Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire through Japanese eyes: Buddhism, Christianity, and Shintoism

Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire through Japanese eyes: Buddhism, Christianity, and Shintoism

The contemporary Japanese artist, Sawako Utsumi, who hails from Northern Japan, once more creates a lovely art piece. Spiritually, her background is based on Shintoism and tinged with Buddhism based on the cultural legacy. Yet, in general, the Shinto faith predominates despite paying deep respect during her visit to Buddhist temples. However, aspects of Christianity also appeal to Utsumi, even if this is in the cultural realm and based on small Christian churches appearing like folk Shintoism.

Unsurprisingly, Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire appealed greatly to Utsumi based on visual images of this Grade I listed building. In her mindset, the terrible events of the Dissolution (1536-1541) – or the Dissolution of the Monasteries – can be understood, to a degree, by the stunning grounds and buildings that remain of Fountains Abbey. This relates to the legacy of the spiritual effect that Fountains Abbey is still blessed with despite the terrible events of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

In other words, the secularization of modern-day Japan and the United Kingdom are creating a religious vacuum that is being entered by new “soulless cultures.” The upshot of this is that major Christian Cathedrals in the United Kingdom – just like potent Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in places like Koyasan, Kyoto, Nara, Nikko, and others – are important popular windows into a past that is often far-away from everyday life. Hence, these major centers of religion in Japan and the United Kingdom are still attracting countless numbers of people; despite vast numbers of ordinary Buddhist, Christian, and Shinto holy places struggling to attract worshippers in big numbers. However, often people who visit or pray are disconnected with the real tenets of the respective faiths based on secularization and modernization.

One can only imagine the utter devastation and disconnection felt by many Christian holy people and lay people during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Likewise, in post World War Two in the land of the rising sun, it is clear that Buddhism and Shintoism were put on a back burner. This is based on the demands of America put on Japan and the collaboration of Japanese political elites. Therefore, the new mantra focused heavily on modernization and high technology fused with many precepts that apply to Confucian logic in the realm of ethics and educational attainment.

The New Statesman reports, “It is said that Japanese marry in a Shinto ritual and live life with Confucian ethics, and the deceased is buried and its soul is transformed into ancestors in a Buddhist ritual. These three events are essential factors in a person’s life and the Japanese religions are centered round these three elements, birth, living and death.”

Hence, just like Shinto focuses on ancestors, Utsumi witnesses Fountains Abbey based on a plethora of different factors. For example, the spiritual realm of Fountains Abbey survives both the Dissolution of the Monasteries and modern-day secularization. Therefore, despite Fountains Abbey being but a shadow of a once thriving Christian holy place, just like Shinto ancestors that have long perished, the spiritual psyche remains potent based on the connection of the senses.

Utsumi is utilizing the life of the river by imbuing this flowing continuity inside the remnants of what is left of Fountains Abbey. In this sense, the power of nature in Shinto is a duality of the river within the spiritual mindset when visualizing – or visiting – the delightful Fountains Abbey. In other words, despite the passages of time the spiritual dimension of Fountains Abbey remains potent – just like nature – despite the countless upheavals done by humanity.

Overall, the end result is a delightful art piece by Utsumi who is fusing many themes. This is witnessed by the equal importance of the flowing life of the river that represents the spirituality that Fountains Abbey is blessed with, despite the terrible events of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Therefore, nature and spirituality come together to create a multi-dimensional effect to this gorgeous art piece by Utsumi.

Lee Jay Walker


Japanese Artist and Landscapes of Manchester: Blackley Forest, Heaton Park, and River Irk

Japanese Artist and Landscapes of Manchester: Blackley Forest, Heaton Park, and River Irk

The contemporary Japanese artist, Sawako Utsumi, fuses the art world of Japan and Europe based on an array of areas. For example, from the inspiration of traditional Dutch art to the cityscapes of Paris. Similarly, her Japanese art focuses on angles related to Buddhism, Shintoism, and old art forms. At the same time, Utsumi adores the landscapes of the High Peak area and Peak District in general; in relation to the stunning county of Derbyshire and the beautiful Christian churches that dot the landscape. However, in this article, the emphasis is on Heaton Park and the hidden gem of Blackley Forest in Manchester.

Ironically, while these two art pieces focus on the natural landscapes of Manchester, Utsumi also adores L.S. Lowry (Lowry inspired art piece below by Utsumi) with his connection to Salford and Manchester respectively. In stark contrast to L.S. Lowry, who especially focused on scenes related to the Industrial Revolution and ordinary working-class lifestyles, Utsumi focuses on the angle of nature in relation to her landscapes of Manchester.

