Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan Exhibition Spotlight- Spring

Throughout the course of Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan, we’ll be featuring some of our favorite works of art from the exhibition and providing a more in-depth look at some of our favorite pieces.

This week we’re featuring three remarkable pieces from Phase Two of the collection, which will be on display March 28-June 4, and is devoted to themes of spring:

Kitchen model

This meticulous work is on loan from the Museum of Omihachiman City—Grand Rapids’ Sister City in the Shiga Prefecture. It is a perfect scale model of a traditional Japanese kitchen and its wide range of instruments and utensils. Originally, it would have been commissioned by a wealthy merchant family for young children. More than simply a toy, it would have been essential to their success in future life. Note the complete mastery of numerous materials in wood, metal and ceramic, which replicate everyday objects in minute detail.

Miniature kitchen model
Shōwa Period, 20th Century
Wood, material, stoneware
Collection of Omihachiman City
Courtesy of The Museum of Omihachiman City

Koto Ware

Koto Ware, a highly refined form of ceramics from Shiga Prefecture, flourished in 19th century. The kiln where this nest box was created opened in 1842 in the city of Hikone, and produced luxury items until 1862. The delicacy and decoration of Koto Ware was the antithesis to the irregular shape and earthy colors and textures of Shigaraki pottery.

This multi-tiered stackable box was meticulously made and decorated by hand. The square shape and flat bottoms of each level would have been difficult to create and could only have been produced by an artist of the highest skill. It originally functioned as a type of luxury lunch box perhaps given as a royal gift and used only for special guests.

The namesake decorative elements of the peacock and peony are found across the exterior. Such forms were undoubtedly influenced by the art of China. So too, the use of porcelain with blue underglaze also evidences an interest in Chinese art and pottery.

Koto Ware, Nest of boxes with peacock and peony
Edo Period, 19th Century
Porcelain with blue underglaze
The Museum of Shiga Prefecture, Biwako-Bunkakan

Dainnichi Nyorai

This figure represents the central deity of Esoteric Buddhism. Simply put, he represents the Supreme Buddha seated atop the iconic lotus flower. Traces of gold leaf can be found across the surface of the cast bronze figure suggesting the prominence of the sculpture. An extremely rare loan from the Binman-ji Temple, this sculpture is among the oldest objects on display in this exhibition. Located in the rural city of Taga Town, this temple was one of the most visited and prosperous temples of medieval Japan (13th-16th century).

The firmly seated position and contemplative demeanor are iconic for Buddhist statuary. Although the body and floral form are decidedly iconic, there is a strong vertical structure to this composition. One can easily follow a visual central core that stretches from the conical headdress through the torso of the figure down to the pedestal upon which the Buddha rests. Such a strong central core grants the illusion of monumentality to the sculpture.

Dainichi Nyorai

Kamakura Period, 13th Century
Cast bronze
Collection of the Preservation Meeting of Binman-ji Temple’s Historic Relics and Culture
Courtesy of the Museum of Taga Town

SPLENDORS OF SHIGA: TREASURES FROM JAPAN EXHIBITION SPOTLIGHT – KIMONO

Throughout the course of Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan, we will be featuring some of our favorite works of art from the exhibition and providing a more in-depth look at some of these pieces.

This week, we’re featuring two beautiful kimono from the collection:

Kimono, Flowers

The tradition of the kimono carried through the 20th century and increasingly became more of a pictorial art form rather than a functional object. This example is by the master designer and artist Moriguchi Kakō, recognized as a Living National Treasure by the Japanese Government during his long career. In many ways he elevated the art form in the postwar period with many of his works considered so significant they were shown on exhibition rather than worn on special occasions. Depicted are flowing branches of plum blossoms, which are traditional reminders of springtime. The material was hand dyed in an ancient tradition the artist learned in Kyoto and continued in his workshop in the city of Moriyama in the Shiga Prefecture. This is one of three original kimono designs by Kakō that will be on display over the course of the exhibition.

Kimono, Flowers
Moriguchi Kakō (1909–2008)
Shōwa Period, 1983
Yuzen style dyed, silk
The Museum of Modern Art, Shiga

Kosode Kimono with young pine trees and flying cranes

This full kimono from the 18th century served as a bridal dress, and was passed down for generations in a single family in the mercantile city of Omihachiman. The blue silk was tediously hand knotted and tie-dyed to create the expansive design of flying cranes and young pines. Both traditional symbols in Japanese culture, the birds represent long life and the trees stand for resilience as well as longevity. As a bridal gown, this garment would have originally had long flowing sleeves that were shortened at some period to be worn by a married woman throughout her life. This rare loan will be the last public exhibition of this kimono owing to the fragility of the centuries-old silk. This is one of three traditional kimonos that will be on display over the course of the exhibition.

