Museum tour in English: paintings of beautiful women at the Yamatane Museum of Art (Sept. 22)

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Uemura Shōen, Firefly, Color on Silk, Taishō Period, 1913, Yamatane Museum of Art

(UPDATE: THIS TOUR IS NOW FULL.) Please join me at the Yamatane Museum of Art in Tokyo on Friday Sept. 22 at 10:30 am, when I’ll give a guided tour in English of the exhibition, Uemura Shōen and Quintessential Binjinga, Paintings of Beautiful Women. The tour is by reservation only, will last about an hour and is free with regular museum admission (1,000 yen for adults).

This is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Japan through top-class works of art. One highlight will be the the chance to see the museum’s full collection of  paintings by Uemura Shōen (1875-1949), the first female artist to be awarded the Order of Culture and one of just two women who served as official artist to the Imperial Household. Numbering 18 works in total — all of which will be on display — the Yamatane’s collection of Shōen paintings is one of the best in Japan. We’ll also see paintings of beautiful women by many other artists, including Hishida Shunsō (1874-1911), Itō Shinsui (1898-1972), Kataoka Tamako (1905-2008) and Hashimoto Meiji (1904-1991).

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Hashimoto Meiji, Maiko, Apprentice Geisha, in Autumn, Color on Paper, Shōwa Period, 1976, Yamatane Museum of Art

In addition to paintings, we’ll view beautiful woodblock prints, including examples by famous artists such as Kitagawa Utamaro as well as an exceptional group of prints that have never before been publicly displayed. Borrowed especially for this exhibition, this private collection includes prints from Thirty-Two Aspects of Customs and Manners, one of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi’s true masterpieces.

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Kitagawa Utamaro, Seven Beauties of the Gay Quarters: Shinohara of the Tsuruya, Large Format (Ōban) Polychrome Woodblock Print (Nishiki-e) on Paper, Edo Period, c. 1794-95, Yamatane Museum of Art.  (On display 8/29-9/24)

If you’ve been on my museum tours before, you know they are lively and informal. I try to keep keep things accessible for total beginners while offering new information and insights for those who may be already deep into the subject matter. Most of the paintings we’ll see are Nihonga so I’ll be sure to offer some helpful background on this category of Japanese painting. The tour is during regular museum hours, so we’ll be using headsets connected wirelessly to my microphone. This should allow everyone to hear well without our talk disturbing other visitors.

This tour is limited to 25 people (the number of headsets available). UPDATE: Tour filled the first day, but if you’re interested in going on a wait list, please let me know either through the contact page on this blog or by sending an email to gordenkeralice(at)

The Yamatane Museum of Art is located at 3-12-36 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, and is about a 10 minute walk from Ebisu Station (use the West Exit if you’re coming on JR; Exit 2 if you’re coming on the Hibiya subway line). There is a map and directions on the museum’s website or use this link to Google Maps.


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Ticket Giveaway: Flower exhibition at the Yamatane Museum

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Kobayashi Kokei, Bird and Everygreen Magnolia (1935), color on silk, Yamatane Museum of Art

By special arrangement with the Yamatane Museum of Art, one of my favorite museums, I have 5 pairs of tickets to give away. The tickets are for their current A World of Flowers – from the Rinpa School to Contemporary Art.


A view of the main gallery. There are approximately 60 wonderful flower paintings on exhibit.

Please enter by sending me your name, email address and mailing address via the contact form on this blog.  If I get more than five applicants, I’ll have my computer do a random drawing.  Your information won’t be used for any other purpose.

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One of the most beloved paintings in the museum’s collection: Cherry Blossoms at Daigo-ji Temple (1972) by Okamura Togyu. Color on paper. Image courtesy of Yamatane Museum of Art. It’s something else to see in person, trust me.

Let’s limit to this to residents of Japan or people with an address in Japan, and to be fair to others, please enter only if you’ve got a reasonable chance of using the tickets. The exhibition runs through June 18. I’ll accept entries through May 6, and the museum will mail out tickets early in the week of May 8.


