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Arts & Crafts

Over time the Japanese developed the ability to absorb, imitate, and finally assimilate those elements of foreign culture that complemented their aesthetic preferences.

The Jōmon Pottery (縄文式土器 Jōmon-shiki Doki) is a type of ancient pottery which was made during the Jōmon period in Japan. The term "Jōmon" (縄文) means "rope-patterned" in Japanese, describing the patterns that are pressed into the clay.

The Jōmon pottery, some of the oldest in the world.

Japanese art covers a wide range of art styles and media, including ancient pottery, sculpture in wood and bronze, ink painting on silk and paper and more recently manga, cartoon, along with a myriad of other types of works of art. It also has a long history, ranging from the beginnings of human habitation in Japan, sometime in the 10th millennium BCE, to the present. The world oldest so far, three to four million years old edge-ground ax-like stone tools from the Paleolithic age ― before land bridges were submerged after the last glacial maximum ― was the first handicrafts found in Japan. The pottery vessels crafted in Ancient Japan during the Jōmon period (縄文時代; 16,500 BCE – 400 BCE, Jōmon jidai, Japanese prehistory) are generally accepted to be some of the oldest in the world. Rice and Prudence M said in their On the Origins of Pottery, “Bits of pottery discovered in a cave in the northwest coast of modern day Kyushu date back to as far as 12,700 BCE in radiometric dating tests.” The Jōmon pottery (縄文土器, Jōmon doki, lit. rope-patterned clay vessel) was probably made even earlier than this date,” said Kuzmin, Yaroslav V ,”However, due to ambiguity and multiple sources claiming different dates based on different dating techniques, it is difficult to say for sure how far back Jōmon Pottery was made. Some sources claim archaeological discoveries as far back as the 14th millennium BCE.” Richard Pearson said, “The majority of Jōmon pottery has rounded bottoms and the vessels are typically small. This shows that the vessels would typically be used to boil food, perhaps fitting into a fire,” but Rice and Prudence M pointed out, “Later Jōmon pottery pieces are more elaborate, especially during the Middle Jōmon period, where the rims of pots became much more complex and decorated.” The Jōmon pottery were distinguished themselves form contemporaneous any other vessels in the world; an artistic interest of Jōmon Japanese overwhelmed a practical utility.

Japanese beliefs-->

Chūgū-ji (中宮寺) is a temple in Nara Prefecture, Japan, that was founded as a nunnery in the seventh century by Shōtoku Taishi. Located immediately to the northeast of Hōryū-ji, its statue of Miroku and Tenjukoku mandala are National Treasures.

The creation of Japanese Buddhist art

In his history, Japan has been subject to sudden invasions of new and alien ideas followed by long periods of minimal contact with the outside world. Over time the Japanese developed the ability to absorb, imitate, and finally assimilate those elements of foreign culture that complemented their aesthetic preferences. The earliest complex art in Japan was produced in the 7th and 8th centuries AD in connection with Buddhism. In the 9th century, as the Japanese began to turn away from China and develop indigenous forms of expression, the secular arts became increasingly important; until the late 15th century, both religious and secular arts flourished. Being geographically at the terminal point of the Silk Road transmission of art, Japan was able to preserve many aspects of Buddhism at the very time it was disappearing in India, and being suppressed in Central Asia and China. The "official" introduction of Buddhism to Japan is dated to 552 or 538 when Seong of Baekje (the 26th king of Baekje, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea) sent a mission to Nara including some Buddhist monks or nuns, together with numerous scriptures and works of art, and numbers of sutras to introduce Buddhism. Indian, Hellenistic, Chinese and Korean artistic influences blended into an original style characterized by realism and gracefulness. The creation of Japanese Buddhist art was especially rich between the 8th and 13th centuries during the periods of Nara, Heian and Kamakura.

Japan developed an extremely rich figurative art for the pantheon of Buddhist deities, sometimes combined with Shintō influences. Kami, Japan’s indigenous religion dated back to the prehistoric times, and foreign Buddhism never quite fused, but a combination of Buddhist and Taoist elements, and the incorporation of shamanistic features of the indigenous religion remained however inextricably linked all the way to the present day, always interacting ― It is quite unusual that an indigenous polytheistic belief including nature worship, animism, ancestor worship, shamanism, myth, still prevails in a civilized society like Japan. Shintō's strong aesthetic component, a reverence toward materials and processes, continues to permeate the crafts and the arts.

Feature Story

  • The rise of edo pop-art

    In the Edo period, a style of woodblock prints called ukiyo-e became a major art form and its techniques were fine tuned to produce colorful prints.

  • A dichotomy in Japanese art after the period of isolation

    The introduction of Western cultural values led to a dichotomy in Japanese art, as well as in nearly every other aspect of culture, between traditional values and attempts to duplicate and assimilate a variety of clashing new ideas.

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