Kosode Kimono with young pine trees and flying cranes
Edo Period, 19th Century
Tie-dyed figured silk
Collection of Omihachiman City
Courtesy of The Museum of Omihachiman City

Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan Exhibition Spotlight – Sculpture

Throughout the course of Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan, we’ll be featuring some of our favorite works of art from the exhibition and providing a more in-depth look at some of these pieces.

This week, we’re featuring two pieces of sculpture from the collection:

Buddha at Birth

This rare sculpture from the 8th century describes the infant Buddha. According to tradition, the infant took seven steps from his mother, pointed to the heavens and declared he was venerable on both heaven and earth while under his feet lotus flowers bloomed. The sculpture describes a very young figure pointing to the heavens with his right hand and to the earth with his left hand; beneath his feet is a stylized representation of a lotus flower. Figures such as this were placed on display at festivals celebrating the Buddha’s birth on April 8. Then, it would have been surrounded by flowers and sweet tea poured over the figure. The latter possibly accounts for the surface colors seen today.  On loan from the Daiko-ji Temple, it is one of several Buddhist devotional figures and accessories which will be on display over the course of the exhibition.

Buddha at Birth
Nara Period, 8th Century
Cast bronze
Collection of Daiko-ji Temple
Courtesy of The Museum of Shiga Prefecture, Biwako-Bunkakan

Seated Senju Kannon

The ancient bronze shown above,Seated Senju Kannon, is on loan through the Kannon-ji Temple located on the shores of Lake Biwa in the center of the Shiga Prefecture. It represents the God of Mercy who, according to Buddhist beliefs, has the highest rank after the Buddha himself. The figure is described with multiple arms at his sides and multiple heads atop his head symbolizing a thousand armed and a thousand eyed deity capable of managing everything in the universe and able to save all situations in the world. A subject of great devotion, this deity also appears frequently in traditional paintings from the 16th through the 18th centuries. Careful observation of this bronze form reveals traces of gold leaf indicating the sculpture was at one time completely gilded. This is another of the several Buddhist devotional figures and accessories that will be on display over the course of the exhibition.

Seated Senju Kannon
Edo Period, 17th Century
Cast bronze
Collection of the Kannon-ji Temple
Courtesy of The Museum of Shiga Prefecture, Biwako-Bunkakan

Click HERE to learn more about our Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan exhibition.

Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan – Exhibition Spotlight

Throughout the course of Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan, we’ll be featuring some of our favorite works of art from the exhibition and providing a more in-depth look at some of our favorite pieces.

This week, we’re featuring three bowls from the collection:

Shigaraki Ware, Tea Bowl Asanikeni by Ueda Naokata

This tea bowl was made by Ueda Naokato who is a specialist in tea ceremony ceramics. A leading master of the famed Shigaraki pottery, he is the fifth generation of his family to work in this tradition and is revered as a Shiga Prefectural Intangible Asset or Treasure. The earthen colors, highly textured surfaces and slightly irregular form epitomize the Shigaraki tradition. This vessel was made on a hand-propelled wheel and in a wood-fired kiln. The fingerprints seen on the interior base of this bowl are intentional. Works by Naokato have also been commissioned for use in the teahouse in the Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden. This particular vessel will be on display over the entirety of the exhibition.

Shigaraki Ware, Tea Bowl Asanikeni
Ueda Naokata (born 1927)
Shōwa Period, 1964
Stoneware
Courtesy of Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park

Shigaraki Ware, Lozenge-styled vase with natural firing effect by Takahashi Shunsai

This vessel was made by Takahashi Shunsai, a specialist in ceramic vases and jars. Part of a family of potters, he is celebrated as a Shiga Prefectural Intangible Asset or Treasure. Although he initially follows traditional shapes, he has experimented with forms, firing techniques and natural glazes as a means of bringing the history of Shigaraki pottery into the modern age. The carefully marked glaze decoration on this vessel has not been painted, but results from the chemical reaction of wood ash across the surface of the clay and the controlled movement of air in the firing process. This particular vessel will be on display over the course of the exhibition.

Shigaraki Ware, Lozenge-styled vase with natural firing effect
Takahashi Shunsai (1927–2011)
Heisei Period, 1997
Stoneware
Courtesy of Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park

Large crazed celadon bowl by Shimizu Uichi

Born into a family of potters in Kyoto, Shimizu Uichi was declared a Living National Treasure by the Japanese Government over the course of his extensive career.  He established a studio on the shores of Lake Biwa near the Shiga Prefectural Capital of Otsu in the 1970s. He is known for using clay from the site, which contains many fossils and shells, and for experimenting with iron glazing. The color, translucent quality and overall crackling effect epitomize his most celebrated works. Such crackling effects result from a carefully controlled cooling process for which the artist is most well known. This work of art will also be on display over the entire course of the exhibition.

