One part of the Japanese culture is their love for beauty and the Japanese visual arts is remarkably different to the Western style in many ways. Japanese literacy was adopted from the Chinese system of writing and phonetic alphabet and pictographic characters were the important elements in the visual symbolism associated with plants, animals, and other objects that strongly affected the content and meaning of Japanese art and design. In this article, we will introduce you to the different facets of Japanese visual arts.


Japanese painting developed during the 17th to 19th centuries when the country isolated from the outside world. Japanese painting is both abstract and naturalistic allowing greater spontaneity and individuality. Many works focused on intimate and limited subjects permitting explicit perspective and lighting effects.


It is called shodou or ‘the way of writing’ in Japan. It is widely practiced by Japanese of all ages and status. Japanese children are mandated to learn calligraphy in their elementary school education. There are three basic writing styles in Japanese calligraphy. They are Kaisho, Gyousho, and Sousho.

Kaisho literally means ‘correct writing’. It is a style which each stroke is made in a deliberate and clear way. Students learn this calligraphy first. It gives them the opportunity to get used to using the brush accurately.

Gyousho is defined as the ‘traveling writing’. It refers to the semi-cursive style of Japanese calligraphy. Separate strokes in Kaisho style flow together form a more rounded whole in Gyousho. The majority of educated Japanese can usually read texts written in this style.

Sousho means ‘grass writing’.  It refers to the flowing cursive style of calligraphy. The form replaces readability as the writer rarely allows the brush to leave the paper that results in graceful, swooping shapes. Japanese who are trained in shodou are usually able to read this type of script.


The sculpture of Japan started from the clay figure. Sculptures were made at local shops. Most sculptures were found at areas in front of houses and along walls of important buildings. In particular, sculpture came to be most firmly centered on Buddhism. The materials that were traditionally used were metal, especially bronze, and more commonly wood.


The Japanese art of flower arrangement is known as ikebana. Nature and humanity are brought together with the arrangement of flowers. It is created with certain rules of construction. The materials used are living branches, leaves, grasses, and blossoms. The beauty of ikebana results from the combination of colors, natural shapes, graceful lines, and the meaning hides in the overall form of the arrangement.


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