Professor NAGAOKA Ryusaku

Affiliations :

Thinking humans through fine arts

The word bijutsu (“fine arts”) was created in 1872 as a translation from German. In other words, there was no such word in Japanese until the end of the Edo period. However, countless works of “art” have been created in Japan over the centuries. Why did our ancestors make them? “Art/bijutsu” is essentially visual, which means that its range of expression surpasses that of a verbal text. For instance, it can convey beauty, sublimity, or piety. It is likely that our ancestors craved visual arts much more strongly than we usually imagine.
The history of fine arts is a discipline that looks into hearts and minds of the people of the past through works of art. Rising to that challenge, I have set three research goals listed below.
1. First, I intend to study Buddhist statues in various regions of Japan and create a publicly accessible archive with detailed descriptions and photographs.
2. Second, I want to conduct a comparative study of the art of Buddhist relic cults (worshipping sariras), which are found all over Asia.
3. Third, I plan to analyze the concept of the afterworld in ancient Japan in order to elucidate the meaning and functions of Buddhist art.
As a result of my studies, I hope to demonstrate that art has always been indispensable for religion.

  • Research, History
  • Books, papers, etc.
  • Courses
    History of East Asian and Japanese Fine Arts (General Lecture); History of East Asian and Japanese Fine Arts (Introductory Laboratory Work); History of East Asian and Japanese Fine Arts (Special Lecture); History of East Asian and Japanese Fine Arts (Advanced Lecture);History of East Asian and Japanese Fine Arts (Seminar); History of East Asian and Japanese Fine Arts (Advanced Seminar)
    Personal History
    Completed the doctoral program (without a doctoral degree) at the Graduate School of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University

    Research Associate, Faculty of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University
    Senior Researcher, Department of Art Research, Archives and Information Systems, Tokyo National Research Institute for Cultural Properties
    Assistant Professor, Faculty of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University
    Current position
    M.A. (Literature)
    Japanese Sculpture History; History of Buddhist Art
    Research Subject
    History of Japanese sculpture;
    The cult of Śarīra (Buddhist relics) and plastic arts in Pan-Asia;
    Philosophy of Buddhist Art
    Statue of Buddha; history of space; cult of Śarīra; representations of death
    The Japan Art History Society; The Japanese Society for Aesthetics; Society for Interdisciplinary Studies in Japanese Buddhism
    Database of Researchers Information
  • Books
    『講座日本美術史 第4巻 造形の場』、東京大学出版会、2005(editor)
    『日本の仏像 飛鳥・白鳳・天平の祈りと美』、中公新書、2009
    『日本美術全集2 法隆寺と奈良の寺院』(責任編集)、小学館、2012
    『仏教美術論集5 機能論―つくる・つかう・つたえる』、竹林舎、2014(editor)
    Academic Papers
    「南奥羽の観音と風景」、『講座東北の歴史 第五巻 信仰と芸能』、清文堂出版、2014、75-105
    「蓮華蔵世界と正倉院の屏風」、『仏教美術論集5 機能論―つくる・つかう・つたえる』、竹林舎、2014、200-223
    「平等院鳳凰堂の阿闍世王説話―頼通時代の阿弥陀信仰の基層」、『知の挑発 平安後期 頼通文化世界を考える―成熟の行方』、武蔵野書院、2016
    2013 30th Abe Jiro Arts Prize, Sakata City Board of Education
    「聖武帝の仏教観映す鳥の姿」(the main theses of Nagaoka Ryūsaku's theory concerning folding screens from the collection of Shōsō-in treasure house), 読売新聞関西版, evening edition, 27.10.2016