Gold and glass and Hello Kitty – the refurbished Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art at the V&A

Kimono design V&AThe V&A have just reopened their refurbished Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art so, as you would expect, Yannick and I rushed down to have a look. And guess what? We really liked it. It’s a lovely mixture of of over five hundred objects, both old favourites and new acquisitions, all displayed in a layout reminiscent of a traditional Japanese house.

V&A Japan Gallery

We managed to start at the wrong end, but that turned out to be masterstroke because we plunged straight into the fascinating modern and contemporary part of the display and then worked our way back through history via netsuke and lacquer to the samurai armour. There are some great modern pieces on show which Yannick and I would happily have taken home with us. Things like this carved and polished acrylic Sprouting Box by Masaya Suzuki.

V&A Japan Gallery

Or this glass sculpture by Niyoko Ikuta.

V&A Japan Gallery

Both of us were tempted by this glazed stoneware Oribe jar by Ryoji Koie.

V&A Japan Gallery

And this enamelled porcelain box by Yoshimichi Fujimoto.

V&A Japan Gallery

There was interesting selection of Hello Kitty domestic appliances, including this pink rice cooker.

V&A Japan Gallery

These amazing heel-less shoes by Tatehana Noritaka are based on those worn by courtesans in the Edo period. In those days they had a couple of assistants to help them walk in them. Nowadays you’re on your own.

V&A Japan Gallery

There was far too much on display for me to show you more than a quick skim, so I decided to concentrate on the kimonos and fabrics, of which there are some fabulous examples. Like this nineteenth century embroidered silk kimono showing scenes from two famous kabuki plays.

V&A Japan Gallery

V&A Japan Gallery

Or this elaborate figured silk Noh costume by modern master Yasujiro Yamaguchi.

V&A Japan Gallery

V&A Japan Gallery

The flock of golden cranes which decorate this nineteenth century gift cover denote long life and happiness. It was made by attaching gold-wrapped thread to the surface of the fabric with tiny red stitches. The cranes’ wings are padded to give a three-dimensional effect.

V&A Japan Gallery

I’m sure everyone who visits the display will end up with their own unique list of favourites, just as Yannick and I did. The Victoria and Albert Museum is open daily, 10 am to 5:45 pm, and is free. The Japan Gallery is just to the right of the main entrance.

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