Japan: Myths to Manga exhibition is a celebration of Japanese folktales and landscapes and their enduring influence on art, design and technology.

Spanning four sections: Sky, Sea, Forest and City, this family exhibition will take you on an inspiring journey through Japan’s sensational natural and urban environments. Each of the sections is underpinned by stories, from the tale of selflessness in The Rabbit and the Moon to the mayhem and mischief of The Night Parade of 100 Demons. The exhibition looks at each myth, and explores how storytelling has shaped Japanese art, design and technology across the centuries.

Woodblock print, Utagawa Hiroshige, 1860, Japan. Museum no. E.3243-1886. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The V&A brings together new acquisitions and rarely seen works from across the its collections, alongside important loans to illustrate the enduring impact of these tales. A snapshot of this variety can be seen in the objects we’re using to tell the story of the Princess Weaver and the Cowherder. Included is a unique 18th-century Star Globe from the Whipple Museum in Cambridge, a dynamic 19th-century woodblock print of women dancing at the Tanabata festival by Utagawa Kunisada and a modern plastic Pokémon Jirachi figurine from a McDonald’s meal in Japan. All the objects play a part in supporting the narrative and speak to the continued appeal of these inspirational tales.

The exhibit champions artworks from contemporary Japanese artists and designers who are inspired by their environment and aim to answer some of today’s challenges. In the exhibition, you can see sculptures by artists Keita Miyazaki and Yūken Teruya who re-fashion everyday materials, such as old car parts or shopping bags, to create something new and beautiful.

The Great Wave (In the Hollow of a Wave off the Coast at Kanagawa) from Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji by Katsushika Hokusai, about 1831. Museum no. E.4823-1916 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In Japan, playing is not relegated to a childhood pastime, but continues through life in pursuits like games, manga, robots and kawaii, the culture of cute. The playfulness that fuels Japan’s creativity is also what lies at the heart of Young V&A, which makes it is the perfect pairing for its first exhibition.

To find out more and book tickets, head to the Young V&A’s website. The exhibition closes Sunday, 8 September 2024.

Header: My Neighbour Totoro. © 1988 Studio Ghibli


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