a mass arrest of left-wing activists. The notorious Peace Preservation Law was first applied to this incident.

25Most importantly, the two venues of the 1931 Ruskin exhibitions, Doshisha University and the Kobe YMCA, were at the core of the Christian social movement of the time. In the month following the 1931 shows, the Study Group of Social Christianity was set up by three people: a former professor of Doshisha University, the director of the Kobe YMCA, and the Ruskinian Kagawa (Take 250–51). Thus, it is clear that Ryuzo’s exhibitions in Kyoto and Kobe took place against the backdrop of rising interest in the Christian social movement.

26A Hundred Years of Kobe and YMCA stated in 1987 that ‘the young students’ Christian movement of the period was all about the struggle to answer the question of what Christians should do between Marxism and totalitarianism’ (Take 246). In fact, in 1932, the director of the Kobe YMCA said, ‘our measures should be fervent but peaceful ones that are not inferior to a Marxist’s violent revolution’ (Take 248). Highly suggestive here is Kimura’s remark: Ruskin ‘should have come to be regarded as the only legitimate alternative to Marx’, though this was the ‘shallow side of the Ruskin boom’ in Japan (Kimura 1982, 230). Ryuzo must have shared a common awareness of these issues when holding his exhibitions.

Ryuzo, the Christian Social Movement, and Shimei-sha Press

27Looking at his more personal network, Ryuzo had two relatives who developed a keen interest in the Christian social movement. One was Reikichi Yokohama (1899–1974), his brother-in-law, who, at Keio University in Tokyo, studied the nineteenth-century British Christian Socialist movement, with a particular focus on Frederick Denison Maurice and Charles Kingsley. He mentioned the Working Men’s College where Ruskin taught drawing, in a book published in 1959 (Yokohama 156–58). He and his sister Ren, who was to marry Ryuzo, were third-generation Christians (Y. Mikimoto 336–37).

28The other relative was Ryuzo’s uncle and a younger brother of the ‘Pearl King’ Kokichi Mikimoto, Shinkichi Saito (1877–1945), who studied at the School of Theology, Doshisha University, in 1915 (Miyoshi 67). As a factory manager at Mikimoto in Tokyo, he peacefully solved a labour dispute in 1919, and based on Christian ethics, took advanced measures to improve the working conditions of the employees: a 48-hour working week was implemented as early as 1920 (Miyoshi 28). He also founded the Tokyo Labour Church in 1919, where 34 workers of the factory were baptized at the end of that year (Miyoshi 22).

29After the great earthquake in 1923, the Mikimoto factory was forced to shut down, resulting in the dismissal of the employees with the payment of severance benefits (Miyoshi 149). In the following year, some of the workers founded a press called Shimei-sha as a division of the Tokyo Labour Church, and issued its periodical Shimei, meaning ‘mission’ in Japanese, which was later banned because of its radical Christian Socialist ideas (Miyoshi 149–55, Kimura 235). Their motto was ‘Our Labour Church is a place to communicate with God, our Shimei-sha is a factory to work with God’ (Miyoshi 154). It was primarily from this Christian press that Ryuzo continuously published his books and journals on Ruskin, while writing and translating for major publishers. He wrote in 1926, ‘I finally made up my mind. When those once engaged in production at my factory, manipulating beauty with their fingertips, set up a press Shimei-sha, I wanted to publicize my writings with the help of these people’ (Mikimoto 1926b, 2). Their output contained the aforementioned 1926 exhibition booklet and The Journal of the Ruskin Society of Tokyo, which was to be published from 1931.

Ryuzo’s Ruskin in the Religious Context of Modern Japan

Being the naive son born to a factory owner, I indeed have a feeling of anxiety. I am even a baptized Christian. If I really receive God’s love, I should feel no anxiety. Yet perhaps because of my shallow faith, I cannot seek spiritual relief only in prayer. I want to somehow find a sense of relief of a sort through intellectual solutions. I want to contemplate on my own as another oneself, and at the same time I want to spiritually free myself by following in the footsteps of the philosophers and great figures of the past. First of all I desperately rely on Ruskin. (Takada 39)