For every exhibition, the museum commissions five special wagashi sweets, each inspired by one of the works on display. Enjoy them in the cafe with tea, or take them home.


The museum shop is a good source for gifts that are very Japanese. You don’t have to pay admission to visit the shop, which is downstairs next to the main gallery; just tell the staff that you want to take a look at the shop.

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(FULL)Museum tour in English: Kakiemon exhibit at the Toguri Museum of Art (Wed. May 10, 7-8:30 pm)


A splendid and very large new work by Kakiemon XV: this covered jar with cherry blossom design (2017)

(Update: April 27: This event is now full. ) The Harvard Club of Japan has graciously allowed me to offer my contacts a few places in a private tour I am doing for them on Wednesday May 10 at 7 pm at the Toguri Museum of Art, a very nice small museum in Shoto, near Shibuya Station, that specializes in fine Japanese porcelain. This time, we will be enjoying a special exhibition of porcelain in the Kakiemon style. It will be my only tour for this exhibition, and the last at this museum until at least next fall, so if you’ve been wanting to join one of my tours, please grab this chance — there are only a few places available.


This octagonal dish with a “Hob-in-the-Well” design is a typical example of the Kakiemon style, from the second half of the 17th century during the Edo period.

Details on the tour are here. To sign up, please contact Jonathan Harlow (Harvard Club Director of Events) for at

For more information on the exhibition, see my article in the Japan Times.

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Watch the time! Thursday at 4, Friday at 6

In my original post about my gallery talks this week at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, I forgot to insert the time for the talk on Friday, which begins at 6 pm.  That information is now in the original post, but for the benefit of those who get notices of new posts by email, and may not see post updates,  I’m making a fresh post that will generate an email notice of the correct time information. Hope to see you!

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Museum tours in English: early Japanese photography (Thurs. April 13 and Fri. April 14)

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Ambrotype portrait of Toyoko, wife of Matsudaira Tadanari, Yamanouchi Studio, c. 1868-1882.

Please join me this week, at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum in Ebisu Garden Place, on Thursday April 13 at 4 pm or Friday April 14, 2017 at 6 pm, when I’ll give guided tours in English of  the exhibition, Dawn of Japanese Photography: The Anthology.  The tours are free with regular museum admission (700 yen for adults, less if you’re a student or over 60) and open to everyone without reservations.

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Some of the photographs are exhibited in freestanding cases so you can see both front and back. It’s important to view photographs as objects as well as images!

The exhibition presents the highlights and latest findings of a ten-year project to survey and catalog holdings of early Japanese photographs in museums, libraries and schools throughout Japan. Our understanding of the history of early photography in Japan is constantly expanding and being updated — this project turned up many previously unknown yet very important works, which we’ve brought together so you can see and learn.

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Daguerreotype portrait of Tanaka Mitsuyoshi taken in 1854 by Eliphalet M. Brown Jr., official photographer to Commodore Perry.  Private collection.

If you’ve been on my museum tours before, you know they are lively and informal. I try to keep keep things accessible for total beginners while offering new information and insights for those who may be already deep into the subject matter. There are lots of interesting “firsts” to see in this exhibition, including the first photographs taken of a Japanese person as well as the first photographs taken by a Japanese person. (Quiz question: do you think these “firsts” were taken on Japanese soil or overseas?)

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Albumen print showing damage to a shrine caused by the Shonai earthquake of 1894. Photographer unknown. Collection of the Homma Museum of Art in Sakata, Yamagata Prefecture.

You don’t need to contact me to get a space; just turn up! Each tour will last 50-60 minutes, but it’s fine to leave earlier if you’re pressed for time. Thursday’s tour is likely to be less crowded than Friday, just because of the time. The Tokyo Photographic Art Museum  — yes, this is the same museum that used to be called the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography — is about a 10-minute walk from JR Ebisu Station (through the covered SkyWalk walkway) and about 12-minutes from Ebisu station on the Hibiya subway line.  We will assemble in the third-floor lobby outside the exhibition.

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Museum tour in English: modern Japanese ceramics (Friday Jan. 20)


Picture plate in the “new Majolica style” (1905) by Itaya Hazan (1872-1963). Collection of Tokyo Tech Museum and Archives.

