The Japanese Collection

The Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities manages a collection of more than 4,100 objects from Japan. The Japanese Collection is one of the two largest collections of Japanese objects at any other location or institution in Sweden.

Similar to many other museums, the Japanese Collection at the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities presents various aspects of Japanese culture in line with people's interests through the ages. The collection is dominated by cultural, historical and archaeological objects from the Edo Period (1615-1868) and in particular from the 19th century.

In addition to antiquities, the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities manages the Library collection of Japanese artefacts, which primarily consists of woodblock print books but also other publications such as newspapers from the Meiji Period (1868-1912). Key features in the Japanese Collection are ceramics and woodcuts by prominent artists from the first half of the 20th century. Nearly a third of the objects shown are either weapons or has something to do with weapons such as the sword hand guards (Tsuba). The visual art consists essentially of woodcuts but there are also around 180 paintings and among the handicrafts, the large collection of ceramics is the most noticeable. In addition, the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities has a collection of miniature sculptures or carved button-like ornaments (netsuke) and fine lacquer objects such as medicine boxes (inrō).

More than 1,200 Japanese objects were handed over by the National Museum in connection with the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities relocating to its current location on Skeppsholmen. Consequently, the origins of our collections (provenance) vary greatly. However, a significant part of our collections originate from Oscar Björck (1860-1929), artist and professor at the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts. Oscar Björck's collection is a fine example of Swedish interests in Japan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, i.e. during the popular Japonism period. The remaining collections are made up of donations from individuals as well as acquisitions made by private persons and corporations such as auction houses. One of the more important depositions is the George von Békésy Collection from the Nobel Foundation. George von Békésy was a Hungarian scientist who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1961. The deposition includes near to 150 examples of Japanese handicrafts and visual arts. Another important deposition is Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld's (1832-1901) Collection of woodblock print books (in excess of 1,000 titles and 6,000 volumes) from the National Library of Sweden. Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld acquired the books while in Japan and these were later catalogued in 1980. The majority of the books date from the 17th and 18th centuries as well as the first half of the 19th century.