In her latest oil painting, titled the Hidden Gem of Blackley Forest in Manchester, the adorable natural landscape comes alive. Indeed, the other art piece, titled Laburnum Tree in Splendid Isolation, is also based in the same part of north Manchester. However, despite Blackley Forest and Heaton Park sharing the same environment and being within a few minutes walking distance, it is true to say that Blackley Forest is a genuine “Hidden Gem.” After all, you rarely see many people relaxing in this less known part of Manchester despite Blackley Forest being extremely beautiful and blessed with a rich natural habitat for animals, birds, various species of trees, and plants. Also, Utsumi focuses on the natural beauty of the River Irk that flows into the River Irwell in central Manchester.

The art piece by Utsumi shows Blackley Forest in all its natural beauty. This applies to the delightful landscape and the mellow walk by the River Irk. Hence, the natural flow of the River Irk blends beautifully with trees, flowers, and plants, depicted by Utsumi in her latest art piece.

In a past article, I state, “The other art piece, Laburnum Tree in Splendid Isolation, highlights the natural beauty of nature. Indeed, for individuals who adore the laburnum tree, then while the original art piece is located in northwest England, the tree itself could be in various parts of this nation. Immediately, the adorable laburnum tree hits the individual because people who love this species will have vivid memories.”

Overall, this contemporary Japanese artist continues to blossom because of the array of angles to her art. Therefore, her latest art piece illuminates the stunning beauty of Blackley Forest in Manchester.

Lee Jay Walker

Please email Sawako Utsumi at


Book Review: Sawako Utsumi and her Kindred Spirit

European and Japanese Art: Buddhism, Christianity, Landscapes, Rinpa, Shintoism, Ukiyo-e, and Dutch Masters – Please click on to order the book. Sawako Utsumi and where you can buy her art, postcards, bags, and other products. Also, individuals can contact her for individual requests. Hidden Gem of Blackley Forest by Sawako Utsumi Laburnum Tree in Splendid Isolation by Sawako Utsumi Sawako Utsumi and articles related to her art.


Japanese Art and Creativity of Sawako Utsumi: Sakai Hoitsu and Yokoyama Taikan

Japanese Art and Creativity of Sawako Utsumi: Sakai Hoitsu and Yokoyama Taikan


Sawako Utsumi is a modern artist from Japan who adores the richness of European and Japanese art. At the same time, this exquisite artist also adores painting landscapes of the natural beauty of the High Peak in Derbyshire, the richness of Christian churches that dot the landscape of this part of England and fusing ideas from her Buddhist and Shinto background. On top of this, the legacy of artists including Pieter Brueghel, L.S. Lowry, Sakai Hoitsu, Yuzo Saeki, Kamisaka Sekka, Yokoyama Taikan, J.M.W. Turner, Maurice Utrillo and Esaias van de Velde appeal greatly – along with other artists. Therefore, Utsumi is always looking for new angles irrespective if original landscapes and themes – or if paying tributes to artists that she adores but from individual color schemes and unique angles.

In this article, the main focus is Utsumi expressing her artistic admiration towards Hoitsu and Taikan. These two Japanese artists are extremely different because Hoitsu was born in the middle of the eighteenth century, whereas Taikan (1868-1958) belongs to twentieth-century art. At the same time, the artistic, historical, religious and political world that impacted on both artists is a million miles apart.


Despite this, Utsumi isn’t restrained by time and different approaches to art. This reality works a treat and the same applies to fusing the richness of her individual internal creativity, with the natural beauty of past European and Japanese artists. The upshot of this reality shines through the art of Utsumi.

Taikan witnessed many momentous political and social changes throughout his lifetime. In contrast, Hoitsu belongs solely to the Edo Period. Given this reality, Taikan fully understood the chaotic nature of life and the ongoing changes taking place within the artistic movement in Japan. Hoitsu, on the other hand, turned the clock back because he admired Ogata Korin (1658-1716) greatly. Therefore, continuity and a more sedate art world appealed to Hoitsu.


In the art pieces by Utsumi titled “Modern Reflection of Sakai Hoitsu” and “New Japanese Artistic Cloud of Yokoyama Taikan” in this article, it is clear that she is trying to bridge the gap of time and place. Similarly, Utsumi who is paying homage to Hoitsu and Taikan is highlighting the power of rinpa (rimpa) art within these art pieces. Yet, true to the nature of Utsumi, this modern Japanese artist is doing this from a unique angle that transgresses the real virtue of rinpa art.

