After seeing the Edward Hopper exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, VA on my way to Charleston, SC (on journey: an encounter with edward hopper on the way to charleston), I enjoyed an exhibit called Beauty of Harmony: Japanese Landscape Prints by Kawase Hasui. The exhibit of 13 woodblock prints displayed historical and religious landmarks in cities such as Tokyo, Kanazawa, Kyoto, and Nara, as well as countryside scenes.
Kawase Hasui (1883-1957) made a series of expeditions across Japan during his lifetime, sketching landscapes, cityscapes, and the nation’s historical and religious landmarks to prepare for his prints.
As I looked at these prints, I realized I had visited many of these places when I went to Kyoto in 2011, and when I was teaching English outside of Tokyo in 2017. Where I have pictures of the places from these prints, I have included them along with the print.
Kinkakuji Temple was first built as a villa in the late 14th century, but later was reconstructed as a Zen Buddhist temple in 1420. This print, created in 1922, captures the scene before a young monk burned down the three-story pavilion in 1950.
Kiiyomizu Temple, literally, “the temple of clear spring,” was built in the 8th century atop a small mountain on the eastern side of Kyoto, offering a bird’s-eye view of the city. Here, Hasui depicts a temple hall leading to a vast veranda, where a lonely woman holding an umbrella gazes beyond the foliage-covered hills.
This print illustrates a shaded empty lane, where a lone woman in a kimono walks away from the viewer, recalling the former glory of the area as a home for powerful feudal clans.
Asano River is one of the largest rivers in Kanazawa. The first bridge over the river was built in 1594. This print illustrates a picturesque view of a single man walking across a bridge at sunset, while a flock of geese frolics in the water below. Two years after Hasui produced this print, a disastrous flood washed away the bridge.
Lake Ashinoko, which translates as “lake of reeds,” was formed about 3,000 years ago following a volcanic eruption at nearby Mount Hakone. It is one of Japan’s largest and most scenic lakes, surrounded by hot springs, temples, shrines, and villas. Lake Ashinoko offers the best views of Mount Fuji when the weather permits. In this print, Hasui illustrates a snow-capped Mount Fuji soaring between the hills, with cedar trees and a glimmering sky reflecting in the water while a fisherman sails across the lake.
The day was very overcast when I was there, so I sadly had no views of Mt. Fuji, although I was able to see it on another trip.
Otemon Gate, the main entrance of the East Garden of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, opened to the public in 1968. Located at the city’s center, the East Garden occupies 52 acres and features gardens, a pond and a castle. In this spring scene, Hasui illustrates the outside of Otemon Gate, showing the willow trees lining the sidewalk.
The Meiji Shrine was built in 1921 in memory of Emperor Meiji (1852-1912) and Empress Shoken (1849-1914). Encompassing 170 acres, the shrine is known for its combination of forests and an iris garden. Here, Hasui depicts purple and white irises in the foreground and visitors strolling around the garden.
In this print, Hasui illustrates the corner of Asakusa Temple, on the eastern side of Tokyo. We see a huge stone lantern, and women in kimonos gathering inside on a rainy morning. The intricate details, from vibrant umbrellas to blooming flowers and yellow trees, reveal the artist’s expertise in depicting seasonal variations.
Kasuga Shrine is a Shinto site built in the capital of Nara in the 8th century. According to Japanese mythology, a god of thunder traveled on a white deer to Nara, followed by several treasured gods now enshrined here. After 1,200 years, the building has remained the same, with its vermilion columns, white walls, dark cypress-bark roofs, and surrounding green trees. Wandering deer, who inhabit the shrine and the nearby mountains, are believed to be sacred messengers of Shinto gods (kami).
I saw a couple of other random pieces of art, then headed to my daughter’s house so we could leave for Charleston early the next morning.
(All information came from plaques at the exhibit.)
*Steps: 5,740, or 2.43 miles*
*Sunday, November 10, 2019*
I read with interest this post about the Japanese prints exhibition, putting contemporary photos is a good idea, I also went through some of these places, Kyoto, Nara, Tokyo. It shows that what is beautiful attracts the same interest across the ages. Thanks for the post.
Thank you so much, I’m glad you came along on my museum visit. Interesting what you said: that what is beautiful attracts the same interest across the ages. I like that very much. 🙂
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What gorgeous prints. These are the only sort of postcards I buy nowadays. They cause me just as much worry as my idea is always to use them for correspondence but I’m reluctant to part with them.
I love Japanese prints and paintings, Mari! I don’t know why: maybe they exude a certain mood and a bit of whimsy. I too love to buy postcards like these. I am never able to part with my postcards, but I do feel I should use them for something! 🙂
Thanks for showing me those great prints! 🙂
Thanks, Pit. I’m glad you liked them. 🙂
I like the exhibit, and with your photographs and text there is an impressive essay. Maybe it comes from being an island nation (or a nation of islands), but I note that precipitation seems to be integral in the Japanese works. Buildings next to water or under snow or rain. People next to water or under snow or rain. The wandering deer you photographed are beautiful with imposing antlers. I hope we’d all be friends.
Thank you, Christopher. I was in Japan for 4 months, and I know many days I was traipsing around in the rain. So yes, it rains a lot. I loved those deer in Nara, and I loved visiting those places shown in the prints. It made me feel that I had touched on an ancient aspect of Japan. 🙂
I loved going through this collection of woodblock prints, Cathy. They are gorgeous and your photos intertwined are perfect. I was lucky to get a trip in to Japan a couple of years ago and visit these places. A marvelous country.
Thanks so much, Jane. I loved the exhibit, and I loved Japan. It felt right to show the modern-day versions juxtaposed with the old prints. Lucky you to have visited Japan. It is a wonderful country, isn’t it?
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I really like these prints, and it’s such a good idea to include your own images. In many, the view is hardly changed, though I would prefer to visit Asakusa Temple in the 1920s rather than 2017 when it looks horribly crowded! Even pre-social distancing.
Thanks so much, Anabel. I would definitely have liked Asakusa better in the 1920s. It’s Tokyo’s main temple and from what I understand, it’s always busy.
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