My visit to Ueno Park

I recently visited Ueno Park with a good friend to take in some of its sights and attractions. It a must see for any tourist to Tokyo. This was my first time and my Japanese friend gave me a tour.

We strolled through the park chatting and taking in the lovely park grounds. It was a lovely sunny day and the park was full of people strolling about. There are a lot of things one can do at Ueno Park. There are many museums and even a zoo one can visit. We decided on seeing the Art Deco Show on exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum.

We enjoyed the exhibition spending a few hours taking in the artwork and installations. It was interesting and what intrigued me the most was the Josephine Baker film loop on display. She was captivating on film dancing topless to an exotic number. It evoked the Paris of the twenties.

photo by <a href='' target'blank'>johpat eros</a>
photo by johpat eros

We then paid a brief visit to the Kiyomizu Temple. It’s a beautiful Shinto temple, a replica of the Kiyomizu Temple in Kyoto. As I felt adventurous, so I purchased my fortune and discovered thanks to my friend’s translation that it was a good one. I had been told that you leave behind your bad fortune by tying it to a stand dedicated to that purpose and you take the good fortune with you. I was mistaken. My lovely friend told me it was the other way around. She said: “If you take away the good fortune, the Gods would forget it.” And so, silly me tied my fortune to the temple stand.

As we were exiting the park on our way to the Ueno market across the street to grab something to eat, we came upon an information booth. Here I learned more about the tragic fate of Japanese nationals kidnapped by the North Koreans. The number of kidnapped are estimated to be in the hundreds and not in the tens as reported by the press. If you didn’t know, North Koreans arrive in their submarines off the Niigata coast. They land on shore in the cloak of darkness and kidnap any Japanese nationals they come across who are then taken to North Korea to teach North Koreans the Japanese language. Regrettably, this issue doesn’t get much press if any in North America.

The market was teaming with people. There were so many restaurants and food kiosks that it made picking one difficult. We tossed a coin and decided on a sushi restaurant. It was great. I highly recommend a visit to Ueno Park and the Market and more so in the company of others. It’s a lovely way to spend a day!

Originally posted on ThingsAsian.

The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo

Located within Ueno Park, it displays Matsukata’s French collection that survived the second world war and was returned to the Japanese people. The French collection was recognized as French property under the terms of the San Francisco Peace Treaty (1951). As a goodwill gesture, a total of 365 art works were returned to Japan including 196 paintings, 80 drawings, 26 prints, and 63 sculptures. One of the stipulations of the French government was that a national art museum be established to house and display the art works, and this led to the Japanese government to found the National Museum of Western Art. Many important pieces were returned but others found their way into French museums or were sold.

Kojiro Matsukata (1865-1950) began collecting at the same time as Dr. Albert Barnes. He was a successful entrepreneur and used his fortune to collect European art. He was the third son of Count Masayoshi Matsukata, a Japanese Prime Minister. Kojiro Matsukata graduated with a PhD in Civil Law from Yale University in 1890. He first worked as his father’s personal secretary. He then became a senior executive of the Kawasaki Shipping Company eventually becoming its president. In 1922, The New York Herald described him as the ‘mysterious Japanese’ who had been buying art at extravagant prices.

His motives for collecting European art were philanthropic. He was motivated by the desire to provide Japanese artists with the real thing since many of them were creating oil paintings without having seen an example of the real thing.

Paul Durand-Ruel acted as one of his art dealers as did the London artist Frank Brangwyn. There was also Yashiro Yukio, and Tsuchida Bakusen, a Japanese painter living in Paris. Leonce Benedicte, Director of the Musee de Luxemborg, Paris also located paintings for Matsukata. Kojiro Matzukata also purchased many pictures form the collection of Wilhelm Hansen.

The Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 had dire consequences on the Japanese economy which consequently affected Kawasaki Shipping Company. He resigned as its president in 1928. His vast collection became part of the Kawasaki assets, with a significant portion being sold and scattered. He had already shipped many works to Japan in 1919 and 1920 but the 100% import duty persuaded him to leave the reminder in London and Paris.

His London collection was reported to have been destroyed in a warehouse fire in Knightsbridge on October 8, 1939. The French collection was seized by the French government as enemy property when Japan entered the war.

