• Japan's literacy rate is almost 100%.
• Sumo is Japan's national sport, although baseball is also very
• On average there are around 1,500 earthquakes every year in
• Average life expectancy in Japan is one of the highest in the
world. Japanese people live an average of 4 years longer than
• Japan is the largest automobile producer in the world.
• Tsukiji market in Tokyo is the
world's largest fish market.
• The first novel, The Tale of Genji, was written in 1007 by a
Japanese noble woman, Murasaki Shikibu.
• Raised floors help indicate when to take off shoes or slippers. At
the entrance to a home in Japan, the floor will usually be raised
about 6 inches indicating you should take off your shoes and
put on slippers.
• Although whaling is banned by the
IWC, Japan still hunts whales under
the premise of research. The
harvested whale meat ends up in
restaurants and supermarkets.
• Ramen noodles are a popular food
in Japan and it is widely believed
extensive training is required to
make a delicious soup broth. This is
the subject of the movies Tampopo
(1985) and The Ramen Girl (2008).
• Geisha means "person of the arts" and the first geisha were
• It was customary in ancient Japan for women to blacken their
teeth with dye as white teeth were considered ugly. This
practice persisted until the late 1800's. The American style
smile (big, wide, and white) would have been seen as
"exposing too much bone".
• In addition to a "boneless smile", small eyes, a round puffy
face, and plump body were considered attractive features,
especially during the Heian period.
• Key Points:
• Japan and Korea have been linked in many ways for more than
• Korea became part of the Chinese Han empire in 1081 BCE
and transmitted elements of pre-Buddhist Chinese culture to
• Included in this cultural transfer are: weaving, bronze casting,
working on potter’s wheel, rice cultivation.
• Also included: Chinese system of writing, Confucianist
• For centuries, these learnings trickled into Japan and totally
transformed Japanese culture when Koreans began sending
Buddhist art and envoys to the Japanese imperial court in 552
• The emperors and Japanese people followed an ancient,
native set of beliefs known today as Shinto. It has no powerful
gods in which the emperors could associate. It also did not
promise a glorious afterlife for its faithful.
• For the next 3 centuries, most of the artists and architects in
Japan were Koreans or Japanese trained by Koreans working
in Buddhist styles derived in China.
• Japanese artists produced thin, delicate, flowing lines in
the international Buddhist-Asian style out of China.
• Some of the best surviving examples of Chinese
architecture from this period may be seen in Japan.
• At one point in their history, the Japanese felt a need to
separate their art and culture from foreign roots.
• In the 9th century, they closed the borders of their islands
to the outside world.
• They developed new Japanese forms of Buddhism,
courtly styles of art, and created a new social order.
• The emperors lost of their political powers to the shoguns,
secular leaders who stood at the apex of a complex feudal
• In this regard, many of the new art forms were designed for
the nonroyal, secular tastes of the shogun, their subordinates
and the military.
• Japan closed its doors to the outside world again in the mid-
17th century which intensified the Japanese qualities of their
• In the mid-19th century, Japan opened up again to visitors
(Americans and Europeans included) and made an effort to
incorporate elements of the outside world while carefully
preserving their ancient traditions.
• Their art strongly reflects their great reverence for the
emperor and strong ties to Buddhism and Shintoism.
• Japanese art owes much to China and Korea, but in the end, it
has been her ability to adapt and personalize all that came to
its shores that has made Japanese art an enduring and
magnificent expression of culture.
• Muromachi (Ashikaga) Period, 1392 – 1573
--Franics Xavier arrives in Japan (1549)
• Momoyama Period, 1573 – 1615
• Tokugawa Period (Edo), 1615 – 1868
• Meiji Restoration, 1868 – 1912
• The modern period: from 1912
--World War II in Japan: 1941 -45
--Occupied Japan: 1945 – 52
--The Gutai Group: 1945 -72
• Emperor Kammu (ruled 781-806)
moved capital from Narra north to
• Early Heian
• Late Heian, also known as Fujiwara,
after the ruling clan that came to
power in the 9th century
• In Kyoto, emperor became more
independent from Buddhist monks
and Confucian authorities of Nara
• In 838, Japan closed its doors from
the Chinese and developed native
forms of art and culture.
