Old Schools as the ‘New Kyoto’

August 6, 2018


At present, Japan has an aging population and declining birthrate problem. Therefore, the government has been closing about 500 schools a year. Rather than let these buildings go to waste, the closed schools are being revamped into new places such as welfare facilities, hotels, community centers and so on. The closed school sites are attractive plots of land in Kyoto due to it being a crowded city that sits in a basin. The densely populated situation in the city center means that any large spaces are far and few between. Plus, the school buildings themselves have historical value.

There are 3 main advantages of using old school buildings. First, the ample space can be used effectively, for example, holding seminars in the classrooms and enjoying sports in the gymnasium or outdoor ground. Second, by using existing facilities, new ventures can significantly decrease their costs. Finally, the site of a former school is designated as cultural property as a historic building, so they should be maintained as such. The Kyoto Art Center and Comic Museum in Kyoto are both housed on old school sites. On the other hand, there are demerits too. These old schools need repair work which means they are not always easy to use as a welfare facility or for social gatherings. They also need a lot of money to look after them. As explained, using these sites has various problems which need to be considered carefully.



Currently, even in the center of Kyoto, there are 10 sites where elementary schools used to be. These buildings have been turned into libraries, hospitals, homes for the elderly, NPO offices, museums, cafés and spaces for volunteer activities. Kyoto International Manga Museum is a famous museum for overseas visitors. Inside there is a café, shop, exhibition room and memorial hall about the old elementary school. Before this site was used as a museum, it used to be Tatsuike Elementary School. The wooden floors and stairs faced of stone and tiles still remain. The floor creaks under your feet when you step on it, giving sweet memories of times gone by but in a modern setting. Moreover, visitors can read various comics and books in the surroundings of an old school. In one of the buildings, there is still the principal’s office. You can see the main terrace by the playground from the window in this office.

Kyoto Art Center used to be Meirin Elementary School. You can see the design of floats that were used for traditional feasts in Kyoto in front of the building. There is a large tatami mat -156 square yards- which adds to the traditional Japanese atmosphere. This facility also has a library, cafe and workspace for art. The management of the facility wanted to revive Kyoto, so they established the center in the old school. In 2008, there was some resistance to use the site as a cultural property, but this school was used carefully for a long time by the people in the neighborhood. Even now, a lot of people go there to learn and see the art, drink something and catch up.

The Department of Administration in Kyoto City Hall has beautifully renovated these old elementary schools into new facilities with thoughtful consideration of the local community. Elementary school buildings create fond memories for many children and adults, so it is important that the new facilities do not destroy old memories.


Future of old schools

Finally, let’s take a look at some future plans for reusing old school sites. Until now, old schools in Kyoto have been transformed into new facilities through a careful renovation process that does not break up the existing buildings, creating spaces for bustling communities and thriving cultural exchange. Planners care about the thoughts of the local community more than anything else and intend to continue this way in the future. They have to observe the rules made by the city. For example, stores that are built inside of these old schools must be local business’ that have a link to Kyoto’s traditions. As a result, local people who have affection for the old school buildings agree to the new utilization plans. As an example, there is the case of Rissei Elementary School. It is located in Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto and closed in 1993. This school will be renovated by 2020 and opened as a new complex that includes a hotel, café, library, resident committee meeting space among others with the cooperation of the city, local self-governing associations and real estate companies. Furthermore, a similar cultural complex will be opened in 2021 at the site of Shirakawa Elementary School in Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto. In this complex, planners intend to build shops that exhibit and sell Kyoto’s traditional crafts, a garden where local people can feel free to gather, and a hotel where guests can experience Kyoto’s culture. You will be able to see a lot more renovated buildings with new cultural complexes that protect the old school buildings. The purpose of the old schools can live on through these reconstruction projects.

The History of Movies in Kyoto

Yu Sakamoto & Daiki Tabuchi

The Beginning of the Movie Industry in Kyoto

At the beginning of the 20th century, after the Meiji Restoration was over, people worked hard to make a new Japan. It was around this time that Kyoto became the first place in Japan to enjoy the surprising and exciting technology that created the modern entertainment medium of cinema.

On a snowy day in 1895, cinematography invented by the Lumière brothers was used for the first time by Kyoto Dento. It was shown on a screen in the courtyard on the company’s building. This was the first time these people had seen a movie. Today, in this spot, there is a signboard that marks this event and the beginning of the movie industry.

Uzumasa is a district in western Kyoto that was once called the “Hollywood of Japan.” During the height of Japanese filmmaking in the 50s, Kyoto was a bustling film center. This movie industry created a lot of economic vitality and developed into one of Kyoto’s major cultural sectors.

In the golden years of Japanese film from the late 1950s to the early 1960s, the Kiyamachi area was dotted with inns where screenwriters stayed and worked. The hotel where one of Japan’s top film directors, Masahiro Makino (1908-1993), regularly stayed was also here. The area was also known for the many bars where movie people hung out.

The Famous and Historical Movie Studios in Kyoto

Toei Studios, Kyoto

With an area of more than 66,000 square meters, Toei Studios is the biggest movie studio in Japan. In the 1950s to the early 1960s, Toei Studio film companies in Kyoto had to produce more than 60 films every year. The staff used Sundays and holidays, often working throughout the night on weekdays as well. The Kyoto studios were filled with energy. Everyone said that the workers of the Toei Studios were so busy that “no one was walking, they were always running.”

Shochiku Studio

Uzumasa, the capital of the movie industry, started producing new types of movie studios. Shochiku Studio is one of these famous movie studios in Kyoto and has a long history. It was created by Makino Takei in 1935. It has experienced a lot of ups and downs, even today. Most of the works shot here are very familiar, including TV dramas.

