Enjoying Tokyo in Winter (2): National Museum

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Enjoying Tokyo in Winter (2): National Museum

In the previous post I began a topic of indoor activities during a cold winter time which I would like to continue today. Tokyo offers such an enourmous pill of Japanese culture that everybody can find something which please him/her. As an art historian and Asian culture researcher I have a private list of an amazing pieces of art which I would like to see before I die. One of my choices is kept by Tokyo National Museum and is presented to public only for first two weeks of January every year. Today I would like to say few words about this unique masterpiece and Tokyo National Museum itself. Let’s enjoy!

Tokyo National Museum is located in the Ueno and consist from five separate buildings including: Honkan – Japanese Gallery, Toyokan:Asian Gallery, Heiseikan: Japanese Archeology Gallery, The Gallery of Horyuji Treasures and Hyokeikan.
Main exhibition Highlights of Japanese Art is presented in Honkan. I really love this exhibition as it shows Japanese history and culture in chronological development of Japanese art, from Jomon period, over 12,000 years ago, to the fall of the Tokugawa shogunate in the late 19th century. It simply show just the highligts of every period making it a great experience even for those who do not know much about Japanese art.


Japanese Gallery (Honkan)

As a part of celebrating New Year, in January Japanese Gallery provides special exhibition presenting various pieces of art connected with boar – as 2019 is the year of boar according to Chinese Zodiac. Wait, what boar? There’s no boar in Chinese Zodiac, you will say… Why Japanese people are celebrating the year of boar instead of pig? Well, it is because the Chinese character for pig 猪in Japan means boarinoshishi. In Japanese the kanji for pig is buta 豚. That is way there is a year of boar in Japan. Well boar/pig is the last animal of Zodiac, so in 2020 we are starting a new circle with rat at the beginning.


As I mentioned at the beginning I planned my visit at the first half of January, because I wanted to see a masterpiece from my favorites private list. This masterpiece is one of Japanese designated National Treasures – Pine Trees screens by Hasegawa Tohaku.

Screens were made in 16th century, during Azuchi-Momoyama period in ink on paper technique. It shows the pine trees immersed in mist. The pines in the foreground are depicted using powerful brush strokes with deep shades of ink, while the ones further back are like shadows painted with light tones. According to the information in Gallery, the author, Hasegawa Tohaku (1539-1610) created his work influenced by ink-painting techniques of the Chinese monk-painter Muqi. It is said that among premodern Japanese painting, this is the only one which capture the atmospheric conditions and light in its composition. Indeed, looking at screens we an almost feel the mist. I saw other pieces inspared by Chinese ink-painting but neither has this enchanting atmosphere in it.

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Hasegawa Tohaku, Pine Trees

The schedule of special exhibitions presenting the National Treasures is avaliable at Museum Website. I really recommend visiting the Japanese Gallery! Admission to regular exhibition costs 620 yen. You can reach National Museum taking Keihintohoku Line from Yokohama station and getting off at Ueno Station (550 yen).


Best regards!

Flora Yokohama Hoshikawa: https://www.oakhouse.jp/eng/house/kanagawa/yokohama/flora-hoshikawa

Oakhouse: https://www.oakhouse.jp/eng/
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I am an ordinary girl from small town in far away land of Poland, which tale is rather extraordinary, as no ending curiosity of the world got me to the Japanese Islands.