December 3, 2009

JAPAN: Painter Ikuo Hirayama dies at 79

. TOKYO, Japan / The Japan Times / Life in Japan / December 3, 2009 Ikuo Hirayama, a painter in the Japanese style known for his Silk Road and Buddhist themes, as well as for his efforts to preserve and restore the cultural heritage of the world, died of a stroke Wednesday at a Tokyo hospital, people close to him said. He was 79. Unique style: Traditional painter Ikuo Hirayama sits in front of his work of a Turkish plateau in his studio in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, in July. Kyodo Photo A Hiroshima Prefecture native and graduate of the Tokyo School of Art, now Tokyo University of the Arts, Hirayama developed a unique style as he searched for subjects linked to Buddhism and its route to Japan. Hirayama, a survivor of the August 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, was admitted to the Japan Art Academy Exhibition in 1953 for his work "Ieji," and his 1959 work "Bukkyo Denrai," which depicted the introduction of Buddhism to Japan. This proved a turning point in his career. A series of paintings with Buddhist themes ensued and his 1966 visit to a ruin in Turkey prompted him to make frequent trips to the Silk Road, which inspired his trademark landscapes and pictures of ancient ruins. Hirayama was named UNESCO goodwill ambassador in 1989, campaigning for the preservation and restoration of the world's cultural treasures, including the Magao Caves in Dunhuang, China, Bamiyan in Afghanistan and the Koguryo Mural Tombs in North Korea. [rc] Kyodo News (C) The Japan Times Ltd.