30This passage written by Ryuzo, and quoted by his friend in Notes on the Ruskin ‘Relics’ Exhibition clearly shows that Ryuzo turned to Ruskin, first of all, for spiritual relief. He gave us no further details of his own Christian faith. But his son Yoshitaka, who was raised as a fourth-generation Christian, attended Reinanzaka Church (Figure 14) in Tokyo from childhood (Hoshijima 146). This Congregational church is of great importance in the history of Protestant Christianity in modern Japan. It was founded by a pastor of Doshisha University, Hiromichi Kozaki (1856-1938), who later became a founding member of the YMCA Japan. Yoshitaka’s wedding in 1946 was officiated by the pastor’s son Michio Kozaki (1888–1973), who was a leading theologian of the Ecumenical movement (Hattori 131) and served as a pastor of the church since 1922. The above-mentioned Reikichi, a brother-in-law of Ryuzo, was also a member of this church (Takahashi 40). These facts, albeit indirectly, provide a clue to understanding the Protestant Christian environment Ryuzo was involved with.

Figure 14. Reinanzaka Church (1929)

Figure 14. Reinanzaka Church (1929)

Photo: The Mainichi Newspapers

Figure 15. Taikan Yokoyama, Stray Child (1902)

Figure 15. Taikan Yokoyama, Stray Child (1902)

Charcoal and gold (from back) on silk 186 x 142 cm

Private collection

31In the lines I quoted at the beginning of this article, Ryuzo referred to the religious saviours Christ and Buddha, viewing them on the same plane as the thinkers Ruskin and Marx. This might sound rather odd to us today. However this way of seeing was not unique to Ryuzo. In the painting entitled Stray Child (1902, Figure 15), the well-known Japanese painter Taikan Yokoyama (1868–1958) depicted a little child surrounded by four sacred figures: Christ, Buddha, and the ancient Chinese philosophers Confucius and Laozi. Taikan explained:

The Japanese world of thought or religion of the time was in a state of great confusion: some were admirers of Confucius, while others were Christians, Buddhists, or followers of Laozi or Zhuangzi. It was not easy to discern what course their faith would take. I intended to indicate that social situation by placing a Japanese child among the four sages of Confucius, Christ, Buddha and Laozi, and giving it the title Stray Child. (Taikan 45)

32The image of the little stray child surely stands for the social situation in which Ryuzo and other young Japanese intellectuals found themselves.

  • 9 For instance, the first Buddhist-Christian dialogue on a public level was held in Tokyo in Septembe (...)

33In the Meiji era, which began in 1868, the Japanese government attempted to establish a state centring on the Emperor and propagated Shinto as the official belief system. Buddhism lost state protection and its priests were secularised, their power and influence diminishing for a time. The ban on Christianity was lifted in 1873, but the Christian faith was generally regarded as unpatriotic because of its monotheistic doctrine. In 1890, the Imperial Rescript on Education was promulgated: by means of public education, the government tried to reinforce the idea of the Emperor’s sovereignty, and portraits of the Emperor and Empress were hung in every school as objects of reverence. This edict, effective until 1948, regulated the entire Japanese educational system and moral values. Meanwhile, in 1893, the Japanese leaders of Shinto, Buddhism and Christianity took part in the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago, and finally began to foster mutual understanding and respect.9 Ryuzo was born in that year. During those decades, the modern concept of and Japanese word for ‘religion’ were created (Isomae 29–66), and the first department of the study of religion was set up at Tokyo Imperial University in 1905. After the High Treason Incident in 1910, which resulted in the execution of 24 anarchists, socialists and others, the government called for a meeting with leaders of the three religions, seeking their concerted effort to improve people’s ‘morality’ and maintain social order under the imperial system. Religions were used politically to strengthen social cohesion, leaving the emotional and spiritual needs of individuals behind. Even worse, most Japanese religious leaders supported the government’s imperialist policies and did not oppose repeated acts of warfare, with a few exceptions, such as Kanzo Uchimura (1861–1930), a Christian pacifist who opposed the Russo-Japanese War.

34It was in 1913, the year the last shogun of feudal Japan passed away, when Ryuzo turned twenty. His experience of these historical events must have formed the basis of his spiritual development. The first decade of the twentieth century in Japan has been described as the era of ‘spiritual anguish’, especially for young intellectuals. Those ‘dissatisfied with the formalistic norms of national morality were searching for ideas that could fulfil their individuality from within’ (Isomae 61). However, at the same time, it has been argued that religions in modern Japan, whether Christianity or Buddhism, failed to accommodate the spiritual needs of Japanese individuals who were in a desperate search for guidance as to how to survive in this difficult period (Fujii 233). These religious backgrounds elucidate the fundamental aspect of Ryuzo’s reception of Ruskin. As seen above, what he longed for was ‘a sense of relief’, if not salvation, and it is no wonder that his affectionate and passionate devotion to Ruskin resembled the veneration of a saint.

