How Japanese Art Fits into Japanese Culture

How Japanese Art Fits into Japanese Culture

In Japan, Artisans Create ‘Cut Glass From Edo’

About three weeks ago, my girlfriend and I were driving in Nagoya, Japan, when we saw a display of glass created by someone with a “cut-glass” degree. What was it, exactly, that brought these unique works of art to our mind?

We had some suspicions. One of our guides at Osaka was an art historian, and she had read about a Japanese artist named Shigemasa Ikeda who is believed to have created some of the earliest pieces of cut-glass art in the city. From what we could tell from the various museums, Ikeda’s glass art was quite well-known, but we were not terribly impressed. That didn’t prevent us from purchasing a small glass sculpture from the artist’s studio. What we didn’t expect was what came next. Ikeda had begun making pieces of glass with an unusual material: mercury. If we had known then what we know now, we would have never bought a piece of cut-glass from him.

Mercury in Japanese Culture

While we were driving around Japan, we didn’t pay much attention to the “cut-glass artists” that we passed on the road. They seemed to have their own lives, and we wanted to find them to learn more about them. We were especially excited about an artist that we saw by chance at a museum. He was known for creating unusual pieces of glass, and we thought this would be a really great piece to take home and research. Ikeda was the artist we were looking for.

Mercury and Japanese Art History

While our guide was able to tell us more about the history of mercury glass, my girlfriend and I wanted to learn more about it. We wanted to know how it fit into Japanese culture. We had already seen the art at Osaka, and we wanted to learn more about how mercury glass art fit into the history of Japanese art.

In early modern Japanese history, Japan was influenced by China in many ways. For thousands of

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