• 2015.08.14
  • Japanese People and Contemporary Art
The other day, I came across an article somewhere saying that the most famous Japanese person in the world is the current prime minister in Asian countries and Emperor Hirohito (Emperor Showa) in Europe and North America. But, I think that for regular people in all countries it is actually Yoko Ono. I heard on the news that one of the installations created by Yoko Ono who is both an artist and a peace activist is on display at the Hirshhorn Museum here in Washington, DC, and I went to see it.


Many of the museums in Washington, DC belong to the Smithsonian museum group created with funds from the heritance of British scientist James Smithson. Its purpose is the increase and diffusion of knowledge and is therefore free to visit. I will talk about the Smithsonian museum group itself another time. The Hirshhorn Museum is one institution in that group. Its exhibits are mainly contemporary art and culture, and it is basically an art museum. It was given the name “Hirshhorn” because it was built with funds from Joseph H. Hirshhorn.


The cylindrical building is easy to find because it looks a little different from other museums in the area. Embarrassingly, I am extremely unfamiliar with art, and especially contemporary art, so I can hardly discuss its great points, and I hope you will get the idea from photos. Nonetheless, there were many exhibits that could be enjoyed even by someone as clueless as me.

In this museum that has works of art, such as by Andy Warhol and Auguste Rodin, Yoko Ono’s piece is in the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden facing the building.


“Wish Tree” is one of her famous art installation series, and wish trees have been planted in various places around the world since 1981. A flowering dogwood was planted at the Hirshhorn Museum in 2007. Only in the summer, a box with strips of paper and pencils is placed in front of the tree, and you can write a wish as you like on a paper strip and tie it to the tree.


I have previously shied away from contemporary art because I felt it was too difficult for me, but this environment where I could touch and participate in a work of art by someone of the same Japanese descent as me, all the way in another country, was an excellent experience that I feel has brought me closer to the art created by not only Yoko Ono, but other artists as well.


  • Ritsuko Derickson
  • JobStay-at-home mom

Moved to Washington, D.C., in 2012 after getting married. Due to her husband’s work, shortly thereafter they moved to Oahu, Hawaii, then returned to Washington, D.C., in 2015. She lives together with her husband, their son born near the end of 2014 and one Shiba dog.

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