35Writing of Ruskin societies in Britain, Stuart Eagles argues:

[I]t is true that the Ruskin societies undoubtedly existed at a time when middle-class enthusiasts were drawn to forms of literary hero-worship. It was a period when orthodox, creedal religion was subject to a widespread ‘crisis of faith’ felt by people who often turned elsewhere for spiritual inspiration and guidance, which not infrequently assumed either the shape of nonconformity, or admiration of one or more literary or philosophical ‘prophets’, and often both at the same time. (Eagles 151)

36The same is true for the Japanese reception of Ruskin, as epitomized by Ryuzo, who described Ruskin’s 107th anniversary as ‘the hero’s birth’, as seen earlier. The series of Ruskin exhibitions brought together those interested in the Victorian prophet, and provided the momentum to found the Ruskin Society of Tokyo in 1931 and the Ruskin Library in 1934. Half a century later, after the creation of the first Ruskin Society in Manchester in 1879, Ryuzo established a Ruskin Society in Japan.

The Journal of the Ruskin Society of Tokyo: A Peace-oriented and Non-elitist Approach

37The Journal of the Ruskin Society of Tokyo was published from June 1931 to July 1937 with a total of 59 issues. This monthly periodical includes translations of and about Ruskin and a Ruskin bibliography in Japanese, as well as critical essays, personal anecdotes, and even poems, which vividly illustrate how Ruskin came into each writer’s life. Kimura noted: ‘the general tone of the magazine was religious and amateurish rather than academic, although it occasionally contained serious studies of subjects like Ruskin versus Marx or Ruskin and Proudhon’ (Kimura 236).

  • 10 The history of pacifism in Japan can be dated back to the Edo period, when Shoeki Ando (1703–1762), (...)

38One important aspect of this journal is its peace-oriented tone. In fact, contributors included Christian and Buddhist pacifists such as Tenrai Sumiya (1869–1944), a pastor who was one of the major opponents of the Russo-Japanese War, and Kaizan Nakazato (1885–1944), a writer known for his Buddhist novel and anti-war poems. Significantly, both of them were influenced by Kanzo Uchimura, a nonresistant pacifist who expressed his opposition to warfare itself, based on Christian virtues.10 Indeed, it was the above two pacifists Sumiya and Nakazato who spoke at the lecture held on 8 February 1931, with the purpose of calling for the foundation of the Ruskin Society of Tokyo. The contents of their talks appeared in the second issue of the magazine (Nakazato 1–11; Sumiya 32–42), along with the translation of John Atkins Hobson’s criticism of Ruskin’s views on war (Hobson 51–57). The peace-oriented attitude of the Ruskin Society of Tokyo is noteworthy not merely because, as mentioned earlier, most Japanese religious leaders yielded to political power and supported the government’s war policy, but also because some of Ruskin’s assertions were later used by Japanese right-wing nationalists to justify the imperialist war (Kimura 237).

39In the November 1931 issue of the journal, immediately after the Manchurian Incident, a crucial event on the path to the Second World War, the editor concluded his essay, ‘Three requirements to be met as a healthy citizen’, with a translation of the following passage from Sesame and Lilies: ‘To end with Ruskin’s words, which might sound utopian, “the wealth of the capitalists of civilised nations should ever come to support literature instead of war!”’ (Uemura 1931, 84). This was the last period when Japanese people were allowed to express their objection to the military regime (Ienaga 24).

  • 11 Hyakuzo Kurata (1891–1943) is the author of The Priest and His Disciples (1916–1917), which brought (...)

40After the war, Ryuzo rather hesitantly wrote: ‘I had been called as a utopian by my late friend Hyakuzo Kurata11 and my old professor Dr Kawakami, and also had been sneered at as a naive humanitarian . . . I respected the bravery of those who continued their movement, holding radical thoughts, but I could not follow their way’ (Arakawa 136). Yet the importance of Ryuzo’s restrained but consistent attempts deserves to be recognised, considering Kurata’s conversion to nationalism and Kawakami’s to Marxism.

