Just over a year ago I did a post on the Japan-British exhibition of 1910, tracking where the exhibits ended up when the exhibition was over. The one that interested me the most was the one-tenth scale model of the Taitokuin Mausoleum, the memorial to the second Tokugawa Shogun in Zojo-ji Temple in Shiba. It was presented to the then King, George V, and remained for many years in the Royal Collection in dismantled form. But then what happened? I’ve only just found out.
The original Taitokuin Mausoleum was built in 1632 in the precincts of the Tokugawa family temple of Zojo-ji as a memorial to Tokugawa Hidetada (1579 –1632), the second Tokugawa Shogun. Sadly, it was destroyed by wartime bombing of Tokyo in 1945.
The model was commissioned by the City of Tokyo for the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition in London, and was created by a team of carpenters, lacquer artists and sculptors under the supervision of experts at the Tokyo Art School, including the sculptor Takamura Koun.
After the exhibition it went to Kew Gardens, where it was on display for many years, but was then dismantled and stored, forgotten. But, after lying in pieces for so long, last year it was sent back to Japan for restoration and reassembly, and will go on display at Zojo-ji as the centrepiece of an exhibition to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of Tokugawa Ieyasu, Hidetada’s father, which opens to the public today (2nd April).
The model is 3.6 metres wide, 5.4 metres long and 1.8 metres high and replicates both the inside and the outside of the three interlocking buildings of the Taitokuin Mausoleum complex – the Main Hall, Worship Hall, and Connecting Hall. It faithfully incorporates the materials and techniques used in the Mausoleum, including thousands of miniature copper roof tiles, each the size of a thumb-nail.
The conservation work has focused on the Main Hall, including repairing and cleaning the roof tiles, lacquered timber framing and doors, bamboo blinds, the Tokugawa family crests and the gilded wall paintings of the paradise of the Amida Buddha. The two Pillars of Paradise, which flank the main altar, have been restored, the fence surrounding the Mausoleum has been cleaned and reassembled, and the whole model restored to its former intricate and colourful glory.
With thanks to Jane Wallis, a furniture restorer at the Royal Collection who took the Taitokuin model to Tokyo last April and who told me what had happened to it.