As I mentioned some time in the beginning of the year, this year I’d like to learn more about art. Part of it is work-related: The monthly highlights on my What’s up in Kyoto event calendar page this year are the small museums of Kyoto. And part of it is simply personal interest; my highschool was a sort of vocational school for business, so we didn’t do much into art or general knowledge (I’m sketchy on history too, but that’s something to tackle for another year).

Flyer of "Compete in Beauty" ExhibitionSo, I’m visiting Kyoto’s museums and exhibitions left and right… This week, together with a Finnish friend of mine, I went to see an exhibition of Ukiyo-e paintings. Yes, paintings. Neither my friend or I had been aware that ukiyo-e doesn’t just mean woodblock prints, but also genuine, original, one-of-a kind paintings, often produced by the same artists. Most of the paintings we saw depicted beautiful women, which is a subcategory of ukiyo-e called bijinga.

It was a fascinating exhibition with paintings spanning more than 100 years, and there was even a display case with wigs showing different hairstyles of women of different ranks throughout the Edo period. One of the attendants told us that we should look for cherry blossoms in the paintings – those were used to emphasise that the woman in the picture was regarded as especially beautiful. It’s little things like this that you need to know to really understand the meaning of paintings. I love to find out more over time!