Great Construction

Meishu-sama Speaks at Length on the Concept of
the Messianic Hall and the Mission of Japan

With Shiro Takeuchi and Two Others (1)

     A previous edition of this paper (Eikô, Issue 173) carried the news of the visit to the Hakone Art Museum of Miss Madelaine David, accompanied by Mr. Shiro Takeuchi, Director and President of the Hochi Newspaper Company, and of Miss David’s interview with Meishu-sama. The other day, Mr. Takeuchi, along with Mr. Konishi, Manager of the Advertising Department, and Mr. Komaki of the Editorial Department, guided by Rev. Kihara, Director, arrived at Hekiun-so at 3:30 p.m. Meishu-sama immediately joined the group and with his usual, easy manner, the conversation became animated, and as the topic shifted from one point to another, the hour and a half interview felt as if only a moment has passed.
     Throughout Meishu-sama was in good spirits, enjoyed the pleasant conversation, and withdrew at 5:00 p.m. Here is presented a transcription of that interview (reported by Kihara).

Religions of Antiquity and Religions of Today

TAKEUCHI: You seem to be quite hearty and hale.

MEISHU-SAMA: Yes, indeed I am. After all, it is my business to improve the human body. 

TAKEUCHI: I have just seen the areas under construction (the Zuiun-kyo grounds). It is a very good locale, and the grounds should be quite magnificent when completed.

MEISHU-SAMA: Yes, I am sure.

TAKEUCHI: Not just as part of the areas along the Tokaido Highway, the Zuiun-kyo Grounds will be a place of interest for all of Japan.

MEISHU-SAMA: Yes, indeed. I intend to make it the best place in all Japan.

ABE: I understand that the Hochi Newspaper boasts a circulation of around 220 thousand.

TAKEUCHI: It is a low number so we would like to increase it, but a newspaper does require continued investment or else it will not succeed.

MEISHU-SAMA: That is certainly true for anything, and especially so for newspapers. All enterprises require money. Religions as well. The style was for religionists of old to dress as beggars but that will not do nowadays. Moreover, another characteristic of religions of ages past is that their founders did not become famous until after they died. They were either not well known nor appreciated while alive. Shinran and Honen are both such examples. Nichiren gained notice shortly before death, but in any case, that course of action will not do in this age.

TAKEUCHI: People do indeed have to be shown hope.

MEISHU-SAMA: For that, a vehicle is certainly needed.

TAKEUCHI: An organization must be created. In that sense, you met with that awful experience because you did not have an organization.

MEISHU-SAMA: Yes, the contents are essential but the whole project must be dealt with boldly and decisively.

TAKEUCHI: In that regard, the construction I just witnessed is quite bold. Someone with an ordinary level of intelligence would never be able to conceive of such a project.

Applying a Religious Sensibility to Le Corbusier

MEISHU-SAMA: To that point, most religious architecture is old-fashioned, of a form hundreds or thousands of years prior. I do think that old forms are of no significance at all. Everything must be appropriate to its age. Indeed, it must anticipate the age. In other words, it should perform a guiding role. Therefore, in that sense, the Messianic Hall has the significance of showing the world how religious architecture should be created from now on. And these days, the newest architectural style is that of Le Corbusier from France. This is indeed a form that is most contemporary and that is suited to the present. But, it is a form that is suitable for apartments, companies and government office buildings and not fitting at all for buildings meant for religious use. Accordingly, I have taken the form of Le Corbusier as a base and tried to work out a new concept. The form as created by Le Corbusier does not convey sublimity. What sublimity means in Western architecture are curving lines as in the Renaissance style, and in Japanese architecture, a pure Eastern style as in Buddhist monasteries or in Shinto shrines. That is where I thought of expressing sublimity in the Le Corbusier style. When completed, I do hope the building gains recognition on a global scale.

TAKEUCHI: Did you design the building yourself?


TAKEUCHI: Are you going to decorate the building with items such as stained glass?

MEISHU-SAMA: I might but not a lot. To use stained glass extensively would cheapen the overall effect.

TAKEUCHI: Is there much stained glass produced in Japan?

MEISHU-SAMA: Not much really. Matisse made designs for stained glass but I don’t think much of them at all.

TAKEUCHI: I understand that Matisse tried various unusual combinations of colors and finally found what he was looking for on the third attempt.

MEISHU-SAMA: From the way we look at these things, Matisse’s concept is just like a new form of colored paper crafts.

TAKEUCHI: Yes, it certainly does seem like a new form of paper craft. I believe Matisse was heavily influenced by the Japanese ukiyoe style.

MEISHU-SAMA: Yes. From ukiyoe. Matisse studied Sharaku.

ABE: In the new year issue of the journal Kaizô, Tetsuzô Tanigawa wrote that Le Corbusier took his form from the Japanese architectural style. Windows are quite narrow in Western architecture, but Le Corbusier made his windows larger. He made his walls expansive as well. At least, that was what Tanigawa said.

