Kamijo Shinzan (real name: Shuichi) was born in 1907 in today’s Kambayashi, Matsumoto City. While he went to Nagano Normal School (now Shinshu University), where he spent his college life as the ace in the school’s baseball team, his consecutively won the highest award in the prefectural exhibition for his calligraphy artworks, showing his talent not only in sports but also in art. In 1932, he moved to Tokyo to learn calligraphy and Chinese classics. Later, he learned under Eishi Miyajima, who influenced his artworks most. Eishi told Shinzan to focus on learning Chinese classics, saying ” calligraphy is a mirror that reflects your image. It is not a medium to show others how great you are.” Since then, Shinzan religiously followed his teacher’s guide, devoting himself to copying ancient masterpieces (rinsho) without showing his works at exhibitions, until the teacher passed away. Then, he mastered the basics of Japanese calligraphy to pursue his own style. As he aged, he challenged himself to new expression styles and established his strong, uplifting calligraphy style.
One of his noteworthy achievements is his contribution to the revival of post-war Japanese calligraphy education. In 1947, when GHQ (the Allied Forces General Headquarters) banned teaching Japanese calligraphy at Japanese elementary schools, he established a system of basic theories as a member of the Curriculum Council to lift the ban. Even after the ban was lifted, he diligently made efforts including giving lectures throughout Japan for the continuous development of calligraphy education.
When the Museum was preparing for its opening, about 300 of his calligraphy works were donated to Matsumoto City by Shinzan, who wished “his works to help future calligraphy and art education.” With these works, our Memorial Gallery opened in 2002. In the Memorial Room, we hold about three exhibitions a year with different themes to honor Shinzan Kamijo.