Okakura Kakuzo (a.k.a. Okakura Tenshin) was a Japanese scholar who is known for the development of arts in Japan.
Best known for his book “The Book of Tea”, Okakura was a scholar who learned English while attending a school which was operated by a Christian missionary named Dr. Curtis Hepburn. At the age of 15, he was a student at Tokyo Imperial University in 1875 and studied under Harvard-educated professor Ernest Fenollosa (an important educator during the modernization of Japan during the Meiji area, known for preserving traditional Japanese art).
At the age of 17, Okakura graduated from the University of Tokyo and entered the Ministry of Education and by 23, he made his first trip to Europe and America with professor Fenollosa to research European art.
At the age of 26, the Tokyo Fine Arts School opened and Tenshin became the president of the school. He helped create new forms of Japanese painting based on Japanese traditional Japanese art and among his graduates of this discipline include Yokoyama Taikan, Shimomura Kanzan, Hishida Shunso and Kumura Buzan.
He would travel to China at the age of 30 to research art but due to a scandal, he resigned from his position as president of the Tokyo Fine Arts School and he would establish the Nihon Bitjutsuin (the Japan Art Institute) along with painter Yokoyama Taikan. And would travel the next few years to India and visit Buddha-related sites over the following year.
By 1910, at the age of 47, Okakura Tenshin became the first head of the Asian art division at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. And during the Meiji period, he was the first dean of the Tokyo Fine Arts School and wrote all of his works in English. He would be known for his major achievements include revolutionizing Japanese art, preserving ancient art and establishing the Tokyo Fine Arts School and the Nihon Bijutsuin (the Japan Art Institute).
And when he created Nihon Bijutsuin, the institute consisted of several two-storied wooden buildings which include laboratories of painting and lecture halls until it was moved to Izura (in Ibaraki prefecture) in 1906.
By 1966, a hall built similar to the hexagonal hall of Izura was created in Yanaka. And the statue of Okakura Tenshin inside the hall was made by Hiragushi Denchii was casted in the same mold and is in Tokyo University of Arts.
The Okakura Tenshin Memorial Park was opened by Taito City in 1967.
And the location is a symbol for the spirit of painters who served to protect traditional Japanese art from the modernization of Japanese art during the Meiji era.
Meanwhile, for those who do not know the significance of this park, they see the location as the park in Yanaka with a public restroom.
While the park may seem like some normal residential park, if you are familiar with Okakura Tenshin’s work, then this park is worth visiting!