Japan, in comparison with many other countries, is rather small, though it ranks tenth amongst the world’s highest populations. More fascinatingly, it has one of the richest and most eclectic art histories to speak of when considering it on its own. Yes, various countries in Europe do this or that, and Africa has a slew of artistic variety, but we’re just talking one country – 6852 islands, if you really want to talk about how amazing Japan’s universally-acknowledged solidarity is.
Continuously infiltrated by other powers (China, Russia, Germany’s money, and the United States), art in Japan has successfully maintained a focused and healthy presence in the art world since the seventh century – which is not to say there aren’t older relics, but Buddhist art was the first to make an impact. From woodblock prints to Ukiyo-e, and calligraphy to shungas, at the end of the day I would argue that Japan had a larger influence on European art than the other way around. Just a few examples of this hypothesis include Degas, Van Gogh, Monet, and Mucha.
Get over to the Tokyo National Museum to get a glance at the Highlights of Japanese Arts exhibition. Find yourself enthralled with mirrors, picture scrolls, and military attire. Can’t get enough art from The Land of the Rising Sun? Check out Hiroshige by Mikhail Uspensky or Forbidden Asia by Hans Jürgen-Döpp.
-Le Lorrain Andrews