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  • Thumbnail for Ryoanji, interior, main hall
    Ryoanji, interior, main hall

    View across the interior of the main hall at Ryoanji. With the fusuma sliding panels open, one can see the integration of interior and exterior spaces that typifies traditional Japanese architecture and also sense how they may be opened and closed within the interior space to define that space in different ways. This current building was moved here from another site to replace the original hall, which burned in 1789. The round wooden object in the forground is a mokugyo, a wooden “bell†or “gong†that is sounded by being struck with a mallet.

  • Thumbnail for Dish with PineTree Motif
    Dish with PineTree Motif

    Late 17th - early 18th century work produced at the official Nabeshima clan kiln in present-day Saga Prefecture.

  • Thumbnail for Kinoshita
    Kinoshita by Donyo

    Kinoshita, a black tea bowl by Donyu.

  • Thumbnail for Set of Utensils for the Incense Game
    Set of Utensils for the Incense Game

    In the Heian period, the fragrance of aromatic wood was enjoyed by members of court society. The appreciation of incense became formalized in the Muromachi period, and many varieties of monko, literally listening to the incense" were established. Throughout the Edo period, enthusiasts of this widely popular game included members of the warrior class. This set of incense utensils is decorated with such plants and flowers as bush clover, chrysanthemum, peony, camelia, iris, and bamboo arranged in circular motifs in slightly raised gold takamaki-e lacquer." - Suzuki Norio

  • Thumbnail for Furisode
    Furisode

    The furisode (swinging sleeves) is a type of kosode distinguished by sleeves that hang free of the main body of the garment, below the arm. Although in the early part of the Edo period the sleeves of the furisode were not especially long, they gradually increased in length so that by the latter half of the period, sleeves as long as ninety cm were made. The furisode was worn on special occasions by children and young women. This refined example could have been worn by a woman of the samurai class. - Kawakami Shigeki

  • Thumbnail for Shell Matching Game
    Shell Matching Game

    The octagonal, black-lacquered containers for this shell matching game are decorated with the family crest of the Hosokawa clan. The containers hold 360 shells, each one half of a pair with matching designs of subject matter from The Tale of Genji, or with floral and bird decorations. To play the game, the shells are mixed up and players must find the two shell halves with the same picture.

  • Thumbnail for Townsend Harris
    Townsend Harris

    Townsend Harris, first government representative of an Occidental power to Japan. He remained in Japan from 1856 to 1862.

  • Thumbnail for Sakuma Shogen
    Sakuma Shogen

    Depiction of Sakuma Shogen Sanekatsu (1570-1642) sitting in front of a bamboo screen facing his boy attendant. A warrior who first served Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598), Sakuma then seved three successive generations of Tokugawa shoguns: Ieyasu, Hidetada, and Iemitsu.

  • Thumbnail for Sword Guards II
    Sword Guards II by Matashichi, Hayashi

    Both sword guards were made by Hayashi Matashichi, and are iron with inlaid gold. Upper left-corner: On this flower-shaped iron tsuba are five openwork cherry blossoms. An inlaid gold rope pattern encircles the inner portion, and beyond this in a concentric circle, fine threadlike openwork lines represent mist. Evenly spaced around the scalloped perimeter are four heart-shaped perforations. The blossoms of this powerful work are carved in slight relief, and the gold harmonized well with the color of the iron. Right: the tsurumaru, literally round crane," is a type of dancing crane motif in which the tips of the widely spread wings meet above the head, forming a circular cartouche. This red-tinted black iron tsuba is decorated with the tsurumaru motif in skillfully executed openwork. The eyes are delicately inlaid with gold." - Hiroi Yuichi

  • Thumbnail for Kotsuzumi Drum and Storage Box
    Kotsuzumi Drum and Storage Box

    The kotsuzumi is a percussion instrument shaped much like an hourglass, with a thin middle and two flaring ends. Drumheads of leather mounted on iron rings are fitted on either end with the two drumheads connected by hemp cords. It is held with the left hand, placed on the right shoulder, and struck with the fingers of the right hand. This set is decorated with a spring design of rafts with cherry blossoms in gold maki-e on a black lacquered ground. This kotsuzumi is accompanied by a storage box decorated witha design in maki-e on black lacquer of running water and maple leaves. The design allude to many poems from the Heian period regarding the Tatsuta Riber, famous for the autumn foliage along its banks." - Kawakami Shigeki

  • Thumbnail for Taiko Drums
    Taiko Drums

    The musical instruments used in Noh performance dating from the Edo era.