Famous Movie Shooting Methods of Akira Kurosawa in Kyoto

Today, many people all over the world watch movies for entertainment. People who watch movies are fascinated by many factors. In particular, the methods used for shooting movies is one of the most critical factors for making enjoyable experiences for moviegoers. It is no exaggeration to say that the evaluation of a film depends on the shooting methods.

Therefore, most film directors are particular about shooting methods and have their own specializations. Akira Kurosawa is the most famous director who shot movies in Kyoto using innovative and bold shooting methods, attracting a lot of attention from overseas. He has two renowned shooting methods.

First, his movies are famous for their bright backgrounds. It is said that his backgrounds sometimes stand out more than the actual people in the picture. This is because he used pan-focus shooting. Pan-focus shooting focuses on everything in the picture. When the camera focuses on the subject in front, the background becomes blurred. Today, this work is easy because all the work is done automatically by the camera. However, at that time, it was necessary to adjust all the lighting and focus. Therefore, pan-focus shooting required a lot of money, time and labor. But thanks to pan-focus shooting, he could shoot some great movies. Even now, many film directors and researchers praise his vivid backgrounds.

Multi-cam shooting method used by Kurosawa

Kurosawa was the first person to use this technique that has multiple telephoto lenses. Multi-cam shooting has the advantage of taking various angled cuts with one shot. However, it is a problematic shooting method when at the actual location of the filming. This is because the condition of lighting and background must be considered depending on the position of the camera. However, the scene shot in this method is very powerful. Today, many film directors use this method.

There are other famous shooting methods besides these. For example, Rashomon was filmed using mirrors instead of reflectors to take advantage of the natural light while directing the camera to the sun, which was considered taboo at that time. In the first scene, Kurosawa used hoses and water mixed with black ink to shoot a powerful image of rain in monochrome. This method was also used in the battle scene of The Seven Samurai.

As you can see, movies and Kyoto have had a deep connection from when the movie industry started in Kyoto. The beauty of Kyoto fascinated many film directors and people involved in movies. There are more than a few masterpieces that were born in Kyoto. If you visit Kyoto, visit not only major tourist attractions but also these fascinating movie spots too.

The Kanji Museum

by Miyabi Saeki and Natsumi Awa

In 2016, the Kanji Museum was established in Kyoto. It looks like a modern building, but it suits the scenery of Kyoto because the basic color is black. At the Kanji Museum, you can learn about the origin, history, and development of kanji, as well as become familiar with many different kinds of kanji. There are also a few small collections related to Kanji. For example, you can see the original types of tools used to write Kanji in its early days, like sand and bones, to the present day, such as computers and smart phones.

What are Kanji?

Kanji are ideographs which were made to represent the Chinese language in China, over 3,500 years ago. An ideograph is a picture which has a certain meaning. For example, the Kanji 馬 (uma). This Kanji was made based on the shape of a horse. Therefore, the meaning is ‘horse’. Kanji was introduced into Japan about 1,500 years ago via China. Currently Kanji is used in China, Japan, and Korea. Kanji was originally made by changing the shape of what was a picture. It is said that it is only kanji that is still used from that time. In other words, the most historic writing system in the world is Kanji.

The advantages of Kanji are that it is easy to understand and express short words briefly. In addition, there are many coined words in Kanji, so it enriches the Japanese vocabulary.

The disadvantages of Kanji are that Kanji have many stroke counts and complex shapes. Also, Kanji is not suitable for expressing sounds, so it is difficult to learn to read and write. Therefore, hiragana and katakana (phonetic writing systems in Japan) are used to help people read kanji and for transliteration of loanwords.

Floor guide

The 1st Floor

On the first floor, there is a theater, a café, a gift shop and some historical exhibitions. For example, there is a time line of the history of kanji on the wall. Kanji has a long history, and you can learn about it by looking at the time line. Furthermore, when you enter the Kanji Museum, you will receive a pamphlet, which is a kind of activity in which you learn about the origin of the Japanese writing system. You compare stamps of old and recent kanji and kana which are characters made in Japan that represent sounds. Sometimes the same kanji looks very different.


The 2nd Floor

There are many activities on the 2nd floor. For example, there are kanji quizzes, a kanji photo studio, a place where you can make your own kanji, and so on. The kanji quizzes can be a little difficult even for Japanese native speakers, but there are many kinds of quizzes and the levels are different. Some are like written exams, but others are like games that you can play. For example, you can match different parts of kanji together with cards, or put the correct words onto pictures. You will see many kids and adults taking these quizzes together.

Also, the kanji photo studio is fun, because you can pose in the shape of different kanji. This activity is fun even if you know almost no Japanese. You only have to know the shape of the kanji, and try to make it with your own body. In addition, you can make your own kanji, and also you can see many kanji which were made by other people.


If you don’t know any Japanese, you may not find it interesting, but if you know even just a little Japanese, you should try the stamp activity to see what your name looks like in old kanji.

Events at the Kanji museum

There are many events at the Kanji Museum for people to learn about kanji while also having fun. The events change every month. You can see what events are taking place on the museum’s homepage. For example, one recent event was making kanji with clay. Kids and adults could learn about the different meanings of kanji by making them with clay.


There is also a Kanji fair. The meaning of kanji changes over time. Here, you can learn about those changes. Some words that are now used were used very differently in the past. Many Japanese native speakers also don’t know the old meanings of kanji that they currently use.

If you don’t know a lot of Japanese, the arts and crafts events can be a lot of fun and you also get a souvenir. Or if you want to learn more Japanese, events like the Kanji fair may be more interesting.

At any rate, feel free to check out the Kanji Musuem in Kyoto. You won’t be disappointed.

