The Kyoto City Archaeological Museum

April 17, 2008

by Maki Kawai

Kyoto is a traditional city in Japan, and many people from foreign
[Picture 1: The museum]countries come here for sightseeing every year. Most of them visit the city’s temples and shrines. However, you know, “traditional things” are not only buildings, but also historical relics, and I think they’re also attractive. So, I’d like to introduce the Kyoto City Archaeological Museum. In this museum, there aren’t enough explanations in English, so I will explain the layout of the museum. I hope you’ll print this page and take it to the museum because this will help you understand better about the artifacts.

First of all, here is the floor plan of the museum:

[Picture 2: Inside the museum]

The Rajomon Gate

 

First of all, you should know what “Rajomon” is. Rajomon was the
entrance gate of the original Heian capital, and was located at the southern end of Suzaku Oji Street [朱雀大路]. It was made of wood; the height was 20 meters, and the width was 40 meters. In the entrance of the museum, you can see a large glass panel with the Rajomon Gate engraved.
[Picture 3: The Rajomon Gate]

Current Archaeological News

The Kyoto City Archaeological Research Institute researches and digs up relics. The oldest are considered to have been made in the prehistoric age. This institute reports on its current findings by showing articles and photographs of the artifacts with explanations.

Information Section

In this section, there’re some computers and image projection equipment which allow you to check the latest archaeological information. And there’re also interactive quizzes, a video library, literature including history/archaeology books, brochures and exhibition catalogs of major museums in Japan, and pamphlets on excavation sites.
Photograph Exhibition
There’re about 700 archaeological sites in Kyoto City. The photographs here are from typical sites, and they record many research excavations. I hope you’ll visit here and see it so that you can learn about Kyoto’s history and its culture.

Special Exhibition Section

In this corner, you can see the display of research excavations and investigations of buried cultural properties. This is one of the most important projects in the museum.
For example, the theme of this section from February 2008 until January 2009 was “紫式部の生きた京都 [Murasaki Shikibu no ikita Kyoto/ Kyoto where Murasaki Shikibu lived].” Murasaki Shikibu is well-known as the noblewoman who wrote 源氏物語 [Genji monogatari / The Tale of Genji] during the Heian Period, and because 1,000 years have passed since she wrote the story, she was featured in the special exhibition. There you could see what people used during the period.
[Picture 4: Special Exhibition Section]

“京焼きの萌芽 [The Origins of Chinaware in Kyoto]” is the theme from March to autumn in 2009.

The Second Floor

On the second floor, you can see many artifacts. On display are many ceramics which are divided by six kinds, and they show the evolution of pottery during the Heian Period.

Here I will translate what the explanations along the wall say. Before you read the translations, let me introduce the periods of Japanese history and where each topic belongs.
[Picture 5: Ceramics in the Heian Period]


[Picture 6: The division of Japanese history]

01. 原始時代(-AD 300)…The primitive age

There were ancient people who used tools which were made of stone and who hunted in the valley of Kyoto. They began to make earthenware, and it’s the start of 縄文時代 [The Jomon Period]. People began to produce rice, and the social system and the culture of their lives were changed.

02. 山背の古代豪族たち(AD 300-785)…The powerful clans in ancient times in Yamashiro

In this period, an administration called 倭 [Wa] attempted to unite the whole country. Many powerful clans built huge burial mounds called 古墳 [Kofun]. The powerful clans who lived in Kyoto also built them, and this region also flourished. Around this period, people who had developed culture and skills in their countries, especially China and Korea, came to Japan and spread out. In Kyoto, mainly two clans called 秦 [Hata] and 高麗 [Koma] took part in this cultural development. After the Asuka Period [the end of the 6th century until the first half of the 7th century], many temples were built in Kyoto’s valley.

03. 長岡京 (AD 784-794)…The capital of Nagaoka

The capital was moved to Nagaoka, near the junction of the Katsura River, the Uji River, and the Kamo River. The site was blessed; however, the capital lasted only ten years, and thus this capital was called “The Phantom Capital” later. Studying recent excavations, researchers discovered the site of a castle and the layout of the capital.

04. 平安の新京 (AD 794- 1180)…A new capital in Heian

This capital was laid out like the capital at Nagaoka in a grid. There was a street called 朱雀大路 [Suzaku Oji] whose width was about 84 meters. The Heian capital was made by setting this street in the center of the grid. This is the last ancient city laid out on a grid.
Inside the Heian capital, there was a kind of castle called 大内裏 [daidairi] in the center of the northern area. 大内裏 [daidairi] are offices which conduct government affairs of state and ceremony, and the center building was called 内裏 [dairi], which was the Imperial Palace. In addition, there were governmental markets, a mansion called 鴻臚館 [Kourokan] which entertained missions from foreign countries, public offices, temples, mansions of noblemen, and houses of common people.

05. 中世の京都 (AD 1180-1568)… Kyoto of the Middle Ages

This period saw the birth and rise of samurai. The center of government was moved to 鎌倉 [Kamakura], and administrative affairs changed a lot; however, the move didn’t affect the common people so much. Later, in 室町時代 [The Muromachi Period], the shogunate was moved to Kyoto again, and Kyoto’s original culture was established by people who lived in Kyoto.

06. 桃山文化の開花 (AD 1568- 1615)…The civilization of the Momoyama culture

The period during which 織田信長 [Oda Nobunaga] and 豊臣秀吉 [Toyotomo Hideyoshi] flourished was a pinnacle of gorgeous culture of the samurai class, and at the same time, it was the beginning of modern society.
One institution called 楽市・楽座 [Rakuichi Rakuza] was formed during this period, and it urged the free development of business. Thanks to the development of various industries, a new original culture was created.

土に刻まれた京都の歴史…Kyoto’s history which was has been kept in the ground

Kyoto’s stratum is a kind of time capsule of the city’s history. Many artifacts and excavations since ancient times until today are discovered through stratum. We can see the traces of people’s lives in every period by checking each stratum.
We can say that Kyoto’s excavations are a living witness to over 1,000 years of history.

[Picture 7: The stratum]
In conclusion, when you go to The Kyoto City Archaeological Museum, you’ll see many relics of Kyoto and will learn about Kyoto’s history. I hope this article will help you to understand what the explanations in Japanese say.
Finally, I’ll tell you how to go to The Kyoto City Archaeological Museum. If you’re going to visit there from Kyoto Station, you should take Kyoto City Bus 9, and get off at 堀川今出川 [Horikawa Imadegawa]. You’ll find the museum if you walk east for about 2 minutes. As for basic information about the museum, it is closed December 28th- January 3rd, and every Monday. If Monday is a national holiday, the museum will be open, but it is closed the next day. It is open from 9:00 to 5:00; however, the final entrance is 4:30. There is no admission fee. I hope you’ll enjoy your trip in Kyoto.

[Picture 8: Kyoto City Bus]
References:
京都市考古資料館
The Kyoto City Archaeological Museum
Picture 1: The Web Site of京都市考古資料館

http://inoues.net/museum/kyoto_kouko.html

Picture 5: The Web Site of 京都市交通局

http://www.city.kyoto.lg.jp/kotsu/page/0000007531.html

One Response to “The Kyoto City Archaeological Museum”

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  1. Rivas says:

    Dear sir/dear madam,
    I am a student of the Sorbonne University in Paris, concretely in the studies in conservation-restauration of archaeology material. I would like to know if it is possible to contact a restorer in archaeology of the museum, in the context of my final studies memory.
    I thank you for your answer.

    Yours faithfully,
    Raquel Rivas

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