5 aspects to enjoy "Byobu" the Japanese antique folding screens

I am going to share FIVE aspects which always excite me to have a look in "Byobu" - the Japanese antique folding screens.

Hope this will help you to enjoy the screens more! 


Byobu is originally designed to stand directly on the Tatami floor as in the photo (below left). The artist drew and painted in the way which gives more perspective and a sense of movement in the scenery when it is displayed in a zigzag form. The art is also perfectly enjoyed in a flat display on the wall too.  It is fun and magical aspect of the Japanese screen to play around a bit to find your own favorite way to display and enjoy the art work of it.

Time & Space : Eternity

Like story-telling, the time in the screen changes from the right to left panels.

We can enjoy the transition of time like the way we read a story.  

Two seasons are shown in over different panels on one screen.


For example, in the screen "Plants and Flower " (left image above)  -on the right side, the autumn flower - Chrysanthemum is painted and as it goes to the left, we see Camellia and snow on the bamboo and the rock.  The water which connects the two seasons continue to flow from the right to the left, expanding to the outside of the screen.

In the screen, Solitary plum tree"(right image above), the Iris flower- symbol of May in the right and as it goes to the left, we see the Japanese lily which flowers in the summer, July/ August.  

As the image of the plum tree, water and leaves continue outside the screens and only a part of the landscape is painted, it gives the effects that screen itself much bigger than its size and sense of grandeur.  


The flow of the water in both screens are very important as it suggests the movement of the time.


Patterns with gold 

In the traditional Yamato -e, (Yamato style - above left), in order to give perspective and to create a smooth link between the different sceneries, the artist created "myst" with gold pigments.


However, the Kano School artists (the 15-18th century)who used the gold leaf, created a distinguish gold pattern of clouds (above right) to link the scenes based on the principle of Yamato e.  This pattern gives the rhythm, movement and again, it will contribute to create the feeling of eternity mentioned above.



Every inch of the screen is the works of art.  Not only the main art, but please pay attention and enjoy the every inch of screen.

The border - silk decorated with embroidery

The backside of the screen -  covered with Karakami paper (woodblock) printed paper.

The frame - lacquer painted.

The corner - covered with beautifully engraved metal.



The antique screens' beauty is enhanced with its age.  The structure of the folding screens has been made with absolute perfection so that the screens stand well even after 300 years and it serves its function. However, having some colours fading remain, it brings out more beauty in the art, which is different from the European painting.

The fading of the colours in the screens shows its age and create the balance between the strength of the perfect structure and softness of the texture, two sides of the universe. 


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Thanks for reading!

- Azumi Uchitani

"My aim is to bring peace to our everyday life with Art of Japan,

with a touch of love and light." - Azumi