Basic information about Kanji museum

Established June 29th, 2016

Hours: 9:30 to 17:00 (last admission 16:30) Closed: Mondays

Admissions: Adults: ¥800

University and high school students: ¥500

Junior high and elementary school students: ¥300

Preschool children: Free

Handicapped visitors: Free

Address: 551 Gionmachi Minigawa, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0074, Kyoto Prefecture

Access: Keihan Line, Gion-Shijo Stn, Exit 6, 5-min walk.

From Kyoto station, city bus number 100 or 206. Stop at Gino Bus Stop. 3 min walk.

Kyoto Prefectural Library

by Yuya Fukuda

When people think of Kyoto, they imagine the traditional temples and shrines. However, there are also many modern western style architectures that exist in Kyoto.

Modern Western style Architectures in Japan

Most of those buildings were built from Meiji period to early Showa period (end of 19th century to early 20th century). In the Meiji period, the Japanese government hired many foreign government advisors (Oyatoi gaikokujin) to gain the knowledge of western countries to assist in modernization. Those western style buildings were one of the symbols of progress for the Japanese people. In 1877, the Japanese government funded the Imperial College of Engineering in Tokyo. It was the very first university of architecture in Japan. In 1879, the first students graduated from the university. They became the architectures who represent Japan.

Why does Kyoto have so many western style buildings today?

Today, Kyoto has more than 25 modern style buildings. Kyoto is traditionally known as a cultural city in Japan. Why? There are some reasons.

  1. Kyoto was the capital of Japan for more than 1000 years. But in the Meiji period, the capital transferred to Tokyo. At that time, Kyoto faced some difficulties. Since the Emperor and imperial families moved to Tokyo, many people and industries also left the city. Kyoto needed to rebuild its economy and social systems. For this reason, Kyoto invited some exhibitions and businesses. In the Meiji period, Kyoto held 2 big exhibitions. “4th National industrial exhibition” and “1100th anniversary of the transfer of national capital to Kyoto.” Kyoto had relocated those pavilions to another place, and used them.
  2. Kyoto didn’t have air raids by the United States during World War II. Therefore, many old buildings still exist in Kyoto.

Kyoto Prefectural Library

Kyoto pretectural Library

Kyoto pretectural Library

The Kyoto prefectural Library is located in the Okazaki area (east part of Kyoto), near Heian shrine. It was established in 1873 as the Shushoin library, the first public library in Japan. In 1898, it became the Kyoto Prefectural Library in the Kyoto Imperial Park. In 1909, it was relocated to the Okazaki area. At this time, the building was designed by Takeda Goichi.  The main building was a 3 story building which made by bricks. This library was one of the Takeda’s most famous work. However in 1958, the building suffered serious damage during the Great Hanshin Earthquake. In 2001, it was renovated, but the original building is still preserved to this day. The original building is combined to new, modern style building.

Goichi Takeda

Goichi Takeda was a one of the most important Japanese architects, and is often called “the father of Kansai architectural circles”. His study in Europe influenced him. Takeda is said to have introduced several new architectural styles, such as Art Nouveau or Wiener Secession, to Japan.

Address : 9 Seishoji-cho, Okazaki Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8343

Tel : +81-75-762-4655

Website : http://www.library.pref.kyoto.jp/tagengo/english.html


The Tale of Genji Museum-Uji city

The Tale of Genji Museum –Uji city

Akiho Kamijo & Shiho Iwasaki

About the Tale of Genji

The Tale of Genji was written by Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th century (mid Heian era), and consists of 54 chapters (jou). More than 300 characters appear in it, in a story spanning 70 years. Within the work is contained about 800 shu of a 31-syllable form of classical Japanese poetry. This book is sometimes spoken of as the “classic of classics” and one of the greatest works in the history of Japanese literature.The tale itself is divided into three parts:

Part 1 : Hikaru Genji’s birth and his life of splendor and achievement.

Part 2 : Hikaru Genji’s life of anguish and ultimately his death.

Part 3 : The life of Kaoru,the child of Hikaru Genji, fillled with stories of love and tragedy.


 The author – Murasaki Shikibu


Murasaki Shikibu









The author, Murasaki Shikibu, was born around 973 (Ten-en 1) to a middle-class aristocrat Fujiwara no Tametoki. Although we don’t know her real name, she was called Murasaki Shikibu in direct relation to the character of Murasaki no Ue, from The Tale of Genji. In 998 (Chotoku 4), she married Fujiwara no Nobutaka and they had a daughter named Daini no Sanmi. Unfortunately, three years after Daini’s birth her husband died, and it was about this time she began to write The Tale of Genji. Around 1005 (Kanko 2), she became a lady-in-waiting to Fujiwara no Michinaga’s daughter, Shoshi, who was the wife of Emperor Ichijo. In Murasaki Shikibu’s diary, it was written that The Tale of Genji was actually a special gift to Shoshi upon the birth of her son, the Imperial Prince, Atsuhira.


The Tale of Genji Museum -Uji City

The tale of Genji Museum is divided into two main areas: The Exhibition Zone and the Information Zone. Here are some of the main features :

Image exhibition of the Tale of Genji and a dynastic picture scroll.

A high-definition video exhibit introduces a fascinating summary of the Tale of Genji and features a model of Rokujoin, the home of Hikaru Genji.

An ox-drawn carriage and period dress exhibit.

There is a restored ox-drawn carriage here, plus a Junihitoe (the ceremonial attire of a Japanese court lady of the period) which symbolizes the level of the circle the characters in the Tale of Genji moved in.

An exhibit showcasing the dynastic culture and many functions of the court.

Here we can view the dresses and articles of furniture of the shinden dukuri style in an architectural representation of a nobleman’s residence in the Heian period. There are also examples of the games and annual events held each season in the Heian period court.

