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On a beautiful summer morning last Thursday, I joined Mr. Sano and 11 charming ladies from the Moriya English Community Class on a delightful cultural expedition to the MOMOA Museum of Modern Art in Noda where the Mogi family of Kikkoman fame proudly displays their prized collection of Japanese art. The building, designed by Yutaka Hikosaka, stands like a bold white bunker protecting the ancient Mogi home from its surrounding industrial empire.

The name may well be a misnomer, since there are no abstract or strikingly modern pieces, except possibly Hiroshi Senju‘s veiled image of Mt. Fuji. I am not an avid follower of the Fuji cult and was a bit overwhelmed by the exhibit’s obsession with the omnipresent national icon. Walking through the main gallery is like a trek through a valley surrounded by an entire mountain range of Fuji-sans depicted in all seasons, shades and hues. Stepping out into the colonnade hall I was immediately attracted by Senju’s discreet blue rendering of the gentle slope which could just barely be discerned as a background to a glittering metallic cluster of white that could just as well be ocean spray as wind swept cherry blossoms.

The guided tour concludes with a turn into a narrow corridor protected from solar intrusion. Here we leave the Fuji valley and enter an alley of Tokugawa Edo and Kamakura lined with amazing woodblock prints of kimono models and hanabi displays. A wonder full journey into the past, but again, hardly supportive of the gallery name.

Once out of the labyrinth the ladies, Mr. Sano and I were directed by the guide to venture out to the lawn for ‘free time’ exploring the the small but exquisitely appointed Inari Shrine that sits in the shadow of the Mogi mansion wall.

The guide was pleasant and informative and Mrs. Mogi herself greeted us at the entrance. Halfway through the tour I was able to chat with the elegant lady and found that we had both lived in San Francisco at the same time some 30-plus years ago – she in the quiet Sunset district, I, not far away in the revolutionary Haight-Ashbury. Her own contribution to the exhibit is her 1000-plus collection of salt and pepper shakers, a choice few lining the bright cafe where we were treated to a simple but tasty lunch of soba and onigiri which rendered the collection unusable. I was discreet enough not to remark on the irony of the soy sauce heiress’ preference for salt & pepper dispensers.

All in all a pleasant excursion that I would recommend if you don’t object to appointment only viewings – and if you don’t have an aversion to Fuji-san.

Artists: Yokoyama TaikanUmehara RyuzaburoOgura Yuki
Kataoka Tamako – Oyama Chusaku – Mastumoto Tetsuo
Kinutani KojiHiroshige

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