My first stop was the museum. Though I had been there before, there were two paintings in the their permanent collection which I had missed - a Renoir and a Monet. They were also having a special exhibit of Japanese art depicting heros and heroines in Japanese history and folklore. This was to be the last day.
As I approached the door, an American man walked up and said "konichiwa". He introduced himself as Tod, working for the Ibaraki International Association, and asked if I was there to see the exhibit. I was. He asked if I had a ticket yet - I didn't - and then told me happened to have an extra one and gave it to me.
The museum, which opened in 1988, has interesting architecture and a good collection of Japanese modern art including some by Tsune Nakamura (1887-1924) who lived in Ibaraki and whose house is on the grounds of the museum.
The Renoir is "Portrait of Madamoiselle Francois" painted in 1917, the same year as Girl with a Lace Hat, which I saw in Tokyo last month.
The Monet was painted in 1886 and titled "The Grotto of Port-Domois". Monet painted it during his stay on Belle Ile, a small island off the coast of France. It is an excellent example of his work. At first I didn't understand why I had not heard of it before, but later discovered that it had been in a private collection before being aquired by the museum.
The colors of the water are in deep blues and greens. Monet captured the way the light played on and in the water. It is mesmerizing. I spent a lot of time in front of the painting at varying distances. I found it to be best viewed at about 5 meters, 15 feet. I really love it.
The special exhibit that was closing after today was of Japanese art depicting heroes in Japanese stories and history through the 12th century. Samurai mostly. The paintings were done within the last century and a half, many of them on either large folding silk screens or scrolls, with some of the more recent ones on canvas. I spent an hour and a half in there that morning.
Then I walked around Lake Senba to Kairakuen park, which took about 45 minutes. The views of the ume trees across the lake were superb. The sky was clear and the temp in the mid or high 60's. The park was very busy as it was a holiday (spring equinox). At Kairakuen, I spoke with an older Japanese woman (who was curious about this "gaijin" coming to Ume Matsuri) about the ume blossoms. I had a nice bento lunch, and enjoyed the trees which were in full bloom - better than last week. There were some people in Edo period costumes roaming around, which was cool. I found one tree I had not seen before that was mostly white blossoms, but had some branches with deep pink flowers on it.
When K was done with the lectures, she came out with a ticket to the museum. It turns out Tod was a speaker in the morning at the same event and as it was the special exhibit's last day, they gave everyone at the lectures a ticket. As it was mid-afternoon, we had plenty of time, so we went through the museum (2nd time for me, but I was happy to see it all again).
One of the paintings I admired was made up of two scrolls hanging side by side. One showed a woman bowing down and facing it an old man with a staff and closed eyes. I admired the economy of lines in the scroll of the old man and was fascinated by the juxtaposition of the two. The woman was painted in full, bright colors. The man, just grays it seemed and with a minimum of lines and paint, yet he was a complete looking figure with a lot of depth. Extraordinary work I thought. An example of "less is more". None of the signs are in English in the museum, so I was in the dark about what it was about. When K saw it she read the explanation about it, but did not remember "the rest of the story" as I then immediately did. The scrolls depict the daughter of Kagekiyo finding her father. K just thought is was an old story, which is is, but it is also based on history.
The Kamakura period (1185-1333) started when the Genji clan ousted the Taira clan and set up their own military government just South of present day Tokyo, and Japan fell under control of the Shoguns for several centuries. The daughter of Kagekiyo, who was the highest ranking warrior and leader of the Taira, fled after the defeat of her father. Kagekiyo himself gouged his own eyes out after his defeat, and was exiled to Kyushu in Western Japan, where his daughter later found him.
K just thought it was about the Noh play, but I remembered that it is based on a true story. Why? Because the daughter fled to THIS area, where a temple I found a year ago that was built in 1189 now stands. You can read about it in my post Further Back In Time in the May archives.
I really felt it was serendipitous that I would be attracted to that art and then find out it was based on a story connected to my own neighborhood and which I had written about in the blog. Maybe it is just that my subconscious made the connection. Anyway, it was a neat experience.
Another interesting thing happened to K, who discovered that the last 13 water color paintings in the exhibit depicting scenes from famous "Heike" tales (Heike is another name for the Taira clan which held high offices in the 12th century and clashed with other clans such as the Genji), were done by one of her favorite artists. She did not realize it first because she did not know that he did this kind of art. He is world famous for illustrated children's books. The artist? Mitsumasa Anno - author and illustrator of "Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar", "Anno's Journey", and many others. These paintings were really exquisite and K has ordered a book about them.
Next month the cherry trees that line the paths by Lake Senba will be in bloom. I'm looking forward to going back for a stroll around the lake.