Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Japanese Showcase: Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

What type of clothing could be more beautiful or representative of traditional Japan than the kimono? Today we’ve decided to take a stop at the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum along our virtual tour of Japan. Not only does this museum have exquisite panoramic views of Mount Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi, but it also houses the most important collection of kimonos from the 20th century.  These kimonos were created by Itchiku Kubota (1817-2003), and were dyed and created using the “Itchiku Tsujigahana” technique.

Itchiku Kubota Art Museum via Flickr by Tanaka Juuyoh
It is for good reason that Itchiku Kubota is considered the most important Japanese textile artist of the 20th century. At the age of 20, Kubota first encountered Tsujigahana from the Muromachi period at the Tokyo National Museum. This technique was common from the Muromachi period to the early Edo period (1338-1573), but became a lost and unpracticed technique by the 17th century. It was a life changing experience, to say the least:

“My heart was beating faster; I was moved, trembling and fascinated in the face of such mastery and refinement of beauty. For over three hours I remained transfixed there in the deserted museum hall contemplating this little fragment of fabric which seemed to have been on display in the showcase for me alone.”

While Kubota made a living by hand-drawn Yuzen, he devoted himself to reviving this lost dyeing process. Finally, after many years of trial and error, he discovered a technique to revive Tsujigahana, which he named “Itchiku Tsujigahana.”

The “Itchiku Tsujigahana” technique is the result of Kubota’s lifelong devotion to the recreation of the lost “Tsujigahana” technique. Kubota held his first exhibit in 1977 at the age of 60. The beauty of the “Itchiku Tsujigahana” technique quickly gained a reputation and the exhibition was also held abroad in Paris, New York and London. The Itchiku Kubota Art Museum opened in 1994, and houses 104 of his creations to be viewed publicly.

Have you ever been to the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum? Tell us about it in the comments below!