CC’s Japan Guide: Japan Folk Craft Museum (Tokyo)
Photo: Museum Entrance
This small, private museum is less known, but it is a must-see spot for craft and design lovers. The first time I visited there in the summer of 2016, I came across the British designer Margaret Howell walking around the museum’s wood-filled rooms with her entourage. I waited for a moment when she was alone (it was when she was talking off the museum slippers and putting her canvas shoes back on at the entrance) and I introduced myself as a big fan of hers and asked what brought her here. Genially answering to a stranger, she mentioned that she always had wanted to visit the museum, and that she had just come straight from Narita Airport.
Photo: Muneyoshi Yanagi (1889 - 1961), taken around 1945
The Japan Folk Craft Museum was founded in 1936 by Muneyoshi (a.k.a. Soetsu) Yanagi (1889-1961), who lead the “Mingei (folk craft) Movement” in the early 20th century. Yanagi is one of the first individuals to pay attention to the beauty inside the daily objects and tools crafted by unknown people. He devoted his entire life to promoting Mingei, contextualizing its philosophy by launching a magazine entitled “Shirakaba,” and writing a great oeuvre of essays.
The museum building was designed by Yanagi himself as were most of the furniture and fixtures. The building resembles a traditional “kura,” a storage house with white plaster walls and a tiled roof. The interior is filled with well-faded and polished wood, and you become submerged in the tranquil cosmos Yanagi created and that is still preserved by his followers.
Photo: Museum Gate and Building Entrance
Photo: Textile Exhibition Room
The museum's collection of approximately 17,000 pieces includes art, collective goods, and a wide variety of daily objects that range from their medium to the era during which they were crafted. The items range are a mixture of high and low, major and minor, but are somewhat all showcased in great harmony behind the vitrines. For example, you will find 18th century Imari porcelains, pre-historic earthenwares, British slipware dishes, stunning designs of vintage prints, cards, and kimono textiles of eye-poping graphics and details. Looking through such “daily” objects, you will find how vintage daily objects still look refreshing, and continue to influence Japanese designs today.
Photo: Iroe Peony Square Jar (Imari, 18th Century)
Photo: Playing cards (18-19th Century)
Photo: Hexagonal glass jar with arabesque pattern (18th Century).
While showing such collections in rotations, the museum organizes special exhibitions throughout the year, as well as a craft fair in December. It publicly accepts submissions from contemporary artisans, and showcases and retails carefully selected items. Part of the selections are available at the museum shop throughout the year.
Photo: Museum Shop
Japan Folk Craft Museum
4-3-33 Komaba, Meguro-ku, Tokyo, 153-0041
The museum is a 7-minute-walk from the west gate of the Komaba Todai-mae Station, Keio Inokashira Line (2 stops from Shibuya)
Tuesday - Sunday, 10:00 - 17:00 (Tickets are sold until 16:30).
Closed on Mondays, except for national holidays, in which case the following Tuesday is closed.
Adults 1,100 JPY
High School Students 600 JPY
Junior High School, Elementary School Students 200 JPY
Upcoming Special Exhibitions:
The Golden-age of MINGEI - life and beauty in the Edo period
Running now through June 18, 2017
IROE -bporcelains of overglaze enamels
June 27th (Tue) - August 27th (Sun), 2017
Windsor Chairs - British chairs admired by Japanese
September 7th (Thu) - November 23rd (Wed), 2017
New Works Competition and Exhibition 2017
December 10th (Sun) - 23rd (Sat), 2017
Shiko Munakata & Soetsu Yanagi
January 11th (Sun) - March 25th (Sun), 2018
Photos: Courtesy of Japan Folk Craft Museum
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