The Japanese art holdings, together with Chinese art, form the backbone of the Academy’s collection. The Japanese painting collection, now numbering more than 690 paintings, ranges from 12th-century handscrolls to 20th-century screens and scrolls. Museum founder Anna Rice Cooke purchased some of the Academy’s most significant Japanese paintings, such as fans by Kano Motohide of the Momoyama period depicting Scenes of Kyoto and the Muromachi-period Portrait of Sugawara Michizane. Other highlights of the collection include the famous Kamakura-period handscroll Events in the Life of Kobo Daishi and the Muromachi-period ink painting River Landscape, acquired through the support of the Robert F. Lange Foundation. Recent acquisitions of collections of Taishö and Shöwa period paintings have expanded the collection into the 20th century.
In addition to paintings, the Academy’s Japanese holdings are particularly rich in lacquerware, especially Okinawan lacquer, Buddhist and Shinto sculpture, and tea ceremony objects.
The Honolulu Academy of Arts acquired the art collection and research library of Dr. Richard Lane in 2003. Lane, who lived in Japan for more than 50 years, was one of the world’s foremost scholars of Japanese art, particularly the ukiyo-e arts of the Edo period (1615-1868). The Lane Collection has significantly expanded the Academy's holdings in paintings, woodblock prints, and woodblock-illustrated books.
One of the collection’s outstanding features is the enormous number and variety of Meiji-period (1868-1912) paintings and woodblock prints. Indeed, with the exception of oil paintings (yöga), nearly the entire history of Meiji-period painting and printmaking can be told with the works represented in the Lane Collection.