Kakehashi or Connecting Bridge

In this exhibit we can experience the journey from the capital of Heian to Uji that is illustrated in the Tale of Genji.

“Uji jujo” story theater

Here, there is a replica of a famous scene from the work Uji jujo featuring a curtain and a life-size set.

The scenes and fragrance of the Tale of Genji

The fragrances that Heian nobility were particularly fond of are introduced in this exhibit. Many of which are featured in the tale of Genji.

Movie room

We can enjoy another two movies here of the tragic love stories, “Ukifune” and “Hashihime”.


 The Role of Uji in the Tale of Genji

Murasaki Shikibu and the ten Uji Chapters


The Uji Connection

The Ten Uji Chapters start with the chapter Hashi-Hime (Maiden of the Bridge) and conclude with Yume no Ukihashi (Floating Bridge of Dreams).This “bridge” in the story serves to move the setting from the capital to Uji, and also changes the focus of the story from Hikaru Genji to his son, Kaoru, as well as his grandson, Niou no Miya.

Heian aristocrats knew Uji well, and Murasaki Shikibu decided to use this setting to make them feel part of the story. Kyoto at this time was full of very important people, but Uji was a haven where the aristocrats could relax and be themselves. Murasaki Shikibu very skillfully told the stories of the emotional dramas played out between the men and women of Uji, a place that had a lively, yet also dark side

Uji in The Tale of Genji

In the Ten Uji Chapters of The Tale of Genji, Murasaki Shikibu writes about the villa of Hikaru genji’s son, Yugiri, as being on the west side of the Uji River. Actually, this was where Fujiwara no Michinaga, a very influential person of the time, also had a grand home. On the bank where Uji Shrine and Ujigami Shrine are located, she writes of the mountain villa of Hachi no Miya. Fujiwara no Michinaga’s villa on the west bank was later made into Byodo-in Hodo by his son Yorimichi, and still stands today as a prime example of buddhist architectural splendor. However, Ujigami Shrine, where Uji-no-waki-iratsuko, the son of Emperor Ojin is enshrined, is far more modest, and is much more representative of Hachi-no-Miya, who lived alone and lonely.


Address: 45-26 Uji-Higashiuchi, Uji City, Kyoto 611-0021

Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Admission until 4:30 p.m.)

Closed: Mondays (or the following day if Monday is a national holiday) and Dec. 28 to Jan. 3

Transport links:



The Kyoto Aquarium

If you feel like going to an aquarium while you are in Kyoto, there is a great aquarium not far from Kyoto Station. It is a new kind of aquarium, where visitors can have fun by seeing, learning, and touching.

From a simple drop of water, the story of life begins. A drop of water, born at the source of a river, joins other drops and becomes a river that flows into the sea, and then eventually comes back to the mountain. Whenever water circulates, innumerable lives are supported. This theme of water’s role in the cycle of life is a big part of the Kyoto Aquarium. Visitors can have fun and can learn about the relationship between water and life.

The 13 Zones of the Kyoto Aquarium

There are 13 zones in the Kyoto Aquarium. Each zone has a particular theme. The most unique of the 13 zones called “Rivers of Kyoto”, which you cannot find in any other aquariums in Japan.

Rivers of Kyoto Zone

This section is representative of the Kamo and Yura rivers of Kyoto. Here you can see the Japanese giant salamander, a special natural treasure of Japan. They are decreasing because there are increasingly mixed with Chinese salamanders, So it’s a rare creature. In this zone, there are also chars, landlocked salmons, unique carps, and so on.

Sea Animals Zone

In this zone there are very cute seals swimming around the pool and sometimes sleeping on the rocks. They are so lovely. And if you want to, you can get your pictures taken with cute models of fur seals, dolphins, and penguins.

Penguin Zone

In this area visitors can see many cute Cape Penguins. They are the small mascots of this aquarium. These penguins are friendly and make you happy.

Main Pool

In this zone, you can see many kinds of fish swimming in a big pool, such as colorful fish, turtles, rays, etc. This pool recreates the seas of Japan. It has tide pools, caves, and a continental shelf and sand banks. Small fish form groups and swim together. On the other hand, there are large fish swimming alone. It’s quite interesting to see.

Ocean Zone

The Ocean zone is divided into 4 sections: Coral Seas, Fun Learning at the Beach, World of Invertebrates, and the Sea of Kyoto.

The Coral Seas section represents a dazzling world of evocative treasure boxes. You can enjoy viewing a variety of fish of different shapes and brilliant colors.

Fun Learning at the Beach represents aquatic life such as starfish, bullhead sharks, and so on. In this section you can also have fun touching  starfish.

In the World of Invertebrates section, you can enjoy seeing invertebrate animals, such as jellyfish, octopus, and squid. You will also see crustaceans like shrimp, crab, and so on.

In the Sea of Kyoto section, you can enjoy seeing fish that are used in traditional Kyoto dishes. The daggertooth pike is one example. It is called hamo in Japanese. Hamo is used in various kinds of dishes, for example, shabu shabu (hot-pot), sashimi, and tempura.

Dolphin Stadium

Here is the place to have fun seeing a cute dolphin show. The dolphins are curious, smart, and friendly. You can see dolphins jumping, turning, and shaking hands with visitors. You may be surprised at their physical ability and natural behavior. Make sure you enjoy the show!

Event Hall

The Event Hall is located below the stands of the Dolphin Stadium. Here, you can take part in a workshop involving a craft-making activity. You can also learn about “life” and “environment” through this activity. For example, you will use items related to sea or scrap wood, then they will change to wonderful things. However, these activities cost money, depending on the content, so make sure to check the price before participating.

