The Only Thing I Envy Men is an essay about women writers by Rivka Galchen, taken from her book Little Labors. The book focuses partly on writing by Japanese women, especially the 11th Century writers Sei Shonagon and Murasaki Shikibu, authors of The Pillow Book and Tale of Genji respectively. The latter has recently been retranslated, and was the subject of a lengthy article in the New Yorker by Ian Buruma.
The Great Wave off Kanagawa is probably the most iconic Japanese artwork in history, often used to illustrate tsunamis, and scientists have attempted to analyze what kind of wave it depicts. The woodprint is part of the 36 Views of Mount Fuji series, which depicts the famous mountain from different spots in Japan. The artist who made the Great Wave, Katsushika Hokusai, created thousands of images, many of which can be viewed online, such as in the internet galleries of the Museum of Fine Art and Visipix (Visipix' Hokusai page). Besides woodprints, Hokusai produced sketchbooks he called manga, one of which, number twelve, can be flipped through on the Swedish Touch and Turn website.
Hanover Historical Texts Project is a collection of primary source texts from ancient times to the modern era in English translation. There is a great number of interesting texts, for instance accounts of Zeno, he of the paradoxes, the diary of Lady Sarashina, a lady-in-waiting in Heian era Japan, a letter from Count Stephen of Blois and Chartres, a crusader writing to his wife, Arthur Young's travels in France before and during the Revolution, a report by the American ambassador in St. Petersburg on March 20th, 1917, immediately after the February Revolution, and finally Petrarch's letter about his graphomania. That last one is from what is perhaps my favorite part of the website, a trove of Petrarch's Familiar Letters. But there's much more in the Hanover Historical Texts Projects besides what I've mentioned.
10 short, experimental, animated films by Osamu Tezuka, godfather of anime: Jumping, Memory, Push, Broken Down Film, Mermaid, Drop, Story of a Street Corner, Genesis, Muramasa, Self Portrait. Tezuka is best known in the West for creating Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion and the mangas Buddha, Phoenix and Black Jack. Here is an interview where Tezuka talks about his shorter, experimental films.
Res Obscura is a blog by Ben Breen, a graduate student of early modern history, which styles itself "a compendium of obscure things." Indeed, even the asides are full of wonder, such as the one about Boy, the famous Royalist war poodle of the English Civil War, which is but a short addendum to a post about witches' familiars. Here are some of my favorite posts, Pirate Surgeon in Panama (and a related post about 18th Century Jamaica), vanished civilizations, asemic pseudo-Arabic and -Hebrew writing in Renaissance art, and a series of posts about the way the Chinese and Japanese understood the world outside Asia in the early modern period (Europeans as 'Other', Europeans as 'Other,' Redux and Early Chinese World Maps).
Journeyman Pictures has uploaded nearly 4000 videos to YouTube. Many of these are trailers for the documentaries they sell, but they have also posted hundreds of full-length videos. Most are for short documentarie, but there are a lot of features too. It's somewhat daunting to explore, but the playlists are a good place to start, and so are the shows: Features, Shorts, News and Savouring Europe, a European travelogue series. Here's a few interesting ones: Gastronauts, about French culinary students working to make astronaut food more palatable, Demon Drummers, about student Kodo drummers, India's Free Lunch, about the effects of free school lunches on Indian society, The Twitter Revolution, about YouTube and Twitter's role in the 2009 Iranian uprising, Europe's Black Hole, about Transnistria, the breakaway region of Moldova, Small Town Boy, about a gay male carnival queen in a small town in England, The Vertigo of Lists, Umberto Eco talks about the ubiquity of lists in modern culture and Monsters from the Id, about scientists in the science fiction films of the Fifties.
The next morning I recalled a question the woman had asked me the night before: of the two ingredients of wabi-sabi, the Japanese aesthetic of impermanence, did I prefer wabi, the rusticity, simplicity, and irregularity of things in their created state, or sabi, the patina of age, the wear and tear that comes with constant use, the intimations of transience. I'm in the sabi camp: sabi as a concept is in all probability etymologically related to the verb sabiru, to rust, and for us lusters after rust, Yubari is sacred ground.Spike Japan is the blog, or ongoing essay, of Richard Hendy, a long-time resident of Japan, about urban decay and population decline in Japan. The writing is digressive, knowledgable, opinionated, witty and engaging. The longest series is a travelogue of Hokkaido, in which the section on Yubari is the most stunning, though I also like the tour of Kuril Islands' dispute tourist attractions. There's much to read on Spike Japan, but let me point you towards the melancholic Requiem for a Railway, about Hendy's trip along an abandoned railway line.
Nichibunken Databases isn't a link that sounds promising, but oh, what a treasure trove of old Japanese art it is. Among the many lovely collections is the Japanese folktales in foreign languages, another has maps, which is probably easiest to browse by decade, then there's the picture scrolls (some nsfw), and also illustrations from an 1870s world tour. That's just a small taste of what's there. If, like me, you don't read Japanese, often you'll be going in with scant information of what will be on offer, but even random stumblings will reveal beauty and wonder. Just to get you started, here are nearly 800 pictures of demons and over 2500 floating world woodprints. [Note: Blue dots mean the material is accessible to the public, red dots mean you have to have a login to see it]
The digital collection of the Tokyo National Museum is full of wonder. TNM is the oldest museum in Japan and collects archaeological objects and art from Japan as well as other parts of Asia. The collection can be browsed by type or region. Here are some of my favorites: Buddha's life, The name "Korin" given to pupil, Tale of Matsuranomiya, Coquettish type, Tea caddy in shape of bucket with handle, Mirror, design of sea and island, Traditionary identified as Minamoto no Yoritomo, Seated Monju Bosatsu (Manjusri) and attendants, Sword mounting of kazari-tachi type and (my current desktop background) Figures under a tree. This is but a small sampling of all that can be found in the digital collection
Viewing Japanese Prints is an encyclopedia of Floating World art (or ukiyo-e) and related genres. It has lots of images to go with the articles. Once you've gone through the site and familiarized yourself with pre-modern Japanese printmaking you might want to browse through the humongous image archive of Tokyo Metropolitan Library. Here are a few images that caught my eye: musicians attempt to keep a lady entertained, samurai pirate jumps into the water, crazed sea-captain wields very big axe, two samurais in combat, elfin man watches split-tailed cat dance while a giant feline stares angrily and giant toad belches up samurai while another samurai fights a gigantic fish and a third samurai observes the action from the banks of a river.
Tohoku University's Kano Collection is an unparalleled collection of japanese books from the Edo period. The beautiful and grizzly Kaibou zonshinzu anatomical chart has been making the blogrounds lately but that's only one of the countless treasures the Kano Collection has to offer. Stumbling around near-blindly, like a non-Japanese reader such as myself, with only minimal help from the site, I have come across an amazing variety of beautiful objects, such as this picture book, a scroll with images of animals, city map, map of Japan, battle map, another picture book, the Kaitai shouzu anatomical chart and this picture scroll which has my favorite little scene I've come across in the collection. Whole days could be spent just surfing idly through the Kano Collection.