Heiseikan Thematic Exhibition Room
November 25, 2020 (Wed) - January 11, 2021 (Mon)
During most of the Edo period (1603–1868), movement between Japan and the outside world was strictly regulated. Only some foreign delegations and merchant ships could enter Japan, and Japanese people were not allowed to travel abroad. Despite these restrictions, there was brisk trade between Japan and Europe. This led to the emergence of arts and crafts in each region that were influenced by techniques and forms of expression adopted from their remote trading counterparts.
The Tokyo National Museum is home to many valuable historical materials that testify to this global exchange, such as Nanban lacquerware, Western-style paintings and prints, and export ceramics. Its collection also includes Christian artifacts from the Nagasaki Magistrate Office, documents once housed in the Siebold Collection, and maps and Western literature transmitted through institutions related to the Edo Shogunate, such as the Edo Castle Library and the Institute for the Study of Western Books, where foreign books were translated and published in the mid-19th century.
This exhibition uses these items and other objects entrusted to our museum to explore the exchanges between East and West that occurred during the Edo period. With global borders currently locked down again, now is a good moment to revisit a time when the people of Edo looked inquisitively overseas and began to assimilate aspects of Western art, technology, and culture.