This post has been sitting in my drafts for, well, years, waiting for me to upload photos from inside the museum—I do so love a museum that allows photography. I won’t do much editing of its text. Now that so much time has passed, it seems unwise for me to try to edit my thoughts, clouded as they’ll be by the passage of time and the fondness of memory. So, here’s a post from 2014.
My last post from Japan may be somewhat short.
I end up in a lot of museums whenever I go abroad and am left on my own to decide the itinerary. An AP art history class in high school left me exhausted but well-educated and, what’s more, interested. The National Museum in Ueno boasts an impressive collection of artifacts relating specifically to the history of Japan, of which I was only able to see a part, which has been neglected somewhat by traditional textbooks—including those assigned to me in all of my classes. I find art and relics a good way to learn about a nation’s or culture’s history.
I am also pleased to report that photography is allowed within the museum with the usual stipulations (no flash, which you wouldn’t want anyway, since it would create a glare on the glass). So called “important cultural property” was labeled as such, so a guest with time only to quickly peruse the collections could easily identify which pieces the museum considers most interesting. All labels were in English and Japanese.
Some rooms seemed to display collections based more on use than period. There was a whole room devoted to swords and sword fittings, which was one of the first that we visited. There was another room that housed Bugaku and Gyodo masks used during court dances and ritual ceremonies.
As interesting to me as the pieces that fit into the Western imagination of Japanese art, were the pieces that showed the influence of other cultures on the Japanese artists.
The museum also had a few interactive stations where guests could, for example, make themselves a postcard using rubber stamps of traditional Japanese motifs.
On our way in, we’d been sidetracked into wandering between the tents of a crafts market setting up in front of the museum. I’d been waffling over whether—or maybe what—to spend my money on, and we weren’t convinced that all the vendors had yet arrived, so we planned our trip to the museum so that we’d have some time afterwards to return to the market and shop.
I didn’t take any pictures in the market, but left with souvenirs for myself and for friends. I’d spent fairly little money on souvenirs during my trip, so I allowed myself to splurge a little, coming home with a piece of framed glass enamel and ceramic tiles that I made into coasters for thank you gifts to those in America who helped me on my journey. I’m fairly certain that I bought both of these directly from the artists. I always prefer helping small businesses and individuals when I can, even though I myself benefit from a big company, but especially when it comes to arts and crafts.
And then… then it was time to hop on the train to Narita Airport.
Kari and I spent as much time as we could together, eating dinner at the airport and doing a bit more souvenir shopping for the few people for whom I hadn’t yet found gifts (and because the banks don’t take coins when they change currency for you), but all too soon it was time to face security and board the flights home.
I forgot how beautiful those tiles were. I only kept one for myself.
All photographs are mine. Click to view them more largely and read the captions, and I really recommend that you do. The dates on some of these amazed me and may amaze you.