Please join me at the Shoto Museum of Art in Shibuya on Friday January 20, 2017 when I’ll give a guided tour in English of Ceramics Japan: Tracing Japanese Modern through Ceramics. The tour will begin at 6:30 pm and is free with regular museum admission (500 yen for adults, less if you’re a student or over 60).

The exhibition provides an excellent overview of Japanese ceramics in the modern era, which is to say from the Meiji Restoration of 1868 until the end of World War II. It covers everything from the export ceramics that set off the Japonism boom in the West to what was made in Japan during the war, a topic rarely covered. The focus is on design, and the very deliberate way Japanese ceramic designers first responded to foreign tastes and trends, and then set about searching for a unique Japanese aesthetic for ceramics.


Lidded pots with mythical shishi lions, decorated in Tokyo in the Satsuma style by Niimura Tomezo in gold and overglaze enamels. Early Meiji period/late 19th century. Private collection.

If you’ve been on my museum tours before, you know they are lively and informal. I try to keep keep things accessible for total beginners while offering new information and insights for those who may be already deep into the subject matter. There are lots of cool and unexpected things to see in this exhibition, including the first Western-style dinner set successfully made in Japan (the “Sedan” pattern made by Nippon Toki, which later became Noritake) and the sort of sink made in the 1920s for oh-so-modern multi-family dwellings like the famous Dojunkai apartments in Omotesando.


I love these dishes designed by Hino Atsushi and manufactured by Okura Toen in the 1920s using a traditional maki-e etching technique Private collection.

Advance reservations are not necessary, and it’s fine to just turn up if you can. But it’s helpful to me if you let me know you’re coming so I have an idea of how many people are coming. You can do that through the contact form on this blog, by leaving a comment or by email to gordenkeralice(at) Hope to see you there! The Shoto Museum is about a 15-minute walk from the Hachiko exit of Shibuya Station, and closer to Shinsen Station on the Keio Inokashira Line.


Ceramic tiles were introduced in Japan as a novel building material and became popular after the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 because they were seen as modern and safer. Colorful tiles like this were made by many companies, including Danto Kabushiki Kaisha in Osaka.

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[This trip is now full.]Nov. 12″Discover Another Kanagawa”


Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve been working with Kanagawa Prefecture for over a year to design short tours for people like me:  foreign residents of Japan who enjoy learning and getting out of the to discover lesser known but eminently worthwhile destinations. To date, I’ve brought groups to four great spots in Kanagawa: the lovely Manazuru peninsula, fascinating Oyama (“Edo’s Disneyland”), the Tanzawa mountain range and most recently, to Ashigara to see  mounted archery, plum blossoms and sake making. Well, I’ve got another little goodie in the works, and I’m posting advance notice so those interested can save the date: Saturday,  November 12.


This time, we’ll venture to Minami Ashigara at the western edge of the prefecture, over towards Mount Fuji. It’s a place of real natural beautyーcitrus trees dotting steep green hillsides, green valleys amid mountains and small-scale farms and rice patties, yet close enough to Tokyo and Yokohama for an easy day trip.  In keeping with Kanagawa’s effort to promote the western part of the prefecture as the natural place for healing, this time I’m incorporating Japanese-style wellness into my usual mix of culture, fun and exploration   The goal will be to stimulate the mind and senses while relaxing and refreshing the body and soul.


First stop: the tiny village of Yagura (pop. 280) which solved its twin problems of wild boars and isolation by planting zarugiku, the wonderful poofs of chrysanthemums you see in the photo above. Now some 10,000 people visit during their annual flower festival. We’ll be visiting when the festivities are just over and things are quiet and peaceful again, but the flowers are still in merry bloom. It’s a lovely place in a beautiful valley, and a few of the villagers will give us a guided walking tour so we can hear their interesting story.


