現代仏師界のホープ 彫刻家・加藤巍山 The guy who makes Buddha statues for a living: Gizan Katou and the art of the Busshi.


In Japan, a ‘Busshi’ is somebody who makes Buddha statues. In the middle of Shibuya, where a sea of never-ending smartphones glimmer in the neon lights and electo-music-laced adverts blast out of huge TV screens, it’s an occupation hard to fathom. However, sculptor Gizan Katou is being proclaimed as the new hope for Busshi nationwide.

Q.仏の姿を形作ってきた仏師という存在The history of the Busshi



Buddhism entered Japan in the middle of the sixth century as a fashionable and cutting-edge religion from overseas. It spread like wildfire amongst the masses, regarded as a popular trend akin to the latest boyband or hairstyle. In the midst of the mania, Busshi were regarded as ultra-hip creators, sculpting Tathagatas and Bodhisattva’s, Vidyaraja’s and Buddha of all different types in a variety of poses and styles.

Nowadays, the image of the Buddha is commonplace in Japan – plastic novelty keyrings are sold at temple gift shops and trendy select shops charge a fortune for huge modernistic statues. However to really get the real deal, you have to look to someone like Katou, who takes Busshi art to a whole new level.

Loosing sense of time in speedy Tokyo
with Katou’s Buddha


Katou worked under a teacher of Kouun Takamura style (the famous Japanese sculptor responsible for creating Ueno Park’s bronze statue of Saigo Takamori) until finally going independent at the age of 38. His work draws a line between the luxuriously vibrant scarlet and golden Buddha of his seniors. Katou instead creates a complex flow of movement as if combining peaceful poetry detailing the stillness of camphor trees with the vigor of contemporary dance. “Quiet” and “Motion” – two supposedly conflicting concepts are brought together in his works, pulling the viewer into a paradoxical world as if time had just frozen forever.




Taking a look at his Facebook page (yes, it’s true, even Busshi are on Facebook), his posts are always self-critical; “My pace is too slow”, “Why do I never have enough time”. If his Buddha sculptures were all put into a room side-by-side, it’s kind of easy to see why his perception of time might be squinted. When asked about how long each piece takes to create, he replies:

“I don’t believe you can work towards the end goal correctly if you’re not feeling 100%. That’s why I wake up at the same time everyday, always make sure to take breaks and always get plenty of sleep. I want my works to transmit a message to people in one thousand or two thousand years – that’s how I view my mission. One hundred years is a bare minimum. That’s why I can’t afford to be sloppy.”

Even amongst the fast-paced buzz of 21st Century life with its 6 second Vines and Instagram snapshots, Katou remains grounded in his view of the long-haul. Perhaps that’s why he stands out. His work has been selected to be displayed at Mitsukoshi in Nihombashi Tokyo from August, with a secondary exhibition at Takishimaya in Osaka starting October.

加藤巍山Gizan Katou

2011年3月11日の東日本大震災で被災した地域に、新たな仏像を奉納しようという「-縁-<ENISHI> 仏像奉納 PROJECT」を手掛け、仏師・三浦耀山とともに活動を継続している。

Born in Tokyo in 1968, Katou worked under Juubun Iwamatsu - a teacher of the Kouun Takamura School - before becoming an independent Busshi. As well as Buddha sculptures, Katou is a seasoned creative contributor to the traditional arts. After the March 2011 Tohoku earthquake, Katou worked with fellow Busshi Youzan Miura in creating a statue of hope for the area in the ‘ENISHI Buddha Project’.


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