Japanese Art Exhibit at Canadian Museum of Civilization

Japan: Tradition. Innovation in Quebec

Quebec's Canadian Museum of Civilization will hosting the JAPAN: TRADITION. INNOVATION. exhibition May 20, 2011 to October 10, 2011.  


In the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, we see once again the resilient, enterprising spirit that has moved Japan beyond darkness before.

By revealing the unexpected parallels between old and new in a land that has simultaneously remained connected to the past and rushed headlong into the future, JAPAN: Tradition. Innovation. provides rare insight into the creative character of Japan.

The exhibition compares contemporary designs with historical artifacts from the Edo Period (1603–1867). Five themes—travel, automation, social status, consumer culture and entertainment—demonstrate how traditional influences have shaped contemporary Japan and touched the world at large.

Juxtapositions of the old and new celebrate Japan’s centuries-long cycles of invention. We see 21st-century comics books (manga) as descendants of the 19th-century woodblock prints (ukiyo-e). Avant-garde outfits,samurai armour and elegant silk kimonos share uncanny similarities. A portable carriage (norimono) embodies characteristics found in a compact, fuel-efficient car. The inspiration for complex industrial robots can be traced back to 200-year-old mechanized dolls (karakuri ningyo). Painted screens created hundreds of years ago continue to provide inspiration for 21st-century artists.

JAPAN: Tradition. Innovation. is beautiful and inspiring, with rare historical artifacts on loan from Asia, Europe and North America. The exhibition is developed in partnership with the National Museum of Japanese History in Sakura, Japan.

In the face of the current crisis, our Japanese partners have expressed their wish that the exhibition open on schedule, as an affirmation of Japan’s enduring creative spirit.


Christopher Butcher, manager of comic book store The Beguiling, assisted in acquiring materials for the exhibit's manga and anime collections, including first-editions, cels, and "some cool ephermera."


I’m excited to see how it’s been placed into the context of the larger collection. It was an amazing opportunity to dig through all kinds of cool old manga and anime at Mandarake during my last visit to Japan (Oct/Nov 2010), divorced from my normal concerns of finding cool stuff to bring back to The Beguiling. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’d love to have a bunch of first-edition Tezuka manga at the store, but I doubt they’d sell with the expediency that we’d need them too to make any sort of profit. Buying for a museum has a very different set of criteria. Oh, and as a special note, I’d like to thank everyone who helped me identify some of those pieces, it was very cool of you and I really appreciate it. Feel free to ask me for a favour in future.

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