Visit the Pearl Museum in Toba and Mikimoto

—  Explore the secret of pearl jewelry world and Mikimoto’s pearl revolution

Mikimoto M- Logo x01.JPG   I had a chance to visit the “Mikomoto Pearl Museum” in “Pearl Island” ofMikimoto M- Museum x04.JPG Toba, in Mie Prefecture this year. The Pearl Island is a famous place where Mr. Mikimoto had successfully developed “cultured” pearls for the first time in the world, and the island is now one of the tourist attractions Mikimoto M- Miki treasure x01.JPGMikimoto M- M history x08.JPGin the Ise Shima National Park too. The Pearl Museum shows us amazing pearl world by providing exhibits of real pearls and elaborate explanation regarding nature of pearls, way of breeding of pearl, making process of pearl’s jewelry, and other information related to pearls. It was a quite knowledgeable Mikimoto M- Illust x04.JPGmuseum to see the history of pearls, and how man-made culture pearl was born and developed in this area. In addition, I had an occasion to visit the “Mikimoto Kokichi Memorial Hall” which shows the development story of “cultured pearl” of Mikimoto Co. and its founder Mikimoto’s biography. I was quite interesting visit, so I’d like to report it here.


♣   Outline and exhibition of Mikimoto Pearl Museum

Mikimoto M- Illust x01.JPG       The museum exhibitions are divided into four sections.  First, the naturalMikimoto M- Museum x02.JPG built pearl jewelry and its jewelry were displayed there, next corner shows the scientific explanation exhibition on how pearls are made in the sea and the way of pearl farming, then the comment is given on the pearl making process to finalize it as a jewel. Finally, the Mikimoto M- Museum x03.JPGMikimoto’s legendary artifacts of pearls are exhibited in the special corner. In addition to the exhibition, the museum staff will lecture you how pearls are produced and crafted with using real pearl shells there, so you can understand the scientific mechanism of   pearls in detail.  The composition of the museum are as follows

♣   History of pearls and jewelry worksMikimoto M- History x01.JPG

Mikimoto M- Illust x07.JPG       According to the museum exhibition, there are several categories of pearl shells found, such as peal oysters, black butterfly shells, white butterfly shells, of which the pearl oysters are the most prized one. These pearl oysters inhabit at bottom of the relatively deep sea, so people must dive deeply and exploit them to harvest them.     Therefore, naturally born pearls have been counted as one of the most precious “jewels” for long time.
Mikimoto M- Illust x12.JPG       In addition, its rainbow-colored gloss was regarded as a symbol ofMikimoto M- Treasure x02.JPG people’s valuable fortune, wealth and power, so it has been worn as a valuable jewelry since ancient times. At the museum, numerous natural pearl jewelry is displayed which were worn by European wealthy aristocratic class of ladies.

For example. Ancient Roman pearl earrings, Renaissance era’s Mikimoto M- Treasure x01.JPGpearl pendant, Mughal Kingdom’s pearl and gold necklace, in addition to the European seed pearls with gold jewelry, cameo brooches in 19th century, and so-called Art Nouveau style pearl Mikimoto M- Treasure x03.JPGnecklace, and so on. Every pearl jewelry you can see there is outstandingly well-crafted artifacts filled with Mikimoto M- Treasure x04.JPGstunning charms. Meanwhile, it was interesting to know that natural pearls in China and Japan have been used medical substances as well as jewelry.

However, the appearance of cultured pearls gave unprecedented impact to the Mikimoto M- Illust x02.JPGMikimoto M- History x03.JPGnatural pearls jewel industry because it broke the monopoly and made shift them from exclusive possession by wealthy class to widely used attractive jewels for general Mikimoto M- Illust x09.JPGpeople, even though the pearl was still expensive ones. The transition process of natural pearls to cultured pearls during this period seems to be very much interesting too.


♣   Structure of pearl shell and development of pearl farming

The museum explains the mechanism how pearl shells produce pearls and production ofcultured pearls at Ago bay of Shima area.

<Natural pearl>Mikimoto M- Illust x06.JPG

In the pearl shell, there is a layer called “mantle membrane” inside theMikimoto M- Akoya x01.JPG shell, which has a function of breathing and absorbing seawater to grow and produces another new shellfish itself. A part of cells of this mantle will be missing and forming a “nucleus” bag (pearl sack) occasionally.
Then the bag is crystallized by a glossy secretion which exuded in shell and grew into multi-layer’s luminous ball. his is the what called natural pearl. The component is almost the same with slime inner layer of the shellfish of rainbow dolor glossy.   This natural pearl is formed  just with incidental case only, Mikimoto M- Natural x02.JPG
Mikimoto M- Natural x01.JPGand a beautiful circular spherical pearl is available This is the what called natural pearl. The component is almost the same with inner layer of the slime shellfish of rainbow dolor glossy. This natural pearl is formed in incidental case only, and a beautiful circular spherical pearl is available miraculously rare.

<Cultured pearl>

On the other hand, the cultured pearls are produced by artificially transplanting a Mikimoto M- Culture x01“nucleus” into the mantle with hand and try to form aMikimoto M- M history x02.JPG pearl using this nucleus.  However, this process was quite sophisticated, and this method had been experimenting long time, but anybody couldn’t succeed in the world.
In these circumstances, a Japanese Mikimoto M- M history x01.JPGbusinessman, called Mikimoto. succeeded to produce a “cultured pearl” for the first time in the early Meiji period of 1890s.   After success to produce pearls artificially, he disseminated this “cultured pearl” as “Mikimoto pearl” which boasts holding equivalent aesthetic value of pearls as natural pearls.

♣  How culture pearls were  produced

Mikimoto M- Illust x08        This aquaculture process had been technically so difficult.  Now it becomes a little bit easy to cultivate pearl shell because the aquaculture Mikimoto M- Process x03.JPGtechnology is advanced due to the continuing scientific experiment, but the experts actually indicate there are still many problems existed.

First of all, it is necessary to collect a large number of precious mother pearl shells and to grow in the sea water for long time. In addition, the special measure was required Mikimoto M- Process x05.JPGto sort out and collect the good shellfish, then they should grow sufficient number of shellfishes.
Even after the “nuclear” is embedded in the shell, the embryo of pearls must be retained and cured over a longMikimoto M- Process x04.JPG period in a relatively deep seabed for several years. It is said that this success rate is not so high, and many are dead or couldn’t produce pearls at all.

Mikimoto M- M history x10.JPG     Also, a lot of hard work is required in the sea, this “tough job” had been handled by “Ama” (professional diving girl)” in Ago Bay. These all were difficult barriers for the long time to proliferate producing cultured pearls in large amount.       Later, the burden ofMikimoto M- Process x02.JPG this work in the sea has been a bit lightened by using floating rafts and hanging pearls shells from them in the sea. And by adopting this method, a large amount of pearl shells became possible to cultivate one time, but it is said the work was still never easy ones.

