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July 30, 2019 2 min read

Japan, the land of the Rising Sun, has a long history of uniquely identifiable art going back nearly 12,000 years to the first settlements to the present day Manga art. Like China, Japan has had long periods of minimal contact with the outside world. What then makes Japanese art so unique, what methods were used and what are some examples of Japanese art?

Historically, when Japan has been subject to sudden invasions, it has absorbed and assimilated elements of foreign culture into its own. Jōmon pottery was an ancient earthenware pottery which was patterned by pressing rope patterns in the clay. It is the oldest pottery from Japan and among the oldest in the world and dates from the earliest settlers. The next immigrants arrived around 300BC and were known as the Yayoi. They introduced bronze bells, the potter’s wheel and kiln heated ceramics. Complex Japanese art was developed in the seventh and eighth centuries when China brought Buddhism to Japan and Buddhist art flourished. Later in the ninth century, Japan gradually freed itself from the cultural influence of China and developed its own form of secular art, whilst continuing with religious art. After the Onin War (1466-1477) Japan entered a period of political turmoil with an economic downturn. Organised religion lost prominence and the arts that survived were mainly secular. 

The Japanese wrote with a brush, rather than a pen, so this made them particularly adept experts with the use of brush techniques in their art. They decorated ceramics and used calligraphy on silk. Later on, they developed ukiyo-e woodblock prints during the Edo period (between 1603 and 1868), a period of economic recovery and prosperity. During the same era, they developed the complex paper-folding art of origami. The earliest mention of a paper model is in a poem from 1680, which mentions a traditional butterfly design used during a Shinto wedding. So, throughout history, Japan has been a centre of unique inspirational art and continues with the popular Manga style down to this day.

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