If everything you see in the coming weeks looks Japanese, it's not cherry-blossom fever: It's "japan Today," a two-month presentation of Japanese art and culture going on here and in New York, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles and Miami.
Mayor Marion Barry has proclaimed April 17 through 24 "japan Today Week," with special exhibits and activities in the D.C. public schools. There'll also be a symposium, in the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery, including a series of evening panel discussions on the arts, politics and other aspects of Japanese life; a retrospective of Japanese films made over the past 30 years, at the Smithsonian's Carmichael and Baird Auditoriums, the University of Maryland and the Biograph; special exhibits at no fewer than eight museums and galleries; and demonstrations of crafts, performing and martial arts and chado , the tea ceremony. Most of these events are free.
The Freer will exhibit 11 centuries of Japanese lacquerware from its permanent collection. Each piece of fine lacquerware took several years to complete, since every layer must dry slowly before the next coat is applied. Once it hardens, a lacquered object befomes durable, waterproof and resistant to heat, alcohol and acid - ideal storage for incense, medicine or valuables.
A popular 19th-century adornment is the maki-e , or sprinkled picture, in which powdered gold or silver is scattered on the wet lacquer so it looks like precious sheet metal when the surface hardens. The swirling stream, wisteria and cherry blossom motif on a small chest from this period appears to be carved, but actually is a relief process consisting of many layers of lacquer applied with very fine, long brushes.
Combining traditional Japanese expression and modern Western abstraction is the theme of an exhibit opening Saturday at the Phillips Collection, "okada, Shinoda and Tsutaka: Three Pioneers in 20th-Century Japan." Shinoda's bold strokes in "for the Green" reflect the spontaneity of a brush painting, while Tsutaka's "encounter" appears austere and deceptively simple by comparison. Their paintings contrast with the subtle elegance of the Paris-trained Okada's "autumn," which best exemplifies the harmonious blending of two cultures. CAPTION: Illustration, YOJI KURI'S LARGE UNTITLED WORK IS AMONG THE CONTEMPORARY JAPANESE POSTERS AT MERIDIAN HOUSE INTERANATIONAL.