Art & Culture
What comes to your mind when you hear the word “Japan”? Images of sword-wielding samurai and kimono-clad women ? Scrumptious sushiwith a hint of spicy wasabi? Or perhaps anime-cartoon characters withgiant sparkly eyes? What aboutthe contemplative tea ceremony?Or Sony gadgets and Toyotas?An economic powerhouse thatrivals the United States? Japan is indeed all of the above and a lot more!Ask your students what associations they may have with Japan.Four major islands, Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Hokkaido, plus theRyukyu Islands and about
additional islands, make up Japan. As of
, the population of the country was about
million, making it theninth most populous nation in the world. It is, however, barely the size of California and thus one of the most densely populated countries. Most of the people live in metropolitan centers such as Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya,Osaka, Fukuoka, and Sapporo.Mountains and forests cover
percent of Japan’s geography. The tallestmountain, Fuji (
feet), has a distinct conical shape and is consideredan auspicious symbol of Japan. Thousands of Japanese climb the mountaineach year during the months of July and August when it is open fortravelers. It is a pilgrimage that many hope to make once in their lifetimes,as a spirit or
resides there, according to native Shinto beliefs. Thissourcebook will provide information about both the indigenous religion of Shinto and the imported religion of Buddhism and how they are integralto the cycles of daily life in Japan.The four seasons are distinctly felt in most areas of Japan. Nature andseasonality affect the culture in profound ways, and this is reﬂected in thenation’s religion, art, and cuisine. Imagery associated with the seasons iscommon in Japanese art, and poetic descriptions of natural elements areoften found in haiku. Among the lesson plans in the section following thesourcebooks are two lessons on haiku that will emphasize being in tunewith nature and one’s surroundings.The Peabody Essex Museum’s collection of Japanese art and culture is theearliest and among the largest in the United States. The ﬁrst objects werebrought back from Japan by Salem sea captains who traveled to the nationfor trade purposes about
years ago. In addition, Edward SylvesterMorse (
), one of the ﬁrst directors of the museum, was inﬂuentialin the growth of the collection and generating interest in Japanese art. Key objects from Peabody Essex Museum’s collection of more than
works have been carefully chosen for this sourcebook to assist educators inteaching about Japan.
Why Learn about Japanese Art and Culture?