Sunday, June 26, 2011

Waves at Matsushima

Where: Sackler Gallery

When: through July 5, 2011

The Bay of Matsushima has been celebrated for centuries by artists and writers for its great beauty. It is a group of islands covered in pine trees, which luckily survived the recent tsunami without the horrific damage seen in other coastal areas.

Several paintings of the islands by Kawase Hasui (1883 - 1957) are on display, and they are beautiful. In one piece, he depicts a Buddhist temple built in 807 (imagine something that old) which survived the tsunami.

That's not to say that the islands emerged completely unscathed. There are photographs taken during and after the flooding that shows the enormity of the disaster. Cars being picked up and tossed aside with the waves as if they weighed no more than a child's toy.

In another room, there are screens depicting the waves of the exhibit title. They date from the 1600s, and it is awe inspiring that people have been describing and talking about this place (which is supposedly the third most beautiful place in Japan - how the rankings are done, I know not) for literally hundreds of years. As Tawaraya Sotatsu is quoted as saying, "They are still unable to fully capture its beauty, try though they might."

Verdict: Go see this small show; it's easily seen in a lunch hour. The paintings are beautiful; a way to travel to Japan without leaving the city.

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