About Site Author Bibliography Buddhism in Japan Busshi Glossary Carving Techniques Cycle of Suffering Drapery/Robe Guide Mandala Guide Mudra Guide Objects Guide Pilgrimage Guide Shinto Guide Statues by Artist Statues by Era Symbols Guide Terminology A TO Z INDEX 3 Element Stele 3 Monkeys 4 Bosatsu 4 Celestial Emblems 4 Heavenly Kings 5 (Number Five) 5 Elements 5 Tathagata 5 Tier Pagoda 5 Wisdom Kings 6 Jizo 6 Kannon 6 Realms 6 Nara Schools 7 Lucky Gods 7 Nara Temples 8 Legions 8 Zodiac Patrons 10 Kings of Hell 12 Devas 12 Generals 12 Zodiac Animals 13 Butsu (Funerals) 28 Legions 28 Constellations 30 Buddha of Month 30 Kami of Month 33 Kannon About the Author Agyo Aizen Amano Jyaku Amida Nyorai Apsaras Arakan (Rakan) Arhat (Rakan) Ashuku Nyorai Asuka Era Art Tour Asura (Ashura) Baku (Eats Dreams) Bamboo Benzaiten (Benten) Bibliography Big Buddha Birushana Nyorai Bishamon-ten Bodhisattva Bonbori Artwork Bosatsu Group Bosatsu of Mercy Bosatsu on Clouds Buddha (Historical) Buddha Group Buddha Statues Busshi (Sculptors) Calligraphy Celestial Emblems Celestial Maidens Children Patrons Classifying Color Red Confucius Contact Us Daibutsu Daijizaiten Daikokuten Dainichi Nyorai Daruma (Zen) Datsueba (Hell Hag) Deva (Tenbu) Donations Dosojin Dragon Drapery (Robes) Early Buddhism Japan Ebisu Eight Legions En no Gyoja Estores Family Tree Footprints of Buddha Fox (Inari) Fudo (Fudou) Myoo Fugen Bosatsu Fujin (Wind God) Fukurokuju Gakko & Nikko Gardens Gigeiten Godai Nyorai Goddess of Mercy Goddesses Gongen Gravestones Hachi Bushu Hachiman Hands (Mudra) Hell (10 Judges) Hell Hag (Datsueba) Hell Scrolls Henge Hikyu (Lion Beast) Holy Mountains Ho-o (Phoenix) Hotei Idaten Inari (Fox) Ishanaten Ishidoro (Ishidourou) Jikokuten Jizo Bosatsu Jocho Busshi Juni Shi Juni Shinsho Juni Ten Junrei (Pilgrimage) Jurojin Juuzenji Jyaki or Tentoki Kaikei Busshi Kamakura Buddhism Kankiten Kannon Bosatsu Kappa Kariteimo (Kishibojin) Karura Karyoubinga Kendatsuba Kichijouten Kitchen Gods Kishibojin (Kariteimo) Kitsune (Oinari) Kokuzo Bosatsu Koujin (Kojin) Komokuten Korean Buddhism Koushin Lanterns (Stone) Links Magatama Making Statues Mandara (Mandala) Maneki Neko Marishiten (Marici) Miroku Bosatsu Monju Bosatsu Monkeys Moon Lodges Mother Goddess Mudra (Hands) Myoken (Pole Star) Myo-o Nara Era Art Tour Newsletter Sign Up Nijuhachi Bushu Nikko & Gakko Ninpinin Nio Protectors Nyorai Group Objects & Symbols Onigawara Phoenix (Ho-o) Pilgrimage Guide Pottery Protective Stones Raigo Triad Raijin (Thunder God) Rakan (Arhat) Red Clothing Reincarnation Robes (Drapery) Rock Gardens Sanbo Kojin Sanno Gongen Sarutahiko Sculptors (Busshi) Seishi Bosatsu Sendan Kendatsuba Seven Lucky Gods Shachi, Shachihoko Shaka Nyorai Shape Shifters Shichifukujin Shijin (Shishin) Shinra Myoujin Shinto Clergy Shinto Concepts Shinto Kami Shinto Main Menu Shinto Sects Shinto Shrines Shishi (Lion) Shitenno Shoki Shomen Kongo Shotoku Taishi Shrines Shugendo Siddhartha Six States Star Deities Stone Gardens Stone Graves Stone Lanterns Stones (Top Menu) Suijin (Water Kami) Symbols & Objects Tamonten Taishakuten Tanuki Temples Temple Lodging Tenbu Group Tengu Tennin & Tennyo Tentoki or Jyaki Terminology Tiantai Art Tour Tibetan Carpets Tibet Photos Tibetan Tanka Transmigration Ungyo Unkei Busshi Videos on Buddhism Water Basin Weapons Wheel of Life Yakushi Nyorai Yasha (Yaksha) Zao Gongen Zen (Daruma) Zen Art Tour Zodiac Calendar Zochoten This photo library & dictionary is a labor of love.
After moving to Japan in 1993, I became intrigued by the many deities & faces of Japanese Buddhism & Shintōism.
But I must admit, I have yet to find anything that satisfies me. Many are aimed at the scholarly community, devoted to hyper-specialized topics, and extremely academic (thus "indecipherable" to the lay community).
Another wellspring of information comes from museums, curators, art historians, and collectors.
It contains English definitions for over eight thousand Japanese terms related to religious sculpture, architecture and gardens, painting, ceramics, textiles, metalwork, and art-historical iconography.
Another monumental work is the Digital Dictionary of Buddhism or DDB (log in with user name = guest).
There are dozens of Buddhist temples & Shintō shrines near my home in Kamakura, many dating from the 8th to 13th centuries, many open to the public.
Second, it is a tribute to Kamakura, my home for the past 20 years, and home to dozens of temples from the Kamakura Era (1185-1333), which still house and display wondrous life-size wooden statues from the 8th century onward.
While lavishly illustrated exhibition catalogs and glossy art magazines are much appreciated and easier to read, these publications tend to ignore the religious underpinnings of Asian art.
Instead of providing a broad historical view of the statue and its significance as a “living icon,” they tend to emphasize a piecemeal "bite-size" approach involving aesthetics, dating and provenance, technique, material, genre, and style.
A third copious source of information comes from temples, practitioners, spiritualists, and independent web bloggers.
Their publications are written for the general public but suffer from too much preaching, promoting, fabrication, self-interest, inconsistency, inaccuracy, and just plain "unreadability." Don’t get me wrong.
And to be fair, this is not just a problem with museums in Japan.