museum

Edo gardening in wood block prints

Edo gardening in wood block prints

Encouraged by my host Suzuki Makoto sensei at Tokyo University of Agriculture, I recently visited the Edo Gardening Flowers exhibit being held at the Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art until November 26,2009. The exhibit has spectacular colorful wood block prints showing flowers and plants in a variety of urban settings including kimonos, at festivals, commercials nurseries, educational materials, Kabuki actors, and Noh dramas.

The exhibit theme is that the Edo period experienced a “gardening culture” in which a passion for gardens and flowers permeated all social classes, including court nobles, shoguns, feudal lords and the common people. According to the catalogue, “the Japanese people’s passion to flowers surprised the American botanist Robert Fortune as seen in his diary upon his visit to Japan in the late Edo period.”

An interesting comparison is also made between between the widespread practice of Edo gardening and also the interest of common people in wood block prints. It is wonderful to see the use of flowers and plants in both high culture realms and in depictions of everyday life during the Edo period.

Two of my favorite prints are collections of plants used by children to learn the names of flowers. The one below, from the back cover of the exhibit catalog, has the names in hiragana. The exhibit also includes Edo era ceramic plant pots.

Edo gardening in wood block prints

Some more images after the jump, and also a list of plants seen in the wood block prints.

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Train museum prompts ordinary behavior

Shibuya fake train

Just outside Shibuya station, next to the famous Hachiko statue, is a single train with wonderful photographs of how the station area has evolved in the past hundred years. What amazes me is that in crowded Tokyo, a museum train prompts most visitors to relax and behave as if they were in a real train. Apart from one woman studying the exhibit and one man representing the exhibit, the other “passengers” are acting like typical Tokyo train riders: two salary men sleeping, two people reading books, and a couple talking with eachother. Below gives you an idea of the context of this non-moving, perhaps hyper-real experience.

Shibuya fake train