Playing a large role in this is our replica traditional Japanese cottage (left), and our Museum, with four galleries displaying rotating and permanent exhibits of traditional and contemporary Japanese art and handicrafts. These range from expositions of hanging scrolls and wood block prints to shows of fans and kimonos, as well as of ceramics, metalwork, and sculpture. Check here often to stay abreast of our varied offerings.
Vase Variations: The Artistry of Ikebana Vessels
Our newest permanent exhibition offers a unique window into Ikebana, the traditional Japanese art of flower arranging.
Ikebana arose about 550 years ago, born of placing flowers at altars in Buddhist temples. Unlike Western flower arranging which focuses on blooms and blossoms, Ikebana gives equal weight to texture, form, and structure, and to stems, leaves, and branches. And not least to vases – designed and mindfully chosen on the basis of their materials, size, shape, finish, and color to heighten the contemplative, Zen-like nature of a traditional Japanese floral composition.
From the first containers made of iron, Ikebana vases have evolved as the art of flower arranging spread from the Japanese nobility to commoners. Various schools of Ikebana also developed, pursuing differing arrangement principles. The vases used in all of them share a purity of purpose designed to complement but not compete with the creations they hold.
The vases on view at Yume are drawn from our collection of more than 200 Ikebana vessels, the largest and widest-ranging such holding in the United States. Many are more than a century old, others are contemporary, and most are handmade by Japanese artisans from bamboo, bronze, ceramics, lacquer, clay, or glass. They illustrate an amazing breadth of design and materials, and accompanying photographs of flower arrangements show how they are used in the different schools of Ikebana practice.
Splendor in Cloth: Traditional Japanese Wedding Kimonos
Few things are so closely associated with Japan by Westerners as the kimono. The examples in this permanent exhibit are worn at traditional weddings and are outstanding in their workmanship and beauty.
Stitched together out of cut pieces like Western clothes, the robe-like kimono emerged in the latter half of the fifteenth century. Because all kimonos share a simple straight-lined form, it is the lovely painterly decorative designs on them that lend individuality to each garment. Often the themes of such designs are flowers or birds in many colors, but they may also be depictions of clouds, water or leaves, or of scenes associated with poems, songs, or novels
Although most Japanese today require help to put on a formal kimono and tie the obi or sash that secures it so that the fall of the garment achieves an elegant appearance, beautiful kimonos are still common, if not commonly worn. There are kimonos for men, women, and children, and for formal and felicitous occasions such as graduation and coming-of-age ceremonies, mourning, and New Year’s festivities. Those for traditional weddings, such as in our display, are of silk and are especially elaborate. Hand-painted and embroidered, they can cost thousands of dollars.
Mingei: Old Japan on Hand
Objects designated mingei, or “art of the people,” are often antiquities and are esteemed, collected, and conserved in Japan for their rusticity, functionality, and homemade quality. Produced as they were by anonymous people who made them for their own everyday use, utilitarian mingei pieces challenge narrow definitions of art and beauty, being plain and simple folkcrafts rather than refined works created by professional artists.
Our collection includes items spanning more than 200 years. Among them are a straw barrel to store Japanese rice wine, or sake, and porcelain cups to drink the spirits, along with slender brushes tipped with deer, horse, rabbit, or squirrel hair for drawing calligraphy and to make ink-wash paintings. Also on display are more robust objects, such as a homely iron hearth and traditional hasami, or sewing scissors, forged by an ironmonger from a single piece of steel and reflecting the skills of sword makers applied to the fabrication of a household article.
With “Mingei: Old Japan on Hand,” we pay tribute to nameless creators who used materials as common as themselves – ceramics, textiles, metal, paper, bamboo, lacquer, and wood – to make functional things that are humble, but nonetheless of value, because they preserve the sense of the personal in an era of mass manufactures.
Exquisite Visions: Japanese Hanging Scrolls
An essential element of classical refinement in every temple and tea house in Japan and in many traditional homes is the beautiful kakemono, or hanging scroll. On permanent exhibition from our large collection are scrolls dating from the 18th to the 20th centuries and from various regions of Japan. Painstakingly crafted artworks, they feature hand-painted images or ink-wash sketches or calligraphy on Japanese paper or brocaded silk fabric.
The pictorial compositions on kakemono are delightfully varied. In addition to birds such as stately cranes and rustic quail, scrolls may depict delicate flower stems and blossoms, beckoning trees, clouds, hills and mountains, and allegorical scenes, such as depictions of pilgrim journeys and Buddhist images. Bold calligraphy illustrates other scrolls, with famous poems a favorite theme.
As different as one kakemono may be from another in subject, all share in common that each is displayed with careful attention to the spiritual feeling that it lends to its surroundings, in accord with the special nature of a season, holiday, or occasion. This consideration is paramount in the tea ceremony, for example. This subdued but distinctive mood-setting quality heightens the exquisiteness of hanging scrolls and makes this genre of art avidly sought by Western admirers and a cherished component of Japanese culture.