Young V&A Myths to Manga exhibition: New display transports Londoners to Japan

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The exhibition showcasing Japanese culture to children and their families will open at Young V&A this weekend.

A new exhibition showcasing Japanese culture to children and their families will open at the Young V&A this weekend. Japan: Myths to Manga which will go on display this Saturday (October 14) traces the influence of Japanese folklore on contemporary design, from art and animation to robots, fashion and film.

The Japanese-themed display will the first exhibition at the Young V&A museum since it reopened in July. As explained by the exhibition's curator Katy Canales, the exhibition aims to explore "not only the beautiful country but the stories that come from it and the art, design and technology that it has inspired.”

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More than 150 objects ranging from the 15th century to the present day will be featured in the exhibition, from Hokusai and Hiroshige prints to Sylvanian Families, Transformers and a Hello Kitty rice cooker. An installation of 1,000 paper cranes made by schoolchildren and sent from the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan will also be on display.

Divided into four sections: sky, sun, forest and city, the exhibition layout represents the country’s diverse landscape. There will be several interactive activities for children, including origami and manga stations, a sensory forest, and Taiko Drums created by contemporary artist Noritaka Tatehana.

Co-curator of the exhibition Mary Redfern said she wanted to help "inspire the next generation" with the display. She explained: "They get the chance to see things they might not otherwise see, find out amazing stories and go further."

Ms Redfern added: "What we really want people to take away is something very personal, a new experience and possibly a new future interest in Japan or in robotics or in space travel."

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A new exhibition showcasing Japanese culture to children and their families will open at Young V&A this weekend. (Photo credit: V&A)A new exhibition showcasing Japanese culture to children and their families will open at Young V&A this weekend. (Photo credit: V&A)
A new exhibition showcasing Japanese culture to children and their families will open at Young V&A this weekend. (Photo credit: V&A) | V&A Press Office

The idea for the exhibition was born in 2020 when the Asia department at Young V&A decided they wanted to take visitors on a playful and creative journey through Japan, motivated by restricted travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Helen Charman, director of learning and national programmes at Young V&A, said: “There’s something quite fundamental about museums and engaging with material culture, and museums as places where we travel in time, and we travel geographically and in our imaginations.

“We’ve really loved the idea of journeying through these beautiful environments which make up Japan, the open skies, the dense forests, the deep seas and the bustling cities, and exploring how these varied landscapes have shaped myth and legend through the lens of art, design, performance and technology.”

Japan: Myths to Manga which will go on display this Saturday (October 14) traces the influence of Japanese folklore on contemporary design, from art and animation to robots, fashion and film. (Photo credit: V&A)Japan: Myths to Manga which will go on display this Saturday (October 14) traces the influence of Japanese folklore on contemporary design, from art and animation to robots, fashion and film. (Photo credit: V&A)
Japan: Myths to Manga which will go on display this Saturday (October 14) traces the influence of Japanese folklore on contemporary design, from art and animation to robots, fashion and film. (Photo credit: V&A) | V&A Press Office

The exhibition has already received rave reviews from those who attended its launch. Michelle Ens, a teacher at Globe Primary School in Bethnal Green, said: “The exhibition is very exciting and dynamic. I like that there are so many different aspects of Japanese culture to learn about. It’s really great for the children.

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“They are very excited by the drums and the paintings, and they are looking forward to making their own Japanese-inspired artwork at school. It’s really inspiring to me as a teacher that they are so excited by it.”

Campbell Price, 41, who came with his 4-year-old son to the exhibition preview, added: “We’ve been coming to the museum for years, and it’s great to see its rejuvenation as Young V&A.

“The exhibition is very cool and interactive and keeps the children interested. My son has loved looking at the anime and cartoons, and he now has a new affinity with Transformers which I didn’t realise before coming here!”

Japan: Myths to Manga opens at Young V&A on 14 October 2023 and runs until 8 September 2024.

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