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. Continue reading

A mystery solved – the Taitokuin model returns home

Taitokuin MausoleumJust over a year ago I did a post on the Japan-British exhibition of 1910, tracking where the exhibits ended up when the exhibition was over. The one that interested me the most was the one-tenth scale model of the Taitokuin Mausoleum, the memorial to the second Tokugawa Shogun in Zojo-ji Temple in Shiba. It was presented to the then King, George V, and remained for many years in the Royal Collection in dismantled form. But then what happened? I’ve only just found out. Continue reading

Vintage kimonos online shop

kimono detailThere used to be shop in Neal St, a long time ago, called Neal St East. No, not the same as the East chain of shops that now have a branch near Covent Garden market; Neal St East was something else. It took up four floors of a complex emporium where goods from China, Korea, India and Japan were piled up in chaotic profusion, like an Eastern bazaar that had taken it into its head to migrate to what was then a quiet back street. I used to love it, not least for the racks of vintage kimonos on sale. Now vintage is becoming an increasingly acceptable choice, Neal St East is gone, taken over by a shoe shop. But it’s still possible to get your hands on vintage kimonos if you know where to look. Continue reading

Basho and Wordsworth – more in common than you’d think

Basho and wordsworthIt’s a bit far for a day trip, but up in Cumbria there’s an exhibition on called Wordsworth and Basho: Walking Poets. It’s at the Wordsworth Museum, next to Dove Cottage where William Wordsworth wrote some of his greatest poetry. It features manuscripts and early printed editions of work written by Basho, Wordsworth, and Wordsworth’s sister Dorothy, who is now recognised as a significant writer in her own right, as well as new works by contemporary artists responding to the manuscripts and what originally inspired them. The theme, and the connection it makes between two such different poets, sounds fascinating. Continue reading

Kimonos rule at Japan Matsuri 2014

Japan Matsuri 2014Japan Matsuri in Trafalgar Square gets bigger and better every year. Especially this year, with the Indian summer we’ve been having, which really brought out the crowds. A surprising number of people dressed the part in kimonos – everything from cotton yukata, the traditional wear for a summer festival, to richly decorated antique kimonos. That’s what I’ve focused on this year, so here’s my kimono fashion parade from Japan Matsuri. Continue reading

Shinjuku Gyoen Japanese Garden – peace in the heart of Tokyo

Shinjuku Gyoen Tokyo is not as well provided with green open spaces as London. There are a few parks in the centre, like Hibiya Park, but nothing like the great swathe of green that runs through the centre of London, from St James’s Park all the way to Kensington Gardens. But they do have one magical place; the National Garden in Shinjuku. I always visit Shinjuku Gyoen when I’m in Tokyo so of course I went there last week. It’s azalea season, one of the loveliest times in the park. Let me show you what I mean. Continue reading

What I ate in Japan – a Japanese restaurant tour

Fried tofu at Suju Dining, ShibuyaI’ve just come back from a quick trip to Japan to do some research and fact finding for my new book, The Haiku Murder which is coming out in October. And also to see friends, take in a few shows and eat some genuine Japanese food. I thought I’d share with you some of the things I ate while I was there – all in everyday restaurants at under £15 a head. Continue reading

Handkerchiefs for Tohoku

Daiwa Yasashii HankachiIt’s two years now since the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku in North East Japan claimed over 18,000 lives and left many more injured and homeless. The people of Tohoku are rebuilding their shattered lives and to help them, particularly the children, many of whom were left orphaned, graphic designers from the Japan Graphic Designers Association have collaborated with children in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima to create beautiful handkerchiefs which are exhibited and sold to raise money for schools in the area. Some of the handkerchiefs are now on display in London.

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Utamaro at Two Temple Place

Utamaro Chushingura

Two Temple Place is a gothic-revival mansion built by William Waldorf Astor in 1892. At the time Astor was the richest man in Europe and his architect, John Loughborough Pearson, one of the foremost neo-Gothic architects of the late nineteenth-century, was instructed to spare no expense. It’s only open to the public when there’s a special exhibition on, as there is at the moment – Discoveries, featuring works from ten Cambridge museums and galleries. Continue reading