Japanese Art

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Japanese Art consists of a wide variety of different styles ranging from the woodblock prints of medieval Japan to the modern contemporary works of Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara.



Hanga refers to Japanese prints, with multiple different forms of prints including the Sosaku Hanga, Shin hanga, and Moku hanga. Each type refers to a different time period and level of quality and originality in the work.

Forms of Art

The following are popular forms of Japanese art, dating back to early years of Japanese history:

  • Origami – This traditional form of paper folding has been seen by the west of one of Japan’s many art forms, but is an extension of artistic expression in Japanese culture and history.
  • Tea Ceremony – The tea ceremony is considered by many Japanese to be a classical art form, involving carefully measured movements and artistic flourishes.
  • Tsuba – The hand guard of a Japanese sword, considered an intricate artform during the Edo Period in Japanese history.
  • Netsuke – Carvings dating back to early, prehistoric times in Japan to the current artform practiced in many small villages.
  • Ceramics – Earthenware from Arita, kakiemon, Fukugawa, kutani, and Banko and Satsuma pottery make up a major portion of Japanese ceramics that is one of the best known in the world.

Contemporary Art

Since the influence of western culture in Japan, the artists of contemporary Japan have been not only more involved in the combination of western and eastern culture than any other artists in the world – they have been stretching the boundaries of numerous traditional forms in Japanese culture. Many of today’s modern Japanese art combines a great deal of the aesthetics of manga that so thoroughly infiltrated pop culture, creating a constant tension and precarious balance between high and low art in a country known for its divergence of class and status for so many centuries.

Famous Contemporary Artists

  • Emiko Aida – Traditionally trained in classical arts, Aida works with water and its many forms, creating aquatints, woodblock prints, and water formations that have landed her work around the world.
  • Hideaki Kato – Kato, practicing the ancient artwork of silkscreen printing produces traditional, Kyoto inspired works that integrate modern forms of art with classic sensibilities and styles.
  • Takashi Murakami – Murakami’s work combines the aesthetics of classic Japanese art with the current trends of manga and animation to form bubble, anime-like images and prints that have earned him international acclaim.
  • Yoshitomo Nara – Known for the childlike illustrations that grace posters, post cards, and billboards throughout the world, Nara’s images are a prime example of Japanese past mixing with contemporary styles of animation and illustration.

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