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Japan Travel Guide

Art in Japan

When someone looks at Japanese art, the subject of the painting may not look realistic, but it does not need explanation.

A lot of paintings in Japan have beautiful back-rounds of mountains and valleys with streams and rivers going towards waterfalls while paintings have backgrounds that are just plain white.

Art history in Japan

When the Japanese paint or sculpt their god Buddha they usually show him or her sitting on or around lotus flowers. The background shows jewels and flowers dangling from every tree. Most sculptures are made of wood then painted into gold. But somehow the painting is never meant to be realistic. There is little detail and the painting may look dreamlike, someplace in heaven. Dots and lines formed most trees and mountains.

The beginnings

The earliest settlers according to archaeologists were a tribal people, the Ainu. By and by the Ainu people and their culture were forced to the Northern parts of Japan by the Jomon people (circa 11,000 - ca. 300 BC).

The Religious Influence

Buddhism had an important role in the development of Japanese art between the sixth and the sixteenth centuries. Buddhist art and religion came to Japan from China...

Heian Period 794-1185

In 794 the capital was moved to Heiankyo (now Kyoto). During the Heian period a more distinctive Japanese art culture developed. Around 1005 Lady Murasaki Shikibu...

Samurai culture

Samurai culture had a more direct impact on the development of the decorative arts. Military armour was made in quantity during the Kamakura era and the art of the sword.

The arts of Zen

Perhaps the greatest watershed in Japanese aesthetics occurs with the introduction of Zen Buddhism (Chinese in origin) early in the Kamakura Era (1185-1333).

Feudal arts and architecture

Zen arts flourished during the Muromachi era (1333-1573) and close links with China once again dominated cultural life. The Ashikaga shoguns, now headquartered in Kyoto alongside...

The Edo era 1600-1868

After 1603, the Tokugawa Shogunate was established at Edo (modern-day Tokyo) where it remained in power for the next 250 years.

Western influences

Episodes of Western contact prior to the Edo era resulted in some specific examples of artistic exchange. The Namban (southern barbarian) golden-screen paintings...

Mingei: The folk craft tradition

Mingei, the Japanese folk art movement, was developed in the late 1920s and 1930s in Japan. Its founding father is Yanagi Soetsu (1889-1961).

The performing arts

The traditional theatre arts evolved in the context of broader cultural developments during different periods of Japan's history. No (or Noh) is the classic theatre of Japan.

Art schools in Japan

Interested in a degree in the art and design world? with our database of art schools and colleges, has top degree programs in a variety of fields, including graphic design, fashion, interactive media, interior design, game design, web design, photography and film.
Art schools

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