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Essays on Yoshimitsu Nagasaka

Born in Japan in 1948, Nagasaka began photographing the familiar haunts of a boyhood spent in the Koyasan region, near the ancient temple complex which shares the region’s name.

The main temple of the complex, KONGOBUJI, was founded under Imperial permission granted to the priest Kukai, in the ninth century. Yet the site of the complex on the mountain 1,000 meters above sea level had long been considered sacred ground even before this date and remains one of the most sacred places in Japan. The temple KONGOBUJI became the head temple of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, and the complex which grew around it became a haven for aristocrats and warriors alike, guarding the sacred flame which has burned there for over 1,200 years, and enduring through the centuries, the ravages of fire, massacre, threats of invasion and war.

Through his work over the past two decades, Nagasaka has given us a rare and intimate view of a place steeped in the ancient traditions of esoteric Buddhism. Yet Nagasaka’s photographs portray a world that is still alive with meaning and reverence today, despite the accelerating cultural and environmental changes of the past one hundred years. The importance of this sacred place in the lives of devotees and visitors alike is beautifully conveyed in photographs that have won a following among collectors worldwide.

Nagasaka graduated from the Osaka Art Institute, where he studied photography under Takeji Iwamiya. He later worked as an assistant to Ernst Haas during that photographer’s visit to Japan in the early 80’s.

Nagasaka is currently Assistant Professor of Photography at the Osaka Art Institute.

He has pursued a lifelong interest in the history and culture of the sacred mountains of Japan and his work has most recently included studies of this theme in other countries around the world.

Nagasaka’s photographs have been shown in one-man exhibitions in Japan, Italy, Hawaii, and New York, featured on NHK national TV in Japan, and published in eight monographs. His work is in the permanent collections of the Imperial Household Agency, the Tokyo Photographic Cultural Centre, Koyasan Kongobuji Temple, and the collections of former prime ministers Fukada and Nakasone, among others.


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