Presiding over the temple is the charming, cheerful, and very talented Zen monk, Shodo Iwagaki (Chisako's friend Akiko knows him well and had made the arrangments for us to visit). As a young man, Shodo was a painter, but his artwork was interrupted when he had to complete his studies for the priesthood. He moved to the Mairai-Ji Zen Temple at the age of 35 (he is now about 70) where, among other things, he made it his life's work to adorn the interiors of the Temple with his artwork. His woodblock prints are bold, graphic and very modern and cover every surface on the walls and ceiling of the Temple. They are a stark contrast to the elaborate and traditional altar at the heart of the Temple, yet his artwork makes the space feel even more sacred. The less abstract artwork, mostly on the ceilings (yes, the ceilings!) depict writings from Zen Buddhism.
He entertained us for almost an hour -- Chisako translating for Diana and me -- and had all 7 of us laughing a good part of the time. He demonstrated his woodblock printing technique, gave us a tour of his "galleries", and served us tea. I felt so priveleged to be in this awesome space with this bright-eyed and charming monk.
|Shodo Iwagaki at the Mairai-Ji Zen Temple|
|Shodo demonstrating his woodblock printing|
|Shodo's large block prints contrast with and complement the more traditional altar|
|Shodo's painted curtains|
|More curtains - I can't get enough of them!|
|Junco, and Shodo pouring tea|
|Shodo demonstrating the "proper" way to meditate|