41At the end of her discussion, Checkland poses a question: ‘Was the young Mikimoto in fact allowed to proceed with his Ruskinian endeavours because of his father’s wealth? The Japanese government (until 1945) was oppressive and illiberal. There was no room in the Japanese state for any dissidence’ (Checkland 209). As alluded to here, Ryuzo must have faced the constant risk of being seen as anti-establishment. There is no doubt, therefore, that without his passionate yet peaceful commitment, the Ruskin Society of Tokyo and the Ruskin Library would never have become realities.

42The middle way Ryuzo chose between Marxist revolution and right-wing totalitarianism was precisely reflected in an article written by Kyuichi Hayashi, a worker at Mikimoto and a committee member of the Ruskin Society of Tokyo:

The unfortunate who suffer labour, that is, the labour as a fate unescapable throughout life, are the general workers. When looking at this actual fact, I imagine a path that is more direct but seemingly more roundabout than Marxism or Fascism, which is to rediscover the significance and value of labour itself, suggested by Ruskin and others. It is not until we determine to live simply by manual labour, as just ordinary workmen, that we can see things from a wider perspective. (Hayashi 1935, 72)

43In Japanese society, where manual labour was generally looked down upon as ‘something inferior’ (Sumiya 111), Ruskin’s views on labour were well received by both labour movement activists and workers themselves, and must have provided a significant language of mediation across the social divide.

44As indicated in the above quotation, another notable aspect of The Journal of the Ruskin Society of Tokyo is that the periodical serves as a historical record of the fact that not only the intellectual elite but also an unexpectedly wider Japanese public had encountered the work and life of Ruskin through Ryuzo’s undertakings. In an article entitled ‘A Day at the Ruskin Society of Tokyo’, a staff member of the society Tsunekichi Araki wrote:

I am the youngest among the society members (I have just graduated from an elementary school). So I don’t know what Ruskin is like, although I work for the Ruskin Society. I was very puzzled when someone asked me what Ruskin is, as I even didn’t know whether Ruskin was a person or a thing at first. I really felt sorry about this. (Araki 85)

45Surprisingly enough, in the following month, a short biographical essay on Ruskin’s childhood, written by the same member of staff, appeared in the journal (Araki 1931b, 65–68). Based on Ryuzo’s book on the Victorian critic, Araki gave a lively description of the strict early education Ruskin received at home and of his first encounter with the work of Turner in Samuel Rogers’s Italy, comparing the critic’s early life with his own. This article with its touches of humour and childlike, simple admiration for Ruskin, suggests that the society was also a place for private education.

46Lastly, there is a prose poem that tells us how inspirational the Victorian prophet was and in what way a Japanese who spiritually turned to him was able to find solace. The piece, ‘Ruskin I Met in a Dream’, was written by the above-mentioned worker Hayashi, who also published books as a writer and poet. The narrative runs as follows: one night, a man appears and stands beside the poet’s chair, with flat, wrapped objects in his arms, and he tells the poet to hang them on the wall. Yet he adds, ‘These are not for you alone, but for the poor labourers often visiting you at home. When you really appreciate these works and realise that they belong not only to you but also to all the people who love them, the paintings become yours in the true sense of the word, even if they finally become the possessions of others’ (Hayashi 1931, 59). To his great surprise, they were Jean-François Millet’s The Angelus, which he had long wanted to see even just once, and Leonardo’s Mona Lisa. While he is gazing at the smile of the lady, the man has disappeared. Then all at once, the poet realises that the man was Ruskin! ‘Whoever else would give such precious presents to unknown poor workers?’ (Hayashi 1931, 60).

47This evocative image of Ruskin must have eloquently spoken to readers, and still does to us. It clearly presents a certain image of Ruskin that the Japanese people longed for, and was surely shared among them: a vision of Ruskin as caring for deprived working people by means of art.

Conclusion

48A collection is not merely an array of objects amassed by an individual, but is also a clear reflection of the numerous paths the collector travelled in life. To exhibit such a collection is, thus, to represent the collector’s life itself.

49The unexpectedly large number of visitors to the Ruskin exhibitions attests to the significant impact of Ryuzo’s endeavours on 1920s and early 1930s Japan. Closer examination of the five shows casts light on the social and religious background to the reception of Ruskin. Young Japanese intellectuals struggled to find a unified cultural and religious landscape that could strike a balance between Western and traditional Japanese moral values, and also between the idealism of Western thought and the demanding new realities of the age: the rise of capitalism, resultant economic disparity, and institutional imperialist warfare. Under such circumstances, many turned to Ruskin and to other thinkers for spiritual guidance. For Ryuzo, the Ruskin exhibitions became an effective means to develop his personal interest into a wider social engagement, and to disseminate Ruskin’s thought through his collection.

