Photographs by Watanabe Yoshio
View of the Shoden [Main Sanctuary] and the Saihoden [West Treasure House], Naiku [Inner Shrine]
In 1953, Watanabe Yoshio was invited to photograph the Ise Grand Shrine by the Society for International Cultural Relations. The authorities at the shrine had never granted permission for photography of the inner compounds, but after much convincing they reconsidered in part due to the advantages that the documentation would have in generating influence and popularity post-war. The same way Bruno Taut's words had rallied interest for Ise back in 1937 (see Introduction), Watanabe's photographs could subdue the prewar political associations of the shrine and present it in a new light. A series of this photographs was published first in the book Architectural Beauty in Japan in 1955 alongside other architectural marvels and commentary by contemporary architects and critics in Japan like Horiguchi Sutemi and Kojiro Yuichiro. In 1960, Watanabe was allowed again into the premises, to take special photographs like the Torii pictures below.
Watanabe was influenced by Albert Renger-Patzsch, a German photographer part of the New Objectivity movement and Erich Mendelsohn, the famous German architect of the Einstein Tower in Potsdam and an avid photographer. The contrast, light angles and focal length all add a dimension into the photographs below that is uniquely Watanabe's along with the modernist themes, like no clouds, flat sharp light and the high contrast abstractions. In their individuality and as a portfolio these images are a delight to hold and with little surprise pair well in their photographic virtue with the essence of the nature religion that is Shinto.
"With clouds there are emotions. I like photographs of architecture in which emotions have not intruded. When clouds get into the picture it looks like a landscape... and conversely when there is fine weather without a single cloud, then photographs of architecture in its pure form can be taken."
Sato Akira, interview with Watanabe Yoshio, in Watanabe and Nikkoru, 80 (quoted from Reynolds, J.M. 2001)
The North Facade of the Main Sanctuary
Main Sanctuary with the Munamochi-bashira
The Chigi and Roof Corner
The Chigi and Roof Corner
Secondary buildings in the Inner Shrine
The Torii at Uji Bridge
Edge at Geku
Detail of the Roof and Metal Fittings of the High Railing of the Main Sanctuary
Mitarashi at the Isuzu River
Four fences of the Inner Compound of the inner Shrine
Aerial View of Inner Shrine
Entrance to the Inner Shrine with the Torii
View of the Tohoden [East Treasure House], Naiku
View of wooden posts and stairs at the entrance to the Shoden, Naiku
Sources for Illustrations
Canadian Centre of Architecture website https://www.cca.qc.ca/en/
Reynolds, J. M. (2001). Ise Shrine and a modernist construction of Japanese tradition. The Art Bulletin, 83(2), 316-341.