The gallery remains devoted to showing Japan’s remarkable craftsmanship and artistic creativity from early times. Long-time favourites such as the exquisitely decorated lacquer Mazarin Chest and netsuke and inrō are still to be found on display, as are the various examples of cloisonné enamels, ceramics, weapons and armour, textiles and prints.
The lighting, display cases and graphic design have all been updated. The flow of information in the gallery has been reconfigured to give more space to the museum’s 20th and 21st-century Japanese holdings. This includes contemporary objects from product design, studio crafts, photography, graphic design, high fashion and kawaii street style: from the first portable stereo Walkman made in 1979 by Sony and a 2014 pink Hello Kitty rice cooker to a magnificent example of pleated women’s wear from Issey Miyake and stunning Edo-period kimono.
This year has marked the 150th anniversary of the arrival in the United Kingdom of the Satsuma Students from Satsuma, present-day Kagoshima. The area became famous for its ceramic production and, in particular, gold and coloured enamel decoration. Satsuma ware became especially popular in Europe in the late 19th century at the height of the fashion for all things Japanese. In connection with this anniversary, a number of fine pieces of Satsuma ceramics are on display, two of which are from the famous Chin Jukan kiln in Kagoshima.
If you are ever in London, and find yourself in South Kensington, why not make a visit to the V&A and Room 45?