Japanese Arts & Crafts (Part 1)

Japanese art evolved unique techniques, traditions and aesthetics as the country’s artists were isolated from the rest of the art world for centuries at a time. When Japanese art finally exploded onto the world stage in the 1860s, it changed everything. For example, Japanese art was one of the inspirations for the Impressionist movement in Europe and America.

The following are a few major Japanese arts and crafts:

1. Shodo

Shodo is the Japanese art of calligraphy that’s created with a brush. It’s highly stylized and often almost illegible. The art mostly evolved at temples and has been greatly influenced by Japanese Buddhism. Works of shodo often look vaguely like a landscape painting. Most Japanese people have studied it and have an appreciation for the art.
Ukiyo-e is a genre of Japanese art that thrived from the 1600s to 1880s. They were printed in great numbers using wood block printing methods. In most cases, they depicted popular topics such as kabuki, geisha, travel, history, myth and politics. Ukiyo-e greatly influenced European artists such as Vincent Gogh.
Most historical structures in Japan such as temples, shrines, castles and palaces are made of wood. The Japanese had unique techniques with wood and were able to create remarkably large wooden structures. For example, the great wooden stage of Kiyomizu-dera was constructed without a single nail. Modern Japanese architecture is equally interesting with hundreds of buildings and mega-projects such as bridges that have been recognized for their design.
Manga are Japanese comic books. Japan began producing dark, irreverent, sensual, violent graphic novels as early as the 1760s that were essentially comic books. These books were largely banned in 1787 but the art continued nonetheless. Modern Japanese manga represent an vibrant and popular form of art and writing.
Origami is the Japanese art of folding paper to create decorative art. The classic origami that every school child in Japan learns is the crane. According to myth, anyone who strings together 1000 origami cranes is granted a wish. The Japanese traditionally believed that cranes live 1000 years.
Japanese sculpture is traditionally associated with religion. Wooden sculptures of protectors of Buddha such as Nio and Shitenno guard the gates to many temples. Shinto gods known as kami are often depicted in sculpture at shrines. Several of these are priceless cultural artifacts including sculptures that rank amongst the largest in the world such as the Buddha of Todaiji.
Bonseki are miniature landscapes on black lacquer trays that make use of white sand, pebbles, and small rocks. The art dates back to the 7th century and was historically used to plan real gardens. Bonseki faded with time but interest in it has recently resumed and a number of bonseki classes are now available in Japan. It’s rare for bonseki to be preserved and they are viewed as temporary works of art that are more attractive because they are impermanent according the Japanese aesthetic of mono no aware.
Source: Japan Talk

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