<Fine pearl making process>

Then, the pearl shells which have bred are pulled up Mikimoto M- Process x06.JPGto the land (“Hamaage”), and the raw pearls should be picked up from the shell, and the sort-out process comes. However, even now, it was said that about half of the pearl shells raised on the beach are dead, 17% are bad quality, and fine pearls are available only less than 5%.Mikimoto M- Process x07.JPG

Next comes the process of finishing the pearl as a jewel. Here, there are strict inspection and sorting of cultured pearls such as color, gloss, size and shape, and finally it will be going to the market as a product. We can easily imagine how patient and delicate works there to create such a perfect pearl product as beautiful jewel.

<Business transition from natural pearl to cultured pearl>

Mikimoto M- M history x08   Now the jewelry pearls as an ornament are becoming popular treasure Mikimoto M- M history x11.JPGfor the general people now, although it’s still an expensive product. But it was believed to be attributed much to the appearance of cultured pearl, because the pearl was so expensive that it was exclusively worn by ultra-wealthy class people only before.  The name was “cultured”, but it has been showing high quality of shining luster same with natural pearl.
Mikimoto M- History x04.JPG    Any way, it is a noted episode that many US military officers flocked to this Toba farm just after the War of Japan and asked for Mikimoto Pearl in rush as souvenirs for their home country. In this way, these cultured pearls in Japan were extremely valuable and popular among foreigners, and it’s quite understandable that cultured pearl became one of the major export items of Japan at the time.


♣   Mikimoto Jewelry’s history and masterpieces

Mikimoto M- Illust x03.JPG      At the Pearl Museum, numerous pearl works produced by Mikimoto isMikimoto M- Miki treasure x03.JPG displaying along with Mikimoto Koukichi’s life story (a founder Mikimoto Co.) The highlight treasury works shown among them are be aesthetic artifacts of pearl jewelry which have been exhibited and gained the highly reputation at the big worldwide Expos.

Mikimoto M- Miki treasure x04.JPG     A series of works exhibited were highly valued at the Expos regarding their unique designing features of Japanese aesthetics style. The exhibited products were, for examples, the “Gunbai Ohgi” (Military commanding fan) in 1893, the “MikimotoMikimoto M- Miki treasure x05.JPG Five-story Pagoda” in 1925 (for Philadelphia World’s World Expo), the “Yaguruma: Large Waistband Clip” (for Paris Expo 1937) “Liberty Bell” (Exhibition of New York Expo 1939), and others. The “Globe”, which is decorated with thousands of pearls in 1990, was also eye-catching work of Mikimoto. These seem to imply the high level of Mikimoto’s pearl art production.

Mikimoto M- Miki treasure x06.JPG      On the other hand, we should admit that Mikimoto’s products were dominantly “Semi-circular pearls”, and many of them incorporated in the part of other jewelry items. Mikimoto has been producing hair ornaments such as combs and hooks using these semicircle pearls and Mikimoto M- Treasure x09.JPGcommercialized them as a jewelry item at the beginning period. However. But as the cultured “spherical round pearl” was beginning to be sufficiently produced and upgraded much, their pearl jewelry was rapidly closed to the high level of European design jewelry, and the artistic value of cultured pearls was dramatically increased. The “Mikimoto Five-story Pagoda” was one of them which was highly appreciated as an aesthetic product at that time.

After taking such track, the reputation of Mikimoto jewelry rises more than ever, and Mikimoto could grow as a world level pearl manufacturer in the field of pearl necklace, earrings, bracelet, and other ornaments. This evidence would be the exhibition of “Mikimoto Prestigious Works” at this museum.

♣   Recent trend of Ise Shima pearl world

Mikimoto M- Museum x06.JPG        Mikimoto, which became a global pearl maker in this way, is no more engaged much in the direct cultured pearl farming though, and the Mikimoto M- History x06.JPGcompany already transformed to the total enterprise primarily concentrating on the pearl jewelry’s designing, its processing and selling businesses. So the distribution of Mikimoto pearls are expanded and the sales network of the cultured pearls are now spreading to the worldwide. On the other hand, the domestic supply of pearls are becoming short and lack of volume for producing pear jewelry, in addition to the worsening of water quality around the Ise Shima bay and the influence of frequent occurring red tide and other unfavorable conditions. As a result, Mikimoto now became to procure the cultured pearl sources around the world.

Mikimoto M- Illust x13.JPG      Then, the Ago Bay of Shima can’ say no more the center of cultured pearls, but thisMikimoto M- History x05.JPG area is still proud of historical significance as a birthplace of Japan’s pearls and also as a memorial place of business establishment of Mikimoto. However, it is said that new “One Piece of Pearl” project starts by a local NGO of Shima in 2003 for breeding high quality pearl shells through creating underwater forest that hopes to foster Akoyagai pearl shells there. It would be a new movement in the local pearl industrial revitalization around Ago bay, beside strengthening tourist attraction of Ise Shima’s pearl industry.

♦   Remarks after visit Pearl Museum

Mikimoto M- M history x09.JPG         By visiting Pearl Island and its museum, I felt I could comprehend a bit about pearl world and its implication, such as long history of pearl and jewelry, scientific feature of pearl, formation of cultured pearls industry, water environment, and so on. It’s a valuable experience for me. Mikimoto M- Illust x01
I’d like to make a further report on the “Mikimoto Kokichi Memorial Hall” in the Island next.






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Visit NYK Maritime Museum and Mitsubishi

日本郵船歴史館と三菱史料館訪問 2018.08

— The museum lively shows a history of Japanese maritime industry and Mitsubishi Zaibatsu development

NYK- Logo x01.JPG      I recently had chance to visit the “NYK Maritime Museum ofNYK- Maritime x14.JPG History” in Yokohama and Mitsubishi Historic Museum in Tokyo. These Museums clearly show the development story of shipping industry in Japan from the Meiji period to now and the evolution by Mitsubishi Group.  By visiting two museums, I felt to be able to understand NYK- Maritime x23.JPGslightly how Japanese maritime and shipping industries were formed and advanced as well as the history of Mitsubishi Zaibatsu which had first built maritime business in Meiji as a foundation and grew to the Japanese major industrial giant.NYK- Mitsubishi x06.JPG

So, I could understand a bit about the development process of maritime industry of japan by visiting the museum, and I was able to learn of certain pattern of business development process of Japanese conglomerate like Mitsubishi and others.

This is a description of visiting impression.