MEISHU-SAMA: That’s correct. When Korin was introduced in France, it was just at the extreme of the Renaissance style, and Korin’s simplicity caused great amazement. From this combination was born the Art Nouveau style of curves. And, as a reaction to the curved lines was born the straight lines of the Secession, which at the time was quite popular. During that period I arranged to get books on the subject and studied it quite a bit. At the time, I was dealing in ladies accessories, and I had items made in the Secession style which sold quite well. I also put many of my pieces on display at the industrial exhibitions held at the time. But the Secession was quite superficial. After that, there appeared Constructivism and Futurism and such, but what Le Corbusier was aiming for was to avoid extremes and make everything simple. So, he omitted complicated elements as much as possible. Because he considered elaborate roofs wasteful, he took them out. He made the shape of buildings like a block of wood. He also eliminated eaves and canopies and made the form square. He made everything one color, white and did not use any other color. There is nothing more simple or plain than one of Le Corbusier’s designs. Therefore, expenses are kept down and the form is simple, so there is no need to agonize over the plans. That is what made his work so popular. Particularly so, because of the war when all nations were struggling with finances, it was a perfect fit for governments wanting to make large buildings at lower cost. But all these elements do not fit with conditions that are required of religious architecture. That is where I thought of applying a religious sensibility to Le Corbusier’s style, and that is how I came to create that form. I think the design achieves a fair measure of solemnity.

TAKEUCHI: How do you determine the color?

MEISHU-SAMA: The columns are made of artificial stone, so they are dark gray and the spaces in between are white. An architect suggested that I make the entranceway taller and more imposing, but I pared it down and made it like it is now.
     I did ask one rather well-known architect to make a plan, but I just didn’t like what he came up with, so I gave directions to a draftsman and had him draw up my own idea. I had to have him redo it many times, but I finally got him to do the exterior as I had wanted. The result is that model over there. As you can see, the size of the entrance is quite small. The lower section of the walls are in marble made rather high, and the coffered ceiling is also marble but of a different color to distinguish them from the base. From the top, the transom is gilt in gold with a new design, but I cannot talk about it right now. The design is a whole new concept, neither pure Western style, nor Japanese style.  

Upon Completion, a Performance Hall for the World

TAKEUCHI: When the Messianic Hall is completed, I think it would be a very good idea if it were also used for performances by world famous artists, such as the pianist and conductor Cortot. I heard him perform when I was young, but it was in my town’s shabby old public hall which was not such a fitting place, I thought. The surrounding environment should match the level of the performance.

MEISHU-SAMA: That’s exactly right. Therefore in the future, I intend to use the Messianic Hall as something like an Entertainment Hall, exclusively for artistic productions. Therefore, the Messianic Hall is not meant to be the head temple of a religion. The Messianic Hall bears a religious name, but I am constructing it with the idea of using it for theatrical purposes. For example, I intend to ask well-known musicians from abroad to perform there to let people hear music of the highest quality, or to screen good, wonderful movies, or to get first-rate Japanese entertainers to use the place. My future plan is to have, not pictures or sculptures, but performing artists entertain in a good environment with good surrounding scenery in a wonderful building of the latest architecture. The building also has the purpose of showing to the people of the world the excellence of the mental prowess of the culture of Japanese people.

TAKEUCHI: Do you intend to have any murals on the walls?

MEISHU-SAMA: It takes many long years to complete murals on walls. Mr. Kikuzô Ogawa recently brought to show me photographs of mural paintings from the Vatican Palace. These murals are wonderful and they truly deserve praise and respect. Japan will need such features in the future, but they take money and time. It takes one or two decades to create something truly worthwhile.

TAKEUCHI: Is there any chance of a contemporary artist creating such a masterpiece?

MEISHU-SAMA: There is no one who could create such a masterpiece.

TAKEUCHI: I imagine it is not possible to create such tremendous projects these days.

MEISHU-SAMA: Such projects come about when the nation state enjoys prosperity. For Japan, that means the Momoyama era and for the West, the period of the Roman Empire. There were many buildings in the Momoyama era in Japan that were covered in gold leaf. The Nijo Palace in Kyoto is such an example. Nowadays, perhaps the Meiji Restoration could have been, but such a time is really not here yet. Japan has been preoccupied with war and there were no extra finances that could have been used for such purposes. But a time when such projects can be contemplated will come. Even so, the U.S.-U.S.S.R. problem has to resolved first.

The Future Newspaper

TAKEUCHI: At present, Hochi newspaper is focused on the three fields of sports, entertainment, and culture, so its style differs from other newspapers.

