Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Yokoyama Taikan and Yayoi-Yumeji

I decided to do another one of my "three trips at a time" excursions a few days ago. This one taking in the Yokoyama Taikan museum, Yayoi-Yumeji again, and the Sky Tree. I'll describe the first two together in this post.

Nihon-ga (not to be confused with nihon-go, the Japanese language) refers to a specific style of Japanese painting that was introduced around 1868 in rebellion against the increasing influence of western styles due to the opening of Japan's borders by the Black Ships. Taikan Yokoyama (1868-1958) started appearing as a nihon-ga artist somewhere towards the late 1880's, and became one of the bigger figures in the field, both as an artist and an artistic school leader.

He left Tokyo to avoid the bombing during WWII, and moved back into the Ueno park area following the war. His home has a very traditional Japanese feel to it, and is located very close to the west end of the Ueno park lake. It was later turned into a museum, which has rotating exhibits of his work every 3 months. The map on the official website is a little misleading, as the building is farther north, closer to the north edge of the lake, than it is shown on the map. It's definitely easy to find though, as it's the oldest thing on that part of the street. If you take the JR Yamanote line to Ueno, cut through the park and come out the northwest corner of the lake. The museum will be across the street and a little to the left. 500 yen for adults. No cameras allowed, and you need to take your shoes off at the entrance. The brochure is available in both English and Japanese.

Most of the house is open to the public, but the little enclosed garden can only be viewed through the windows. The house is comparatively large by Japanese standards, and has a fair number of rooms you can visit, with paintings, scrolls and silks displayed throughout. There's a gift shop at the back, and you can get prints worth upwards of a couple thousand dollars, or postcards for $1 each.

(An example of nihon-ga, from the wiki page. Used for review purposes only.)

A lot of the paintings fall into the "traditional" category, but are still very attractive because of it. I REALLY liked the dragon dance painting, but that was one of the few not available as a postcard. Overall, I was able to look at everything in about 15 minutes, so you can figure that this museum should be part of a longer day trip. If you're in the area, it's well worth visiting.


I've written about the Yayoi-Yumeji galleries before. This is where the "Shojo no Tomo" exhibit had been held. It's about a 15-minute walk from the Taikan Yokoyama museum (above), at the outskirts of the the Tokyo (Todai) University campus. It's a bit inconvenient to get to, so I wasn't planning on coming back until there was another obviously manga-related exhibit going on, but I had a free ticket (given to me at the Katsudi Matsumoto museum when I was last there) which saved me the 900 yen entry fee, and I wanted to look closer at the Shojo no Tomo exhibit book to see if it had pictures of really early Tezuka manga (there was one picture, for "Akai no Yuki" (Red Snow), but it was too small to be useful).

The current exhibits feature Eiho Hirezaki on the 1st and 2d floors, and Kasho Takabatake on the 3rd. Eiho (1881-1968) was a nihon-ga and ukiyo-e artist who really liked sumo. A lot of his works feature sumo wrestlers, and were used on the covers of sumo magazines. It's very detailed and excellently executed. The exhibit has a number of woodblock prints, paintings and pencil sketches. The pencils alone are worth visiting the exhibit for, if you're planning on studying as an art student.

Kasho (1888-1968) has a smaller showing up on the 3rd floor of the gallery, but he's worth checking out if you're interested in the history of shojo magazines. He appeared on the covers of Shojo Gaho, Shojo no Kuni and Shonen Kurabu. His style is very similar to that of the other artists used by Shojo no Tomo in the 20's.

I really wish I could have included photos here, but most art galleries really frown on carrying around a camera. In any event, if you're interested in the early history of manga as it emerged from shojo magazines, the Yayoi gallery is worth visiting, and make sure you look at all the books in the first floor gift shop. The two exhibits currently running are also worth checking out. They will run until Mar. 28.


Bunny said...

I think we have an obi and maybe a Kimono painted by Taikan. =^x^=!

They probably belong in a museum.

TSOTE said...

This would make for a good "Road Show" episode. Get on TV and have an expert appraise the items for you for free. Depends on how much you want to give them up.