The Museum boasts one of the finest collection of Rodin sculptures in the world. The forecourt of the museum is the display area for Rodin’s sculptures – The Kiss, Gates of Hell, Burghers of Calais, and The Thinker. Also, on display is Emile-Antoine Bourdelle’s Hercules the Archer 1909. Within the museum, The Age of Bronze, Orpheus, Balzac (Last Study) and Man with the Broken Nose are exhibited. Also on view is Jean-Baptiste Carpeau, The Neapolitan Fisherboy.

Works that caught my attention included:

Petrified Forest Max Ernst

The Loving Cup Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1867

Madame Jean Renoir (Catherine Hessling) Andre Derain 1923

Salome at the Prison Gustave Moreau C1873-76

Roses Vincent Van Gogh 1889

Water Lilies Claude Monet

Eugene Boudin Beach of Trouville 1867

The Garden of Gethsemane c1518 Lucas Cranach (The Elder) (1472 – 1553) Jesus is praying. His three disciples are asleep. His jailors are entering at the Gate. There are many. An angel is looking down on Jesus. The Angel is holding a challis.

Joos van Cleve (c 1485 ? – 1540/41) Triptych: The crucifixion Flanked by the kneeling Donor and His wife. Christ is crucified on the cross. At his feet to his left are the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, and a disciple (John, Peter?) and to the right, are the Roman Soldiers. Above Christ is a depiction of God.

Follower of Joachim Patinir (1485 – 1524) Triptych: Rest on the Flight into Egypt The Madonna is nursing the baby Jesus.

Jacopo del Sellaio (1482 – 1493) Votive Altarpiece: The Trinity, the Virgin, St. John and Donors (c1480 – 85) The trinity is depicted. Christ is crucified on the cross. The Holy Ghost which is depicted as a dove stands above Christ’s head, God the Father is in the background supporting the cross with his hands.

Paolo Veronese (1528-1588) The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine (c.1547) The baby Jesus is caressing St. Catherine’s cheek and looking into her eyes. He is grasping his mother’s veil. St. Catherine is deep in thought and is staring into space. She is touching the chest of baby Jesus with her index and middle fingers. St. Joseph is looking on squatting in the background.

Giorgio Vasari (1511 – 1574) The Garden of Gethsemane (c1570?)

The angel is in the process of blessing Jesus with his right hand which is held in the air. In his left hand, he is holding a golden chalice. Jesus has his arms outstretched. He is kneeling and looking up to heaven. The jailors are led into the garden by Judas, his traitor, and his three disciples are fast asleep.

Joachim Berickelaer (c1534-c1574) Christ Carrying the Cross (1562) Christ has slipped. His left hand is supporting the cross draped over his shoulder and his right hand is resting on a rock. A Roman soldier who is standing to the right of the cross is about to whip the Lord. An elderly man has come to Christ’s help. He is attempting to lift the cross. Another Roman soldier is standing over Jesus and is about to hit him with his right fist. There is a precession of soldiers and passersby behind Jesus. There are many people standing and watching the procession on both sides. The Virgin Mary has collapsed and is being assisted by three women attendants. A beautiful young woman with her hands in prayer is looking on. Ahead of Jesus are two prisoners with their hands tied behind their backs. They are flanked by Roman soldiers. At the top right hand corner of the picture, there is a scene of the crucifixation. Jesus is tied around the waist with a rope. He is being pulled by two Roman soldiers. They are flanked by the executioner who is carrying over his shoulders a ladder from which is hanging a basket holding tools such as a hammer.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria Attributed to Simon Varet (1590-1649)

Philip de Champaigne (1602-1674) Mary Magdalene Oil on canvas. Before her on the table is a wooden makeshift cross, a book (the bible?) and a vase with a lid. She has her hands clasped in the prayer position. Here eyes are looking upward.

Saint Catherine of Alexandria Attributed to Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini (1675-1741)

Ary Scheffer (1795-1858) Greek women imploring the Virgin for Assistance 1826

1. Christ carried town to the Tomb 1855 Eugene Delacroix

2. The Education of the Virgin (1852) Eugene Delacroix

Claude Monet (1840-1928) 1 Charring Cross Bridge in London 2 Waterloo Bridge in London 3 Yellow Irises

Fernand Leger Red Cock and Blue Sky 1953

Do visit The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo. You won’t be disappointed.

Originally posted on ThingsAsian.

How to Get There

JR Yamanote Line, 1 minutes from Ueno Station, Park Exit 
Keisei Line, 7minutes from Keisei Ueno Station
Ginza or Hibiya Subway Lines, 8 minutes from Ueno Station

Related Links
The National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo