In effort to heal, show places focus on Japan

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In effort to heal, show places focus on Japan

As the title of a Korean book put it, Japan is so close and yet so far. While cultural and commercial exchanges between Korea and Japan date from thousands of years ago, Koreans are still healing the wounds left by 35 years of Japanese colonial rule.

Despite the chronic love-hate relationship, most Koreans and Japanese are rather ignorant of each other's lifestyle, art and culture.

With this in mind, two local state-run museums are using the World Cup soccer tournament co-hosted by Korea and Japan as an opportunity to promote a better understanding between the neighbors.

The National Folk Museum of Korea, inside the Gyeongbok palace complex, is holding a special exhibition on Japan through May 6. The show, "Japan, Our Close Neighbor," is structured in three parts, and strives to help the viewer experience Japanese culture up close and personal.

In Part 1, "A Grandmother's Home," the museum says it tries to provide a look at the Japanese cultures of food, clothing and shelter. To do so, it has re-created the house of an old woman who spent her entire life in Kyoto.

The folk museum borrowed her room, kitchen furniture and household items.

The woman, who died when she was more than 100, bequeathed her house to Japan's National Museum of Ethnology, which has had her dwelling and possessions on display at its site in Tokyo.

In Part 2, "From Cradle to Grave," the museum introduces the rites of passage ordinary Japanese undertake from birth to death, and compares them with similar customs practiced by Koreans.

On display are dolls, called kogachu-ningyo, made for boys to bring them good fortune as they grow up.

The corresponding dolls for girls are called hina-ningyo. The custom of making the dolls dates back hundreds of years.

In Part 3, "Reading Contemporary Japanese Culture," the exhibits seek to comprehend the dynamic aspects of contemporary Japanese everyday life.

Guests will be able to watch or listen to Japanese songs or music videos that are not normally allowed to be imported to Korea. The museum will also display pachinko machines, the gambling game with metal balls that the Japanese are known to play for hours on end. The machines were donated to the museum by a Japanese pachinko company.

The National Museum of Korea is preparing two events. The first is an exhibition of Japanese national treasures scheduled for May. It will be a mutual exchange as Korean treasures will be sent to Japan for exhibition. The second is an exhibition of important modern paintings done by Japanese artists, scheduled for October.

The museum, as a buildup to the shows, published a book illustrating and providing background on modern Japanese paintings that have been banned from being shown to the public since Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945.

Some 93 paintings that were collected by the art gallery from the Joseon Dynasty will be shown to Koreans first through the book and then at the exhibition, the museum said.

Many of Japan's most important artists from its modern era, such as Yokohama Taikan, Kaburaki Kiyokata and Yamakawa Shuho, will be represented at the exhibition, the museum said.

by Oh Byeong-sang

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