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Japanese Gallery (Honkan)

The original Main Gallery (designed by the British architect Josiah Conder) was severely damaged in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. In contrast to western style of the original structure, the design of the present Honkan by Watanabe Jin is the more eastern "Emperor's Crown Style." Construction began in 1932, and the building was opened in 1938.
24 exhibition rooms on two floors provide a thorough introduction into Japanese art: "Highlights of Japanese Art" on the second floor introduces the development of Japanese art from Jomon through to the Edo period in a chronological manner, and genre galleries presenting specific rooms displaying ceramics, swords, lacquerwares, sculptures, modern decorative arts as well as the material culture of Ainu and Ryukyu are located on the first floor.

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1st floor Genre Exhibits

Room 11  February 26, 2020 (Wed) - September 13, 2020 (Sun)

This gallery introduces the history of sculptural art in Japan through prototypical wood-sculptures featuring examples dating from the Heian and Kamakura periods, the zenith of Japanese sculpture.

Room 12  March 24, 2020 (Tue) - June 14, 2020 (Sun)

Lacquer is the sap of the lacquer tree, which grows in East and Southeast Asia. Naturally sticky, it can be brushed onto different materials, and hardens into a durable coating that is waterproof and resistant to acids, alkalis, and heat. Because of its versatility and beauty, lacquer has been central to daily life in parts of Asia for over 9,000 years.

In Japan, artisans coated everyday items with lacquer, including furniture, boxes, dining sets, and cosmetic and writing tools. The base material could be wood, pottery, cloth, leather, or paper. To decorate these items, artisans painted designs with a mixture of lacquer and pigment, or used lacquer like a glue to inlay metal and mother-of-pearl.

But the pinnacle of lacquer decoration in Japan is maki-e (sprinkled picture). It consists of painting a design with lacquer, and then sprinkling metal powders onto the sticky lacquer before it hardens. Artisans first used maki-e techniques in the 8th century. As shown in this gallery, they developed them to an extraordinary degree over the centuries.

Room 13  March 10, 2020 (Tue) - June 14, 2020 (Sun)

Decoration in Buddhism involves sumptuous representations of Buddhas, as well as ritual interiors of temple halls. The adornments used for this purpose are known collectively in Japanese as shogongu. This exhibition introduces Buddhist ritual implements such as containers for sarira, or literally, “Buddha’s relics,” together with items for esoteric Buddhist altars, and interior decor including ritual banners and pendent floral openwork ornaments. The works present an overview of multifarious metalwork techniques such as casting, carving, and forging.

Room 13  March 10, 2020 (Tue) - June 7, 2020 (Sun)

Exhibits selected swords and sword-fittings from the Heian to Edo periods, including the Long Sword (Katana), Named "Kanze Masamune", By Masamune (National Treasure).

Room 13  March 10, 2020 (Tue) - June 14, 2020 (Sun)

This gallery traces the history of Japanese ceramics from the 12th century onwards. Current exhibits include works featuring floral motifs of spring and early summer, along with a selection Japan’s early porcelain wares (early Imari ware).

Room 18  March 17, 2020 (Tue) - June 7, 2020 (Sun)

This gallery features paintings and sculptures from the Meiji and Taisho eras (1868-1926). Since the Tokyo National Museum first opened in 1872 as the exposition venue of the Ministry of Education, the museum has collected important artworks that signify the early development of art in Japan's modern era. The exhibit consists of selected works from the collection.