Themes: The Moon Through the Eras

by: Chris Koller

The moon has been a significant character throughout Japanese history dating back to as early as the Asuka period when Buddhist inspired art began to feature the sun and moon together as a popular theme. As zen Buddhism grew in popularity throughout the Kamakura era, moon-viewing became a popular activity. The moon played a key role in the arrangement of the monthly calendar all the way through the Edo period and it was common for citizens to celebrate the moon by hosting moon viewing parties also known as Tsukimi. The moon not only represented a strong harvest, but also provided a form of enlightenment, solitude and appreciation of beauty. As the popularity of ukiyo-e grew during the Edo period, the artistic interpretation of the moon became easily accessible to regular citizens as this artwork was mass produced, and even extended it's influence into Western artists including Van Gogh and Monet.

Below I have included selections of Japanese art featuring the moon from the Ukiyo-e, Shin Hanga and Sosaku Hanga movements.


Moon Viewing Party by Kitagawa Utamaro

Autumn Moon Over Miho by Utagawa Kunisada

Moon Above the Sea of Daimotsu Bay by Yoshitoshi

Moon Scene Triptych by Hiroshige

The Moon on Musashi Plain by Yoshitoshi

Shin Hanga

Full Moon Over Magome by Kawase Hasui

Hirakawa Bridge by Hiroshi Yoshida

Misty Moon at Miyajima by Ito Yuhan

Moon at Ishiyama Lake Biwa by Takahashi Shotei

Moon at Nakanoshima Sapporo by Kawase Hasui

Praying Mantis and the Moon by Ohara Koson

Summer Moon at Miyajima by Tsuchiya Koitsu

Sosaku Hanga

Evening by Toshi Yoshida

Moon and Tree by Joichi Hoshi

New Moon and Sea by Reika Iwami


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