Sunday, 25 January 2015

Little Crowds

Thank you for your comments, and I did appreciate my brief trip to Suffolk! I'll visit everyone's blogs shortly.

Now, back to Japan.  There are some great museums there, (although I wished more of them had English labels) and I did want to take you along to the Edo Tokyo Museum, which tells the story of olden days Tokyo.  It is spacious and easy to wander around but it is full of crowds - tiny crowds, mostly. That is, crowds of tiny model people.  Or, intricate drawings on a huge scale of crowds and crowds of people, each one meticulously drawn, indeed, but very small.

I love models, and so I spent a lot of time marvelling at the degree of craftsmanship in the displays.   Here's part of a festival.  I don't know what sort of festival, because I can't read Japanese and I felt a bit guilty asking our friend Eiko to translate ceaselessly.



Other models showed entire buildings and complexes of buildings - shops, houses, temple compounds.  I liked this model department store of a hundred years ago. Inside are people buying goods spread out on low tables.  Something about the lighting reminded me of trudging down one of those narrow little streets on a dark winter's evening. 



For me, the most fascinating model showed the city as it used to be - in sanitised form, no doubt, because no ancient city was that clean, and this was a very clean model!     I was so impressed that each tiny figure thronging the city's streets reminded me of an individual going about their life.    



Below you see a couple of women women chatting as they do their washing, almost unnoticed in a back garden - I've enlarged this image, which was part of a vastly larger scene. 


And here, a small crowd gathers to watch an entertainment in the street. I particularly like the lion.



There are many fine two dimensional works, too.  I think that in both Japan and China, certain rulers liked making giant drawings or paintings of their entire kingdom as a sort of birds eye view, showing everyone and everything.  There are several large beautiful screens in the museum, showing everyday Edo Tokyo in painstaking and accurate detail.  I wish it was possible to show these images in close up.  There's so much to see but this section of one screen gives you a slight idea of the artistic layout, colour and detail of the screens.


I also thought this crowd looked pretty good - it is a painting of fire fighters.  It seems that the old city was so vulnerable to fire that eventually it was decreed that streams of water must criss cross the place at close intervals and fire fighting was given top priority.   

So this is people going to a fire. The white whirling thing is a kind of banner called a matoi.  There was a real matoi in the exhibition, so extraordinarily heavy that I thought it must have been more exhausting carrying the matoi than fighting the fire! But then someone said that it was really only taken to a high place to show the distant firefighters the location of the fire.  Now, matoi are sometimes used for ceremonies.   


A few of the models were life sized, as you see from the size of these visitors posing for their pictures at the front of the Noh Theatr with splendidly dressed models.  There was a tiny working model showing a Noh play in action, but I couldn't get close enough to photograph it - it was surrounded by huge crowds of schoolchildren! 



Actually, sometimes I felt as if I had walked into one of the models.  This is a reconstruction of the bridge which used to lead into the old city, in the exact size and style.  Suddenly I felt rather like one of those tiny model figures myself.  I think it was the large expanse of black echoing space all around, as though I'd shrunk to table size.



There were also crowds of real people at the museum, most of them going around in groups.  I liked this cheerful group of schoolgirls trying out a Japanese style sedan chair. 



And talking of small people,  I forgot to put the little person below in my last post. As I said, the Edo Tokyo museum is in the same area as the sumo wrestlers,  and this little sumo wrestler must be popular because it seems that many people have rubbed his tummy, and worn away all the patina! 

34 comments:

  1. Fascinating. I know very little about Japan and your posts are a treat.

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  2. This is utterly fascinating! I have always loved models, and certainly would have spent hours there at the museum, looking at them, trying to take in every little detail! The makers of these models must have loved each and every little figure they made. I like to imagine they thought up whole little lives while they were crafting each little person and put them in their place in the model.

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  3. I wonder who does all the dusting! I'm flat out trying to keep the dust and cobwebs out of my small cabin!

    Another interesting post, Jenny. :)

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  4. Hello Jenny,

    These models are remarkable. Every detail is evident and one can only wonder at the length of time which must have been needed to create these amazing exhibits.

    And, we can imagine the slightly Alice in Wonderland feeling of walking along the bridge in the blackened room. Such an intriguing idea and definitely a way to make one feel a living part of the model exhibition. Brilliant!

