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Keepers of Japanese culture

Sep 01, 2021


The Japanese aesthetic possesses a singular status in the world. Because of its long period of isolation, art forms in the country developed virtually absent of Western influence and planted very deep roots among the Japanese.

With the end of Japan’s isolation, Japanese art reached the West and reignited the creativity of several artists there. More than a century after, the influence of Japanese art and design is very visible in the buildings we inhabit, the products we use, the pictures we hang on our walls, and the clothes we wear.

Through their international partnerships, Japan’s art universities have served as bridges with the global community, guardians of the country’s culture and promoters of its art and design. One such school is Musashino Art University (MAU) in Tokyo.

Founded in 1929 as Teikoku Art School, the university has grown to become one of Japan’s most prestigious art schools. In addition to encompassing all the existing areas of an art university, MAU established the College of Creative Thinking for Social Innovation in 2019 to develop new disciplines in the field.

With two undergraduate and two postgraduate schools, MAU is now one of the largest art universities in Japan. Its groundbreaking educational innovations for the next generation have attracted a great deal of attention both in Japan and overseas as unprecedented forms of instruction.

“With agreements with 37 major art universities around the world, and MAU’s tradition of global educational development, it was recognized by MEXT as the first Japanese art university to develop global human resources. Global programs are offered in both classes and as projects on a daily basis. Its achievements and scale have long led Japanese art universities”, Musashino Art University President Tadanori Nagasawa said.

For more than 120 years, Joshibi University of Art and Design has trained female artists, many of whom have achieved success not only in Japan, but also in New York, Paris, London and Milan. It was the first women-only fine arts institution and the oldest private art school in the country.

“We are proud of our graduates. It’s interesting to see that applicants come to us because they look up to our graduates. We have this strength in training these students and passing them along to the wider world,” said Joshibi University of Art and Design President Fumiko Ogura.

“We are also proud to have bred many artists that have received the Order of Culture as well as artists that have been selected as Persons of Cultural Merit in the field of Japanese paintings, and Western paintings and crafts. We have the most number of these awards among other art schools and universities,” she added.

Education in Japan 2021 was prepared for and originally printed in Foreign Affairs magazine.

PDF of the printed report

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