New York City Travel
Japan History. Historical facts and interesting objects. Japanese art.    


The entrance hall to this floor of the Brooklyn museum (Room 5 on plan) is lined with cases exhibiting robes and headgear of Japanese court ladies of the early nineteenth century. In japan history the court dress of Japan is fuller than the ordinary clothing and unconfined at the waist. The Empress's robe, called "go-i," or robe of five thicknesses, is of silk damask made in five thicknesses on the edges of the sleeves and skirt, so as to give the appearance of a number of robes. Both winter and summer styles of "go-i" are exhibited. Color prints and wood carvings are displayed on the vacant wall space of the entrance hall, which gives access, through a passage on the left, to the main Japanese Hall.

A pair of sliding temple doors, painted by an artist of the Kano School in 1750, are shown in the entrance to the hall of japan history, and the hall itself (Room 4 on plan) has been de-signed, decorated and lighted with a view to suggesting the atmosphere of the Island Empire. A particularly rich and representative assemblage of armor, weapons, costumes, objects connected with religion, musical instruments, games and writing implements, together with Japanese books, color prints and other illustrated material, is to be seen here; the central aisle divides the hall into halves, the right or south side being devoted for the most part to military costumes, accoutrements and paraphernalia and color prints representing war, while the other side is given over to civil, ceremonial and religious costumes and objects relating to the arts.

At the right of the entrance of the hall of japan history of the Brooklyn museum two large cases are devoted to an exhibit of dolls used in the annual celebration of the "Hinamatsuri," or dolls' festival, on the third day of the third month. This is the girls' fete day, when dolls representing historical characters, studiously exact in every detail, and with attendant servitors, vassals, equipages, etc., are marshalled by the children. The making of these costly dolls provides employment for many artists, and collections of them are handed down from generation to generation. The idea on which the festival is based originated in China as a rite for exorcising evil spirits, consisting in rubbing one'ssself with a puppet provided by the exorciser. Family puppets were later ranged in a shelf, and out of this grew the Japanese festival.

Beside and behind these cases a fine collection of ornamented swords, sword hilts, scabbards and mountings may be seen, adjoining exhibits of spears, spear racks and chain armor. The inlaying of armor with gold and silver began in Japan in the twelfth century or earlier, but sword decoration not until the fifteenth century.

The majority of the high floor cases on this side of the hall are utilized to display a very remarkable collection of Japanese armor. War drums, war fans, war horns, masks and bells, with the warrior's lunch box, pencil case, camp stool and water cup, give a comprehensive idea of an ancient Samurai equipment, and toward the eastern end of the hall a lacquered wooden saddle with bridle reins and horse-man's dipper complete the cumbersome regalia with which the warrior took the field.

A hunting hat, worn by a Daimyo, or feudal lord, with implements and apparel for archery, and a complete hunting costume are also shown.

In the second of the large floor cases from the western end of the hall of japan history of the Brooklyn museum will be found prehistoric relics from the dolmens, or rock chambers, covered with mounds, in which the early Japanese buried their dead. Many interesting objects have been found in these chambers, indicating an advanced stage of culture. Pieces of gold-plated iron harness, trappings, swords, bronze arrow-heads, ceremonial stone axes and carved jewel stones of the curious curved type called "magatama" are shown in this case. The latter belonged to an age of culture before the immigration of the Japanese, but were much prized ornaments in Japan well into the historic period. Nine color prints by Japanese artists, of ancient Japanese battle scenes, occupy part of the wall space on this side of the hall. A collection of war masks is exhibited above them, and to the right is a fine collection of seventeenth century helmets. Next to this an exhibit of weapons includes several ceremonial and other swords, some elaborately chased and decorated.
Exhibits connected with the Buddhist religion, including images, temple ornaments, plates, lamps, miniature shrines, rosaries and other ornamental and ceremonial objects, occupy the three remaining wall cases on the left-hand side of this hall of the Brooklyn museum; and on each side of the hall at this end a series of images of "Rakan," or disciples of Buddha, is shown seated around a raised dais, as in Japanese temples. A carved alms chest from the Nichiren temple faces these on the right side of the room, and below it is a case of fans used by priests.

The floor cases on the opposite side of the hall, beginning at the western end, exhibit drums, bells and rattles used by priests, pilgrims and mendicants, or in ceremonial dances, including a rattle bell used in dancing the Kagura. This is a very ancient Japanese religious dance associated with Shinto ceremonials. A gong used in the Bakabayashi, or music performed at festivals, is also exhibited here.

Go To Next Page


Back To Previous Page