Translated by Shannon McNaught
The Wonders of the TNM's Toyo-kan in a Japanese Garden
Curious about what to do at the Tokyo National Museum? Learn about some places outside the main building to enjoy your time at the TNM.
Written by Koshizuka Misato
The Tokyo National Museum (TNM) contains some of Japan's oldest history. Here at MATCHA, we've written about "Tohaku" (a popular nickname for the museum) in previous articles.
In the article above, we focused on the main building (Honkan) and Heisei-kan that contain all sorts of artifacts of Japanese culture.
However, that's not all of the Tokyo National Museum's appeal. You can also peruse the Toyo-kan, the Horyu-ji Takaramono-kan, and the Kuroda Memorial-kan indoors; and, you can also enjoy the garden and outdoor exhibitions that are only open during the autumn and spring seasons. Today, we'll tell you about some places outside of the main building that you can enjoy at the Tokyo National Museum.
Toyo-kan: A Collection of Asian Fine Arts
Nyorai Ritsuzou (如来立像) Country: Pakistan
The Toyo-kan contains Japan's largest collection of Asian art and contains pieces from China, Korea, Southeast Asia, India, and Western Asia. Anything from Buddhist statues to sculptures, pottery, weaving, paintings, writings, and metal sculptures are on display.
According to one of the employees, the Toyo-kan sees many foreign visitors as well as Japanese ones. On the day we went, there were travelers from Asia, Europe, and North America present.
Shishizou (獅子像) Country: China *on display until 09/27/2015.
When we entered the Toyo-kan, we were greeted with Buddhist and animal statues from China. Many of the statues on display were from an era when Buddhism was at its height in China, and they serve as important cultural assets.
Ancient Korean Kanmuri (冠) Country: South Korea
This is a Kanmuri exhibited on the 5th floor (or the top floor) of the Toyo-kan. It's hard to believe it was made over 1,500 years ago; it still shines in all its splendor.
The theme of the Toyo-kan is: A Gallery of Travels. You don't have to appreciate everything; whether you travel around Toyo-kan to see historical fine art, or travel around to see all of the Buddhist statues, you can travel around Toyo-kan according to whatever catches your interest the most. Since the items displayed are frequently changed around, every time you visit will feel like a new adventure.
Don't Miss Out on the Outdoor Exhibits!
Tohaku's exhibits aren't just indoors. You should also check out the outdoor exhibits that change with the weather.
Onigawara (鬼瓦) Roof Tiles
These are onigawara roof tiles taken from the household of the Kuroda daimyo (*1) family. These tiles were used as the foundation for roofs in Japan. Onigawara tiles are also seen as decorations and ward against evil.
Onigawara tiles made to be larger than people could only have belonged to a big family. This one is displayed in the middle of the road after turning left at the official entrance.
*1....daimyo were feudal lords in Ancient Japan.
Statue of Jenner
This is a sculpture of the British Dr. Jenner, who invented vaccinations. You can see it by turning right at the entrance and walking down the road a bit.
"Why is a statue of Dr. Jenner in Japan?" you may be thinking to yourself.
This statue was requested by Japan's Public Health Association in 1896 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary since the discovery of the vaccination. The inscription under the statue reads "善那" (Zenna), his name in Japanese.
Kuro-mon, an Important Cultural Asset
This is the gate that the daimyo Ikeda (who was based in what we know today as Tottori Prefecture) built in Edo (present-day Tokyo). It stands down the road a ways after you take a right at the entrance.
It's normally shut, but if you visit when it's open on Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays at 10:00–16:00, you'll be able to see a different scene (closed depending on the weather).
View Ancient Art Pieces at the Horyu-ji Takaramono-kan
In this area dedicated to the Imperial Household by Nara Prefecture's Horyu-ji Temple, treasures from the 7th and 8th centuries are displayed and housed.
Photo by Akira Sato (Tokyo National Museum)
Along with the Heisei-kan, this is another must-see area for lovers of Japanese arts. Please note that the area will be closed May 20, 2015 thru March 14, 2016 for environmental maintenance.
To the Tiniest of Decorations: The Kuroda Memorial-kan
The Kuroda Memorial-kan is located outside of the Tokyo National Museum's main entrance. The hall was constructed according to the will of Kuroda Seiki (黒田清輝), who greatly influenced Japanese modern arts.
This is the Kuroda Memorial Room, where many of his Impressionist paintings are on display.
Photo courtesy of: the Tokyo National Museum
Important Cultural Asset Alert: Kohan (湖畔) by Kuroda Seiki
Besides the Kuroda Memorial Room, there is another place where you can learn about Kuroda's works in a room that's only open three times a year. Here you'll find some of his most representative works, "Kohan" (湖畔), "Maiko" (舞妓), "Chi, Kan, Jou" (智・感・情), and "Dokusho" (読書).
There are more than just paintings in the memorial hall, though. The plants and sculptures wrought into the ceiling are also points worth appreciating that could be called fine art themselves.
Feel the Spirit of Japan: The Garden and The Tea Room
Photo courtesy of: the Tokyo National Museum
On the north side of the Honkan is a Japanese garden open only in autumn and spring. Sakura bloom in spring and momiji maple leaves color the autumn in a way that brings peace of mind to its visitors.
There are five tea rooms within the garden grounds: the Kujo-kan (九条館), the Okyo-kan (応挙館), the Rokuso-an (六窓庵), the Tengo-an (転合庵), and the Shunsoro (春草盧). They were reconstructed from their respective areas in the 17th and 18th centuries and have been maintained since then.
You can rent any of the tea rooms, or you can join a tea room tour put on by a volunteer tea association.
This is a 570-cm tall five-storied pagoda. It was offered to Nara's Horyu-ji Temple by the shogun (*3) Tokugawa Tsunayoshi.
*3...Shogun were rulers in 17th and 18th century Japan.
The National Museum is most famous for its Honkan, but there are so many other things to see. Stop by one of the other places when you visit the Tokyo National Museum. You'll be able to witness many pieces of fine art and cultural assets not available anywhere else.
Tokyo National Museum
Address: 13-9 Uenokoen, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo
Nearest station(s): Ueno Station, JR Uguisudani Station
Access: 10-min walk from JR Ueno Station Park Exit and JR Uguisudani Station South Exit
15-min walk from Tokyo Metro Ueno Station and Keisei Ueno Station
Phone number: +81(0)3-5777-8600 (toll free)
Hours: 9:30–17:00 (admission ends 30 minutes prior to the closing time) (times are subject to change)
Closed: Mondays (Tuesday if Monday is a holiday)
New Year's Holiday (Dec. 24, 2015 thru Jan. 1, 2016)
Open Golden Week and Obon Holiday
Entrance Fee: ¥620 (standard), ¥410 (University student) (separate fee is applied to special exhibits)
On International Museum and Respect-For-the-Aged Day, only the cultural exhibits are free of charge
Admission is free to the Kuroda Memorial-kan
Languages offered: Japanese, English, Chinese, and Korean
(Pamphlets also offered in French, German, and Spanish)
Garden is open: Spring 2015/03/17~2015/04/19
Autumn seaon: October 27 thru December 6, 2015
Official Website: Tokyo National Museum