Artist Murakami wields imagination on a massive scale

Artist Murakami wields imagination on a massive scale

TOKYO - Call it his homage to modern Japanese art or a spectacular work of Buddhist salvation. Either way, Takashi Murakami is once again providing the world with a view on Japan through the lense of otaku culture.

"The 500 Arhats" -- a 3-meter tall by 100-meter wide painting -- is now on exhibit at the Mori Art Museum, in the capital's Roppongi district. Arhats are entities considered to be enlightened disciples of the Buddha who spread his teachings and salve humanity from its worldly desires.

The massive work of art is filled with numerous Japanese and other Asian icons. Bizarre yet humorous-looking arhats appear in all shapes and sizes, accompanied by sacred animals that are representative of Japanese art and otaku culture.

Consider the incongruity. Otaku is a Japanese term that describes a person who has grown socially awkward by indulging an obsession with one piece or another of pop culture. It is a word often associated with manga culture. Murakami combines this concept and style with Buddhist disciples and lets his imagination run wild.

Grand scope

"Takashi Murakami: 'The 500 Arhats,'" runs through March 6. It is Murakami's first full-scale retrospective exhibition in Japan in 14 years. The centerpiece made its debut in Qatar three years ago and has since gained a few more elements and details.

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