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Islamic Art in Tokyo

Although the Olympic Games are LONG over, the commitment to international collaboration continues with an exhibition of Islamic art at the Tokyo National Museum, in partnership with The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM). Japan is the perfect destination for travelling exhibitions as the Japanese are among the most enthusiastic museum goers in the world.

Surah Ya Sin; v 82-83 (2007), Fuad Honda Kouichi, mixed media on paper, 123 x 139 cm


The title of the exhibition is 14 Dynasties and a Region: The History and Culture of the Muslim World. It is a comprehensive overview of Islamic art as Japan does have a longer history of interest in the subject than might be expected.

Colourful architectural flourishes of the Iranian world


The profile of Islam around the world has risen hugely over recent decades. However, Japan has had little hands-on experience of Islamic culture as the country has a very small Muslim community. Curiosity is rampant, though.

The harvest of Islamic wares in Japan is not as comprehensive compared with what the IAMM has brought over. Until the 20th century, it was art collectors and historians to the west and east of the Islamic world who were most immersed in the subject. Japan was especially fascinated by what travelled to their end of the rather ambiguous trade network known as the Silk Road.

Surah al Hadid; v 1-6 (2005), by Fuad Honda Kouichi, mixed media on paper, 99 x 99 cm


As the Malaysian museum director Syed Mohamad Albukhary stated, the exhibition travelling to Japan to show Islamic art in Tokyo ‘will open a window into the world of Islam’ and foster understanding.


Part of the Islamic art in Tokyo exhibition is devoted to local Japanese calligrapher – Fuad Honda Kouichi. Calligraphy is one of the most revered art forms in Islam – and in Japanese culture. It has for centuries unified the arts of diverse Muslim domains. Through the Qur’an, the status of calligraphy has been elevated above any other traditional art form. For the contemporary artist-calligrapher, calligraphy is not merely drawing lines of prayers, nor is it only a test of accuracy, skill and perfection. It is a vocation steeped in dedication, patience and passion that makes their work stand out today. It is good to see Fuad Honda Kouichi’s work represented in this exhibition of Islamic art in Tokyo.

Koichi Honda at work. Photo courtesy of The Prince's School of Traditional Arts


Honda is exceptional within Japan. He is a master calligrapher, teaching and instructing teachers and has supervised generations of young calligraphers. Unlike most calligraphers in East Asia, he uses a reed pen rather than a brush. The strokes are close to the traditions of the Islamic world while the compositions are entirely different. His works glow with colours that frame the jet black of his writing.

Arabic Calligraphy course at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, 2016


He also uses an astonishing variety of shapes; from rigid triangles to shifting dunes of sand and the celestial calm of the galaxy. From the steely light of dawn to blazing sunsets, his palette is unlike any other Islamic calligrapher’s.

The exhibition of Islamic art in Tokyo runs until 20 February, 2022, at Tokyo National Museum,


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