Appreciating Nature through Gardening

Posts tagged “Tokyo

Tokyo National Museum

I encountered this “Monster Lantern” (20’ tall) while passing through Ueno Park on my way to the Tokyo National Museum. Typhoon Chaba was lashing the city and temperatures hovered around 50 F.   Wearing gloves and trying to keep my umbrella from turning out kept me from taking many photos outside.  I was wet to the knees and looked quite a fright – sensible people would have taken a taxi…

I studied Japanese Art twenty-five years ago — my recall is fuzzy beyond basic time lines.  Consequently, I’ve included links to sites that offer excellent descriptions for any who are interested.  The earliest artifacts included Jomon pottery.

An extravagant and lively piece (3000-2000 B.C.E.)

A solid contrast to the first work — the figure looks pained.

Dogu (3000-2000 B.C.E.) — an expressive form and almost feline face.

A gallery devoted to the history of Buddhism in Japan was represented by stunning sculptures.

A handsome figure of the Kushan dynasty (India, 2nd-3rd c.)

A monumental fragment smiles benignly.

A quintessentially Japanese  art form, paintings on screens address both practical and aesthetic needs. While the styles changed over the centuries to reflect the taste of patrons,  portrayals of the natural world dominated from delicate monochromatic landscapes to bold gilded images.

Autumn and Winter Landscapes by Sesshu Toyo, 15th c.

The Samurai culture Medieval Japan inspired amazing craftsmanship.

A finely embroidered kimono recalls Tsutenkyo in Koishikawa Korakuen.

While the objects on display were wonderful, and represented the highlights of Japanese art, the galleries struck me as rather sparse — two hours was plenty of time to squish through in soaked shoes.  Next stop, the Tokyo Edo Museum.


Gardens of Tokyo: Kiyosumi

While Kiyosumi  Gardens also emerged during the Edo period, its current form is the result of late 19th century renovation by Iwasaki Yataro, the founder of Mitsubishi.  The garden is noted for its collection of unusual rocks acquired from all over Japan that punctuate the views.   Rocks hold a special significance in Japan, hearkening back to traditional origin myths of the Japanese archipelago.  Some venerated Shinto sites feature a massive stone girdled with a sacred straw rope, indicating a place for communion with the gods.  Here they are valued for aesthetic qualities and as geological specimens.

“Iso-wateri” refers to the stepping stone paths that skirt the shoreline of the pond.  The small wooden markers designate the origins of the unusual rocks.

A sprig of cotoneaster forms a natural bonsai.

This garden was charming in a Disney-like way, perfectly groomed and efficiently routed.  As a result, it felt rather forced – the paths seemed a bit too open and cluttered with competing elements.  I suspect that it’s partly due to the relative youth of the space, but I also wonder if it also reflects the influence of 19th c. Western design.