The building has a distinctive black patterned façade, giving it a somewhat Arabic look. Once inside, however, the collection is unmistakably Japanese, with some 100 paintings executed using the country’s time-honored methods of mineral pigments on panel, silk, and washi scroll paper, occasionally augmented with gold-leaf decoration.
Despite the traditional style, many painters represented here, like Chinami Nakajima and Yuji Tezuka, are contemporary, as the museum specializes in Nihonga painters born in the Showa era (1926-1989). Their themes are the usual ones of delicately painted natural scenes—flowers, cherry trees in bloom, autumn leaves, moonlit nights and misty views of Mt. Fuji.
Impressive works include Nakajima’s Shunya Miharu no Takizakura (1998), with an abundance of cherry blossoms cascading like a waterfall. Then there is Tezuka’s Sekishun (1995), which uses the moon as a spotlight to pick out the subtly sexual “action” of sakura shedding their blossoms to a stiff but gentle breeze.
Here, you realize the close affinities Nihonga has with haiku poetry. Like haiku, there is the focus on the seasons and an attempt to evoke a very specific sensual impression of an aspect of nature or experience.
Sato Sakura Museum Tokyo (listing).