Beauty of Nature Zone

In this zone, there are many species of extremely rare wildlife in Kyoto, such as loach called Dojyo in Japanese, a unique Japanese turtle. These days, species of extremely rare wildlife are very difficult to see in daily life. This zone introduces rare species and tells Kyoto’s history and culture which related to rare species of life on display. So you will know about Kyoto and rare species together.

Countryside of Kyoto Zone

This zone reconstructs the traditional Japanese countryside in a small park. It’s quite interesting. You may find little birds and insects here. It’s a peaceful place, so you may forget that you are in the center of a big city like Kyoto.

Gift Shop

If you want to buy some souvenirs, there is a good gift shop in the aqaurium. There are many original goods in the shop, such as cute stuffed animals,, straps, magnets, stationery goods, confectionery, etc. And almost of these goods are related to Kyoto as well, so actually you can’t buy these in some other places.


There are three cafes in the aquarium: the Sea Animal Café, Dolphin Stadium Café, and Sanshisuimei Café. In the Sanshisuimei Café, there are some unique dishes using Kyoto vegetables or Kyoto pickles. In the Sea Animal Café, you can buy Aquarium Bread (Suizoku Pan), which are cute and famous in this aquarium.

Admission Fees

Individuals: Adults \2000, High school students \1500, Junior high school and Elementary school students \1000, and Children \600.

If you want annual passport you pay double individual price. Then you can come whenever you want for an entire year.

Groups: (With 20 or more members) Adults\1800, High school students \1350, Junior high school and Elementary school students \900, and Children (aged 3 and over) \540.

School Groups: Adults and high school students ¥1200Junior high school students \720, Elementary school students \500, and Preschoolers \360.

Operating Days

Open 365 days a year
Operating Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 17:00 p.m.

How to get there

The aquarium is located in Umekoji Park, just a 15 min. walk west from Kyoto Station’s central exit.

If you take Hankyu railway, get off at Omiya station and then take bus No. the 18, 18 special or 71 or 206 or 207 to Nanajo Omiya/KYOTO AQUARIUM.



The Miho Museum

by Kana Matsumoto and Satoko Nasu

Miho Museum Tunnel

The Miho Museum is located in the southern area of Shiga Prefecture, which is next to Kyoto, and it is surrounded by rich nature. It exhibits a private collection of Asian and European antiques gathered by Mihoko Koyama, who was the leader of new religious group called ‘Shinji Shumeikai’. In the museum there are more than 2,000 works of various origins, such as pieces from Greece, Rome, Egypt, the Near and Middle East, Gandhara, China, and Japan. At any given time, around 250 pieces are exhibited in the museum.

The History of The Miho Museum

Inside The Tunnel

Mrs. Koyama loved to collect tea ceremony tools due to the influence of her parents. She gradually hoped to open a gallery to exhibit them. She asked Ieoh Ming Pei, a great architect famous for the East Hall of The National Gallery in Washington and the ‘Glass Pyramid’ in the Louvre, to design her museum. He proposed the idea that it is better to display not only the works of tea untensils, but also many different things. Therefore, Mrs. Koyama traveled around the world to gather various antiquities when Mr. Pei started to build the musuem’s unique architecture. The Miho Museum was finally completed in 1997. Its construction is very unique because 80% of the buildings are buried in the ground to harmonize with the environment and the surrounding view. Pei respects the thinking of the Japanese people and their culture and traditions. He said, “I think you can see a very conscious attempt on my part to make the silhouette of the building comfortable in the natural landscape.”(Miho Museum) Mr. Pei thought the Shigaraki Mountains were the most suitable place to set up the museum. In addition, the location is close to the headquarters of the Shinji Shumeikai group.

Visitors From Around The World

The Main Building

According to the museum, 120,000 tourists visit the Miho Museum each year, and surprisingly more than 10% of them are from foreign countries. Yet even some people from Shiga prefecture do not know about the museum. A marketing campaign for The Miho Museum was conducted for a whole year leading up to the anniversary of the establishment. Many influential government officials in Japan were involved the campaign and helped to spread awareness of the museum all over the world. In addition, a documentary video about The Miho Museum was made and broadcasted by The Discovery Channel in various languages. The press agent we interviewed said this video includes an interview with Mr. Pei and shows the process of constructing the museum. Since then, awareness of the museum has increased amongst foreign tourists by word of mouth.

Why Does The Miho Museum Attract So Many Visitors?

Great Interior Design

The Miho Museum is held in high regard around the world. There are three reasons for this.

1. The Unique Architectural Design of I.M. Pei.

The first thing that surprises visitors is the design of the museum. The theme of design is Shangri-La. It is said that the construction of The Miho Museum is the recreation of an old Chinese story in which a man loses his way and eventually ends up discovering the wonderful Shangri-La. Indeed, through the mystic tunnel and bridge to the main hall, a different world unfolds before your eyes. It’s like a real Shangri-La, harmonized well with nature off from the urban area and surrounded by magnificent mountains. In fact Mr. Pei strongly wanted to respect Japanese people’s heart and tradition, which values the harmony of buildings with landscapes. Those constructions are the results of his mind. What is more, the inside of the buildings will also surprise you. Natural light is streamed down from the uniquely designed roofs, while softly-colored walls of limestone offer warmth and relaxation. Everything was carefully designed with consideration of visitors in mind. In addition, the museum offers great facilities for storing and exhibiting art under the best possible conditions. For this reason, visitors can enjoy viewing art during any season of the year.