♣  History and exhibition of NYK Maritime Museum

  NYK- Illust x02.JPG   “NYK Maritime History Museum” located in the Yokohama Yusen Building near Yokohama Port. This historic museum exhibits the NYK- Maritime x07.JPGdevelopment story of NYK as well as the evolution of Mitsubishi business group from the early Meiji era. The founder of the business was Iwasaki Yataro, a former lower class of Samurai in Tosa, Shikoku, who set up a maritime company called “Tsukumo Shoji”, and NYK- Maritime x04.JPGadvanced it to “Nipponkoku Yubin Jokisen Kaisha (Postal Steam Ship Mitsubishi Co.”  The museum describes how the Iwasaki family established of Mitusbishi group and established the NYK Line as a major maritime enterprise. This way of development looked like representing the advancement of maritime business as well as heavy industries in the whole Japan since Meiji period.


♣  Exhibition is arranged by timeline of f NYK Lines development.

NYK- Maritime x05.JPG      The first displays are the story of dawn era of NYK from the period of “Tsukumo” to the born of NYK. The second corner is describing the expansion process of maritime business of NYK which hadNYK- Maritime x01.JPG cultivated the full-fledged international routes for the first time, the third part treats with the situation of shipping business at the period of wartimes, when was forced to be mobilized NYK- Maritime x03.JPGinto military operation and got devastating damage with it. The fourth exhibition is for the period of the postwar story proceeding to the revival and new advancement of shipping business in the post war’s innovative way. (Museum categorize them into 1 to 9 corners in the category)

And in each corner, various model of ships used in each period, operation instruments and machinery of ships, photographs and maps for NYK- Maritime x06.JPGsailing, maritime related documents, and other exhibits are displayed in rich with the commentaries in detail. Many of them are designated as the “Japanese Industry Historic Treasury “.
The main ones are listed as follows.


< Principle exhibits in the museum> >

There are lots of exhibits are shown in the Museum, for example.NYK- Maritime x24.JPG
NYK- Logo x05.JPG The Rainwater Tank (made around 1870) used in the “Tsukumo” period, memorial document of NYK Establishment Order (Government ordered the merger of the “Mitsubishi” and “Kyodo”, and established “NYK Line in1885),      Scale model of Takasago Maru which was a memorial ship for the first overseas route vessel (built in the UK in NYK- Maritime x25.JPGNYK- Maritime x23.JPG1859), window frame of Suwa Maru which was a passenger ship first built by Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard for the European navigation route(1914),
Time bell of the Tenyo Maru (1909) used for the San Francisco route, A model of the luxury liner Asama Maru built in 1929, a maritime hexagon tool used in Hikawa Maru (first operated in the North Pacific routes in 1930s), An inscription of Noto Maru discovered in the Manila NYK- Ships x07.JPGBay where the ship was sunk by US Army inked sea (Displayed as a symbol of war damage), etc.
Besides these materials, there are many exhibits, such as the structure model of mammoth tanker vessel constructed in Nagasaki Shipyard in the 1970s and others, the elaborate model of latest luxury passenger liner “Asuka” in 1990s, and others.NYK- Illust x04.JPG
Looking at these exhibits, it can be known how Japan began to launch into the maritime business in the Edo and Meiji period, and how created the “NYK Line” for opening overseas shipping routes as core of the operation, and how the Mitsubishi Group was involved in this shipping field.

Also, the unforgettable fact was revealed too in the exhibition that shows howNYK- Ships x08.JPG Japan’s maritime lines were closely interconnected with the Japanese Navy practices, not only engaging in the private merchant businesses in terms of their shipbuilding and also navigation. And during wartime, the special adoption of commercial ships for military use caused NYK- Illust x14.JPGserious sacrifices and damages in large scale. These facts were exhibited in photos and commentaries, and even a large memorial statue for war victim was placed in the hall to show this.


♣  Development of Mitsubishi Zaibatsu and NYK Line

NYK- Mitsubishi x03.JPG     After visiting NYK Maritime Museum, I stopped by “Mitsubishi Historic Museum” to examine the relation NYK- Mitsubishi x05.JPGbetween Mitsubishi Zaibatsu and its shipping industry. This museum located in Ueno, Tokyo. Nearby there’s a Mitsubishi’s luxurious “Furukawa Residence” situated which had been built in the Meiji era, so the location looks clearly associated with Mitsubishi group from the early time.

NYK- Mitsubishi x08.JPGAt the entrance hall of the museum, a large statue of Yataro Iwasaki (a founder of Mitsubishi Zaibatsu) has proudly placed.  The museum exhibits a lot of panels, photographs and documents which show the NYK- Mitsubishi x07.JPGfounding history and development of Mitsubishi business group in the various forms.

It is believed that Mitsubishi group’s founding is deeply involved in the shipping industry in the early Meiji.  As it’s well known, Yataro Iwasaki NYK- Mitsubishi x01.JPGfirst launched the “Tsukumo Trading” company under the Tosa clan just before the Meiji restoration, and established his own company “Mitsubishi Trading Co.” NYK- Mitsubishi x11.JPGlater under the strong support from the Meiji government.  And the company first embarked the maritime business by its own ships which had been assigned to transport trade and military goods for the Meiji government. Then, with this operation, NYK- Mitsubishi x10.JPGNYK- Logo x02.JPGMitsubishi could hold a leading position in the shipping industry for the first time. However, in the midst, the head-to-head competition started with the newly born “Kyodo Unyu Co.” (Joint transportation company) of Shibusawa which was against the monopolistic action of Mitsubishi shipping business. NYK- Ships x02.JPGUnder these circumstances, the two companies were finally going to merged for avoiding competition and formed the new “NYK Line Company” by the government arbitration. However, even under the new NYK company, the influence of Mitsubishi was still significant that theNYK- Mitsubishi x12.JPG management of new company has been continuously operated under the Mitsubishi’s leadership for the long time.      However, the business focus of Mitsubishi group itself had been gradually shifted from marine NYK- Illust x05.JPGtransportation to the other businesses field like shipbuilding, machinery, electric products, finance, and trading and others. And it successfully took advanced on the way to big conglomerate

through radical expansion of transformation of business afterward.

NYK- Mitsubishi x09.JPGIn summary, Mitsubishi, which built the foundation in marine business in Japan, had rapidly involved in the coal mine business in Kyushu (Takashima coal mine, etc.), shipbuilding business in Nagasaki (Nagasaki Shipyard), monetary and finance industry (later Mitsubishi Bank), warehouse industry (Mitsubishi Warehouse and real estate), and so on.

NYK- Mitsubishi x13.JPGIt was said that Iwasaki Yanosuke and its Hisaya (They were the second and third generation of Iwasaki family) had played a key role to do this diversification, with adopting modern management style in this expanding process.
Japanese industry, which originally started from the shipping industry aiming to NYK- Illust x16.JPGpromote business overseas after ending isolation policy of Edo, shifted the development target to the variety of fields, like shipbuilding industry and coal, steelmaking and mining development, and continued to multiply the manufacturing industrial fields. In that sense, Mitsubishi typically followed in this line.

