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Nine-Meter-Tall Maria Reaches Minamishimabara

Text: Yoshiko Nagai


Sculptor Eiji Oyamatsu’s wooden statue of Maria, featured in Subsequence Vol.4, which he spent 40 years making by himself, has finally been fully installed in Minamishimabara, Nagasaki Prefecture. Transportation work began last July, where a 15-ton truck made two round trips in the blistering summer heat from Oyamatsu’s atelier in Fujisawa, Kanagawa Prefecture. After its arrival, Oyamatsu stayed in Minamishimabara where he rebuilt the deconstructed statue and set out recoloring its surface with tonoko. The scaffolding used in its reconstruction was removed at the beginning of the year. Now the recolored wood has a skin-like warmth to it and the golden lines that decorate it have a deep shine to them.

The location for the Maria statue is former farmland and it looks over not only the remains of Hara Castle where the Shimabara Rebellion took place, but also the stunning landscape of the Amakusa peninsula and Mount Aso. The land and the building were developed with help from donations from Minamishimabara, across Japan, and abroad. There are plans to continue the call for donations so that more facilities like a display room and a car park can be added, with a future aim for the installation, when completed, to be included as part of the sightseeing route that includes the World Heritage Sites of Hara Castle and Arima Christian Heritage Museum.

It is said that the Shimabara Rebellion in 1637 started by suffering farmers against the shogunate due to heavy taxes and laws prohibiting Christianity resulted in around 30,000 deaths. Wishing to imbue his piece with the desire to honor those died, Oyamatsu’s statue has been named St. Mary Kannon of Hara Castle. Many people have been moved by this wish as well as the beauty of the statue itself. It is almost as if this immense statue—so large that it’s hard to believe that it was constructed by a single man—is fulfilling its original role as a depiction of St. Mary in guiding the lost souls at this site of former bloodshed to their rest.

For more details on St. Mary Kannon of Hara Castle, please visit the website of the Townspeople’s Association for Minamishimabara’s World Heritage Sites.

Yoshiko Nagai
She became an independent curator, after having worked for a company planning and producing cultural activities. She connects creators, artworks, and audiences by creating and communicating values in a way that suits the environment. She is the author of “Out of line,” an exhibition by Alison Turnbull (2020, Tokyo), and the booklet Materia Prima, which is published irregularly.

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