Then we’ll hop onto our bus and head to Saijoji, a 14th century Zen monastery  built deep in a virgin cedar forest. It’s very much an undiscovered gem — even most Japanese haven’t heard of it. We’ll get a taste of life there — first with a lunch of authentic “shojin ryori” (Buddhist vegan/vegetarian cuisine), then by walking the beautiful grounds with an English-speaking monk who will answer our questions and tell us about the many legends associated with the temple.

I’m always looking for ways to quiet my over-active mind, so naturally Zen meditation is something I’ve wanted to try. But for all my years in Japan, I never have. It just seemed so..well, intimidating. The lotus position…monks patrolling with sticks. But Saijoji makes it easy to dip your toes in the water. Nice clean space. Comfy pillows that facilitate sitting cross-legged, and stools if your knees can’t take even that. Just 20 minutes, and our English-speaking monk will explain how to breathe and what to do when your mind wanders. And no one will get hit — I promise! If you like it, you’ll know where to come back for a weekend workshop or even an overnight stay. Truly, there’s no need to travel all the way to Koya-san for an authentic Zen experience — it’s right here in our back yard!


Finally, for that total refresh and relax experience, we’ll head over to the to “Only Y0u” hot-springs resort. (Did you notice the pun? “Yu” means “hot water” in Japanese). It’s got indoor and outdoor baths (segregated by sex). Feel the restorative power of lots and lots of warm water and all those minerals.


Even if hanging out naked isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other ways to relax here.  They’ve got lots of decks, all over the place looking  out at the trees, with both friendly group areas and quiet out-of-the-way spots for introverts and those who want to catch some winks.  Cafe snacks and drinks are available for purchase. And if you’re interested, while we’re there, you can take a free health check developed by the prefecture in cooperation with doctors and scientists, based on principles of Oriental medicine.  It’s interesting, kind of fun, and can be done on your own phone or the provided tablets.  They’ve even translated it for into (sort of) English. You should be able to take away personalized, specific suggestions for improving your health naturally. (I need to eat more purple foods.)


The cost of this day-tour is just 9,400 yen, which includes lunch, all transportation during the tour, the cost of the Zen meditation workshop, a gift bottle of local sake, guide fees and use of the facilities at the onsen hot-springs resort including towel, locker, hair dryers and pajama-like lounge wear.  Signs up will begin Tuesday Oct. 4 at 5 pm — I’ll tell you how and post the relevant links here and on Facebook as soon as I have them, but to be honest, that might not be until the day before, on Monday.  We’ve only got space for 25, and based on signups for the last tours, this will probably fill up the same evening registrations open, or maybe the following day.  Please mark your calendars, and check back. I really hope you can join us!

Here’s some fine print for those who like details earlier rather than later:

Meeting place: We’ll start and end at Odawara Station (on the JR Ueno-Tokyo Line, the Shinkansen Tokaido Line, and the private Odakyu Odawara and Daiyuzan lines), meeting up in front of the Starbuck’s at the west exit at 8:45 so we will depart by 9:00. 

How to get there? A no-change regular JR Ueno-Tokyo (Tokaido) Line train bound for Odawara departs Tokyo station at 7:09 (Shinagawa 7:19; Yokoyama 7:37) and arrives at Odawara at 8:34. One-way fare from Tokyo is 1, 490 yen (Shinagawa 1,320 yen; Yokohama 970 yen). If you buy a Green Ticket before boarding, you can upgrade to the first-class Green Car for 700 yen one way. From Shinjuku, for 1,770 yen (which includes 890 yen for a reserved seat) you can take the luxurious Sagami #57 “Romance Car” super-express on the Odakyu Line which departs at 7:10 and arrives Odawara at 8:27. Or save by taking the regular Odakyu Line express (kyuko) departing Shinjuku 7:01 and arriving Odawara 8:37. One-way fare is 880 yen. It’s also possible to take the Shinkansen bullet train, catching the Kodama #637 bound for Shin-Osaka that departs Tokyo Station at 7:56 (Shinagawa 8:04, Shin-Yokohama 8:16) and arrives in Odawara at 8:31. Fare from Tokyo including an unreserved seat is 3,220 yen one way (Shingawa 3,050 yen, Yokohama 1,950 yen).


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