50As The Journal of the Ruskin Society of Tokyo suggests, Ryuzo’s veneration for Ruskin led to peace-oriented pursuits, despite the illiberal military regime of the era. Perhaps, this might have been a natural consequence, considering his rather pessimistic view of the West as ‘a civilization of conflict and war’.

51Since the early reception of the great Victorian polymath in the 1880s, Ruskin’s legacy was handed down with conviction from one generation to another, from the intellectual elite to the less educated, and with Ryuzo’s substantial contribution over half a century laying the foundations for Ruskin studies in Japan.

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Notes

1 Regarding Ruskin’s appearance in translations from the English, Samuel Smiles’s Self-Help was first published in Japanese in 1870 and contained references to Ruskin.

2 The textile Moon over Venice, made after the painting, is now kept in the British Museum.

3 According to the 2018 Annual Report of Bridgestone Museum of Art, the museum houses an oil painting attributed to John Ruskin, which was owned by the Mikimoto family (Kagawa 78). It depicts a rose branch directly on an iron plate with chains around it, and bears the inscription ‘A JOY FOR EVER’ and ‘RUSKIN’ right above the flower motif (size: 28.7 x 35.8 cm).

4 The exhibition of these engravings after Turner was held at Mikimoto Hall in 2014.

5 Each of the four issues sold less than 100 copies (Stauffer 76).

6 One copy is in the Ruskin Library of Tokyo and the other is in the possession of the author as a gift from Mr Takero Isoya.

7 For further details, refer to my previous article (Miki 45).

8 The 1933 show at Shiseido is not included in the list of Ryuzo’s exhibitions and lectures compiled by the Ruskin Library of Tokyo in 2004 (Hitomi 71). The 1931 show was held from 20 to 22 January. For further details, refer to my previous paper (Miki 2016).

9 For instance, the first Buddhist-Christian dialogue on a public level was held in Tokyo in September 1896 (Thelle 225).

10 The history of pacifism in Japan can be dated back to the Edo period, when Shoeki Ando (1703–1762), a doctor and social thinker, wrote about the total elimination of weapons. In modern Japan, Emori Ueki (1857–1892), a leader of a liberal and democratic movement, published in 1880 political ideas which aimed to phase out armed forces. It was before the start of the Russo-Japanese War when Uchimura expressed his nonresistant pacifism based on Christian ethics, and under the influence of Lev Tolstoy’s pacifism. Another important strand of Japanese peace thought came from socialists. One of the first organizations promoting the peace movement in Japan was the Japan Peace Association (Nihon Heiwa Kai) founded largely by Quakers in 1889.