2. Great Displays Bring Happiness to Visitors

Beautiful Interior Passage

In the museum, there are many selected exhibits from around the world. They vary from Japanese arts such as tea utensils, Buddhist art, ceramic, lacquerware and Yamato-e paintings of the ancient arts of the world, such as Egypt, West Asia, Greece, Rome, South Asia, China, Persia, and so on. There are a many rare pieces of art each having long histories; all of them displayed beautifully. And they also seem to have a strong presence, as if they were sending some special message to us. In fact, all of the displays were carefully gathered by Mrs. Koyama based on the idea of making people happy and being influenced by beautiful things. Visitors will surely feel a great sense of satisfaction and happiness to encounter these great collections.

3. Great Hospitality

The service by the museum staffs is another wonderful feature of this museum. In the interview with the press agent of the Miho museum, she seemed to be very proud of the services the Miho offers to visitors as well as its architecture and art collection. The museum staff have made several great efforts to increase visitor satisfaction. First, they serve visitors from foreign countries with staff members who can speak foreign languages such as English, Chinese, and so on. Thanks to this service, the museum has become popular among foreigners. In addition, the restaurant in the museum serves meals which are made of all organic ingredients. They try to make people’s heart and body refreshed and fully satisfied. Of course, all staff members are sure to maintain a polite and courteous demeanor toward each visitor. Such great hospitality definitely helps to make people satisfied and happy.


Take the JR Biwako line from Kyoto Station to Ishiyama Station ( 230 yen, 15 min.). At the south gate of Ishiyama station, take the Teisan bus number 150 to the Miho museum ( 800 yen, 50 min.). It takes just over an hour in total from Kyoto.

300, Tashiro Momodani, Shigaraki, Shiga

Tel. +81 (0)748 82 3411
E-mail: information@miho.jp

10:00 to 17:00 (Admission until 16:00)

1,000 yen for adults; 800 yen for high school and college students; 300 yen for elementary school students.

Fureaikan’s Experience Corner

by Miho Hattori

In an earlier article I introduced the Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts, also known as Fureaikan or Miyako Messe. At Fureaikan, various types of traditional handicrafts are displayed and you can watch the stages of processing these crafts. In Fureaikan’s ‘Experience Corner’, you can also experience easily creating an original work of your own with the technique of yuzen stencil-dyeing.

In the second half of the 17th century, Yuzensai Miyazaki developed kyo yuzen silk with innovative hand painting and dyeing techniques for use in Japanese kimonos. As a result, this dye technique was named “yuzen” after him. Nowadays kyo yuzen has two basic methods: tegaki hand dyeing, which uses some brushes, and kata stencil-dyeing, a technique to dye silk using a cutout paper template. Stencil-dyeing was developed by Jisuke Hirose of Kyoto during the early Meiji period (1870s).

Using paper templates of some seasonal Kyoto patterns or characters, you will apply color to the cloth and iron it to permanently fix the color. That is all! It takes about 45~60 minutes to finish this. Instructors will help you carefully and they have an explanatory pamphlet in English. You can make a nice souvenir with your favorite colors and designs. This experience will surely become your great memory of Kyoto!

Let’s try! ?

ΠChoose one item or more from the 5 items: coaster (one set of two) Japanese round fan (large or small), place mat, t-shirt and handkerchief. I chose to make a placemat.

 There are a lot of paper templates, for example seasonal Kyoto traditional patterns, cherry blossom, plum blossom, Gion Festival, Mt. Daimonji, goldfish, gods of four directions, and hanakuidori (birds eating flowers). Choose a pattern or characters which you like. In this case, I chose a pattern of a berry.


And then instructors demonstrate how to apply coloring to the cloth before starting.

 You can use 5 colors (red, blue, green yellow, and purple) and one brush.


Start to paint on the color little by little and gradate the color using several hues.


Along the way, you should check it frequently…
And finish!

Don’t you think it sounds simple? It is easy even for a beginner to make their own original yuzen dyeing craftwork!

Information for ‘Experience Corner’—


Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays
9:00 to 17:00 (please apply by 16:00 at the shop counter)


Experience in Fureaikan
Admission is free.

Fees are for crafts made:

· Coaster (2 pieces)…600 yen
· Handkerchief…700 yen
· Round paper fan (short handle)…800 yen
· Round paper fan (long handle)…900 yen
· Place mat…1,000 yen
· T-shirt…1,500 yen

*Including the cost of materials



9-1, Seishoji-cho, Okazaki, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto (Miyakomesse B1F)




9:00~17:00 (Admission until 16:30)




Mondays & 12/29~1/3 & three maintenance days in mid-August

« No smoking, no eating and drinking and no camera!

« Admission free!


«From JR Kyoto Station

Bus: Take city bus No.5 to “Kyoto Kaikan mae/Bijutsu-kan mae” bus stop, or bus No. 206 to the Higashiyama-Nijo bus stop.
Subway: Take the Karasuma Line to Karasuma-Oike station and there, change subway lines to the Tozai Line heading east; get off at Higashiyama Station.

«From Shijo-Kawaramachi

Bus: City bus Nos. 5, 32 or 46 to Kyoto Kaikan mae/bijutsu-kan mae bus stop or bus No. 31, 201 or 203 to Higashiyama-Nijo bus stop

«From Sanjo Keihan

Bus: Take city bus No.5 to Kyoto kaikan mae/bijutsukan mae bus stop
Subway: Take the Tozai Line to Higashiyama Station

Fureaikan:Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts

by miho hattori
Do you know how many traditional crafts are practiced in Kyoto? Japan’s ancient capital has a rich historical culture and a wealth of traditions, so there are so many kinds of traditional crafts. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there were a single great place where you could see, feel and learn about all of these crafts in Kyoto? Well, a place called Fureaikan (Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts) will fulfill your wishes and it’s free! You must enjoy here the nature of craftsmanship and touch Kyoto’s historic culture. Fureaikan also has various traditional items which you can handle or buy.

