"Tsuzuri Project" (Official Title: Cultural Heritage Inheritance Project)
By Hasegawa Tōhaku (1539–1610)
Tokyo National Museum
Ink on paper
Azuchi-Momoyama period, 16th century
Collection Ref. No.
Using only powerful brush strokes with different shades of ink, the artist has depicted pine trees looming amongst the mist. This is a masterpiece by Hasegawa Tohaku, one of the foremost painters of the Azuchi-Momoyama period. The painting seems to play tricks on our senses. Can you see the mist swirling and the light peeking out from the shadows? Can you hear the wind rustling through the pines? The painting's charm lies in the way the artist has faithfully captured the atmosphere of the scene rather than painstakingly trying to recreate the actual shape of the trees. This is also why the work has been described as the pinnacle of Japanese ink painting. If you look closely, you can see the hazy outline of a snowy mountain behind the trees in the distance. Is this late autumn, with winter just around the corner? Or are we looking at spring, when the snow begins to melt? Some say the painting depicts a pine grove near the shore of the Noto Peninsula, Tohaku's home province. Others say it shows the Miho no Matsubara pine grove or the Amanohashidate sandbank, both subjects found in older Japanese paintings. Naturally, there is no right or wrong answer. Thoughts and feelings will differ from person to person, so take a good look and see what landscapes this painting conjures up in your mind. Now let us show you another way of looking at this work. Stand in front of the screens and move back and forth until it appears that the ground in the painting is connected to the floor you are standing on. It should feel as if you're stepping into the painting and the pine grove it depicts.