About Ikuo Hirayama

About Ikuo Hirayama

Career

Journey into the origin of Japanese culture – Investigative trip to the Silk Road –

Hirayama had long wished to visit Loulan by helicopter and he managed to do so for the first time in 1986. He frantically sketched for the 49 minutes was there, weathering the sandstorms obstructing his efforts. His wife Michiko was apparently sharpening colored pencils beside him and handing them to him in seamless succession.

Hirayama participated in the first academic study group to the remains of the medieval Orient of the Tokyo University of the Arts and he was later involved in reproductions of wall paintings at a cave monastery in Cappadocia, Turkey. His first visit to the Islamic world was also his first encounter with a culture vastly different from that of Europe and Japan.
This first visit to the Orient became the starting point of a series of “Silk Road” paintings. After that, he took study trips more than 150 times to countries including countries in the Middle East, countries in the Central Asia, India and China, and the total distance of his trips reached four hundred thousand kilometers.
The number of sketchbooks he used during those trips reached almost 200 and the number of sketches he made exceeded 4,000. A large number of his works were created from this enormous number of sketches.
The jewel in the crown of those trips was an investigatory trip to the remains of Loulan located at the east end of the Taklamakan Desert in China. The Loulan Kingdom, which is said to have fallen in the fifth century, withered at the mercy of the harsh desert environment. The road along which Xuanzhuang Tripitaka once travelled marked the end of Hirayama’s thirty-year journey to try to trace Xuanzhuang Tripitaka’s footprints.

Hirayama had long wished to visit Loulan by helicopter and he managed to do so for the first time in 1986. He frantically sketched for the 49 minutes was there, weathering the sandstorms obstructing his efforts. His wife Michiko was apparently sharpening colored pencils beside him and handing them to him in seamless succession.

Sketching Pyramids in Eygpt (1977)

At Topkapı Sarayı in Istanbul, Turkey (1977)

A notebook in which his wife Michiko recounts details of an investigatory trip to the road of Alexander the Great. Michiko accompanied him on most of his investigatory trips abroad, acting as a sort of manager. He said, “my wife takes care of all miscellaneous affairs skillfully while I am preoccupied with painting. She also sharpens pencils beside me or holds a parasol over me to provide shade under the blazing sun while I am sketching on our trips. I don’t show much interest in family matters, unfortunately, but the Hirayamas’ family life seems to progresses smoothly in spite of this. Above all, I should be thankful to her for being the person who best understands my art works. I am not exaggerating when I say that managed to find the best wife.” (“Complete Works of Ikuo Hirayama, Vol. 1, Mountains and Rivers in Japan” Kodansha)

In Eṣfahān, Iran (1976)

At the remains of Palmyra (1971)

Notebooks by his wife Michiko

Notebooks by his wife Michiko

Notebooks by his wife Michiko

In a town of Afghanistan (1973)

Visited Longmen Grottoes (1975)

A postcard from India (1983)

A postcard from India (1983)

In Jaisalmer, India (1985)

At Ajanta Caves, India

In Taklamakan Desert, China (1986)

A postcard from China (1986)

A postcard from China (1986)

At Loulan, China (1989)

A letter from Italy

In the Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region (1993)

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