Michael Dunn

For Michael Dunn's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:

The beauty of subtle deceit

Dec 18, 2009

The beauty of subtle deceit

More than in any other country where the lacquer tree grows, the art of working with its hard-drying sap has excelled here in Japan. Two leading exponents were Ogawa Haritsu (1663-1747) and Shibata Zeshin (1807-1891), who both stand out not only for their inventive ...

Nov 20, 2009

Imperial treasures shown in full glory

Few objects have surfaced from early Imperial tumuli as, being graves of an extant family, excavation is at present prohibited by the Imperial Household Agency. Nevertheless, the occasional object has come to light in the course of repairs following damage by natural disasters, and ...

Fresh direction for the Hatakeyama Memorial Museum

Sep 4, 2009

Fresh direction for the Hatakeyama Memorial Museum

A long with other great collections accumulated by early industrialists such as the Goto, Seikado Bunko, Mitsui and Nezu museums, the Hatakeyama Memorial Museum of Fine Art is a hidden gem where only the very best is to be seen. The founder, Issei Hatakeyama ...

Well-armed to protect Buddha

May 8, 2009

Well-armed to protect Buddha

Like a visitor from some remote part of the universe, the deity Ashura of Kofukuji Temple in Nara appears with six spindly arms frozen in motion and three faces on a single head that is crowned with a perfectly groomed hairdo. The body is ...

Netsuke: delicate treats for the dandies of Edo

Apr 24, 2009

Netsuke: delicate treats for the dandies of Edo

Until modern times, Japan seems to have been almost unique in having no tradition of jewelry, apart from the stone beads and gold accessories found in burial mounds from the last few centuries of the prehistoric period until circa seventh century. Elaborate necklaces, bracelets ...

A taste for the unusual leads to excellence

Apr 10, 2009

A taste for the unusual leads to excellence

Since the Heian Period (794-1185), landscapes have served as the inspiration for generations of Japanese painters. Many followed the standards and styles of a particular school, while other — often encouragingly eccentric — individuals broke with all conventions to wield their brushes in a ...

The explorers' cargo

Mar 6, 2009

The explorers' cargo

Before the age of discovery, Europe had been separated for hundreds of years from the Indian Ocean by an impenetrable crescent of territories largely hostile to Christians. The Venetians — always more interested in commerce than proselytizing — controlled whatever trade there was with ...

Japanning for southern barbarians

Nov 20, 2008

Japanning for southern barbarians

During the 16th-century age of exploration, Portuguese traders landed in Japan looking for exotic goods to sell in markets back in Europe and their newly founded colonies. Lacquerware was high on their list, not only for its decorative beauty but also for its more ...

Golden glories

Oct 30, 2008

Golden glories

One of fall’s annual pleasures is the Big Autumn Exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum, and this year the organizers have pulled out all the stops with “Treasures by Rinpa Masters,” a breathtaking show of Rinpa art in celebration of the 350th anniversary of ...

Sri Lanka: isle of earthy delights

Sep 25, 2008

Sri Lanka: isle of earthy delights

Although Sri Lanka has been long-renowned for its natural beauty, the art of the island seems to have been far less celebrated — or even studied — than that of other South Asian countries that share Theravada Buddhist culture, such as Burma or Cambodia. ...