  • Thumbnail for Snow at Yamanaka Village, near Fujiwaka
    Snow at Yamanaka Village, near Fujiwaka by Utagawa Hiroshige

    One of the most well known 19th century ukiyo-e artists, famous for his landscape views, particularly his images of the Tokaido. As the busiest highway in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Tokaido offered numerous chances to experience a variety of social classes and day-to-day activities. Numerous images of this highway were created during the Edo period, some in singular views and others in series, the most famous of which are Hiroshige’s numerous editions. The images depicted the commercial activity along the road and famous views seen on the journey. Hiroshige, in particular, also chose many of the views based on varying times of year and the weather conditions that offered an ever-changing impression of the landscape. Greatly influenced by his teacher Utagawa Toyoharu, Hiroshige often employed perspective views rather than the more traditional stacked and flattened views of the landscape found in the Kano school of painting. This slightly more western view helps to explain his popularity among 19th century artists in Europe. Often palaces decorated with traditional Kano painting would have rooms devoted to each season of the year. Though appealing to a far less sophisticated audience, Hiroshige continued an interest in the seasons frequently depicting particular stations along the Tokaido in a variety of climactic conditions. Fujikawa was station number thirty-seven. Though innovative in both his use of a more western perspective and in many of his subject matters, Hiroshige, nevertheless, evinced a careful understanding of Japanese landscape traditions.

  • Thumbnail for Kana-dehon Chushingura Act IV: Oboshi Yuranosuke display's Hangan's sword
    Kana-dehon Chushingura Act IV: Oboshi Yuranosuke display's Hangan's sword by Eisen Keisai

    From the Kanadehon Chushingura (Model of the Kana Syllabury: the Forty-seven Loyal Retainers) series. Keisei Eisen was born in Edo, the son of a calligraphy artist. He was apprenticed to Kikugawa Eizan and studied traditional painting before becoming a printmaker. Throughout his career, Eisen’s work was productive and varied. Book illustrations and prints were his first commissioned works. Early on, he achieved lasting fame for his bijin-ga (pictures of beautiful women), and both contributed to and edited the Ukiyo-e ruiko (History of Prints of the Floating World) one of the few surviving sources of information-rich material on printmaking art and artists in Japan. At times, he struck partnerships with other artists of his age, such as his collaboration with Hiroshige, which resulted in a series of landscape prints entitled The Sixty-nine Stations on the Kiso Highway. Eisen also released many surimono (privately issued prints), shunga (erotic prints), and some landscape pieces. In addition to his career as a printmaker, Eisen pursued other sources of income. A self-described hard-drinker who humbly titled his version of Japanese print history Mumeio zhuihitsu (Essays by a Nameless Old Man), Eisen was also the manager and proprietor of a brothel for a time. Today, however he is most famous for his portrayals of the beauties of old Japan. Kana-dehon Chushingura (Model of the Kana Syllabury: the Forty-seven Loyal Retainers) was a popular and frequently performed Kabuki play in the late 18th and early 19th century in Edo. Based on actual historical events from 1701 – 1703, the play tells of forty-seven ronin (samurai without a lord) who seek revenge for the unjust death of their leader Enya-Hangan. Act IV: Enya-hangan commits hara-kiri, while his loyal retainer Yuranosuke vows revenge on Moronao

  • Thumbnail for The Tenryu River near Mitsuke station
    The Tenryu River near Mitsuke station by Utagawa Hiroshige

    From the first Tokaido series, Hoeido Tokaido edition. One of the most well-known 19th century ukiyo-e artists, famous for his landscape views, particularly his images of the Tokaido. As the busiest highway in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Tokaido offered numerous chances to experience a variety of social classes and day-to-day activities. Numerous images of this highway were created during the Edo period, some in singular views and others in series, the most famous of which are Hiroshige’s numerous editions. The images depicted the commercial activity along the road and famous views seen on the journey. Hiroshige, in particular, also chose many of the views based on varying times of year and the weather conditions that offered an ever-changing impression of the landscape. Greatly influenced by his teacher Utagawa Toyoharu, Hiroshige often employed perspective views rather than the more traditional stacked and flattened views of the landscape found in the Kano school of painting. This slightly more western view helps to explain his popularity among 19th century artists in Europe. This was near station number twenty-eight.