Let’s go to Fureaikan! J

There are six areas in Fureaikan:

ŒPermanent exhibition:

Various types of traditional handicrafts are introduced through the displaying of actual craftworks. You can watch the processing of these crafts here and even in the library, but video soundtracks are in Japanese only. Moreover, if you would like to purchase one of the exhibited craftworks, you can do so.


Historical high-valued works are displayed and organized into specific time periods.

ŽEvent room:

This corner is for exhibitions, active craft art and demonstrative presentations. Young artists release their new works, showing us their fresh ideas.


There are many books and videos covering a wide range of literature, design and history. Although most texts are written in Japanese, you can still learn through the many illustrations and photos. In addition, you can borrow some books.


Handicraft classes:

You can experience creating your original traditional handiworks. It will certainly become your good memory!
«A report about handicraft classes will appear in my next article. Check it out!


Museum shop “KYO-SHION”

This shop sells many goods of Kyoto traditional crafts at reasonable prices. These are suitable mementos of your visit to Kyoto, so how about including them among your souvenir purchases?

Now, let me introduce some traditional crafts of Kyoto…

Incense: “Kunkou”

The cultural pursuit in which people enjoy burning incense for making a good mood came from China 1300 years ago. It quickly became popular among Japan’s nobility. Now the culture has developed as “Koudo” and several products are made with different aromas for different occasions. It is likely that you can enjoy the elegant fragrance of “Kunko”!

Textile: “Nishijin-Ori”

The weaving industry in Kyoto began between the 5th and 6th centuries. The name Nishijin came from the Nishijin district in Kyoto where many weavers built their workplaces. Using dyed yarns woven into beautiful brocades, Nishijin weavers use traditional skills, and are continually promoting new methods. At present, it is said to that there are no textiles which weavers cannot make by Nishijin techniques.

You can also see the making of Nishijin-Ori and twelve beautiful typical techniques.
“Tsuzure-ori”, “Futsu”, “Tatenishiki”, “Mojiri-ori”, “Velvet”, “Nuki-nishiki” and so on. You can see the samples in Fureaikan.

Fabrics:“Kyo Yuzen”

Yuzensai Miyazaki developed Kyo yuzen silk, with new hand painting and dyeing techniques, in the latter half of the 17th century. So this dye technique was named “yuzen” for him. Nowadays kyo yuzen has two basic methods; one is hand dyeing and the other is stencil-dyeing. The stencil dyeing was developed by Jisuke Hirose during the early Meiji period (1870s). This technique is a way to dye silk using a cutout paper pattern. In contrast with stencil dyeing, hand dyeing is a technique which uses some brushes. In Fureaikan, you can also see and touch five items used for producing kyo-yuzen.

Audio Guide²

You can download free audio guidance not only in English but also in French or Chinese on the museum’s website. If you don’t have a portable audio player, don’t worry! You just need to fill out a form, show your ID card and pay 1000 yen as a deposit, and you can borrow a player at Fureaikan. And when you finish, you return it and get back your deposit money. When you arrive at Fureaikan’s entrance, you will find a desk with an information clerk who can help you. If there is no information clerk, please dial 512 on a phone placed on the desk.

Where is Fureaikan? !


9-1, Seishoji-cho, Okazaki, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto (Miyakomesse B1F)




9:00~17:00 (Admission until 16:30)




12/29~1/3 annually
«No smoking, no eating and drinking and no camera!
«Admission free!


«From JR Kyoto Station

Bus: Take city bus No.5 to “Kyoto Kaikan mae/Bijutsu-kan mae” bus stop, or bus No. 206 to the Higashiyama-Nijo bus stop.
Subway: Take the Karasuma Line to Karasuma-Oike station and there, change subway lines to the Tozai Line heading east; get off at Higashiyama Station.

«From Shijo-Kawaramachi

Bus: City bus Nos. 5, 32 or 46 to Kyoto Kaikan mae/bijutsu-kan mae bus stop or bus No. 31, 201 or 203 to Higashiyama-Nijo bus stop

«From Sanjo Keihan

Bus: Take city bus No. 5 to Kyoto kaikan mae/bijutsukan mae bus stop
Subway: Take the Tozai Line to Higashiyama Station

Something more —

If you have some spare time, it is good to walk around the neighborhood surrounding Fureaikan in autumn. You can see beautiful autumn colors and some very cute ducks such as in this picture. This great spot may become your favorite place in Kyoto!

Kyoto Tezuka Osamu Museum

by Wakako Kurimoto; Shiori Kadowaki

Kyoto Tezuka Osamu World


Perhaps you have heard of Osamu Tezuka. He is a one of Japan’s greatest manga artists. It is even said that he is the father of contemporary Japanese manga. His most famous characters are Astro Boy and Black Jack. He left many works.

In Kyoto, there is a place where you can experience the world of Osamu Tezuka. Since it is located in Kyoto Station, you can visit it easily. A museum, Tezuka Osamu World, consists of a souvenir shop and a small theater. In the souvenir shop are items that are sold only in Kyoto.

Waiting for you there, are not only characters created by Osamu Tezuka, but also characters created by another Japanese famous cartoonist, Shigeru Mizuki. For the 80th anniversary of Osamu Tezuka’s birth and the 60th anniversary of Mizuki Shigeru’s first manga, some of their characters are being sold together in sets. Shigeru Mizuki is famous for creating Gegege-no-Kitaro, a favorite Japanese ghost cartoon character, and researching about and then bringing to life many Japanese ghosts.

Kyoto Tezuka Osamu World is filled with dreams.

Osamu Tezuka

Osamu Tezuka was born in Osaka on November 3rd, 1928. He was an imaginative boy and liked insects very much. We can find out how much he liked insects by looking at his pen name, 治虫“Osam.” (The word, 虫 mushi, means “insect.”)

He grew up in the war era, so he came to have great reverence for life. Therefore, he once aimed to be a doctor, but then chose to become a comic artist instead.

After becoming a comic artist, he created many comics and they influenced Japanese culture: literature, film, and of course, his readers. He introduced countless comics, and all of them tell us about his eternal theme: the preciousness of life. Osamu passed away in 1989. However, his comics continue to communicate his message to us even now.

Osamu’s comics

Black Jack

This story is a medical drama in which Black Jack, an unlicensed doctor, helps cure many severely ill patients with miracle methods. Although other doctors give up trying to cure patients because of the difficulty of treatment, Black Jack never gives up and saves many lives. He has wonderful technique, but the medical community doesn’t accept him because he demands a large amount of cash for his medical expenses. However, many patients come to him with their last wish.

Osamu once aimed to become a doctor, so he identifies with this story. Black Jack is Osamu’s ideal doctor.

Astro Boy

The setting for this comic is in the 21st century. Astro Boy, a boy robot, plays the central role in this cartoon. Dr. Temba makes a robot that is similar to his dead son. It is “Astro Boy.” Dr. Temba came to love Astro Boy as his real son. However, the robot never grows up, so the Doctor loses his passion for Astro Boy and gives him a job at a circus.

After he abandons Astro Boy, Dr. Ochanomizu, a new administrator, tries to get “human rights” for robots. Astro Boy can live with him and his robot family, and receive love again. He also has love, sentiments and a strong sense of justice. If any incidents happen, he will surely stand up to enemies.


Shop hours: 10am to 7pm
You can visit souvenir shop for free.
Open all year.
They may sometimes close the theater for maintenance.

Tel: 075-341-2376

Theater / small library

You can watch original short films here. These films are only shown in this theater. “Hinotori,” one of Osamu Tezuka’s characters, guides you. You can also see many other characters.

Fee: adults 200 yen / children (from 6 to 11 years old) 100 yen including tax.
Show times: the films are shown at 5 past and 35 past every hour.
The last film is shown at 6:35
If you want to get more information, please access:

Interview with Museum Manager

We interviewed Mr. Tanaka, the manager of Kyoto Tezuka Osamu World about Mr. Tezuka Osamu and the facility.

Shiori Kadowaki and Wakako Kurimoto:

Please tell us about your visitors. We suppose that most are from Japan, but are there foreign visitors? If yes, where are they from? And we also want to know what kinds of visitors come here, how old they are, and so on.

Mr. Tanaka:

Because Kyoto Tezuka Osamu World is located in Kyoto, the type of our visitor changes depending on season. Our visitors from Europe or the United States come in all seasons, but I feel that more Asian visitors have come to Kyoto Tezuka Osamu World than visitors from Europe and United States this year. I think it is because personal travel is much easier than before. There were times when all of our visitors in the shop were from Asia. Accordingly, throughout the year, 50% of our visitors are from Japan and 50% are from foreign countries.

SK & WK:

Please tell us the reason why Kyoto Tezuka Osamu World was built in Kyoto. Is Kyoto a special place for Osamu Tezuka?

Mr. Tanaka:

First of all, I heard that Tezuka loved Kyoto so much. It is not too much to say that when foreign visitors came to him, he always introduced Kyoto to them. Mr. Tezuka left many works related to Kyoto, such as Shinsen-gumi, which was located in the ancient Kyoto capital of Heiankyo.

SK & WK:

Please tell us what is most attractive about Osamu Tezuka. We suppose that most Japanese people know him, but foreigners might not know him. In fact, we know about his cartoons, but we don’t know about him, so we want to know much his attractive points.

Mr. Tanaka:

This question is a little hard. Since I’m not familiar with his personal life so much, I will answer in short.

・Mr. Tezuka has a doctor’s license.
・His birthday is November 3rd.
・He passed away on February 9th, because of stomach cancer.
・He was able to draw an exact circle by hand.

I’m not sure about the following information:
・When he wrote manga, he was often ate onigiri (rice ball), and he especially loved cod roe, because it was easy to eat.
・Women weren’t allowed into his studio.
・The model for Black Jack was his then manager, currently president of Tezuka production. I have met him before, he was similar to Black Jack.
・When he draws manga, he was imagining the logical development of story, not thinking of sketches, so sometimes he started drawing manga in the middle of a story.
・He habitually used a hyotan (gourd) moneybox, which are now sold as souvenirs in Kyoto Tezuka Osamu World.

If you want to know more, please look at this Web site.

& WK:

Please tell us your favorite Tezuka cartoon. We only know Astro Boy, Black Jack, and The Phoenix, the cartoons that we can watch on TV, so we would like to know your recommendation for cartoons that are filled with Tezuka’s special feelings.

Mr. Tanaka:

I’m sorry that I don’t know his manga so well. Kyoto Tezuka Osamu World opened 10 years ago, but at that time, I didn’t know the meaning of “BJ (Black Jack)”. Besides, I have never read Tezuka. Then I read Metropolis. I finished reading it after I started just the first two pages. However, I often watched TV: “My Songoku (I didn’t know it was a Tezuka manga),” “Jangle-Taitei,” “Astro Boy (of course I watched it on color TV, not on a black-and-white set),” “Phoenix,” “Ribbon-no-kisi,” “Black Jack,” and “The New Astro Boy.”
I recommend “Grandmother” and “Rokutousei” from the Black Jack series. You can see “Grandmother” at Kyoto Tezuka Osamu World theater. When your work or study reaches a deadlock, please read “Rokutousei.” It is a wonderful work. According to the head of Kyoto Tezuka Osamu World,“Buddha” is also great.