♣  Genealogy of Ocean Liner on NYK Line

NYK- Illust x07.JPG  As mentioned above, the NYK Historical Museum exhibits lots of scaleNYK- Ships x01.JPG models of ocean ships and memorial goods in the hall.  Looking into the development history of international ocean lines of Japan, “Tosamaru” was the first ship explored the international route to Europe in 1896, and consecutively the NYK- Ships x04.JPGdomestic “Tenyo maru” which produced by a Japanese shipbuilder was setting up service on the Pacific route in 1908. These are well exhibited in the museum as historic evidences of Japan’s shipping liners.     As for the luxurious passenger ships, the subsequent “Asama Maru” (1929 -),  Chichibu Maru (1930 -) and other ocean liners which become famous for their elaborate facilities and services are displayed too.

The Museum exhibits an array of scale model of these historic passenger ships alongNYK- Maritime x22.JPG NYK- Maritime x08.JPGwith dining tables, artistic interiors, memorial photos and so on which would make recall their flourishing days.      Among them, the large luxury liner “Hikawa Maru” operated by NYK Line in the North Pacific routes in 1930, was well known for her artistic shape and marvelous interiors on which many NYK- Maritime x15.JPGcelebrities such as Chaplin and others international figures had been on board.  NYK- Logo x03.JPG     But this Hikawa Maru experienced the turbulent fates, in which the ship was one time diverted to a hospital ship during wartime, then used as a home-returning ship for war victims just after the war, and backed to the ordinary commercial ship in 1960s. Currently, the ship is moored in the harbor park of Yokohama being served as a facility attached to the NYK NYK- Maritime x16.JPGNYK- Maritime x21.JPGMuseum.When visiting this Hikawa Maru’, I was very much impressed by the elaborate interior, good looking guest rooms, wonderful restaurant room, and so on. It could remind us the good old flowing days of Japanese ocean liners.


♣   NYK Line cruiser which was wrecked by war

NYK- Maritime x20.JPG     Many ships, including NYK Line, were forced engaging in military transport services, or diverted to the military ships during the war time, because they were under the strong control of NYK- Ships x10.JPGJapanese navy. As a result, during the Pacific War, many people, crew members, and the ships themselves were experienced severe damages and sacrifices. The Museum provides a lot NYK- Ships x06of space for the war damages corner with strong attention to this tragic period in the exhibition.

According to the material, the number of ships NYK- Maritime x10.JPGwhich lost by NYK was over 185 thousand tons (2568 grubber tonnage 8.4 million tons total in Japan), and, in addition, it is said that 5,000 sailed employee crew members had been sacrificed. If it counts the civilians and military personnel who were ravaged, the numbers would be multiplied.         NYK- Illust x03.JPG   This symbolic display for this was a rusted ship name board of the “Noto Maru” which was bombed and sunk, and later pulled up from the deep sea after the war.This is an clear evidence of the war tragedy and the fate of commercial ships recruited for the military purpose.   A lot of photos of vessels which had lost during the war were also displayed in the museum, so we can’t help surprising huge scale of the sacrifices by the war.

♣  Resurrection and development of the postwar shipping business

NYK- Illust x11.JPG       The restoration of postwar shipping lines started from the catastrophic wartime damage and the strict control at the Allied occupation, so it was never easy way. The new shipping service was begun with the transport of overseas returnees and a small scale of maritime operation only NYK- Ships x11.JPGaround the coast of Japan in this period.     However, it is said that the revival of shipping business has been advanced quickly by the special recruitment from the Korean War around 1950s. NYK- Ships x09.JPGAnd in the 1960s, the shipping service was accelerated by playing a major role as industrial infrastructure building along with the fast economic growth of Japan. This movement was also strengthened by the revival of postwar Japan NYK- Maritime x12.JPGshipbuilding industry and the increasing demand of freight shipping that were promoted Japanese overseas trades and business activities. NYK- Ships x12.JPG      This representative was “Heian Maru” of NYK Line, which was inaugurated in 1951. After that, the regular freight lines began to operate in Japan one after the other, and during 1960s it reached NYK- Maritime x13.JPGto the exceeding level of shipping capacity at the pre-war time. Among them NYK played a major role, and the shipping business began to be diversified into the operation of big oil NYK- Illust x13.JPGtankers and others responding to the strong demand of oil import from the Middle East.     Also, since the 1970s, NYK further diversified its business with beginning of LNG carriers and container ships business to promote the efficiency of NYK- Illust x10shipping services (for the example the container ship “Hakone Maru” built by Japan shipbuilder).
Of course, these are the general trends of shipping industry throughout Japan, but NYK played a leading role in this movement.

Meanwhile, the business of passenger liners was largely behind in comparison with Europe and the United States, but in this century, NYK- Maritime x19.JPGa luxury liner “Asuka II” was born by NYK, following the operation of the first “Asuka” in 1990s, it was beginning of challenges again in this field too. I was happened to observe the scale model of this “Asuka II” which was displayed even only for the promotion purpose in the Museum,Although it is still uncertain whether this cruise ship business can be successfully formed as lucrative business in Japan, but I felt the spirit of NYK is still in life there.


Last remark

NYK- Logo x01.JPG    Through this visit, I could slightly understand how the shipping industry had been deployed in Japan from the initialNYK- Ships x05.JPG period and how rapidly diversified its businesses to other areas like seeing in the NYK development, and could also find the origin of the Mitsubishi Zaibatsu which had started with shipping NYK- Illust x16.JPGbusiness in the early time of Meiji.
I felt that there are some implications in the exhibition how Japanese shipping industry, especially NYK, has evolved responding to the changes of Japanese economy and society there. I thought it was a valuable museum to know the development pattern of shipping industry in Japan as well as history of business conglomerate Zsaibatsu like Mitsubishi.

(Note) Because photographing of the exhibits in the Museum was forbidden, the pictures and photographs in the site have referred to the museum guide, pamphlets, photographs, various materials on the website.



  • 「日本郵船歴史博物館」 案内書 (日本郵船)
  • 「三菱の歩み」 三菱史料館
  • A brief history of Mitsubishi (Mitsubishi Economic Research Institute)
  • 日本郵船歴史博物館HP:
  • 産業技術史資料共通データベース:
  • 日本の海運史(日本船主協会)
  • 近代日本の海運史を伝える ~日本郵船歴史博物館と日本郵船氷川丸〜(鈴木久美子)
  • 氷川丸 – Wikipedia
  • 浅間丸 – Wikipedia
  • 天洋丸級貨客船 – Wikipedia
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Visit Tokyo Waterworks Historical Museum

 —  Explore the water management and technology in Edo and Meiji period


Water M- illust 09.JPG     It would be easy to be able imagine that Edo city, where the population had Water M- overview 01.JPGalready surpassed the scale of a million in 19th century, couldn’t have kept the stable and feasible town life in the city, without enough supply system of usable water supply for the people.  The “Waterworks History Museum” in Tokyo described how these waterworks were constructed in the Edo period, and Water M- overview 04.JPGtried to show how these engineering technologies were passed on to the present water system with inherited technology. The museum also informed how waterworks have benefited to our social life, as well as the people’s wisdom to construct them. Under these understanding I visited this historic museum of waterworks in Tokyo recently. This is the record of my visit.

♣  Outline of Tokyo Waterworks History Museum

Water M- illust 03.JPG      “The Museum ” was established in 1995 in Hongo (Bunkyo ward, Water M- overview 05.JPGTokyo) for introducing 400 years’ development history of water supply system in Edo and Tokyo. The facility was inherited the former “Waterworks Reference Hall” at the “Yodobashi Water Purification Plant (1898) and it had passed on to “Water Supply Museum” in 1884. After that this museum was upgraded to the current “History Museum”. It made the major renewal renovation too in 2009.

Water M- Edo Johsui 12.JPGA variety of historic materials related water supply were displayed at the museum. For example, historic traits of Edo-Kanda “Josui” (waterway) in the 17th century, development trace of Tamagawa Waterway, uncovered sites of Water M- Edo Johsui 10.JPGunderground network system of “Water supply channel” in the city of Edo, evolution process to the “modern water service” after the Meiji era, way of securing water sources to the present age, historic evolution of water purification technology, and others. The many goods and materials is involved in the exhibition, like full size models of water channels and old documents of waterworks excavated and historical maps, chronology of development, dioramas and pictures, and so on. These exhibits are amazingly rich.

♣  History  of water supply  observed in Edo period

Water M- illust 12.JPGIt is said that the first construction of full-fledged water supply in Japan Water M- Meiji 11.JPGwas the Odawara Hayakawa Waterway” by Hojyo Ujiyasu in 1540s. After period in 1590s, Tokugawa Ieyasu entered Edo to build Edo Castle and began to develop surrounding towns. He had actively engaged in the construction works on the coastal reclamation (Hibiya inlet), opening of the moat, river refurbishment, including the completion works of water supply to serve people’s life in castle town Edo.

Water M- illust 13.JPG       Initially, Edo government planned to supply water by the Koishikawa waterway, but later this was upgraded to Kanda Josui Waterway. This waterway was using “Inokashira pond” as a water source, and made it going Water M- Edo Johsui 09.JPGthrough to “Sekiguchi-Mura”, then planned to lead to Mito daimyo’s residence, and it was channeled over the Kanda River by an overhead bridge “Kakehi”.  After that finally the water was managed to distribute to the downtown area in Edo city. This Kanda Josui Waterway Water M- Edo Johsui 05.JPGhad been constantly used in the Edo castle town until Meiji period.  So the Kakehi bridge was painted well by famous artists in the artistic Nishikie Paint (multi-color woodblock picture). (This picture is displayed in the Museum. This is an evidence that Kanda waterway site and the bridge were an enjoyable recreation site of local citizens, not only for the daily water use).  This water supply system seems to show the high-level technology at the time that was able to flow the water by siphon principle transcending the complicated topographic conditions.

<Kanda Josui to Tamagwa Josui>

Water M- Tamagawa 05.JPG       However, even after the “Kanda Josui Waterway” construction, the Water M- Tamagawa 06.JPGdemands of water were further multiplied due to the rapid population growth in the Edo town.  Then the Edo government was pressed to secure massive waterway responding these demands. As a counter measure Tokugawa government had chosen the“Tama river” as the additional water source, and the construction began under this idea.  The construction of “Tamagawa Josui Waterway” was Water M- Tamagawa 01.JPGlaunched in 1653 by amazingly a private contractor, named the Water M- Tamagawa 02.JPGShoemon and Seiemon, a ample rich farmer in the outskirt region of Edo city.

The project had been planned to construct the intake gate at the point of Hamura of Tama river which was far away from Edo town, and it had to excavate the waterway of 43 km to the “Yotsuya” in the central Edo city, all the way with overcoming compound topographical conditions. It can image the project was really challenging at the time under the short of enough construction equipment and technological barriers at that time.

Water M- Edo Johsui 14.JPG     This “Tamagawa Josui” was distributed through the underground water channels from Yotsuya area, and Water M- Edo Johsui 11.JPGafter that supplied as drinkable water through out of town in Edo city. In this network, many wood-made water pipes “Mokuhi” were embedded in underground, and the water was delivered every corner using these wooden pipes. The waterworks are boasted to be architected by quite high engineering skills in terms of its Water M- Edo Johsui 07.JPGprecision level which hardly seen even in the world. In addition, it is believed that the waterway had been distributed under the solid management that is controlling water volume by regulation and inspecting water quality at the several Water M- Edo Johsui 01.JPGdepts by the government. The water was delivered to the public wells in town and was shared among the residences neighbored. The water utility fees were calculated by used     volumes and defined by the government.

Water M- Tamagawa 03.JPGAlso, we have to remember fact that this Tamagawa waterways was used as the irrigation channels near the Edo regions as well, and they were used for the new development of paddy field under the Shogunate for expanding agricultural production and economic development too. (This situation is described well in the Museum)

<Edo Johsui’s prominent exhibition>

Water M- overview 02.JPG       At the museum, the real “Josui” water pipes and actual wells models, and the water distribution maps in the Edo period are Water M- illust 06.JPGdisplayed elaborately. These makes us realize the high waterway construction technology and sophisticated management system at that time. Because of these reasons, the Edo was able to grow till matured urban city which Water M- Edo Johsui 16was able to host a million of residences by securing enough living water.

Although it was not on the subject at the visited museum, it is known that the sewage system of the Edo period was also excellent. (I’d like to investigate this subject later if possible)       The water system of London and Paris is well known, but it can be say that the Edo case was seldom found even in Europe in this scale of water supply at the same period.


♣  Construction of modern waterworks in Meiji period

Water M- illust 01.JPG      However, as the Edo era end and the Shogunate administration shifted Water M- overview 06.JPGto Tokyo, the policy of waterworks has changed to new directions.  Since “Edo’s Water supply lines” were beginning deteriorated caused by degrading wooden water pipes and poor management under the Shogunate at the brink of collapse. Then, the epidemics, like cholera and other diseases, frequently occurred and the hygiene problem became serious in the beginning of Meiji.

Water M- illust 14.JPG    For this reason, the Meiji government was forced immediately to construct a new water system that can supply the high purified waterWater M- overview 03.JPG in massive scale. Then the government set up a revision committee on waterworks and decided to construct a modern water supply system by preparing the “Tokyo Prefectural Water Improvement Design Document” in 1877.

