Japanese books at the Brunei Gallery

The Brunei Gallery, based on the SOAS campus, is showing a fascinating array of Japanese texts – printed, calligraphic, illustrated – lent by Tenri Central Library, Japan.  The Edo period (1603-1868) feels especially well-represented but not to the exclusion of more ancient or modern works: from the 12th century, a series of stamped Buddha images with a handwritten note dating them to 1162; from the 20th, a series of waka poems by the woman poet Yosano Akiko (1878-1942), inspired by the Tale of Genji and executed in elegant calligraphy on 54 sheets of coloured paper.  I was very taken with the first Japanese scientific text on snowflakes, the Sekka Zusetsu of Doi Toshitsura (1789-1848), who studied the crystals under his western microscope.  I was charmed too by the very rare akakohon, miniature printed books containing children’s folktales for use at Hinamatsuri (the Girls’ or Doll’s Festival in March).  A scholarly treat.

1000 Years of the Art of Japanese Books
The Brunei Gallery, London
18 April to 22 June 2013