Emperor Kammu, 737-806
50th Emperor of Japan
• New Buddhist reform movements
surfaced among artistocrats in Kyoto
• New Sects developed from Esoteric
Buddhism of India, Nepal and Tibel
• These are Tendai (origins in China) and
Shingon (origins in Japan) sects
• This paved the growth of Buddhism in
• In both, universal Buddha (Dainichi or
Great Sun) presides a colorful set of
• Mandala: spiritual symbol of Buddhism
and Hinduism, aids in meditation
• Mandara: Japanese
Taizokai (Womb World) mandala,
second half of 9th century.
Hanging scroll, color on silk.
The center square represents the young
stage of Vairocana Buddha.
• Esoteric Buddhist Art
• Red Fudo (Fudo, the Immovable)
• The terrifying deity is seated on a
rock before a wall of flames and
holds a dragon sword symbolizing
• He and one of his attendants
have fangs and intense, glaring
and beady eyes
• Expressive deity contrasted with
Red Fudo, Early Heian Period, 794-897,
Color on silk, 61.5 inches (h), Myo-o-in,
Koyasan, Wakayama prefecture
• Pure Land Buddhism (Jodo in
Japanese), broad branch of
• One of the most widely practised in
the East today
• Became popular among the masses
in the late Heian period
• Less complex and iconographic than
• In Jodo, the Amida (Amitabha,
Sanskrit) Buddha ruled over a pure
land (the regal Western Paradise)
• Spread by traveling evangelists
• To enter paradise, one just need to
chant Namu Amida Butsu (Hail to
Amida Buddha) Mount Lu, China, where the
Chinese Pure Land tradition started
by Huiyuan. Spread to Japan in the
• Raigo – new type of Jodo image
• Shows a more welcoming
Buddha, gracious and
• In repose with smooth-featured
• Contrasted with the rich
decorative flames behind him
• Oriented toward the viewer, to
reassure and welcome a dying
• Hollowed blocks joined by glues
Amida Figure by Jocho, 1053, gilded wood,
Height 11”. Interior of Ho-o-do (Phoenix Hall
• Housed in an 11th century structure: Ho-o-do (Phoenix Hall)
on a semi-detached island with a reflecting pool in the Byodo-in
complex near Kyoto
• Phoenix Hall –took its name from the bronze phoenixes on its
roof (symbols of the empress)
• And the dramatic upswept lines of the roof
• Reflected on the pond
• Pond, is shaped like the Sanskrit letter A (symbol of Amida
Buddha) representing the great waters in the Western
Paradise where Amida Buddha welcomes the newly arriving
souls of the faithful (reborn within lotus buds).
Ho-o-do (Phoenix Hall), Byodo-in, Uji. Late Heian period, 11th century.
A World Heritage Site. Inset: Northern Phoenix, replica of original found
Inside the museum.
• Literature, calligraphy, painting
• Chinese was the official language of scholarship in Korea and
Heian Japan until the 19th century.
• For other writings such as poems, the Japanese started using
their own language
• They created syllabaries (systems of writing in which a sign
stands for a syllable) using traditional Chinese-style
brushstrokes to create their Japanese characters
• Katakana: formal and angular script for official documents
• Hiragana: very graceful and cursive script for personal and
• Like the Chinese, read in columns, from top to bottom, right
• Some Heian courtiers had much free
time due to little imperial
administrative duties (because of a
politically weak emperor)
• Developed refined aesthetics
• Spent time playing koto, perfecting
calligraphy, writing tankas (31 syllable
• These musicians and writers included
Lady Murasaki, who wrote the Genji
Monogatari (Romantic Tale)
Murasaki Shikibu depicted in c.
1765 ink and color nishiki-e
(woodblock printing) by Komatsuken
• The story line follows the actions and inner psychological life of
Genji, the Shining Prince, who tries to retain support of the
powerful while indulging in numerous affairs, and Kiritsubo, his
• Most of the stories take place in the shaded, cloistered atmosphere
of the shinden (Heian period country home with a central hall,
smaller buildings, a network of covered walkways)
• Painted in the Yamato-e (Japanese style) (from Yamato plain on
which Nara is built)
• The emakimono (hand scroll) was painted with ink and water-based
colors on paper made from the inner bark of mulberry tree.
First illustration to the Azumaya chapter of The Tale of Genji.
Late Heian Period, 12th century. Hand scroll, ink and color on paper,
Height 8.5 inches. Tokugawa Museum, Nagoya.
• What do we see:
• Viewed segment by segment as unrolled, from right to left.
• Sections of Lady Murasaki’s text alternate with painted
episodes from the novel.
• Scenes are pictured from bird’s eye view, as if the shinden had
• One maid reads to entertain Nakanokimi (a gorgeous country
girl and lesser wife of high ranking noble) while another
combs her perfectly washed hair.
