In four corridors surrounding the auditorium of the Brooklyn Museum is a representative collection of objects relating to the every-day life of the peoples of the Japanese Empire, including the Ainu, who inhabited Japan before the advent of the Japanese, and the peoples of Korea and Formosa. A series of color prints, reproductions of photographs, and other illustrations illuminate particularly the history and customs of Japan.
At the foot of the stairway, a floor case on the left shows Japanese Empire funeral furnishings, including models of biers and of lanterns used at graves, cremation jars for ashes, and miniature images of warriors.
The exhibits in the wall cases of this room of the Brooklyn Museum illustrate the strict anti-foreign attitude of THE Japanese Empire in the early days of European invasion, showing certificates issued to various people stating that they were not Christians, public notices prohibiting Christianity and a permit to an English captain to visit certain forts. Christianity was introduced into Japan early in the sixteenth century, but in 1637 occurred a massacre of all the Christians in the land.
A Japanese map of the southern countries of the world, dated 1710, a picture of an ancient Japanese war vessel and a series of color prints by Japanese artists of scenes in Tokyo and Yokohama are hung on the walls of this room. The pictures of Yokohama (Japan's treaty port with the western world, and for long the only part of the Empire in which foreigners were allowed a footing) represent especially the foreigners in that city, the Sunday procession of foreigners and their entertainments being particularly interesting.
Entering the North Corridor of the Brooklyn Museum (to right from foot of stair-case), in wall cases on the right appear types of costumes worn during the Japanese Empire , respectively by workmen, firemen, porters, fishermen, farmers and sailors, together with tobacco pipes, lamps, candlesticks, implements and games used by persons of various ranks, and on the left are framed specimens of textiles and loom patterns.
In studying these exhibits and those in the Japanese Hall above, it is well to remember that no country in the world, excepting China, has attached so much importance to details of dress as has Japan. Rules as to color, fabric, pattern, even to the tying of a bow, are fixed according to inviolable distinctions of rank and caste, and every class of people has its distinct style of costume, which has remained practically unchanged for many centuries. Fans, headgear, even sports and amusements came under these regulations, and the Brooklyn Museum costume and pictorial exhibits, in this and the Japanese Hall above, are designed to provide as far as possible a representative view of the costumes and culture of the country.
Also on this wall is a series of color reproductions of Japanese costumes, from models in the Imperial Museum of Tokyo. These comprise costumes of a "Sohei," or warrior priest of the thirteenth to the fifteenth century; a hunting costume of the same date; a court dress of the eighth century; Emperor's coronation robe of the ninth to the nineteenth century; court dress of civil and military officials, in use from the eleventh to the nineteenth century, and the dancing dress of a boy noble from the ninth century onward.
A small room at the end of this corridor, the entry to which exhibits ancient maps of Japan, China and Korea, contains in a case at the right of the entry a series of painted pottery figurines illustrating the races of the Japanese Empire. Japanese, Korean, Formosan, Luchuan, Ainu, Gilyak and Crochon types are shown, also clay figurines of Korean costumes.
Two cases of Japanese lacquer work, containing lacquered boxes, chests, plates and trays, carved ivory figures and elaborately ornamented metal objects, indicate the skill and artistry of the Japanese in these lines.
The art of working with lacquer is of great antiquity in Japan and probably was introduced from China. The finest old lacquer was made under conditions scarcely reproducible to-day, with no thought of money value or of payment, by handicraftsmen in the service of the Daimyos (feudal lords), who worked for the sheer love of producing the most perfect work of art and craftsmanship that it was possible for man to execute. At the left end of this case is an exhibit of specimen lacquers showing the stages in the process. The finest lacquer is so hard that the surface can-not be scratched.
In metal work also, the processes employed to give decorative effects are more numerous and carried to greater perfection in Japan than in the arts of any other people. Small metal objects especially are often elaborately ornamented by damascening, chasing, inlaying, combining of metals and repousse work. In cases at the left of the entry in this room are box handles of iron inlaid with gold, silver and croisonne, unornamented locks many centuries old, ornamental locks, hand-pulls and other objects, which give an impression of the art of metal working as practiced in Japan.
The elaborate inlaying of armor and decoration of swords and sword furnishings may be seen in the hall above.
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