Big exhibitions of famous Japanese artists are usually held on important anniversaries of their birth or death. The Taikan Yokoyama exhibition now on at the Yokohama Museum of Art, however, breaks with this convention. Rather than marking the 150th, 100th or 50th anniversary of the birth or death of the artist in question, it instead marks that of an entirely different person, namely Tenshin Okakura, an important scholar and academic whose ideas were important in launching the nihonga (Japanese-style painting) movement of which Yokoyama was a part.

The Okakura connection also explains why the exhibition is being held in Yokohama, as this was his birthplace. Yokoyama, by contrast, was born in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, and enjoyed a major retrospective as recently as 2008 when the 50th anniversary of his death was commemorated at the National Art Center Tokyo.

This makes it look like the organizers are digging around for an excuse to stage another big Yokoyama exhibition, but who can blame them? He is one of the most important and popular artists in the nihonga canon, and any comprehensive show of his works is sure to be a popular draw.