MEISHU-SAMA: It is probably not worthwhile to have the same editorial policy as other newspapers. Through the years, I have had various impressions of newspapers. The photographs in the Sun newspaper are of rather poor quality, lacking in clarity. They should be larger and more striking. They are too commonplace with no charm. Since the Sun is smaller, I think it would be good to have a publication the size of a regular newspaper, with not as many photographs as Sun, composed half of photographs and half of text. In other words, generally speaking, produce a publication with more photographs than newspapers now carry and more text than Sun now runs.
KONISHI: I think you could create a really good newspaper if you devoted yourself to newspaper management.

The Mission of Japan

MEISHU-SAMA: There is one more point I would like to make. I did not talk about this topic before the signing of the peace treaty. Of all the peoples on earth, the Japanese are the most excellent. This can be seen looking at the facts. There is no other national group that has absorbed as much of the cultures of the world as the Japanese. I alluded to this previously in a rather small-scale lecture meeting, but Japan can be thought of as an automobile assembly plant. Ford has different parts made at various factories but brings the pieces together at the main plant to assemble and then deliver the cars for sale. I believe that this is what Japan does. The cultures of the United States, England, Germany, and of East Asia, of China, India and other nations have all entered Japan and I think you could say we have done a magnificent job of assembling a culture here, which, I believe, is the mission of Japan. The people to carry out that mission are the Japanese, which makes the Japanese, the most outstanding. Until now the cultures of each nation have been appreciated only on a partial basis, for example, the United States for its technological advances; England, for its socialism; France, for its art and literature. It is the Japanese who will incorporate such characteristics from each nation and synthesize them into an ideal culture. Such will be how Japan will proceed from now on. So far, Japan has been only in preparation for fulfilling this mission, but when World War III is over, Japan’s synthesizing activities will accelerate. The Japanese have the temperament to fulfill this mission in the future. There is no other national people who can digest the cultures of each nation to the extent that the Japanese are able. In general terms, the Far East is a spiritual culture, and the West is a material culture. The East is vertical and the West is horizontal. The time to join these two aspects is as I have just said and the nation that will join them is Japan. And in Japan, it is World Messianity that will bring together these two aspects. World Messianity’s badge is the balanced cross; the red circle represents Japan, and the golden color shows the Golden Age. But as you know, nowadays the Japanese really do have a sense of inferiority.

TAKEUCHI: After the war, the sentiment was especially so.

MEISHU-SAMA: Yes. That was the aim in publishing a book titled Salvation for Americans. To use a phrase like “salvation for Americans” shows that it is coming from a place of a higher level. I thought the title would provide a bit of stimulus.
     Tuberculosis is quite prevalent in the U.S., and I have written thoroughly about germs. Germs infect so they must killed is the claim of medical science, but from our perspective, this way of thinking is infantile. Even if germs were transmitted, they did not just suddenly appear, they must have had a source of generation. Medical science theory does not clarify this point. I have described how germs are generated and how they grow.

TAKEUCHI: From now on, I would certainly like to see you put your ideas out on a wider scale and appeal to all of Japan.

MEISHU-SAMA: I intend to.

TAKEUCHI: If you would do so, the Japanese people as a whole will gain more self-confidence which would be tremendously good.

MEISHU-SAMA: Japanese society is completely sullied, so when the impurity is removed and society, polished, it is tremendous. Just as with a diamond, when it is cut, even in the shape of octagon, it is a wonderful thing after it is polished, but the diamond is not so when just taken from the river.

TAKEUCHI: Right after the end of the war, Koreans were quite full of themselves and there were some Japanese individuals who said they wanted to become Korean. I am sorry to say so, but even if President Syngman Rhee were to come to Japan now, there is probably no one who would want to be Korean, things have changed so much even from then.

MEISHU-SAMA: Yes. The Japanese have the mission that I just referred to, so they have been greatly polished through the miseries of war.

TAKEUCHI: I would like to carry your opinions in our newspaper once in a while. I certainly hope you will cooperate.

MEISHU-SAMA: It is no easy task. Because our culture so far has been in such error, matters must now be made thorough and complete. Never enough can people be made to read about the condition of the world today, so in the future I hope this topic is an attention getter and that the Hochi sells lots of newspapers. If you publish what I teach, it will certainly become a topic, and as a topic, everyone will read about it, so it is an excellent idea. That is true with everything. It is good to have something become a social topic or problem. Silly, insignificant matters are of no use because they are only temporary, but that which is substantial can become well known by many quite quickly, though what I am speaking of are issues only in the positive sense.

KOSAKA: Recently, Meishu-sama, you are becoming “a problem” in the good sense of the word. What I mean is that in Tokyo the general view of World Messianity has completely changed in the last three years. There had been various misunderstandings about World Messianity, but people in Tokyo have come to realize that World Messianity can make a contribution to society. In other words, the positive aspects of World Messianity have come to be appreciated, so we can see that society has come to view World Messianity in a different light. I would like to see even in the newspaper this point investigated and reported. 

Eikô, Issue 193, January 28, 1953
 translation by cynndd