This measure was based on the concept that the tapped Water M- Meiji 04.JPGsource water in the river was led to the pant at the designated points, and filtered and pumped out through iron pipes to the modern public water ways in the city. This system became a norm of Tokyo modern water supply afterward. And while advancing the modern water supply this way, Tokyo prefecture was actively conducting repair work of securing safety of drinking water by Water M- Meiji 07.JPGrefining existing wooden pipes and canals, strengthening crackdown on water pollution.   Regarding planning and construction of this modern water way, UK’s engineers Palmer and Harton greatly contributed in Meiji Period by introduction of the advanced Western technology.
The plan was roughly designed like that. The water of Tamagawa river was led to the Water M- Meiji 01Sendagaya plant for sediment and filter process, then sent it to the water supply plant of Azabu and Koishikawa. From there water was pumped out to the city using iron pipes buried underground.

On the other hand, Nakajima Eiji, an engineer of Waterworks Improvement Office of Tokyo City, has greatly contributed for the implWater M- Meiji 05.JPGementation of plan and the revision of whole design of this project. So, the actual construction was launched by changing the route to the Yodobashi plant for water purification and designated Hongo and Ashiba plants for water supply and water distribution.
From this contribution, the portraits of both Water M- Meiji 12.JPGforeign engineers of UK and Nakajima are displayed in the museum as great contributors of modern water service in Tokyo.    In addition, the museum exhibits a variety of goods and materials, such as the water distribution maps of the time, the water iron pipes and various shape water taps as the monuments showing the development of modern water supply in Tokyo in the initial stage.

♣   Growing  megalopolis Tokyo and improvement of  water supply

Water M- overview 07.JPG      However, Tokyo, which became the metropolitan capital, couldn’t keep up with the huge demand of water if based on the previous facility because of rapid population growth. To deal with these problems, the “Murayama Reservoir” dam was Water M- Dam 01.JPGplanned to construct, in addition to the enhancement of capacity of the Sakai‘s water purification plant, expansion of the waterway and other projects around 1911. In implementation process of these, many obstacles and technological challenges were involved, but after the decades finally the projects were completed by overcoming these Water M- Meiji 06.JPGdifficulties step by step. The museum exhibits these evidences together with detailed explanations of engineering elaborations, and materials, real machinery and equipment  really used.

When we are looking into the long historic process though, the modern waterworks in Tokyo Water M- Dam 02.JPGhas suffered from the countless devastation due to the massive natural disasters and war damages, such as the Great Kanto Earthquake in the 1920s, the subsequent flooding, and calamity caused by the Pacific War of the 1940s, and others. However, in the course of overcoming these Water M- Meiji 13.JPGdifficulties, the civil engineering technology has amazingly advanced and water management was showing the outstanding achievement. For examples, the successful construction of the Ogochi dam, the completion of of Higashi-murayama water treatment plant, the installation of Water M- Meiji 10.JPGKanamachi water purification plant, the reinforcement of the Kinuta water purification plant, and so on.
Even after the War, several new projects and expansion plans were launched too, such as the construction of new water channel to intake water from the Tone River, the start operations of water purification Water M- Meiji 08.JPGplant at Asaka and Misato area, and enhancement of the Kanamachi water purification plant. They are still continuously working now with technological improvement.

And the Yodobashi water purification plant (established in 1898), which became the starting point of Tokyo’s modern water development, was relocated to Higashi-murayama in 1965 with the several Water M- Meiji 14.JPGscaled-up function added. The former Yodobashi site was redeveloped and transformed into the great urban center ” Tokyo’s Subcenter Shinjuku,” which is now fully filled with multi lines of high-rise buildings. This Yodobashi water purification plant is now renown as a certain monument which symbolizes the development of Water M- illust 02.JPGTokyo’s urban development itself. The part of building of the Yodobashi Purification Plant was exhibited in the museum as a museum monument, and it seems to silently describe the history of modern waterworks in Tokyo.

♣  Remarks after visit

Water M- illust 10.JPG      The most impressive things in my visit was the high level of civil Water M- illust 05.JPGengineering technology of the waterworks built in the Edo era and the well-organized  water supply systems at that time. And it was enjoyable to be able to see the historical process to build modern dynamic waterworks since the Meiji era. It is obvious that securing effective “water supply” is crucial for the metropolitan big cities and to keep the healthy and sound social life in the society. Water M- Meiji 15.JPGMoreover, the elaborate water network is indispensable to industrial development.   By visiting museum, I was able to deepen my knowledge about the water problems in history.
These days, there are many reports that numerous artifacts of the Edo period have been excavating at construction sites in Tokyo. These old artifacts would beWater M- overview 04 the evidence to show the situation of the community life and social systems, as well as the level of civil engineering technology at that time. (These excavations and artifacts are extensively exhibited at the museum.) The museum has also disclosed the fact that Edo was a really matured city which seldom seen in the world at the time of the 18th century. I can recognize how the water network has been evolved until now and what sorts of problems they are now facing too.   The museum was really an educational to know these history and reality.






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Visit Japan Stationary Museum in Tokyo

 - Explore the roots of writing and painting tools in history —

Bungu- illust x14.JPG     There’s interesting museum displaying stationery instruments inBungu- outline x01.JPG Asakusa-bashi, Tokyo, so I visited there recently in my curiosity. Name of this museum is “Japan Stationary Museum”, where the variety of historic goods for the business and educational use are collected and exhibited in global scale. This facility is proud of huge collection of ancient writing tools and its historic documents, such as variety of Chinese and Japanese brushes and ink-stones, precious pencils old and new, fountain pens, and others. We Bungu- outline x03.JPGcan also see the many type of calculators and typewriters there too.
It is a bit small and casual type of Bungu- illust x06.JPGmuseum, but I’m impressed that the contents of the collection are surprisingly excellent and superb. So these exhibitions could make us aware of how our species have been cultivating the technology of “Recording and Documenting” for expanding our social activities.
Here I summarized features of the museum, and briefly introduced the development of writing instruments in my view.

♣  Outline of Stationery Museum

Bungu- illust x03.JPG       The Museum was established in 1980 at the Yanagibashi, Bungu- outline x04.JPGs in Tokyo under the collaboration of the leading stationery production companies. And after opening it has expanded function in 2004 by adding the collections of former “Stationery Science Hall” which was located in Azabu, Tokyo.

