About this site

Surrealism in Japan: a collection of resources for the study of Surrealism in its international manifestations

This site is maintained by Dr Majella Munro to facilitate the study of the Surrealist movement in Japan and internationally.  All links and recommendations direct to the most comprehensive and academically rigourous sources available, and are based on my own first-hand experience of conducting research on Surrealism in Japan. To find out more about my research and expertise click here.

This site is under construction, and will continue to grow both as a result of my own discoveries, and through collaboration with  users.  If you have a suggestion for an addition to the bibliography, a site link, or have news of an exhibition which you would like to publicise here, please add a comment or email me at munro@modernartasia.com.

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John Solt, Shredding the Tapestry of Meaning

Shredding the Tapestry of Meaning: The Poetry and Poetics of Kitasono Katue, Harvard East Asian Monographs, 1999

Fascinating intellectual biography of the important avant-garde poet Kitasono.

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Miryam Sas, Fault Lines

Fault Lines: Cultural Memory and Japanese Surrealism, Stanford University Press, 2002.

Pioneering, critical, and comprehensive account of Japanese Surrealist literature; an indispensible text.

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Věra Línhartová, Dada et Surréalisme au Japon,

Dada et Surréalisme au Japon, Publications Orientalistes de France, 1987.

The foundational study of Japanese Surrealism in any Western language, this book offers biographies and translations of texts by Takahashi Shinkichi, Takiguchi Shuzo, Fukuzawa Ichiro, Kitawaki Noboru, and Kitasono Katsue.

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Ko Won, Buddhist Elements in Dada

Buddhist Elements in Dada: A Comparison of Tristan Tzara, Takahashi Shinkichi, and their Fellow Poets, New York University Press, 1977

A really incisive study of an important and under-rated poet. Ko Won attempts to trace not only the influence of Dada on Japan, but also the possible influence of Japan on Dada: while he is candid in admitting there is little material evidence of Tzara’s interest in Zen, the discussion is nonetheless interesting and contributes an important comparative perspective.

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Majella Munro, Dada, MAVO, and the Japanese Avant-Garde

Majella Munro Dada MAVODada, MAVO, and the Japanese Avant-Garde: A Prologue to the Introduction of Surrealism to Japan, Re:bus, issue 4, 2009


read it here

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Gennfier Weisenfeld, MAVO

Gennifer Weisenfeld, MAVO: Japanese Artists and the Avant-Garde, 1905-1931, University of California Press, 2002

more info

Excellent and unprecedent account of the activities of Murayama Tomoyoshi and the MAVO group.

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Yamada Satoshi

Curator of the major exhibition Nihon no Shururearisumu 1925-45 held at Nagoya City Art Museum in 1990 and editor of the accompanying catalogue, an encyclopedic compilation of biographies and reprints of primary materials.


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Hayami Yutaka

Hayami Yutaka

Author of one of few monographs on Japanese Surrealist painting (Shururearisumu Kaiga to Nihon: Imeji no juyō to Sōzō, NHK Books, Tokyo, 2009), a meticulously researched formal analysis of works by major painters including Koga Harue and Fukuzawa Ichiro.  Chief curator at Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, which houses an extensive collection of paintings by Kobe-based Surrealists.


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Otani Shogo

Expert in Japanese modern and avant-garde art, especially Surrealism.  Chief curator at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.  Author or several highly significant essays on Japanese Surrealist practice, mainly in the museum’s own research journal, available in their excellent and comprehensive research library.



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Majella Munro

Majella Munro Communicating Vessels: The Surrealist Movement in Japan

Current research project  Communicating Vessels: Surrealism in Japan 1923-70.

Histories of Surrealism typically concentrate on the provocations of French practitioners against the rise of totalitarianism in Europe.  The case of Japan, where Surrealists were directly imprisoned by wartime authorities, presents an apposite study of the interaction of state and avant-garde, yet the Japanese contribution is marginalised in existing accounts.  Japan forms an excellent case study in the tensions and problematics inherent in Surrealism, since it encompasses tensions between East and West; Imperialism and anti-colonialism; totalitarianism and avant-garde radicalism; and issues of cultural assimilation and exchange.

Existing scholarship on Japanese Surrealism is limited, marred by inadequate attention to context, and by ideological and connoisseurial biases.  Recently, increasing interest in Eastern European, Latin American and other Surrealist movements has created a new context for scholarship, in which discourse can be geographically expanded, and in which the Japanese movement can be reassessed.  Investigating the specific cultural and political contexts of Japanese Surrealism contributes to an understanding of the Surrealist movement as an international whole.  Japanese practitioners were thought to be isolated from the Parisian ‘core’ of the movement, but the relationships of Japanese artists with prominent European Surrealists allows the provincial, derivative character given to Japanese Surrealism in previous accounts to be confronted, and opens the critical reception and transmutation of European ideas to enquiry.  By examining France and Japan comparatively, this volume provides a model of the dialogue between the Parisian ‘core’ and the Japanese ‘periphery’.

This enquiry also contributes to the wider field of Japanese art history.  Scholarship on Japanese art is dominated by enquiry into traditional, pre-modern art; research into modern and avant-garde art, particularly work produced before the end of World War II, has been less forthcoming.  Thus, this thesis, positioned at an intersection between discourse on the Surrealist movement as an international collective; on Japanese modernism; and on the non-western avant-garde, contributes to several emergent areas of enquiry, and interrogates how cultural movements might transcend nation’ and ‘ideology’ during times of conflict.

Contact through majellamunro.com

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