Japanese sculpture is a very interesting form of Japanese art. During the 1970s, a new artistic movement called mono-ha became popular. This movement placed importance on the material world and brought about the end of the anti-formalism movement which had been popular on the avant-garde scene for the previous two decades. Mono-ha's focus on people's relationships with objects was widely accepted in the art world. It led to a greater appreciation of the environment and brought Japanese sculpture back to the forms and principles that had been embraced before the anti-formalism movement. The biggest precept that came back into prominence was reverence for the Buddha and his teachings. The artists of this period rejected much of what was being done in the west. The movement created a new art style that was contemporary and Asian. Although it was very unique to Japan, it became a large part of the international art scene of the time. The greatest artists of the mono-ha movement focused on individualism and projecting national style. This was a change as much of the art of the time had been adapting what was popular in the western hemisphere.
Outdoor sculpture became popular with the 1969 opening of the Hakone Open-Air Museum. This movement hit its stride in the 1980s. During this time, many cities had huge outdoor sculptures in plazas and parks. Major architects would plan to include sculptures as they were designing their buildings. Outdoor museums emphasized how sculpture could be placed naturally in the environment. Most of the pieces were made out of plastic, stainless steel, or aluminum. The artists experimented with technology by using flexible arcs and even adding lights to some of the sculptures. Video components also became popular on these outdoor sculptures. While western sculpture emphasized permanent and finite contours, Japanese outdoor sculpture focused on Buddhist themes like regeneration and permeability.
During the decade of the 1980s, natural materials like wood became prominent in most works by Japanese sculptors. Sculptures started to move to more enclosed spaces like inner courtyards. Systematic gestural motion was one of the most popular techniques of the sculptors of this period, most notably Hidetoshi Nagasawa, Kyubei Kiyomizu, and Shigeo Toya. Shingeo Toya came to prominence, along with a group of fresh new Japanese sculptors in the 1980s. This movement was called post-Monoha. It used elements of nature, primal forces, and the Zen aesthetic, which were the focus of the Monoha movement, and added a fresh artistic process to them by carving and coloring the work. These sculptors added additional layers to the works and reasserted the artists' hands in the pieces.
Japanese sculpture as an art form continues to experience creative fertility. New artists and movements are continually evolving and changing the way people view the art of sculpture.