Intriguingly, in the art piece titled “New Japanese Artistic Cloud of Yokoyama Taikan,” it is abundantly clear that Utsumi is creating a very different outcome from the original art piece by Taikan. However, “Modern Reflection of Sakai Hoitsu” is based on continuity. Therefore, it is apparent that Utsumi is playing on the reality of their respective artistic and historical times within Japanese history.

Lee Jay Walker – Sawako Utsumi and where you can buy her art, postcards, bags, and other products. Also, individuals can contact her for individual requests.

Maurice Utrillo in the Heart of Sendai Artist: Yuzo Saeki to Sawako Utsumi

Maurice Utrillo in the Heart of Sendai Artist: Yuzo Saeki to Sawako Utsumi


The French artist Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955), just like the British artist L.S. Lowry (1887-1976), are two of the most predominant artists to hail from France and the United Kingdom in the twentieth century. Of course, internationally, Utrillo is more famously known but this shouldn’t distract from the individualism of Lowry. Therefore, with the contemporary Japanese artist Sawako Utsumi adoring Lowry and Utrillo, then she often pays homage to the stunning art that they created.

In this article, the focus is on Utrillo and his amazing cityscapes that appeal so much to Utsumi. According to Utsumi you can feel a hidden soul in what should be the mundane.”

Utsumi is alluding to the countless cityscapes produced by Utrillo because these art pieces are not based on creating a dramatic and false impression. On the contrary, Utrillo focuses on reality and natural settings. Despite this, you can “feel a hidden soul.”


Indeed, when viewing the art of Yuzo Saeki (1898-1928) you can often feel his pain within the art he produced. This alludes to his serious health issues and the alienation he felt while painting in Paris. After all, not only was Saeki far from the land of the rising sun, but also, equally important, his deteriorating health and cultural alienation weighed heavily on Saeki. This reality created a sense of alienation, fear, despair and other negatives within the magnificent art of Saeki.

However, despite Utrillo also suffering from bouts of ill health throughout his life and alienation when younger, it is hard to see this within his cityscapes. Ironically, the different realities of Saeki and Utrillo appeal greatly to Utsumi. Therefore, this contemporary artist from Sendai focuses on creativity, fusions, passion and aspects of chaos even when not always visibly clear.

I comment in a past article about Utrillo “In his younger days Utrillo had a rebellious spirit in relation to studying and issues related to alcoholism. At the same time, he suffered from mental health issues from an early age. Therefore, by the age of 21 his mother opened his eyes to a much greater extent towards art in order to help Utrillo fight back against mental health issues.”


Intriguingly, while Utsumi isn’t blighted by either alcoholism or mental health issues that infringed negatively on Utrillo, she did refocus on art during a period of personal hardship. Therefore, for famous artists like Saeki and Utrillo – and for Utsumi – they breathe art from various different perspectives.

Lee Jay Walker – Sawako Utsumi and where you can buy her art, post cards, bags, and other products. Also, individuals can contact her for individual requests.

L.S. Lowry and Sawako Utsumi: Bleak Northern Reality to Light of Sendai

L.S. Lowry and Sawako Utsumi: Bleak Northern Reality to Light of Sendai


L.S. Lowry (1887-1976) and Sawako Utsumi come from two very different cultures that have been shaped by the respective faiths of Buddhism, Christianity and Shintoism. Of course, in modern day Japan and the United Kingdom then secularism is altering the religious landscape. At the same time, new faiths in the United Kingdom representing Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism are especially impacting in major cities. Likewise, the legacy and the reality of the Industrial Revolution was especially potent for Lowry whereas for Utsumi, a contemporary artist from modern Japan, then her reality is shaped by the countryside of the Sendai region to the neon lights of Tokyo.

Lowry during his artistic informative years still wasn’t sure about the direction he was going in. However, just like the chaos of life, one day a new reality dawned on Lowry whereby he would firmly focus on what inspired him. In saying this, Lowry is much more diverse than most people appear to realize. However, clearly his legacy belongs to urban and industrial themes dotted by individual forms of people.


Lowry says “At first I detested it, and then, after years I got pretty interested in it, then obsessed by it … One day I missed a train from Pendlebury – (a place) I had ignored for seven years — and as I left the station I saw the Acme Spinning Company’s mill … The huge black framework of rows of yellow-lit windows standing up against the sad, damp charged afternoon sky. The mill was turning out … I watched this scene — which I’d looked at many times without seeing — with rapture…”

Utsumi, coming from a very different culture and environment – and being born in the mid-1970s – brings a new light to the darkness and natural beauty of Lowry. In Utsumi’s two art pieces in this article (painting 2-4), whereby she is paying homage to the rich legacy of Lowry, Utsumi brings the light of her grandparents (now passed away but remaining strongly within her heart) and the environment she knows.