Large crazed celadon bowl
Shimizu Uichi (1926–2004)
Shōwa Period, 1975
Stoneware with overglaze
Courtesy of Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park

Preschool Story Time: Cozy Tales for Chilly Days

By Shelly Kilroy, Meijer Gardens Librarian 

Story time is such a great way to introduce children to the wonderful world of reading, and Cozy Tales for Chilly Days Preschool Story Time here at Meijer Gardens does just that.  On a very chilly day last Tuesday twenty children learned about reptiles while volunteers Miss Marge and Miss Betty read from several fun and interactive stories about turtles, chameleons and more.

Cozy Tales

One favorite was Eric Carle’s The Mixed Up Chameleon.  Children delighted in the story of this unique and colorful reptile, while also learning about primary colors.  An opportunity to touch real turtle shells helped introduce another favorite, Turtle Splash: Countdown at the Pond by Cathryn Falwell.  With these and other books, interaction and hands-on activities were highlights for both the children and their grownups.

Cozy Tales for Chilly Days is in its 5th year and going strong.  We hope you can join the other moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas who have come back week after week.  For more information on dates and themes for future story times, click here.


Cozy Tales
  Cozy Tales

Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan Exhibition Preview

Opening to the public on Friday, January 30, Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan is a unique partnership between Meijer Gardens and Shiga, Michigan’s sister state in Japan. The artistic and cultural traditions of Shiga Prefecture are among the most distinguished and profound in Japan.

Shiga

This exhibition will display more than 75 historical works of Japanese art aging back to the 8th century. Shigaraki pottery, delicate scrolls, screens, kimono, and works on paper and wood will all be on display and will change every two months through August. Changing the works on display allows protection of the artifacts as well as a new experience for our visitors throughout the winter, spring and summer.

Most of these rare works of art have never been seen outside of Japan, and this collection will not be on display anywhere else in the world. Many of the works are regional and national treasures! This exhibition highlights masterworks from the collections of: Museum of Shiga Perfecture, Biwako, Bunkakan; Museum of Modern Art, Shiga; Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park; and Omihachiman City Museums.  Additional works will be on loan from Daiko-ji Temple, Binmanjii Shiseki Bunka Hoshokaii, Taga City Museum, Kannon-ji Temple, Hando Shrine, and Saimyo-ji Temple.

Building on the more than 40-year sister-state relationship between the Shiga Prefecture and the State of Michigan, Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan will reflect on and celebrate the cultural richness of Japan in anticipation of the opening of The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden in June. All works shown have been selected by a joint committee of Shiga’s museum and state government officials along with experts from Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

Over the next few months, we will be sharing more in-depth information about the exhibition and the works of art that will be on display.

The “winter” portion of Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan will run from January 30—March 22. The exhibition will be temporarily closed from March 23-27 in order to change the artifacts that are on display. The spring display opens on March 28 and will run through June 4. We hope that you can join us for this wonderful and once-in-a-lifetime exhibition!

New Year Traditions Around the World – Japan

The Japanese New Year, Shogatsu, has been celebrated on January 1 since 1873. The original celebration of Shogatsu is still marked on the same day as the contemporary Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese New Years which in 2015 falls on February 19.

Shogatsu is an important Japanese celebration, both Shintoism and Buddhism honor this special time of renewal. Shogatsu signifies seasonal changes, begins a new cycle and expresses the importance of ancestry.

At midnight on December 31, Buddhist temples in Japan ring their bells 108 times to symbolize the 108 human sins in Buddhist belief, and to get rid of the 108 worldly desires. Japanese people believe that the ringing of bells can rid their sins of the previous year. After they have finished ringing the bells, they celebrate and feast on soba noodles.

Bell ringing

Kadomatsu, or gate pine, are traditional decorations that are placed at the entrances of homes & businesses in anticipation of the New Year. Purification is an important ritual of Shogatsu, and preparations take place in homes, businesses and temples.

Kadomatsu

Kadomatsu are placed to welcome ancestral spirits, invite the divinities to bring prosperity and guard against evil spirits. Kadomatsu are placed in pairs which represent male and female. Designs vary from urban to rural regions and typically they are made with two main components, each element being significant. Pine signifies vitality, longevity and long life. Bamboo signifies strength and growth. The bamboo is sliced at three different heights, representing heaven, humanity and earth.

Located outside of the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory, our Kadomatsu display is adorned with shide, a folded white paper ornament. Shide typically marks a sacred site and is a tool for purification. Straw and rope bind all of the elements together to complete the Kadomatsu.

During 2015, Meijer Gardens is celebrating our 20th Anniversary by Welcoming the World through our exhibitions and the opening of The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden. Come explore more of Japanese culture during our Splendors of Shiga: Treasures From Japan exhibition which opens on January 30.

What are some of the New Year traditions in your family? Leave them below in the comments or post them on our Facebook page here.