Bungu- pen x2.JPG     The Museum exhibits precious historic instruments with extensive commentaries, such as ancient scripts (cuneiform) on the clay boards, old pens called stylus, medieval feather pens, in addition to the graphite writing instrument which became the original form of pencils. And as a rare collection, we can see the first pencils in Japan which introduced in Japan in 16th century and owned by Date Masamune and Tokugawa Ieyasu, aBungu- pencil x05.JPG famous historical figure in the medieval period of Japan. (The exhibits in the museum are unfortunately replicas though. The Ieyasu’s original on is treasured in Toshogu-Kunosan Shrine)

        It is also interesting to see the collections of traditional Chinese and Japanese old brushes and ink-stones. The exhibited these writing instruments are Bungu- illust x10.JPGimpressive. It is showing how they were historically changed and developed in the process. For example, evolvement of pencils, changes in ink pen and development of fountain pens, birth and development of felt pen and ballpoint as new writing tools, etc.Bungu- J brush x05.JPG

In addition to the writing instruments, they are showing transitions of typewriters and computing tools too as major exhibits. The visitors can notice there the traits of development from abacus, manual calculates to electric calculators, and the evolution of typewriters from manual to electric ones, and word processor and PC in the exhibition.


♣  Pencils and their evolution seen in the exhibition

Bungu- illust x15.JPG      The structure of modern pencils is said to consist of solidifying graphite (mass of Bungu- pencil x01.JPGcarbon) and a wooden shaft wrapped it. Before the pencil was born, people had used lead and coal for writing, and they were called the “lead brass” (lead pencil). This original form was invented in England in the 16th century, where the bare graphite crystals from the mice vein were used with simply wrapping them by threads or wires. In the medieval ages, stylus tool, reed pen, feather pen were Bungu- pencil x04.JPGcommonly used as writing tool, but because of its convenience the pencil writing has gradually spread and it became popular tools. Around this period, the Ieyasu’s pencil is said to be imported via the Netherlands.Bungu- pencil x03.JPG    Regarding the technical development of pencils, the invention of “Conte method” by a French painter, in which graphite is mixed in clay and baked at high temperature, is important. It is said that pencil industry was consolidated by this technology advancement and the mass production led by this method.

After that, the pencil was popularized as a convenient stationery tool in the world. Particularly the establishment of the stationery companies, like Tedlar and Farber in Germany, has reinforced this trend.

<Japan’s pencil collection>

 Bungu- pencil x09.JPG       In Japan, after the Meiji era, several companies, such as Mazaki Pencil (now Mitsubishi Pencil) and Tombo Pencil were established and contributed to the diffusion of writing tools particularly for the school education.
The Museum displays the abundant sample products of pencil with commentary on their Bungu- pencil x07.JPGdevelopment history as well as the manufacturing process of them. Then, the substantial knowledge on the pencils and other writing instruments could be available by visiting. And also the visitors could realize how variety and multiple purpose pencils are existed in the world.

♣  Chinese and Japanese Brush culture in the Exhibition

Bungu- illust x08.JPG       In Japan and China, brush and China-black ink have been widely used as essential instruments for writings and canvas paintings from the early Bungu- J brush x03.JPGtime. The origin wasn’t so clear, but some say it could be back to the fourth century BC in China, just before the Yin or Zhou period. In Japan, the oldest record of brush, named as “Tenpyo brush”, was used for copying Buddhist texts in the period of 7th century. This replica is Bungu- J brush x04.JPGexhibited in the museum. After that period, brush type of writing instrument has become widely spread for the purpose of writing letters, government instructions, documents, poet descriptions and other purposes. besides paintings.

Bungu- J brush x02.JPG     In the Edo period, even portable convenient writing tools “Yadate” which combines brush and ink as a set was invented for letter writing and other purposes on the road. The museum displays abundant “Yadate” collections which were used as popular writing Bungu- J brush x01tools as well as aesthetic ornaments at that time.
The exhibition of old inks tones is also superb and it seems that these should be prized as a preferable artistic goods in upper class society, not only as a mere writing tool.


♣  Pen’s history and exhibition of fountain pen in the Museum

Bungu- pen x1.JPG      The museum is proud of rich collection of historic writing tools “pen” too. It is known that feather pens were used as a writing tool for long time in Western Europe from the ancient period. But there was a drawback that its tip is easily wearing. For this reason, Bungu- pen x03.JPGthe development of durable tip using metal had been experimented for long time. In this process, the first metallic pen was created in the 1780s by adding crack on the metal tip. Then, in the 1800’s the full-fledged practical metal pens were finally born.

Bungu- pen x09.JPG      In the meantime, in 1809, UK’s Frederic B. Forsch invented a system to store ink in the pen’s body applying the air exchange function. This is the Bungu- pen x10.JPGorigin of so called “Fountain pen” and later this function became a license product which allowed to enter many manufacturers in this field.

During this period, Waterman launched the business in fountain pen in 1884, and Onto, Parker, Pelican, Mont Blanc, etc. were followed suite one after another.  These fountain pen manufacturers are still continuing their businesses until now as major stationery makers.
Bungu- pen x07.JPGAfter that, the refinement of ink, improvement of its suction, replenishment system, and other technology advancement have been continued.  As a result, now the fountain pen has become one of the most popular and major practical writing tools.

For the collection all in the museum, the feather pens, primitive metal pens, precious historic fountain pens and other collections were lined up on the display shelves with the real ones, replicas, and photographs. Then visitors can fully examine the development history of pen and fountain pen there.

<Japan’s fountain pen development>

  Bungu- illust x04.JPG     Bungu- pen x06.JPG The first introduction of fountain pen in Japan was in 1895 of Meiji period, when the Maruzen Co. imported several fountain pens for sale. Later, the domestic pen makers attempted to start the fountain making businesses. For example, Sailor in 1911, Pilot in 1916, Platina in 1919. It is interesting to see these sample of historic fountain pens made by Bungu- pen x05.JPGJapanese manufacturers and know the development of stationery companies of Japan in this field.
In addition, Japan’s original “Makie Fountain Pens” (aesthetic lacquer-coated fountain pen) as high-class preference goods were excellent exhibition too.


♣  Other office equipment and stationery exhibits

Bungu- calculator x02.JPGBungu- illust x17.JPG    Beside writing instruments, the museum displays computing tools, light printing machines, typewriters and other office instruments too. They exhibited various calculation tools, like Japanese and Chinese abacuses old and new, many types of calculators from manual to electric and digital ones, “Dentaku “calculators, and so on. We can understand well about transition of tools and machines used for essential means of science, technology and business of calculation.

<Development of unique Japanese typewriters>

        Typewriters are indispensable means for making documents in modern society, but Bungu- Typewriter x01.JPGin Japan they had to step on their own development way because they should handle more than 2000 Kanji characters. So, the unique Japanese typewriters were produced and used until the 1960s. This typewriter was the form of the “Flatly arranged Kanji-plate” typewriters. This was used until the “kana-kanji” Bungu- Typewriter x02.JPGconversion by PC was born in Japan. It is interesting that this original form of ” Kanji-plate” typewriters are displayed in parallel with many Western type typewriters. It seems these exhibitions are really making us feel how the evolution of office equipment were happened in the business scene.

