Musings from the Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts

Meaning to thank him one more time before leaving Hiroshima, I look for the poor young man who had to deal with me yesterday, but he’s nowhere in sight this morning. After turning in my voucher I receive a second JR Rail Pass, board my train and roll into Nagoya with a day to fill before heading out to Ise tomorrow.

On arrival I stop by the station’s Tourist Information Bureau to learn what the city has to offer today. I’m delighted to discover the Nagoya/Boston Museum of Fine Arts has an exhibition of old manuscripts and some of Japan’s great wood block artists’ prints.

Genji Kawachibon. Ancient manuscripts: The Tale of Genji. Used with Permission.

Genji Kawachibon. Ancient manuscripts: The Tale of Genji. Used with Permission.

Since some manuscripts are among the oldest copies of The Tale of Genji (described as the world’s first novel), I’m keen to view them as well as the ukiyo-e prints  by various renowned masters of the art (ukiyo-e meaning portraits from the Floating World as the ancient pleasure quarters were called).

There is something profoundly different about seeing original works (and even masterful copies of originals) that can never be conveyed by their photographic reproduction in posters or books. Something about Kitagawa Utamaro’s print titled Love that Rarely Meets (Mare ni au koi) affects me deeply.

Utamaro Print: Love That Rarely Meets. Used with Permission https://artsy.net/terms

Utamaro Print: Love That Rarely Meets. Used with Permission https://artsy.net/terms

Her tilted head. Her little fingers raised to wave almost lost in her sleeves. So much is hidden by sleeves. Does she wave in greeting, trying not to appear too eager? Or in farewell, trying not to reveal the anguish of parting? Or is she perhaps content for the long, untroubled periods between? Which feelings do her black eyes and tight jaw conceal?

Sometimes, looking at a souvenir from a moment or place takes me back to that same experience. I can relive it again. Sadly, afterwards the postcard–a dull brown thing I purchased in the gift shop–evokes nothing.

This entry was posted in Japan, Travel & Culture and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.