The contrast from the originals by Lowry – to the creativity of Utsumi – creates a natural state of mind that highlights the difference in time and perspectives. In the world of Lowry you had hard working people battling against the reality of industrialization, pollution and poverty. However, for Utsumi, while acknowledging that poverty still persists in modern Japan and the United Kingdom, the neon lights of Tokyo to the comforting rural areas of the Sendai region provides hope.

Overall, the different angles shine magically because Utsumi prefers to focus on her own reality of Lowry. This applies to an inner beauty that isn’t masked by the themes and darkness of certain art pieces by Lowry. Therefore, the spark that Lowry created is extremely important to this modern Japanese artist who hails from Sendai.


Given this reality, Utsumi is paying homage to Lowry based on different thought patterns and periods of history. The end result is extremely uplifting because the power of the originals by Lowry will always remain potent, while the lightness of Utsumi illuminates her own personal creativity while not distracting from the richness of Lowry.

Lee Jay Walker – Sawako Utsumi personal website – Sawako Utsumi and where you can buy her art, post cards, bags, and other products. Also, individuals can contact her for individual requests.

L.S. Lowry and Maurice Utrillo Through the Eyes of a Japanese Artist

L.S. Lowry and Maurice Utrillo Through the Eyes of a Japanese Artist


L.S. Lowry (1887-1976) and Maurice Utrillo (1883-1955) were born in the 1880s and perished well into the twentieth century. Both individuals created countless amazing pieces of art but from very different angles. This reality hit a chord with Sawako Utsumi, who hails from the Sendai region in Japan, because she appreciates the richness of both artists.

Sawako Utsumi ( is still searching and experimenting with her art but before focusing more internally, this delightful artist from Japan seeks to feel the souls of past great artists. Therefore, certain elements and cross-diversity themes in relation to Japanese and European art are currently paramount within the heart of Sawako Utsumi.


In the three art pieces highlighted in this article by Sawako Utsumi one art piece is in appreciation and admiration of L.S. Lowry, and the other two art pieces in relation to Maurice Utrillo. However, within her own personal art you will witness various themes and this applies to English landscapes, Japanese rinpa, Still Life, religious elements of various faiths – and the mirage of time, emotion, philosophy, space, and tricks within the shadows of European and Japanese art.

During the lifetime of L.S. Lowry, especially in the early years, many individuals within the art world didn’t appreciate his independent and creative art. Indeed, elements of snobbery and lack of feeling the artistic soul of L.S. Lowry within his heart, meant that some individuals looked down on him. Yet, true to the nature of L.S. Lowry, he responded by saying “If people call me a Sunday painter I’m a Sunday painter who paints every day of the week!”


I stress in a past article: “This comment by Lowry highlights his roots because it shows no weakness and highlights his enormous self-belief. Also, Lowry didn’t seek compassion because his art would do the talking. Therefore, people can either accept his uniqueness or reject it. Either way, Lowry didn’t desire compliance because he held firm to what made him special. However, in saying this, it must be stated that his art is more diverse than most people give him credit for.”

In contrast, it is clear that Maurice Utrillo had an easier route given the artistic reality of his mother and the many connections she had. Despite this, life was never easy for Maurice Utrillo because he suffered from various health issues, including mental health problems. Therefore, art became a form of therapy during the early stages but in time the soul of this amazing artist would be felt deeply.


Christianity would also impact on Maurice Utrillo despite his upbringing and the relentless struggles that he faced. I comment in a past article about this rich artist: “Throughout the life of Utrillo mental asylums became a reality because often he was interned into these institutions. Despite this, Utrillo produced an abundance of stunning art pieces and in 1928 he was awarded the Cross of the Legion d’honneur by the government of France. Also, by the middle of the 1930s Utrillo became increasingly religious in relation to Christianity.”

In the three art pieces by Sawako Utsumi titled Japanese Eyes and Utrillo, Lowry and Shadow of Japan and Mirage of Utrillo, it is clear that you can also feel the individualism of this modern artist from Japan within her art pieces. This is based on her admiration and appreciation of L.S. Lowry and Maurice Utrillo, while providing different color schemes and implementing certain dynamics in relation to creativity, culture, space, light, the mirage of time and personal meanings.

Lee Jay Walker – Sawako Utsumi personal website – Sawako Utsumi and where you can buy her art, post cards, bags, and other products. Also, individuals can contact her for individual requests.