MODERNISM IN THE RUSSIAN FAR EAST AND JAPAN: 1918-1928, edited by Toshiharu Omuka, Kyoji Takizawa, Yoshiko Tachibana and Tsutomu Mizusawa. The Tokyo Shimbun, 2002, 254 pp., trilingual (Japanese/English/Russian), profusely illustrated, 2,500 yen (paper)

In the autumn of 1920, two Russian artists arrived in Japan. They were David Burliuk and Viktor Palmov, carrying with them some 400 pieces of modernist art. Calling themselves "Fathers of Russian Futurism," they had escaped the various confusions of war and revolution and, encouraged by the Tokyo Nichinichi Shimbun, arrived for a series of exhibitions in Japan.

The Japanese, then as now, were interested in all things new, even something as initially baffling as "Futurism." As early as 1909, the novelist and critic Ogai Mori had translated Italian poet Filippo Marinetti's "Declaration of the Futurists," and a modest degree of interest now greeted these further Russian developments.

That no one knew what Futurism consisted of was just one of its attractions. And ignorance assisted, since viewing through innocent eyes was one of the tenets of Modernism, the new aesthetic movement of which the Futurists were just a part. Modernism is a loose label indeed, but it may be at least provisionally defined.