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July 1, 2020 (Wed)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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*Room 17 will be closed for renewal from April 1, 2020.


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  June 17, 2020 (Wed) - September 6, 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  June 17, 2020 (Wed) - September 13, 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  June 10, 2020 (Wed) - September 6, 2020 (Sun)

Exhibits selected swords and sword–fittings from the Heian to Edo periods, including the Tachi Sword, Known as "Okanehira" by Kanehira.

  
Room 13  June 17, 2020 (Wed) - September 6, 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 of Japan’s early porcelain wares (early Imari ware).

  
Room 14  June 17, 2020 (Wed) - July 12, 2020 (Sun)

This thematic exhibition introduces masks worn in courtly bugaku performances and Buddhist gyōdō ceremonies in ancient and medieval Japan.

  
Room 15  June 24, 2020 (Wed) - August 16, 2020 (Sun)

Tokyo National Museum has more than artworks and archeological artifacts. The collection also includes records, which provide valuable insights into history and the cultures of different ethnic groups. This diversity stems from the Museum’s origins as a comprehensive institution in 1872. It was even home to animal, plant, and mineral specimens, although these were moved to the National Museum of Nature and Science in 1925.

The extensive collection of historical records at Tokyo National Museum now includes maps, diagrams, texts, photographs, ink rubbings, and copies of artworks. These items, dating mainly from the 17th to 20th century, shed light on politics, society, culture, transportation, and scenery in Japan. Here we display a selection of these items under different themes throughout the year.

  
Room 16  June 2, 2020 (Tue) - July 5, 2020 (Sun)

The islands of Japan stretch from north to south. They include diverse natural environments, which have been home to different cultures over thousands of years. This gallery presents the cultures of the Ainu people of the north and the Ryūkyū Kingdom of the south.

The Ainu are indigenous people who live mainly on Hokkaidō, Japan’s northernmost major island. For centuries they traded with surrounding cultures while relying on hunting, fishing, and gathering. The Museum's extensive Ainu collection was acquired from the Bureau for the Vienna World Exposition in 1875 and through donations from private collectors.

The Ryūkyū Kingdom flourished on the subtropical islands of Okinawa from the 15th to 19th century.

Its culture was strongly inf luenced by trade, especially with Japan, China, Korea, and Southeast Asia. The Museum's diverse Ryūkyū collection includes items purchased by the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce from Okinawa Prefecture and those donated by private collectors.

  
Room 18  June 2, 2020 (Tue) - August 23, 2020 (Sun)

Drastic changes in the late 19th century created new challenges for artists. The samurai government that had strictly regulated contact with the outside world collapsed in a civil war. Japan's new leaders announced the start of the Meiji era (1868–1912), engaging with the world and reforming their nation to be more like “the West” (mainly Europe and the United States).

These leaders soon realized that works produced in Japan were not seen as “fine art” in the West. Artisans often mounted paintings on sliding doors and folding screens, but this practice made them look like furniture to Europeans and Americans. Japan's ceramics, lacquerware, metalwork, and textiles were also labeled as “decorative art” rather than “fine art.”

In response, artistic traditions were changed to meet Western standards. Japan's leaders established schools of fine art, organized national exhibitions, and urged artists to participate in world fairs. They intended to show the world that Japan was a “modern” nation with sophisticated arts and culture. The works on display reflect how Japanese artists met these challenges.