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small yellow square Wrapping up the Christmas shopping. Haven't had to visit a mall yet, surprisingly. The local "Tower Records" was lacking, so I decided to nip up to the City for a brief stop in "Amoeba" at the end of Haight Street, as well as a longer mission into adjacent Golden Gate Park. That's where I left the car, near the De Young Museum. As I walked east I passed the Conservatory, that large greenhouse (with its whitewashed windows) modeled after those in London's Kew Gardens. Ours has been closed for almost a decade because of earthquake damage. At the park's corner I admired an enormous Italian oak decorated with strings of regular-sized colored light bulbs - like to see this one at night! I crossed over Stanyon Street, leaving the greenery and eucalyptus trees behind. At "Amoeba" I turned in a few disks for credit, located the new Oranj Symphonette <1> and stood in the long line for purchasing, finally fleeing the crowds to return to the foresty urban oasis. I found and walked through that pedestrian tunnel decorated with stalactites I'd read about in The Summer of Love by Lisa Mason, eventually returning to the area of the museums. The De Young building is where the Asian Art Museum lives - my destination.

small purple square They're having two shows of Japanese ukiyo-e prints - I misread the exhibition poster, unfortunately. I thought it was all one show; now I find I've missed the first one, which was dedicated to Hokusai. (They had his "Great Wave" there, one of the "36 Views of Fuji" - am I to never see a "real" print of this?) The current show is of Hiroshige, the more prolific of this stuff's two great artists. They had all of his "53 Stations of the Tokaido Road" as well as some of the best of his "100 Views of Edo", including everybody's favorite <2>, "Asakusa Rice Fields and Torinomachi Festival". The sample image seen here Hiroshige Tokaido view is one of those stations along the Tokaido Road, which ran between Kyoto and Edo - the road is now the super-express shinkansen Tokaido Line, which reduces the original two-week journey to a couple hours. <3> The exhibit was exceptional, showing how the prints' colors were built up - they even had one of the original wood blocks side-by-side with a finished print. New vocabulary, gleaned from the small print: bokashi and tembokashi are the gradual shadings of sky color common in the landscape pictures - the former gets lighter going up, the latter the reverse. The water-colory effect is created by washing the ink off the plate. Find more Hiroshige ukiyo-e here.

Edo - Tokyo (archaic)
shinkansen - bullet train
ukiyo-e - wood-block prints
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<1> ...which is great: among other things, new jazzy versions of older movie themes

<2> ...because of its white kitten sitting on the windowsill looking out at Fuji
("I don't care if the repro is terrible - let me see!")

<3> This road is such well-known subject that it's used as metaphor. A book I found quite useful during my first visit to Japan was Foot-loose in Tokyo by Jean Pearce. The subtitle is "The Curious Traveler's Guide to the 29 Stages of the Yamanote Line" - that's the green line, a loop like London's Circle Line around the central city. As the title implies there's 29 stations and she details what to see in walking tours around each one.