The Importance of Nature

Nature is an important aspect of Japanese culture.  Shintō, the indigenous Japanese belief system, and Zen Buddhism both promote an appreciation of nature.  Consequently, the Japanese are often said to live in harmony with nature.


Japan has four distinct seasons, and the changing of the seasons is welcomed and celebrated.  Hanami, or cherry blossom viewing parties, take place all over Japan.  People gather with friends and family to picnic under the cherry blossoms.  There are also full moon, autumn leaves, and snow viewing parties.

Flowers in Art

Ikebana (flower arranging) is a common hobby.  Nature is often the main subject in poetry and is prominent in literature and art too.  Many of the items in this exhibition, from kimono and inrō to sword guards and tea caddies, are decorated with flowers, trees, landscapes and other natural motives.

Flowers and trees can be featured in art for their symbolic meaning.  The pine branches on the mirror and on the scroll of Jurōjin, represent longevity.  Pine, plum and bamboo are believed to be lucky , and are called the three friends of winter.  Plum is the first flower of the year to blossom, often when there is still snow on the ground.  

However,  flowers and trees are not always used symbolically.  The autumn leaves on the pigeon scroll and the cherry blossoms in the Kuniyoshi print do not represent anything, but are there to be appreciated.

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