A Modern Take on Buddhist Statues — An Interview With Sculptor Momoka Miyoshi

Amélie Geeraert
Kokoro Media
Published in
11 min readDec 20, 2023

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Momoka Miyoshi is a young sculptor who made a sensation on social media thanks to her graduation art project, Day Off. The statue shows a Nio guardian–a Buddhist figure that usually stands at the entrance of temples with an angry face–on its day off. The statue’s gentle expression as it is holding a baby provoked many emotional and positive reactions from Japanese people on the internet.

Curious about what gave birth to its concept and the creative mind behind it, I asked Momoka for an interview. At the time, I did not anticipate it would be one of my most emotional interviews. Read on to learn how Momoka became a sculptor, her complex relationship with Buddhist statues, and the moving backstory that fuels all of her art pieces.

Discovering Sculpture as a Means of Expression

Sculpture is the best way for me to put what I have in my head into shape.

Why did you choose sculpting as a career?

It naturally happened as I kept working on what I was good at. I would not say I liked studying, but people often praised me for my drawings. I enjoyed drawing, so I decided to prioritize what felt fun to me and entered an art high school. I learned sculpture, oil painting, traditional Japanese painting, and design there. That is how I discovered I have more talent for sculpture than other arts. It is the best way to put what I have in my head into shape.

After that, I planned to apply to a university where you do not need to take an entrance exam but are judged on your high school results. However, my high school had a high education continuance rate. Some teachers visited us to introduce their art yobiko [private schools that prepare students for university entrance exams] in Tokyo. One of them told me I had the potential to enter the prestigious Tokyo University of the Arts. I took his words seriously and decided to give it a shot. I managed to pass the entrance exam, although it took me an extra year.

You were part of the Sculpture Conservation and Restoration Laboratory at Tokyo University of the Arts. How did this happen, and what did you study there?

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Amélie Geeraert
Kokoro Media

Living in Japan since 2011. I love interviewing inspiring people.