• She tries to secure a high position in society through her role
as a lady of the court.
• Her half sister, Ukifume, looks at a picture scroll.
• Style: women are shown as flat patterns of richly decorated
drapery. They have stylized faces consisting of minimal lines for
eyebrows, eyes and mouths.
• Emotions are suggested symbolically through colors, plant types,
• The oblique presentation reflects the enclosed and restrictive
lifestyle of the women of the court at that time. (formalized court
• The viewer looks at the private world of court life from aside with a
certain polite detachment.
• By about 1180, the refined courtly world of Fujiwara came to a
close as they lost control to the powerful feuding clans (Genpei
Civil War, 1180-85).
• At the conclusion of the war, the emperor gave Yoritomo
(1147-99) of the Minamoto clan in Kamakura the title of Seii-tai
Shogun (Barbarian-quelling General)
• Until 1868, a long series of military rulers would operate
under such title.
• Kyoto –retained its ceremonial status
• Kamakura –where real power resided (south of Edo or
• Kamakura rulers attempted to bring order to Japanese society
and rejected the refined aesthetics of Fujiwara times
• Gave way to novels about heroic warriors, feuding clans and
Minamoto no Yoritomo (源頼朝?, May 9,
1147 – February 9, 1199) was the
founder and the first shogun of
the Kamakura Shogunate of Japan.
He ruled from 1192 until 1199.
Shogun –Military Pacifier of the East
A 12th century title under which 3
dynasties of military rulers of Japan
operated until 1868.
• Night Attack on the Shanjo Palace
• Best demonstrates the changes that took place at the
beginning of the Kamakura period
• The scroll, (read from right to left) is from a novel about the
Heiji insurrection near the end of the Fujiwara period
• Done in Yamato-e style to express more robust sentiments of
the Kamakura warrior society.
• Glorification of military force, action and destruction is in
contrast with the serene, philosophical paintings by the
literati painters in China at this time
• In contrast also to the refinement in the court as shown by
Lady Murasaki’s novel
Night Attack on the Shanjo Palace (section), hand scroll. Kamakura period,
Late 13th century. Ink and colors on paper, height 16.25 inches. Museum of
Fine Arts, Boston. Use of fast flowing lines have captured the drama of one of the fire
storms that destroyed most of the Japanese and Chinese buildings at of this period
• Shoguns –ruled Japan with the
support of the warrior nobles,
military commander often appointed
by the emperor
• Warrior nobles:
• 1) daimyo (great names)
• 2) bushi (samurai swordsmen)
• Daimyo – commanded the samurai,
powerful feudal lords in pre-modern
Japan (dai, large, myo, private land)
• Samurai–well-disciplined and trained
to endure physical pain and lack of
• Ethics of samurai, seppuku (hara-kiri)
• Kamakuran leaders –commissioned
artists to produce realistic portraits
• Also narrative art forms to highlight
their military and political
• Portriat of Uesugi Shigefusa
• Reflects the values of ancestor
worship with the philosophy of
discipline and meditation
• These shaped the militaristic
character of the 1300s as seen in this
• Rigidly frontal
• His ballooned courtly regalia reflects
his status in feudal society
Portrait of Uesugi Shigefusa.
Kamakura Period. 14th century.
Painted wood, 27.5 inches (h).
Meigetsu-in, Kamakura, Kanagawa
• Carved and installed in a family shrine a century after
• May not be physically accurate but it captures the spirit of
a daimyo to whom many samurai dedicated their lives.
• Kongo Rikishi
• A work that conveys the growing
preference for realism
• Carved by Unkei (1163-1223), the
most famous sculptor of the day
• Carved many highly realistic
painted wooden portrait statues
of priests with inlaid crystal eyes.
• One of the pair of wooden
guardians for the Great South
Gate of the Todai-ji temple
compound in Nara
Kongo Rikishi. South gate of Todai-ji. Nara,
Japan. Kamakura period, 1`203. Wood, height 26’6’”
• Reflects the militaristic spirit of the
Kamakura society of the shoguns
• Made using the joined-wood
technique enabling him to extend
the arms, legs and draperies of the
big figure into space
• Suggests movement, especially
with the skirt and flowing banner
• Animated and energetic quality of
• Grotesque and overwrought
expression: express the militaristic
and single minded attitude of the
samurai ready to defend his
MICHAEL KAMPEN O’ RILEY, ART BEYOND THE WEST, 2ND
EDITION, 2006, PEARSON-PRENTICE HALL