Who is Shoei Umeyama?
The contents in the label drawing can be found under the drawing image.
Drawing of an Introductory Panel for Who is Shoei Umeyama?, 2017, graphite on paper, 31 x 23 inches
Shoei Umeyama's self portrait
as a boy
(detail from Umeyama's Family Portrait)
(from the label drawing)
Who is Shoei Umeyama?
Shoei Umeyama, was a Japanese man who lived about 170 years ago in Japan. He was among the first to travel by means of time-teleportation in the mid-19th century. His target location and era was totally random, bringing him to various early 21st century locations including South Texas, in the United States.
His first time teleportation experience occurred abruptly when he was in his late 30s and working as a scholar for former Japanese Government. It was right before the end of Japan’s closed-door policy and information about the western world was only available in limited quantities to the average citizen.
Because of the time and cultural differences, even for Umeyama, a well-educated man of his time, everything he saw in our contemporary world was very foreign, novel and strange. In an attempt to understand and make sense of those “mysteries”, he fully utilized his knowledge and reasoning power as a Japanese scholar from 170 years ago. During his visits to various locations and times, he conducted a variety of fieldwork, and started to draw diagrams in addition to collecting objects.
After he time-teleported back to Japan, he unveiled his reports and findings in public, and people started to call the fruits of his fieldwork, Umeyama Reports. The Umeyama Reports made a tremendous impact on society in Japan. For example, Umeyama showed a report on the fire hydrants which he saw in South Texas to a Shinto priest. They thoughtfully considered the status of fire hydrants as guardians or amulets of the city. They soon agreed to call them Mokkenshu, which means silent guardian protector. In the Shinto religion, there are multitude of gods, including gods of mundane objects such as brushes, papers and kitchens, etc. It was, therefore, natural for them to start worshipping what we call fire hydrants. Mokkenshu was very well received by the Japanese at that time. Then, as western culture started to exert its influence on the country, the boom of worshiping Mokkenshu died down. However, nowadays, the deity Mokkenshu is still worshipped in some regions of Japan as a protection for schoolchildren.