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FEATURE: Artist sculpts puffed corn snacks into Buddhist statues.

TOKYO, Sept. 12 Kyodo

For several years artist Koshi Kawachi has been putting a favorite children's snack called "umaibo" to an unusual use -- sculpting the puffed corn sticks into little statues of Buddha.

At his home in Tokyo he has 107 of these "umaibutsu" (Tasty Buddha), which he sculpted five years ago, under a glass case. The number is one short of the 108 earthly desires of Buddhism, but although Kawachi continues to create the final piece, he says he always yields to greed and ends up eating it.

The 40-year-old artist models the statues on those of Enku, a Buddhist monk and sculptor from the Edo period known for creating wooden Buddhist statues with humorous expressions.

Kawachi held an event in early April this year in Tokyo at which he created a Tasty Buddha in front of the public using an electronic file, while the Tokyo National Museum had an exhibition featuring Enku from January through April.

He says Enku's works are "friendly Buddhist statues engraved on a wooden stick that you can find anywhere," but added, "If Enku were alive today, I believe he would have sculpted statues out of umaibo."

Kawachi, who hails from Tajimi, Gifu Prefecture, and studied at Nagoya University of Arts, is also known as a bookbinding designer.

He started making his Tasty Buddha after his grandfather died five years ago.

"I realized that a human dies someday and I wanted to turn my sorrow into art," he said.

Kawachi said he was exposed to Buddhism for the first time during the wake and funeral for his grandfather and felt that "everyday life had suddenly become extraordinary."

To express his feelings, he made a link between umaibo, which he regarded as a symbol of his everyday life, and the Enku Buddhist statues that he finds so extraordinary.

Kawachi said that among the various flavors, cheese and corn potage umaibo are easy to engrave, while the "takoyaki" octopus-flavored ones are stiff and hard.

"I want people to enjoy my work however they want," he said.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Sep 16, 2013
Words:340
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