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Japanese Art Collections in the UK

In December 1613 Captain John Saris, who had established a trading factory in Japan on behalf of the East India Company, returned bearing gifts from the shogun for King James I. This included two suits of armour, one of which can be seen in the Tower of London, the other in the Royal Armouries, Leeds. Japanese export art was soon actively collected by wealthy individuals and displayed in their great houses throughout the UK. With the formation of public museums in the 18th and 19th centuries, large collections of Japanese art could be seen for the first time by the British public. These collections were often formed by philanthropic individuals or were actively acquired at the great world exhibitions where Japan proudly displayed its artistic works. The second half of the nineteenth century was the golden period for collecting Japanese art as the country was re-opened and western collectors, obsessed with Japanese art, flocked to Japan where they purchased objects in huge numbers.Today there is a wealth of Japanese art housed in over 150 museums, galleries and other public collections all over the UK; these are described in full detail by Gregory Irvine in his book, A Guide to Japanese Art Collections in the UK. A selection of these collections is listed below.

Click on the name of the museum/gallery or the corresponding number on the map for further information about its collection.

  UK Based Japanese Organisations

  Japan Related Organisations
  Japan Information