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Posted by Artswel on 17th Apr 2021

Have you ever wondered about Japanese Art history?

For starters, Japanese art has very sophisticated forms and very subtle forms. One of the persistent themes in Japanese art is subtle references to emotions.

Deeper feeling and sense of belonging to their own culture and heritage as felt by the Japanese people’s most visible in their special relationship with Kyōto. In 1994, UNESCO awarded the world heritage site to the collective of many historic temples and gardens of Kyoto.

An ancient perspective first…

Japanese art history goes back in time as far as the Paleolithic age. The main period, during which arts were developed, include formative period, Jomon, Yayoi, Asuka, Hakuho, Nara period.

The Japanese arts originate in Kyoto, the first capital

Kyoto’s rich cultural heritage was profoundly influenced by the Emperor and Aristocrats, High-ranking warriors, varied groups of artists, and literati working for the Royal Palace.

During the Heian period, the serious art history of japan starts, when Kyoto became the first capital after the first emperor united all the tribes and commissioned singular imagery code and collective forms of celebrations that include arts of all provinces.

Their work was informed by Esoteric Buddhist themes and Amidism. The work focused on calligraphy painting and decorative arts.

The concentration of all those cultures in the first capital leads to Kyoto becoming the cultural capital. This was followed by the Kamakura period that promoted sculpting and painting.

Followed by Muromachi’s who introduced ceramics, lacquerware. They are also credited with the creation of the Japanese tea ceremony.

Muromachi was followed by the brief period of Azuchi-Momoyama, but the later Tokugawa and Edo period saw great advances in printing, woodblock prints while advancing the already famous art traditions of Kyoto.

Finally arriving at the Modern-day period that further focused on western-style painting, Japanese style paintings, woodblock prints, and ceramics.

Welcome to the truly mesmerizing world of Arts

As a result, and 1000 years of Kyoto at the centre, it became the cultural capital.

Modern-day Kyoto houses mesmerizing ancient Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, Noh theatres, workshops of painters and lacquer artists. It is also home to the finest ceramic kilns, textile shops, flourishing tea culture, and bustling market districts.

Kyoto’s royal patrons funded supremely elegant architecture and gardens, all of it contributed to the vibrant cultural life, the advancement of Art of Japan.

Kyōto is the ancient centre and source of traditional Japanese culture and Buddhism. The earliest and finest arts mastered here include fine textiles and other Japanese handicrafts.

If you love Japanese traditional arts, Kyoto is your dream destination.

The city is famous for

So where to go to Kyoto to experience Kyoto Art history?

We recommend you start with the museums.

The best museum is the Kyoto National Museum. Here you can learn about the basic elements of Japanese art. The other impressive ones include the International Manga Museum, Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art, National Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Kyoto.

For those with even more love for Japanese art, the next best places to visit are the Galleries.

However, we want to draw your attention to a historical ceremony, a part of Kyoto Art history is to go watch the Kabuki theatre. Kabuki theatre is the epitome of Japanese performing arts. The main kabuki venue is the Minamiza Kabuki Theatre.

Another popular form of experiencing Kyoto Art history is attending one of the Noh theatres. Noh is the oldest surviving form of Japanese theatre. It combines music, dance, and acting to communicate Buddhist themes.

These plays recreate famous scenes from Japanese literature like The Tale of Genji or The Tale of the Heike. Every year, on the 1st and 2nd of June, at Heian-Jingu Shrine, visitors can see Takigi Noh in the evening.

The next thing to truly mesmerize and travel back in time is to spend time in the Geisha quarter. These specialists in Japanese tradition are a big learning experience for anyone. They are highly skilled in social conversations and dance.

Or Dance with a sword. This show is held at Samurai Kembu theatre, Kembu being the martial art form that mixes sword skills and slow dancing. Individually or in pairs the dancers perform beautifully choreographed scenes, they step, stomp, twirl and thrust gracefully, and their swinging swords whistling through the air. You will be captivated for sure.

And last but probably the favourite of many, the amazing Japanese Tea ceremony

Kyoto is the spiritual heart of the Tea Ceremony; this is where it was born and remains. Started in Kyoto around the 16th century, the practice has taken on a highly ritualized form today.

However, with time, the prevailing sensibility started to express understated, plain, even rough aesthetic, by which much of Japanese art is now known. This unadorned and rustic aesthetic is commonly known as “wabi-sabi”.

Tell us about your views and queries about Kyoto Arts and culture in the comment section below. Please visit our home page for more city guides of their art history.