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5 Ways to Celebrate Japanese Art and Culture at the MFA This Spring

This year, the MFA’s blossoming cherry trees aren’t just a welcome sign of spring—they’re an invitation to explore the amazing Japanese art and culture on view at the Museum of Fine Arts. Whether you prefer to look at contemporary photography, gaze at Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji or nosh on a bento box, you’re sure to gain new perspective. With one of the largest collection of Japanese art outside of Japan, the MFA is the perfect place to experience Japanese culture with thought-provoking exhibitions, lectures and artist demonstrations.

Interested in Japanese food or fashion, history or current events, or quiet contemplation? The Museum has something for you to explore. In the galleries, admire intricately detailed silk kimonos, stunning swords and samurai armor, or board games and puzzles. Throughout April and May, visitors can attend lectures and wood block printmaking demonstrations, or socialize with other art lovers over sake.

Below are 5 must-see highlights:

1. Hokusai
Widely known for his woodblock print The Great Wave, which has inspired murals, tattoos, and logos worldwide (it even has an emoji!), Hokusai is one of the most popular and influential artists in history. The exhibition has more than 230 works spanning the artist’s incredible 70-year career, on view from April 5 to August 9, 2015.

If you want more: On Saturdays, stop by the Artist Toolbox Cart outside the Gund Gallery to see the tools used to create woodblock prints. Or, sign up for the “Hokusai and Sake ” social event on Friday, May 1.

2. In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3/11
The Museum’s “In the Wake : Japanese Photographers Respond to 3/11” exhibition features the work of 17 photographers who captured the aftermath of Japan’s 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. The photos create a powerful framework for understanding the impact of the tragedies and how those affected began to recover. On view from April 5 to July 12, 2015.

If you want more: Attend a symposium on disaster and relief on May 17 or a lecture on April 22 by Naoya Hatakeyama, one of the photographers featured in the exhibition.

3. Japanese Garden, Tenshin-en: Garden of the Heart of Heaven
Experience a peaceful oasis when you walk through the gates into this tranquil space inspired by Zen temple gardens of 15th-century Japan. With 70 varieties of Japanese and American plants to discover, this living work of art calms the mind and awakens the senses with its delicate, natural beauty. Opens April 24.

If you want more: Join Julie Moir Messervy on April 27 as she celebrates the history and 18-month renovation of the garden.

4. Japanese Buddhist Temple Room
A perfect space for mind-clearing meditation, the bustle of the outside world disappears as you step into the softly-lit Japanese Buddhist Temple Room. Objects of both inspiration and beauty, the sacred statues are a calming presence sure to ignite your spiritual practice and trigger deep introspection.

If you want more: Check out recently installed works of Buddhist art in the nearby Japanese galleries, from the gift of Sylvan Barnet and William Burto.

5. Art In Bloom
Join garden clubs and professional designers from across New England as they create floral arrangements inspired by the MFA’s works of art. Attend floral demonstrations April 25 to 27 and lectures by noted French floral designer Christian Tortu whose arrangements combine his love of nature with an East meets West aesthetic. and follow up with an Elegant Tea.

If you want more: Get a sneak peek of the 51 arrangements at a special Bubbles and Blossoms preview party the evening of Friday, April 24.