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Published 2021 by Mitsumara Suiko Shoin.
288 pages.

Taikichi Irie was born Nara prefecture in 1905, and from an early age set his heart on becoming an artist. At the age of 17, his brother gave him a camera which triggered his lifelong love of photography. At the age of 26, he set up a photography shop, Kogeisha, in Osaka, but the shop suffered heavy damage during US bombing raids in the Second World War, and in 1945 he and his wife returned to Irie's hometown in Nara. The surrounding landscape of his Nara home combined scenic beauty with ancient temples — exuding a sense of peacefulness and tranquility, and evoking images of the area's distant history. This was the perfect remedy for the trauma Irie had experienced in Osaka. However, immediately after the end of the war, a rumor circulated that the US occupation forces were planning to round up all the ancient Buddhist statuary in Nara and ship them to the US. Aware that these statues were a key element in the make-up of the Japanese psyche, Irie decided that the least he could do was to take photographic images that captured the essence of Nara's Buddhist statues. He then embarked on a journey around Nara's Yamatoji area — that would eventually take half a century — to capture images of Nara's ancient temples and natural beauty. The Yamatoji refers to the area that extends south from Kyoto to modern-day Nara prefecture. This is the area where the people of Japan in the Asuka (538-710AD) and the Tenpyo (729-749AD) periods blended their existing belief and practice of nature worship with Buddhist ideology. Irie set about his self-appointed mission of capturing the quintessential soul of the Nara plains to appeal to a wide Japanese audience while also seeking to pay homage to those countless generations who had come before.

Irie turned to color photography to express the beauty of the Nara Yamatoji area in delicate color tones. When he first turned his hand to color photography, Irie experienced some initial teething problems, but he was able to develop his own style of restrained color, which came to be known as the Irie-style and which informed the later images that won him wide acclaim. His works serve as a vivid reminder of the essence that shaped the mindset of those who lived in ancient times, and awake a dormant longing in the viewer to return to one's own roots. These photographs have been combined with the writings of ancient Man’yoshu poets.