A taste of Japan in celebration of rare handscroll

Competition winners, conservation experts and library staff were treated to an evening of Japanese culture in honour of a rare artwork discovered in the Central Library in 2012.

The 300-year-old handscroll, painted by Japanese artist Furuyama Moromasa, has since undergone a two-year, £40,000 restoration process in the Netherlands before being returned to the library.

On Thursday, specially invited guests were given a private viewing of the painting, which will go on public display in the National Museum of Scotland’s new East Asia Gallery from 2018.

Dancer Yoshie Asano

The event was kicked off by Japanese drummers, followed by a performance from Japanese dancer Yoshie Asano, while invitees were provided with sushi and sake during the evening.

Culture and Sport Convener, Councillor Richard Lewis, who opened the event, said: “This rare, historic artwork was a real find for the libraries service, and its subsequent restoration, thanks to The Sumitomo Foundation’s generous funding, has been a true success.

“This special viewing had been a fitting celebration of the handscroll, and I look forward to the general public being able to visit and enjoy it over the coming years.”

Amongst guests were Japan's Deputy Consul General in Scotland, Rumiko Ishigami, representatives from National Galleries Scotland, National Libraries Scotland and the Japanese Society and the winners of a competition to attend the private viewing.  

Entitled ‘Theatres of the East’, the 44-foot scroll depicts a street scene in the theatre district of Edo, Tokyo, and was gifted to the Central Library in 1945 by the daughter of Henry Dyer, a Scottish engineer who played a major role in revolutionising the Japanese engineering education system.

Upon its discovery, the Edinburgh City Libraries team collaborated with National Museums Scotland to secure funding from the Sumitomo Foundation for the 300-year-old painted scroll’s restoration by the Restorient Studios specialists in Leiden, the Netherlands.

The scroll represents a major discovery in the ‘ukiyo-e’ school of art and has been relined and given new casing, amongst other renovations, to restore it to its former glory.

Images of the scroll before its restoration are currently available to view on the Capital Collections website.

On Wednesday, 9 November, Dr Rosina Buckland, from National Museums Scotland, will deliver an illustrated talk on the conservation of the handscroll painting. Find out how to attend the event.

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