The collection's big hitters remain the same; the exquisite 'Mazarin chest', manufactured in Kyoto in 1640 and shipped to Europe via the new East-India trade route. The chest is finished in lacquer, made from tree-resin, and is one the finest examples of lacquer-work ever to have been exported from Japan. The golden figures on the chest are rendered in metal powders, sprinkle upon the freshly applied resin; a technique called maki-e. The level of detail achieved is astonishing. The scenes illustrated are from the eleventh century court novel The Tale of Genji: look out for our favourite, women and girls in sumptuous gowns, gathering flowers at twilight.
The nineteenth century fukusa, or 'gift cover', is another sublime moment in the collection. Shimmering cranes woven from golden thread flock across a midnight sky. It certainly beats Liberty wrapping-paper... We also loved the collection of tea-caddies. The curation allows us to watch the evolution of the tea-drinking ritual from the sixteenth century to the present day: proof that tradition and innovation are not mutually exclusive forces.
The youth cult of 'cute' or kawaii, was represented by a rather sinister, and sinisterly named 'Sweet Lolita' outfit in high-calorie shades of blue and pink. We were also shown a Hello Kitty! Toaster, hoover and rice steamer, in pinkest pink, which could only have been made in Japan.
The most striking pieces of contemporary Japanese design on display, though, is much more understated, We loved Kyoko Kumai's 'Blowing in the Wind sculpture (above). Perfectly moving yet still, it was a thing of delicacy, and perhaps our favourite piece on display.
|What||New Japanese Gallery, V&A|
|Where||V&A, South Kensington, Cromwell Road, London, SW7 2RL | MAP|
|Nearest tube||South Kensington (underground)|
04 Nov 15 – 04 May 18, Open daily 10.00 – 17.45 and until 22.00 every Friday
|Price||£Free (£4 suggested donation)|
|Website||Click here for more details|