The private Museum No Hero in picturesque Delden (Twente) makes an admirable attempt through the exhibition Women of Japan to expose the position of women in Japan. The society-critical exhibition, unfortunately, will only be really brought out when you do the audio tour and read the beautiful catalogue. And that is a pity because the exhibition is a nice counterweight to the current Cool Japan image that suggests that everything in Japan is cool, hip, progressive and cuddly.
The cosy exhibition (3 rooms) shows beautiful and lovely kimono, photos, jewellery and not to mention Shunga and “normal” prints. As a result, it falls a bit into its own pitfall. This unintentionally confirms the image that men/people have of the Japanese woman: lovely, beautiful, charming and helpful. The photos from the Tokyo compression series by Michael Wolf, who recently passed away, are more raw and penetrating in that regard. The incredibly well-edited video, with fragments of films in which Japanese women play a role, also contributes to reflection.
Unfortunately, the curator has missed opportunities to more firmly break through the stereotype image. The 70s counter-movement of kawaii Lolitas, who protested against the traditional role of the Japanese woman, has to make do with a lonely mannequin dressed as Lolita without any explanation. There are enough Japanese women in the arts who did not accept their role/destiny. Also, female samurai who from 250 AD were active as a role-breaking example should not have been out of place at this exhibition.
For the visitor, who comes especially for Japan, alongside the permanent collection of No Hero, the theme Japan is served with two other exhibitions that can be seen at the same time. Ellen Korth has had intriguing diary photos printed on Awagami paper inspired by the pillow book of the lady-in-waiting Sei Shonagon. And in the upper room, VOC and Japan are central with beautiful Japanese porcelain and a timeline about Japan and the Netherlands.
The Museum card is not (yet) valid in the museum. The small museum shop sells very beautiful items that have a connection with the exhibition Women of Japan.