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Asia Week New York Reading List, Part II: Japanese Art

We asked some of our participants for their favorite Asian art-related books—both fiction and non-fiction. For Part II of our reading list, we are focusing on Japanese art. We hope you'll find inspiration in these pages. These are all available on Amazon, but do support your local bookstore if you can!

The Great Wave: Gilded Age Misfits, Japanese Eccentrics, and the Opening of Old Japan
by Christopher E.G. Benfey

Jeffrey Olson, director of the Japanese department at Bonhams, recommends this title, which “tells the story of the tightly knit group of nineteenth-century travelers—connoisseurs, collectors, and scientists—who dedicated themselves to exploring and preserving Old Japan,” according to the synopsis.

The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss
by Edmund de Waal

Carol Conover of Kaikodo LLC describes it as “a true story about the inheritance of a collection of netsuke, covering three generations in three countries.”

In Praise of Shadows
by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki

“I have always loved and treasured this insightful and elegant small book-essay,” shares Joan Mirviss. “Written in 1933, it brilliantly captures the essence of the particular aesthetic sensibilities of the Japanese.”

The Printmaker's Daughter
by Katherine Govier

“This novel is about the talented artist, Katsushika Oi (ca. 1800 – ca. 1866), who lived under the shadow of her father, the great 19th century Japanese artist, Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849),” says Katherine Martin, the director of Scholten Japanese Art.

She also recommends two novels by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki, Naomi and The Makioka Sisters, adding: “These both capture the dynamic time before World War II in Japan, and some of the art I handle seem to be portraits of the female characters brought to life in these novels.”

Read our other book recommendations:

Asia Week New York Reading List, Part I: Chinese Art
Asia Week New York Reading List, Part III: Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art