  • Thumbnail for Street Drama, characters
    Street Drama, characters by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

    Horizontal Japanese Ukiyo-e print; two panels from probable triptych; black and polychrome woodblock print on paper; various seals of Kuniyoshi, including “Ichiyosai†(a style name of Kuniyoshi). Artist is known for his depictions of heroic episodes in Japanese history. In his later work he tended to have a taste for the bizarre and the ghoulish. His work is influenced by European models, and in this work, the background has some degree of vanishing-point perspective. The works of Kuniyoshi are collected by many museums around the world, including Metropolitan of New York, Boston, San Francisco, Cleveland, The British Museum London, and the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City.

  • Thumbnail for Ken Tenju hanging scroll, picture view
    Ken Tenju hanging scroll, picture view by Tenju, Ken

    Japanese Edo period hanging scroll with vertically-oriented painting and a brown brocade mounting. The image area is 28 cm x 187 cm and depicts the landscape of a Nanga school with the scene of a mountain and hut to the left, a river to the right, a bridge in the foreground, and an inscription to the upper right.

  • Thumbnail for Ken Tenju hanging scroll, upper seal
    Ken Tenju hanging scroll, upper seal by Tenju, Ken

    Japanese Edo period hanging scroll with vertically-oriented painting and a brown brocade mounting. The image area is 28 cm x 187 cm and depicts the landscape of a Nanga school with the scene of a mountain and hut to the left, a river to the right, a bridge in the foreground, and an inscription to the upper right.

  • Thumbnail for Tobacco pouch with a netsuke (abalone shell motif) (clasp detail interior)
    Tobacco pouch with a netsuke (abalone shell motif) (clasp detail interior)

    The Japanese tradition for clothing accessories did not decline after Western influence arrived in Japan after the 18th century. The only change is that the inro (medicine case) was replaced by the tobacco pouch. Netsuke, a small accessory, functioned as a toggle or button for the wearing of articles, such as a pouch or a purse, on a sash, or obi in Japanese, in traditional Japanese clothing (kimono). It was originally used for an inro, a small medicine case, and was worn by the Japanese men after the 16th century. Inro could also contain a seal stamp and dry fruits for snacks, not only medicine. The art of netsuke reached its peak in the 18th century, and many designs were created during this time. The designs of netsuke varied. They were largely inspired by Japanese folk tales and tradition, ranging from historical and genre figures, to animals and plants. However, later the carvings changed for foreign collectors. Netsuke generally feature realistically executed subjects. Traditionally, the artist’s name would be carved at the bottom of the netsuke.

  • Thumbnail for Tobacco pouch with a netsuke (abalone shell motif) (metal clasp detail)
    Tobacco pouch with a netsuke (abalone shell motif) (metal clasp detail)

    The Japanese tradition for clothing accessories did not decline after Western influence arrived in Japan after the 18th century. The only change is that the inro (medicine case) was replaced by the tobacco pouch. Netsuke, a small accessory, functioned as a toggle or button for the wearing of articles, such as a pouch or a purse, on a sash, or obi in Japanese, in traditional Japanese clothing (kimono). It was originally used for an inro, a small medicine case, and was worn by the Japanese men after the 16th century. Inro could also contain a seal stamp and dry fruits for snacks, not only medicine. The art of netsuke reached its peak in the 18th century, and many designs were created during this time. The designs of netsuke varied. They were largely inspired by Japanese folk tales and tradition, ranging from historical and genre figures, to animals and plants. However, later the carvings changed for foreign collectors. Netsuke generally feature realistically executed subjects. Traditionally, the artist’s name would be carved at the bottom of the netsuke.

