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The Japanese collections at the Oriental Museum have grown considerably in recent years. They mostly date from the Edo (1615-1868 CE) and Meiji (1868-1912 CE) periods, but with some objects from earlier periods such as the Muromachi (1336-1573 CE) and Momoyama (1573-1615 CE). There are also significant numbers of objects of 20th and increasingly, even 21st, century date.

In material terms, the collection is quite diverse though the best represented areas are textiles, arms and armour, ceramics, woodblock prints, inro, and netsuke. Other items include domestic shrines, furniture, lacquer ware of various types, paintings, dolls, statues, games and gaming pieces, bronze temple bells, coins, and lantern slides.

Among the highlights of the Japanese collections are the Edo period ukiyo-e (floating world) woodblock prints with images of actors, courtesans, and landscapes, by renowned artists such as Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858 CE) and Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849 CE). The Museum also has a significant number of prints by Meiji period artist Toyohara Chikanobu (1838-1912). Other highlights include fine examples of swords and armour, finely embroidered silk kimono and exquisitely carved netsuke, finely decorated inro, as well as imari ceramics of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Unlike many other collections in the museum, the Japanese collections were not built up as the result of one or two major donations. Instead they are the result of many smaller donations from a large number of generous individuals and a considerable number of purchases.

In recent years the Museum has made a significant effort to increase the amount of contemporary material held in the Japanese collections. With the support of Artfund Renew funding, contemporary ceramics, woodlblock prints, lacquer, manga, street fashion and domestic goods have been added to the collections.

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