September 6, 2012
by Kana Matsumoto and Satoko Nasu
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
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
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?
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
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
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.