This past week I taught near Ueno Park, Tokyo’s most important park. There are several museums there, smaller galleries, a zoo, theaters, lakes and ponds, temples and shrines, and even a sizeable homeless camp. It’s one of my favorite places in Tokyo. After work I had meant to check out the visiting exhibition from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the finest collections of impressionists in the world. But by the time I finished a late lunch and then enjoyed the autumn air it was getting late and near closing time, so I opted for another day for a fuller viewing.
Nevertheless, art is everywhere, and on this day I chanced upon a string of lanterns that lined the park’s main thoroughfare. They were a series of woodblock prints, called ukiyo-e (translated as ‘the floating world’), which were a popular form of affordable art during the Edo Period.
Most seemed to commemorate some sort of formal diplomatic exchange between Westerners and Japanese. I suspect it was a treaty signing or trade agreement. In any case, the lanterns will be there until October 31, and are lit from 6-9pm.