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Posts Tagged ‘art magazine’


When I was interning at the art museum, there was an area on the book cart in the library section of the office, for books and magazines the museum didn’t want. Free to take. Most of them were things I had no interest in, but every now and then I’d take a few things home. Sometimes I didn’t even appreciate what it was, as my Japanese language skills were far poorer back then, but I looked at the pretty pictures and decided it was something that might be worth keeping.

Now that I am home from Japan and reorganizing my room, I’ve come across those things again. One in particular caught my eye -a magazine called “Asiage”, published by the Kyushu National Museum, which I am just a tad obsessed with. I was quite disappointed to not get to see the Museum when I went to Fukuoka/Dazaifu last month, and I really hope I get to go again soon.

Looking at the other issues, located on the museum’s website in PDF format for free, these seem to be very short (4 page) museum newsletters about which events and exhibits are going on each season. If only I were in Fukuoka… Still, they’re quite colorful, and there may be good tidbits in there.

In any case, this 120 page volume I have, was published right around when the museum first opened. Not quite a “number zero issue”, it seems to be a stand-alone publication. It is subtitled 「海の道、アジアの路」 (translated by the museum as “Ocean Ways, Asian Paths”), which is also the guiding theme of the museum’s main exhibition halls. From what I hear, rather than having separate galleries for Japanese, Chinese, and Korean art/history as many museums do, the Kyushu Museum focuses on cultural exchanges, and mixes Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indonesian, Southeast Asian, Okinawan, Dutch, and Portuguese material together in the galleries in order to illustrate this colorful and exciting aspect of history.

This ‘mook’, as the Japanese might call it, the publication being not quite a “magazine” nor a “book”, includes lots of interesting looking articles, focusing on a number of related themes. Various aspects of Japanese and Asian history as viewed from the perspective of the sea. International trade and cultural exchange. Countering the ‘sakoku’ idea that Japan was closed to the world, and detailing the exchanges that occurred during that period through Matsumae (Hokkaido), Tsushima, Nagasaki, and Satsuma/Ryukyu, trading with the Ainu, Korea, China and the Dutch East India Company, and China respectively. Articles focusing on Kyushu’s Jomon period heritage. On Okinawa. On Kyushu as Japan’s gateway on the world. And all accompanied by beautiful images in brilliant color.

I wish I could share the whole book with you. I feel weird talking about something and then saying “if you really want to know what I’m talking about, you have to buy the book.”

What really amuses me about this is that in the years since leaving the art museum, I have become extremely interested in all of these things. In Kyushu’s history and its role/identity as an international gateway. In the Kyushu National Museum. In Japan’s pre-modern and early modern international trade. In maritime history. In Okinawa. To have happened upon such a wonderful publication before ever knowing that this was going to become such a passion, without having been able to read much of the contents, and without ever having looked at it in the interim… How lucky!

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