The Arts of Japan

Online course

+44 (0)20 7942 2000

Japan is today a leading innovator in the fields of art, craft and design. This course explores the historical roots of diverse traditions, from primitive Shinto to modernist aesthetics and popular culture..…

You can learn from our world-class experts wherever you are, whenever suits you: watch lectures live or view the recording later in your own time. You can experience the full breadth and depth of the V&A's collections with more than 40 hours of study over 12 weeks. Learn at your own pace: lecture recordings and study materials, lecture notes, copies of the presentations, and additional study materials are available in our secure Microsoft Teams environment for up to 12 weeks after the course ends, so you'll never miss a thing. And finally, join the conversation: share your perspective with your fellow students, and support each other in your further enquiries outside of class time.

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course photo
Portrait of Course Leader Dr Helen Glaister

Course Leader
Dr Helen Glaister

Dr Helen Glaister is an art historian specialising in Chinese Ceramics and Decorative Arts. Helen has been Course Director since 2006 and previously worked at the British Museum, has lectured for Birkbeck College, the British Library and is Senior Teaching Fellow at SOAS, University of London.

I really enjoyed this course. I have been interested in this subject matter for some time and it is good to be able to have an in depth course like this available when I have time to attend. Previous V&A Academy Online Course Attendee

Course overview

From the emergence of primitive Shinto in ancient Japan, follow the development of art, craft and design up to the present in this Japanese art course. The advent of Buddhism exerted a great influence, notably through sculpture, painting, calligraphy and architecture which developed steadily, becoming the dominant influence on all the arts up to the tenth century.

By the 12th century, the ruling military elite had become important patrons of the arts, evident in the swords, armour, and the warrior aesthetic of the samurai. The culture of the townspeople during the Edo period (1615-1868) transformed concepts of decoration and design, as seen through ukiyo-e prints, fashionable dress, lacquerware, ceramics, and metalware.

Contact with the West, at first limited, had by the nineteenth century opened Japan to new markets and influences, resulting in a great melding of art forms and aesthetics. The engagement of Japan with global currents in architecture and design, fashion and photography shaped the production of innovative art forms at home and abroad up to the present, significantly contributing to emerging technologies and popular culture.


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V&A Academy Online courses are built using the latest Microsoft software. Tune in to expert lectures live, or catch up later on demand. Download handouts and presentations. Join the discussion in a secure, closed class environment, wherever you are.

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Online course: The Arts of Japan

15 April 2024 - 8 July 2024


Call to book +44 (0)20 7942 2000

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+44 (0)20 7942 2000

Open 10.00 - 13.00, Monday to Sunday (closed 24-26 December)

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Header image: Kimono with motifs relating to Kabuki theatre, Japan, 1860-1880 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London