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  5. I love models, too, and these are some of the most incredible ones I've ever seen. At first glance, I thought they were all real people.

    It's amusing to see the sumo wrestler statue with his tummy rubbed away!

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  6. It seems to me modelling and carvings of great intricacy were very popular once upon a time in the far east. These models follow the tradition. Interesting that most Japs were in groups in the museum, was there something in this I wonder?

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  7. Aren't all those little people wonderful!!

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  8. How enthralling! Such attention to detail makes it so easy, even just in pictures on a blog like this is, to get drawn into it. I've never visited Japan but it is creeping onto my bucket list.

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  9. I think I could easily get lots for hours in the museum with the small people. You must have loved every minute of it.

    Darla

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  10. What a great museum, I love miniature scenes too.

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  11. Such a nice way to show what the city used to be like! Such models always fascinate me, too. Thank you for the glimpses of Japan, which i've always believed to be an amazing place.

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  12. Yes! Can imagine feeling like I was shrunken down to table size walking over that bridge! The detail is just amazing. I knew they liked panoramic paintings, but I didn't realize they did 3-D sculptures also. Wow! :)

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  13. Wow...the models were beautiful...I've been meaning to ask, who is that cute blonde child smiling in the header of your blog?

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  14. I really loved seeing these models Jenny. I can understand your fascination for them. Those little scenes of everyday life were just wonderful... all the detail. Such an enjoyable post :D)

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  15. How fantastic, Jenny. The Edo museum is wonderful, and I too would have enjoyed the models very much. The little figures going about their business, including the women washing. Love it all! Thank you for sharing it with us.

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  16. Great post, Jenny. The Japanese are so artistic. I enjoy looking at all your pictures of museums and things.

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  17. What a wonderful post, and what a fascinating glimpse into your travels.

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  18. I love these photos. I don't think this was the Toyko museum we visited -- we only went to one and it seemed more art. I wish we'd been to this one -- the models are exquisite and such a fun way to learn. (If it was the same, I missed this!)

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  19. Hi Jenny,
    I love models as well and it was a pleasure to watch them in London museum, when I've been there in last September. Your impressions are very interesting.

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  20. I love that sort of miniature model, and I'm always amazed by the amount of painstaking work that must go into making them. The paintings are astonishingly intricate as well.

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  21. I have always enjoyed miniature worlds, from dollshouses to recreated villages. These look wonderful and I can see how one can be lost in imaginings.

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  22. What an interesting place! I think I'd forget time passing there. I learned Japanese “kago” is “sedan chair” in Britain and searched how the Western style one was. Isn’t it nice to know the places where you don’t know as a native through the eyes of a foreign visitor? Thanks for sharing, Jenny.

    Yoko

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  23. Absolutely fascinating. The models are wonderful - so skillfully made - what is it about miniature models, in particular, that is so appealing? The reconstructed bridge is amazing too. Great post!

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  24. I love that sort of thing, I could look at the little models for hours.

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  25. I agree with you and your commentators - there certainly is something fascinating about models of real-life scenes. As a child I always was particularly fascinated by them...always felt a bit like a Peeping Tom while looking. Heh.

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  26. I remember loving a little model village near my home in Buckinghamshire. How fascinating you must have found them! Jane xx

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  27. I love the idea of feeling that you've shrunk down and entered one of the model scenes. It's straight out of Alice In Wonderland. :-)

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  28. Yes, I used to love the model village at Bourton-on-the-Water when I was a child. This lovely post reminded me of that.

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  29. This is lovely Jenny, it was a pleasure to peruse through it all. Most of it just exquisite.

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  30. Beautiful photos. I love the models! :-)

    Have a great week.

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  31. Japan is a place I have not been - until now. Thank you!

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  32. Take me with you!!!! Thank you so much for showing me your pictures!

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  33. Wow the models are amazing! Can you imagine having to dust that lot! And you can't use a vacuum cleaner or you'd suck all the models up the tube! Ha!

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  34. Hey Jenny!
    I love this post. I have always wanted to visit Japan, thank you for sharing it.
    Hey! if you get a chance, look at my last post...our son, Christopher wrote an article called "The Top 20 Beer Festivals of the World". Since you are a travel writer, I wonder what you would think!
    And the next time you are at the South Bank in London, think of me and how much I wish I could be there too! :-)

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