Ukiyo-e is a genre style of art which uses woodblock printing developed during the Edo Period. Ukiyo-e literally means “picture of the floating world” in English. It depicts the customs of the time in the Edo period. Ukiyo-e had great influence on European painters such as Van Gogh at that time and those great works still draw attention from around the world. I think that few people own the pictures today. But you can appreciate ukiyo-e pictures in some museums in Japan. I introduce two art museums that can be appreciated ukiyo-e pictures near the Kanto area.
What is Ukiyo-e?
Ukiyo-e is a painting that depicts human daily activities. It spread in the 17th century. At first it the woodblock prints were monochromatic simply using Indian ink. Later full-color printing technique came out. In the 18th century, prints became a shared work system, which divided into a painter, caver and printer’s work. This technique can be mass production and Ukiyo-e prints became affordable and widespread. In the Edo Period Ukiyo-e plays the role of medium for the common people.
OTA MEMORIAL MUSEUM OF ART
Location: Tokyo Harajuku
Access: Tokyo Metro Meiji Jingu-mae Exit 5, 5 min walk, JR Yamanote Line Harajuku Station 5 min. Walk
Opening Hours: 10: 30-17: 30 (until Admission 17 o’clock) last admission 1700
Closed holiday: Monday (except holidays) Exhibition exchange period (The period of changing exhivition)
Admission: 700 yen for adults
This museum is specializing in Ukiyo-e works and founded in 1977 by late Seizo Ota, CEO of an insurance company. Exhibiting about 12,000 pieces of Ukiyo-e works were collected by him. The collection of this museum consists of masterpieces by Katsushka Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige. Ukiyo-e works on display are changed every month according to themes of exhibition. The exhibition rooms are on the first and the second floor. You can watch not only Ukiyo-e pictures but also process of art technique.
Fujisawa Ukiyo-e Museum
Location: Kanagawa Prefecture Fujisawa City Coco Terrace Shonan building 7F
Access: 5 minutes on foot from Tsujido Station on JR Tokaido Line. Approximately 50 minutes from Tokyo Station.
Opening Hours: 10: 00-19: 00 (Admission is until 18:30)
Closed: Mondays, New Year’s Holiday, when changing exhibition.
Admission fee: free
It is in Kanagawa Prefecture. If you are going to sightsee to Kamakura or Odawara direction, you can stop by on the way. This museum is free of charge because the museum is managed by Fujisawa city. Although the number of pieces of work is smaller than Ota Memorial Art Museum, it is worth watching.
The characteristic of this museum is the collection of pictures that associated with Fujisawa local location.
Fujisawa flourished as a lodging station of Tokaido highway in the Edo period. Fujisawa was the place that became the subject of many Ukiyo-e prints. One of the famous picture “Fifty-three post Stations of Tokaido highway” depicted by Utagawa Hiroshige is Fujisawa. Enoshima island was also illustrated as the major scenic theme of Ukiyo-e. You can have an experience such as printing a picture in the workshop at the weekends. Since each picture has explanations in Japanese and English, it would be easy to understand and imagine.