11 Hyakuzo Kurata (1891–1943) is the author of The Priest and His Disciples (1916–1917), which brought a boom in religious fiction to the 1910s and 1920s Japan, and whose French translation was accompanied by a preface from Romain Rolland.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1. Notes on the Ruskin ‘Relics’ Exhibition (1926)
Crédits The Ruskin Library of Tokyo
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cve/docannexe/image/7551/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 292k
Titre Figure 2. Frontispiece of Life and Work of John Ruskin (Vol. I)
Crédits by W. G. Collingwood (1893)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cve/docannexe/image/7551/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 313k
Titre Figure 3. John Ruskin, Baptistery, Pisa (n.d.)
Légende Graphite, wash and body colour on paper, 33 x 45 cm
Crédits The Ruskin Library of Tokyo
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cve/docannexe/image/7551/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 1,5M
Titre Figure 4. ‘Exhibition of the Late Ruskin Materials’ The Asahigraph (3 February 1926)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cve/docannexe/image/7551/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 4,2M
Titre Figure 5. Friendship’s Offering (from the top: 1836, 1837, 1843, 1833)
Crédits The Ruskin Library of Tokyo
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cve/docannexe/image/7551/img-5.png
Fichier image/png, 2,6M
Titre Figure 6. Photograph of Ryuzo’s lecture on Ruskin held at Kyobashi Library, Tokyo on 29 March 1935
Crédits The Journal of the Ruskin Society of Tokyo 5.3
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cve/docannexe/image/7551/img-6.png
Fichier image/png, 859k
Titre Figure 7. Maruzen (on the left side)
Crédits Designed by Toshikata Sano and completed in 1910.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cve/docannexe/image/7551/img-7.png
Fichier image/png, 838k
Titre Figure 8. Maruzen (1927)
Crédits Photo : Maruzen-Yushodo
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cve/docannexe/image/7551/img-8.png
Fichier image/png, 475k
Titre Figure 9. Shiseido.
Légende Designed by Kenjiro Maeda and completed in 1928.
Crédits Photo: Chuo City Kyobashi Library
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cve/docannexe/image/7551/img-9.png
Fichier image/png, 901k
Titre Figure 10. Shiseido Gallery
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cve/docannexe/image/7551/img-10.png
Fichier image/png, 704k
Titre Figure 11. Byron Stone Clarke Theological Hall, Doshisha Univeristy (the Current Clarke Memorial Hall)
Légende Designed by Richard Seel and completed in 1894.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cve/docannexe/image/7551/img-11.png
Fichier image/png, 751k
Titre Figure 12. Kobe YMCA
Légende Designed by William Merrell Vories and completed in 1921
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cve/docannexe/image/7551/img-12.png
Fichier image/png, 907k
Titre Figure 13. Photograph of the Ruskin exhibition in Kobe YMCA
Crédits Kobe Yushin Nippo (8 June 1931)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cve/docannexe/image/7551/img-13.png
Fichier image/png, 975k
Titre Figure 14. Reinanzaka Church (1929)
Crédits Photo: The Mainichi Newspapers
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cve/docannexe/image/7551/img-14.png
Fichier image/png, 967k
Titre Figure 15. Taikan Yokoyama, Stray Child (1902)
Légende Charcoal and gold (from back) on silk 186 x 142 cm
Crédits Private collection
URL http://journals.openedition.org/cve/docannexe/image/7551/img-15.png
Fichier image/png, 874k
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Haruka Miki, « Ryuzo Mikimoto and the Ruskin ‘Relics’ Exhibitions of 1926, 1931 and 1933 »Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens [En ligne], 91 Printemps | 2020, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2020, consulté le 15 août 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cve/7551; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/cve.7551

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Auteur

Haruka Miki

Haruka Miki is a Ph. D candidate in the History of Art at Gakushuin University, Tokyo. She received her MA in Art History and Visual Studies from the University of Manchester in 2010. Her major research interest is nineteenth-century British art, and her thesis explores the reception history of John Ruskin in modern Japan, focusing on Ruskin’s art criticism. Her publications include ‘“Ruskin’s Outcry”: The Reception History of John Ruskin in Early Twentieth-century Japan’ in The Ruskin Review and Bulletin (2014); ‘Ryuzo Mikimoto: Ruskin’s Relics Exhibition (1926)—A Study of the Reception History of John Ruskin in Pre-war Japan—’ in Gakushuin University Studies in Humanities (2016); ‘Seiho Takeuchi, Moon over Venice (1907): A Study of the Reception History of John Ruskin in Meiji-Taisho Japan’ in Gakushuin University Studies in Humanities (2017); and ‘Keiichiro Kume, “Whistler versus Ruskin: Origins of Impressionism” (1904)—A Study of the Reception History of John Ruskin in Meiji-Taisho Japan—’ in Gakushuin University Studies in Humanities (2018).
Haruka Miki est actuellement doctorante en Histoire de l’Art à l’université Gakushuin, Tokyo. Elle est titulaire d’un MA en Histoire de l’Art et Études visuelle de l’université de Manchester (2010). Ses recherches se concentrent sur l’art britannique au xixe siècle, et sa thèse explore l’histoire de la réception de John Ruskin dans le Japon moderne et la critique d’art de Ruskin. Elle a publié « “Ruskin’s Outcry” : The Reception History of John Ruskin in Early Twentieth-century Japan » dans The Ruskin Review and Bulletin (2014) ; « Ryuzo Mikimoto: Ruskin’s Relics Exhibition (1926) — A Study of the Reception History of John Ruskin in Pre-war Japan » dans Gakushuin University Studies in Humanities (2016) ; « Seiho Takeuchi, Moon over Venice (1907) : A Study of the Reception History of John Ruskin in Meiji-Taisho Japan » dans Gakushuin University Studies in Humanities (2017) ; et « Keiichiro Kume, “Whistler versus Ruskin: Origins of Impressionism” (1904) — A Study of the Reception History of John Ruskin in Meiji-Taisho Japan » dans Gakushuin University Studies in Humanities (2018).

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