We were lucky enough to be in Japan during spring, landing in fact when the cherry blossoms were at their peak. This time of year is very significant in Japanese culture, not only are there drinks, ice cream and cakes flavoured with the ‘sakura’ or blossom, but also the season has a spiritual significance, signifying the new year.
This is very much reflected in art and we saw some beautiful examples of art and textiles honouring nature and blooms at the Tokyo National Museum. The museum is located in Ueno Park, which is one of the main places that the Japanese visit to see the blossoms and the exhibits are themed seasonally.
There were some stunning robes on display here. We had seen an exhibition about the kimono in New York, which looked at how it has influenced Western fashion, and how Japanese fashion changed in the early 20th century as more Western fashion began to be worn.
So it was brilliant to see the different types of kimono, from the early kosode seen here in the red and gold embroidered examples from the Edo period of the early 1600s above, to the later furisode below which is dyed using the shibori technique. You can read more about the history of the kimono here in this article by the Victoria and Albert Museum.
What is also very interesting is the parallels with costume in Europe at this time, the long sleeves of this kimono signified an unmarried women.
Similar long sleeves with yards of excess fabric are common in medieval dress, signifying in this case that you have the wealth to afford excess material and servants to do the menial tasks.
There was also legislation banning excessively decorated kimonos, as there was legislation about who should wear certain colours and fabrics in medieval Europe, the sumptuary laws.
The garments are stunning in the sheer amount of embroidery and goldwork on them. This peacock was one of my favourites, the work that has gone into this is amazing.
There were also many examples of delicate art and calligraphy, all framed with silks and brocade.
The museum itself was a very gorgeous building, full of decorative doors and lamps, it dates from the early 1930s. As with many of Tokyo’s buildings, an earlier one was destroyed in an earthquake.
A really beautiful collection and I loved seeing all the detail of the gowns. Sadly the other museum we wanted to visit, covering the Edo period, was closed for refurbishment, so this was our only museum trip while in Japan.
I only have one more post for you about the Japan trip and that covers something that I didn’t really expect to find, but was great fun! More on that later. I have friends coming to stay for the next two weeks so I will be out and about with them, showing them what Spain has to offer.
I will pop back later in the week as I have been hard at work in the craft space. I am actually ahead of myself in terms of targets for this block of time here so have been spending some time with my machine. More of that next time, meanwhile, have fun, take care, stay safe and thanks for visiting.