Auspicious Images of the New Year

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    Torii Kiyonaga (1752-1815). "Dream Symbols of the New Year," Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), 1786. Woodblock print; ink and color on paper. Gift of James A. Michener, 1970. (15967a-b)

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    Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858). "Plum Garden, Kamata," from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, Japan, Edo period (1615-1868), 1857. Woodblock print; ink and color on paper. Anonymous gift, 2006. (28607)

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December 20, 2012 - February 17, 2013
Honolulu Museum of Art

Exhibition Overview

In cultures throughout Asia, the dawn of a new year has long been revered as an auspicious moment for people to celebrate in a variety of ways. In Japan, some choose to mark the occasion through quiet, introspective activities such as watching the first sunrise of the year (hatsu hi no de), contemplating the snow-covered landscape, or simply appreciating the “Three Friends of Winter”—blossoming plum trees, evergreen pines and groves of resilient bamboo. Others prefer more social events such as games of poetry memorization, lotteries, and pilgrimages to Shinto shrines or other sacred sites, such as Mount Fuji. Symbols of longevity and happiness, such as the crane, the tortoise, and the Seven Gods of Good Fortune (shichi-fukujin) populate the art of this season, and residents decorate their homes accordingly.

Throughout Japan, people mark this occasion by allowing the misfortunes of the past year to fade from memory and by focusing upon the splendid possibilities that lie ahead. As we ourselves enter 2013—the 25th year of the Heisei era—may this rotation of Japanese prints, designed by the most acclaimed artists of the Edo period (1615-1868), enliven our spirits and help us to welcome the opportunities presented by a brand new year.