Since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, The Queen's Gallery has become a more poignant place. A surprising exhibition that continues there is "Japan: Courts and Culture". The British Royal Family has been collecting Japanese works of art for a long time. There has also been an occasional kinship between these two island nations, although their shared history hasn’t always been happy. As few of those who fought in the Second World War are still living, attention can revert to the more productive partnership of the First World War. On that occasion Japan was an ally of the UK in the war against Germany.
Despite one or two omissions, the Royal Collection has ended up with a glorious diversity of Japan’s greatest aesthetic triumphs. From the huge screens that provided privacy and colour in drab and draughty samurai castles, to the tiniest netsuke toggles, the full spectrum of Japanese art is on display. Among the less obvious elements, presumably because they were low-budget disposable merchandise, are the ukiyo-e woodblock prints that fascinated the likes of Van Gogh and Monet.
Japan: Courts and Culture is an assemblage with a regal flavour. As with the concept of monarchy itself, this exhibition takes the long view – and there is no country with a longer dynastic history than Japan.