  • Thumbnail for Pair of Japanese landscapes
    Pair of Japanese landscapes by Tani Bunchô (1763-1840)

    27 ½" x 74". The brushstroke’s ability to balance the creation of “space†(kukan) with the needs of “spacing†(kuhaku) is clear in the trees in the Union College Bunchô Scrolls, where there is an acceptable image of foliage, but on closer inspection, the leaves are seen to be as carefully separated as the tarashikomi plants in the Union College Tosa Screens. In addition, the Union College Bunchô Scrolls show many brushstrokes in which both sides of the line are used to render forms. We see such “double edged brushstrokes†in the contours of the mountains, where the smooth run of the top of a line creates the overall rounded form of a peak, but the bottom has a series of bumps that render boulders within. Similarly, a single stroke suffices to create the branch of a tree, but because the two sides of the resulting line are different, the limb thins and has knobs and twists. When Ukiyo-e cutters carved such “double-edged brushstrokes†into the block, they had to cut the two sides of each line separately anyway, so it was easy to reproduce their differing movements.

  • Thumbnail for Three Pekinese pups in ivory with five-part inro case(side one)
    Three Pekinese pups in ivory with five-part inro case(side one) by Gyokushi

    Japanese lacquer inro case with ivory toggle in the form of three Pekinese puppies, climbing one on top of the other. The inro case is decorated with a hen and chick in gold and red lacquer pecking at the ground under a spray of bamboo.

  • Thumbnail for Kozuka, detail of monkey design
    Kozuka, detail of monkey design

    Kozuka detail, mottled metal with respousse in gold and black. Design: monkey with horse on opposite side. Sheath for challenge knife (kozuka). Blackened steel and gold. Very fine workmanship and in excellent condition. This metal sheath is one of 16 in a two-layered lacquer box. Making sword fittings (menuki) has been an Art in Japan since the time of the machishu, the 17th c. Kyoto, Osaka, Sakai predecessors of the chonin of Edo (now Tokyo), the latter being the creators of Ukiyo-e. This sheath is of extremely high quality, something true of others in its group. Any are fit for a museum, but I chose this one because its decoration was so amusing. In Japan, the horse is a standard gift to a temple. When a horse is too expensive, a painting of a horse (ema) can be substituted. This knife sheath bears an image of an ema on one side. The square frame of the ema is shown and within it, a monkey holding a long line. The line goes outside the ema over to the other side of the sheath. There, the tethered horse gallops away.

  • Thumbnail for Page from an Unidentified Woodblock Book
    Page from an Unidentified Woodblock Book by Illustration in the style of Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

    Double page woodblock printed book illustration; ink and color on paper. Depicts a courtier and attendant kneeling before a priest, who is unrolling a handscroll. Although aesthetically pleasing, the condition of this print is somewhat problematic (paper soiled). It is a good example of the type of illustrated books that were so popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries in Japan.

  • Thumbnail for Kabuki Actor at his Dressing Table
    Kabuki Actor at his Dressing Table by Unidentified artist, possibly Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864)

    Woodblock print, surimono type, ink, colors, and embossing on paper. Surimono were limited edition, fine quality prints produced for a small, select group of clients, in this case, fans of the actor portrayed.

  • Thumbnail for Page showing the Kyoto Hachiman Shrine, from the book, Wakoku meisho kagami - A Mirror of Famous Sites of Japan
    Page showing the Kyoto Hachiman Shrine, from the book, Wakoku meisho kagami - A Mirror of Famous Sites of Japan by Hishikawa Moronobu (died 1694)

    Double page woodblock printed book illustration; ink and light colors (applied by hand) on paper. This small page from an important, VERY rare early printed book, by the founding father of Ukiyo-e printmaking, is a precursor to the types of books that in the 18th century became produced in great numbers and were in widespread circulation then. During the 18th century, travel (or armchair travels) became exceedingly popular. The description of the place, written from right to left above the illustration, shows how integral pictures were to printed texts. The placement of the text above the illustration was an innovation of Moronobu and is characteristic of his books.