日本

you're strange and you're beautiful

Japan Exhibition at NYC’s American Museum of Natural History

On one of the coldest days this winter in NYC, my husband and I crossed an icy Central Park to visit the Natural History Museum (yes, the one where Ben Stiller worked). We both share a fanaticism for museums, and ended up staying for 5 and a half hours with only a 15 minute break for lunch in the cafe. We missed some reptiles on Floor 3, but covered most of the exhibits. The walk back was bitterly cold and exhausting (we forgot about the 79th street bus and had to basically double our journey) but well worth it.

The Hall of Asian Peoples especially got my attention of course, and I snapped more pictures of the Japanese artefacts than the Japanese tourists. Well, seemed like it. Here is a little selection of my favourite pieces. The lighting in most of the museum is almost pitch black, so I had to use my digi cam on pretty grainy settings. Click them for larger sizes – apologies ahead of time for the quality, but I had to share.

I loved these intricate, ivory 根付 (netsuke) most of all, and they got the most camera time. I couldn’t get close enough to do the workmanship justice, but they come out almost as beautiful in shadow.

The tiered structure and anthropomorphic drapery in this piece reminds me of Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa. Except carved impossibly on a millionth of the scale.

Not being a sword expert, I’m hazarding a guess that these are 短刀 (tantou) or short swords with scabbards. Good stab ‘n’ slash action, I should imagine.

Painting of a samurai from the exhibition. Fury and elegance in one perfect warrior form.

Carving tools and methods.

Archer’s quiver. Check out George W being impressed/confused by archers on horseback.

Accessories of warfare.

Shrine welcoming visitors into the Japan exhibits.

More 根付 – check out the dudes in the boat!

I just loved this photograph, though I can’t recall any information about it. Seriously, the lighting is so low that even with glasses I could barely make the text out.

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko – so young and fashionable!

地蔵菩薩 (Jizou Bosatsu) a much beloved Buddhist deity, here watching over the patrons of the museum.

I told you I loved these little darlings, didn’t I?

Depiction of an Ainu with a well-developed mouth tattoo and distinctive clothing patterns. These were one of the peoples indigenous to Japan, more particularly to the northern islands. Their history is well worth a read, with good old Wiki being a good start.

Come on, I simply had to include this chap. Honestly, the expression on his face is no larger than the tip of your finger!

And to finish, I thought this little bit of museum copy was beautifully written and perfectly sums up the nation’s attraction for so many Japanophiles like myself.

I’ve come to know what ‘only in America’, ‘only in Britain’, and now ‘only in New York’ means. I’m starting, with less than a year of Japanophilia under my belt, to understand ‘only in Japan’ as well.

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