TOYO Reference Series

An Artist in Japan

By John La Farge

 

John la Farge (1835–1910), traveling Japan’s interior in the summer of 1886, sees Japan in a way only he can: through the eyes of a painter, observing a vast canvas in which he discerns every color, every shade, every nuance, every remarkable detail.

With La Farge we visit the Tokugawa tombs at Nikkō, the Daibutsu at Kamakura, the many temples of the ancient capitals of Kyoto and Nara. We learn of the people and traditions that produced these sites that still draw millions to Japan. With him we marvel at the ingenuity of the architecture, the exquisite detail of the sculptures, the refreshing “simplicity of attitude” as expressed in the paintings.

Coming face to face with a profoundly different culture, La Farge is at times perplexed, bewildered, even frustrated, but he is always admiring—of its ingenuity, of its tenacity, of its close relationship with nature as expressed in all its manifestations.

An Artist in Japan is full of sensitive descriptions, of the pleasant domesticity of city life, of the hustle and bustle on Japan’s great thoroughfares, of everyday people going about their everyday lives. It is a marvelous panoramic view of a Japan still firmly rooted in its traditions, but already in the thrall of Westernization. It is, in short, a work of art.

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things

that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.

So throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the safe harbor.

Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream. Discover.”

 — Mark Twain

 TOYO PRess

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