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Seeing Japanese art & design in Tokyo’s Ueno and Yanaka districts

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2020.06.18 (Thu)

Visit one of Japan’s best museums, the beautiful home of a painter, and the studio of a sculptor

By David, long-term Tokyo resident & food-loving traveler

If you are interested in Japanese art & design, start your exploration in Ueno and Yanaka. These two Tokyo districts are located next to each other and are home to a number of excellent museums, galleries, and Tokyo University of the Arts. Some of Japan's leading painters and sculptors also studied and worked here.

Tokyo National Museum

This is an excellent place to learn about Japanese art and design. The permanent collection of the museum showcases a variety of arts and crafts spanning more than a thousand years. In addition to paintings, prints, and sculptures you can see ceramics, textiles, and swords. The exhibits on the museum grounds outside include an impressive old gate and a Japanese garden with tea houses (open for parts of the year). The upcoming special exhibition “KIMONO: Fashion Identities” (June 30 - August 23, 2020) will trace the history of the kimono over the past 800 years.

Explore the Tokyo National Museum's collection from your home on Google Arts & Culture

https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/maple-viewers-kano-hideyori/oQF0nQM_PVBZeQ

Tokyo National Museum is located in Ueno Park near Ueno Station. Please check for updates regarding exhibitions and opening hours on https://www.tnm.jp/.

Yokoyama Taikan Memorial Hall

A nice walk through Ueno Park will take you from the Tokyo National Museum to Yokoyama Taikan Memorial Hall. This is the former residence of Japanese painter Yokoyama Taikan (1868-1958). The building faces Ueno Park’s Shinobazu Pond. The home and its garden were designed by the artist. After the original residence burnt down in 1945, Yokoyama rebuilt his home and worked here until the age of 90. Yokoyama was one of the first students to study at the Tokyo Fine Arts School (now Tokyo University of the Arts) and developed his own new style of traditional Japanese painting, helping to create the Nihonga style.

Please see http://taikan.tokyo/English.html for access and opening details.

Asakura Museum of Sculpture

Fumio Asakura (1883-1964) is a founder of modern Japanese sculpture. Like Yokoyama Taikan, Asakura studied at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts. He worked and lived in Yanaka, an old district of Tokyo located next to Ueno. The Asakura Museum of Sculpture is Asakura’s former residence and studio where he also taught. Asakura designed the buildings and gardens himself. While his residence is a house in a traditional Japanese style, the part that is his atelier is a modern Western building.

Please see access details on http://www.taitocity.net/zaidan/english/asakura/

There is a lot more art to see in the Ueno and Yanaka area. A walk from the Tokyo National Museum to the Asakura Museum of Sculpture is one option to explore. If you are visiting, also check the exhibition schedules for other venues nearby such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum or Ueno Royal Museum in Ueno Park.

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