To Japanese

About Mrs. Michiyo Miwa – A Sculptor and Painter of Faith

A brief introduction by Dr. Masatoshi Iguchi




(Buddhist statues)

It was about ten years ago when I was writing an article about the Guardians of Temples and Shrines that I encountered the picture of “The Statue of Bodhisena (菩提僊那)”, sculptured by Mrs. Michiyo Miwa (born 1966) and dedicated to the Todaiji Temple in Nara, and contacted with her for the first time to ask permission to duplicate the picture in my article (uploaded in my website, She envisaged the stereogram of the monk with reference to an old painting and carved the beautiful statue in the late 1990s. Before then, she engaged in the imitation carving of Seated-figure of Shunjobou Chougen (俊乗房重源上人坐像) in 1994, also in the same temple, for her Master of Arts from Tokyo University of the Arts.



Figure 1
: Portrait of the Four Saints (1377 AD). From the left to right: Rev. Ryoben, Emperor Shomu, Rev. Bodhisena, and Rev. Gyoki. Duplicated from Temple, Asahi Newspaper Publications 1999). Right: The Statue of Bodhisena by Michiyo Miwa (Late 1990s). Duplicated from Temple, Asahi Newspaper Publications 1999).



Figure 2
Michiyo Uehara (Miwa) working on the imitation carving of the Seated-figure of Shunjobou Chougen at the north-side of Shunjodo Hall, Todaiji Temple. Early 1990s. Duplicated from




As seen in the list of exhibitions and attached photographs shown in her websites: and  

her repertoire ranges from Buddha statues, to portraits, animals and familiar items but she is always concerned not only with the appearance but about the interior of objects, not merely the heart and mind of man and animal. She assumes the existence of soul even in vegetables and still lives, and tries to hear their voices. For short, I would portray Mrs. Miwa as a Sculptor and Painter of Faith.




In September 2021, I received an invitation and went to see her in the exhibition,

entitled: “Miwa Kouki* & Michiyo Exhibition: Spin the world from Tomioka”,

held at Tomioka City Art Museum, 11 September – 7 November 2021. (*Kouki is her husband, also an artist.) For reference, the Art Museum is located not far from the “Tomioka Silk Mill”, now registered as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, which was built in 1872 by the Meiji Government as the first silk spinning factory equipped with modern machineries in Japan.



(Silkworm Divine Cat)

One of the major exhibited items was Mrs. Miwa’s recent work named “Silkworm Divine Cat (蚕神猫)” that was imagined to guard silkworms from mice. Although Mrs. Miwa’s works are usually traded at high prices, at least several thousand dollars a piece, for this event she prepared a similar statue named “Silkworm Divine Cat Dharma (蚕神猫だるま)” and offered its limited number of replicas to registered members at an affordable price.




Figure 3
The Statues of “Sericulture Divine Cat” and “Silkworms”, by Michiyo Miwa, 2021. Photo taken by the translator exhibited at Tomioka Art Museum (26 Sept. 2021).




Figure 4
Replicas of “Silkworm Divine Cat Dharma”, by Michiyo Miwa, 2021, ready to be distributed to registered members. Photo taken by the translator at Tomioka Art Museum (26 Sept. 2021).




She told me that the original statue of Sericulture Divine Cat was made of clay and replicated with a modern silicone mould to form the hollow figure of hemp fibre and urushi mixture, the material traditionally used for making Buddha-statues. The replicas of Sericulture Divine Cat Dharma were processed by a similar method but the material used was papermache. In the latter case, every piece was hand-coated, and the black spots, the face elements and letters were drawn by hand, hence the appearance was different one by one.



(New book: "Forms of Pray")

The Silkworm Divine Cat Dharma came to the members together with a new book, authored and entitled: Michiyo Miwa, “Forms of Pray (祈りのかたち, Inori no katachi)”, published from Jomo Newspaper Co. 10 Sept 2021, ISBN-13: 978-4863522923).




Figure 5
: Michiyo Miwa’s book, “Forms of Pray (祈りのかたち, Inori no katachi)”, published from Jomo Newspaper Co. 10 Sept 2021, ISBN-13: 978-4863522923).



(A philosopher and writer, as well as a sculptor)

The book has proved that Mrs. Miwa is a devout philosopher and good writer, as well as a talented sculptor and painter, whilst many artists tend to leave the description of their works and backgrounds to critics or professional writers.


It is quite unfortunate that the low vision that Mrs. Miwa has suffered ever since her thirties is getting worse, but she has taken the disease granted as a trial of god, maintaining her strong will for life.


Attached is an English translation of a chapter, “The Deity of Sericulture”, in the abovementioned book, the full list of contents of which is given below.    


Forms of Pray: Contents

(1) Introduction

(2) Kamunagara Statue in Haruna Shrine

       <Tweet> Repair of Kamunagara Statue/ The Secret of Making Wooden Mosaic Works.

(3) Clay Figures in Ruined Sannou Temple

       <Tweet> Prayer and Decoration/ The Secret of Clay Figures

(4) Eleven-faced Kuwannon

       <Tweet> Messages from fragments/ The Secret of Statues Carved with Hatchet

(5) Small gilt bronze Buddha Figures

       <Tweet> Immigrants and Karashina Shrine/ The Secret of Wax-Mould Casting

(6) Sculpture of Shrines and Temples

       <Tweet> A Tale of Craftsman Kenchan/ The Secret of Preliminary Sketch

(7) Miyata Acara and Datsueba

       <Tweet> Hands are eyes! / The Secret of Replica and Imitative Carving

(8) The Deity of Sericulture

       <Tweet> I made a Silkworm Divine Cat/ Secret of Sericulture God

(9) Byakue Great Kuwannon

       <Tweet> The story of Byakue Great Kuwannon/ The Secret of the Eyes of Big Buddha

(10) Led by Internal voice

       Note: The chapters have been numbered just for the sake of convenience.




January 2022


Dr. Masatoshi Iguchi,

Nerima, Tokyo,