<Other precious collection>

  Bungu- knife x01.JPG      The exhibition of the paper knife was also fun. Paper knife is said to be widely used in Europe and the United States, and it has been appreciated as a practical but artistic decoration tool. In the exhibition, numerous paper knives from all over the world are lining up on the shelf, and it is interesting that they are showing their own national characteristics.Bungu- casher x01.JPG

Visitors could also find some unusual exhibitions in the museum too. They are “super-large brush” made from 50 horse’s tail hair, a “cash register” in the Meiji era, Karakami woodblocks used in the Edo period, large crystal seals, gold seal imprints of King Alan King and others. These looked priceless collection to us.

♣  Remarks after the visit

Bungu- illust x05.JPG     Although it was a small museum which was built only by the Bungu- pen x02.JPGhand of the Association of Stationery Makers’, I’ve got impressed much about the collection which was excellent also very rich in contents.       It shows us how human being has developed writing instruments as the means of social communication and civilization in history.    I recalled that it was a valuable museum which makes us feel that “stationery” Bungu- illust x19is an important and indispensable tool for our society and promotion of culture, historically as well as practically.
The museum guide describes that the stationery, particularly writing instrument, is the “means to shape culture”. I was aware of it while visiting the museum.     I’d like to visit again with a new point of view in thinking “culture” of writing tools and other stationarys.



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  • トンボ鉛筆HP


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Visit Paper Museum in Oji, Tokyo

A museum for deepening knowledge about paper’s culture

paper museum- Logo x01.JPG       Invention of paper and its development have greatly benefited to  thepaper museum- Hall x01.JPG society in its lifestyle and cultivated the new frontier of cultural evolution in history. There’s a museum to make us feel like that.  The “Paper Museum” in the Ohji district, Tokyo which established in 1998 is that.  I encountered the fortune vising this museum lately.
paper museum- history x01.JPG       This museum was describing the global history of paper with its socio-cultural impact, and evolution of Japan’s “Washi” paper and other interesting subjects, including  current trends of recent paper industry in Japan,  features of  papers used in our daily use.  Here’s the my impression of visit.


♣  Outline and significance of Museum Exhibition

paper museum- illust x15.JPGThe Museum is well noted for the rich collection of materials on thepaper museum- machine x03.JPG history of paper as well as exhibiting huge valuable paper products.
For example, aesthetic paper arts, historic paper-making machinery, raw materials and products, and documents on the present situation of modern paper industry are displayed. We can find there many exhibits showing the paper-making paper museum- illust x11.JPGmachines, the paper recycling system, and the variety type of paper products. There’s also a corner of “Classroom” to experiment the paper production process in practice. But the particular exhibits among them are on the history of paper development, especially the development of “Washi” paper (handmade paper in Japanese unique  way).paper museum- factory x01.JPG

The museum was originally called as “Papermaking Memorial Hall” by managed “Shoshi Co” (later Oji Paper Co., Ltd.) to exhibit historical materials on paper in the early Meiji era, and renovated to the current facility in 1998.

♣  Paper art collection at the entrance Exhibition hall

paper museum- illust x09       The first monument found in the hall is a portrait picture of “Prince paper museum- history x05.JPGShotoku “ who was believed to introduce the “paper” first to Japan in the Buddhist Sutras. This is a highly artistic painting depicted on the ultra-large size hand-made paper by a famous painter for the memorial to the Museum.
The other memorial goods in the hall is a “Boro Cooker” that is a kettle like pot used for boiling tattered paper museum- machine x04.JPGclothes as a raw material of in the beginning of Meiji period. This primitive device reminds us the days of dawn era of Japanese modern paper industry in the Meiji era.. The museum shop was also attractive place where we can see and buy various Origami (fold paper), paper crafts, paper dolls and other memorial goods.

♣  Corner of the modern paper industry and its products

paper museum- machine x05.JPG     In this corner, the paper manufacturing process, the current form of raw materials, the paper machines currently used, the paper forms in various purposes, the way of usageof paper, and other exhibits are introduced with paper museum- Recycle x03.JPGvarious physical objects, models, panels, and the like.
In refer to the paper making ways, the raw materials of modern paper were “rag cloth” or “wheat straw” in the infant period. But the materials have gradually shifted to the wood pulp for its mass production, and also moved from the pulp of coniferous trees to broad leaf trees. The paper museum- Raw M x01.JPGbackground was the rapidly increasing demand for papers as well as mechanization of paper making industry.

And the source of them have also changed from domestic woods to the imported ones as the times advancing. Furthermore it is said that paper museum- Recycle x02.JPGabout 60 paper museum- Logo illudt x01.JPGpercent of paper materials are said to be supplied by the recycled old paper now. This process is exhibited fully in the panels and the actual things including the indications of volume of production, the technology and machinery advancement, and their source materials.  So we can easily figure out of the practical advancement of the modern paper making industry in Japan.

paper museum- illust x18.JPG      However, the most interesting exhibits were the dynamicpaper museum- Peoducts x01 forms of paper products. There are variety of printing papers, multiple newspapers, colorful wrapping paper, cardboard, special “Paper Cloth” for ritual costumes, aesthetic skin paper of “golden peel paper”, IC board papers embedded for electronic equipment, and many others exhibited. It is really amazing how widely the paper are used as essential products for our social settings.


♣  “The history of paper and the world of Japanese “Washi”

paper museum- illust x12.JPG      In the history corner, the illustrative panels displayed lots on the paper paper museum- history x03.JPGhistory from the description of pre-paper period, the story of “birth of paper”, and the explanations about expanding routes and process of paper, and others, including the explanation how were the diffusion of “hand-made” paper-making technique paper museum- history x02.JPGand how that led to forming the modern paper industry.

In particular, they emphasized process how the technology of Japan’s “Wash” paper was cultivated in history, and how they were developed in Japan in the unique way, in addition to make paper museum- illust x08.JPGa comment on how the modern paper industry was established after the Meiji era by introducing Western modern paper-making technology.
paper museum- history x01       In the meantime, the historical exhibit on the record media of pre-paper period is interesting. It clearly shows the examples of primitive but sophisticated clay boards, wood chips or stone materials, etc. before the invention of paper. It indicates the subsequent paper museum- history x06.JPGprocess how these primitive tools were first used as writing materials, and then progressed to the Parchment and Papyrus in the oriental world, and gradually advancing to the genuine paper which was born in China and spread to the world.  It is also presented in the exhibition that the spread of these papers had given a great impact in the society, politics and culture since spreading in the form of Sutras, ordinances, paintings and letters in the history.

♣  Paper “Washi” development in Japan

paper museum- illust x17.JPG  It was believed that the “paper” was brought in Japan around in the 7th century of Ritsurye period. That time, the “paper making” waspaper museum- history x07.JPG made under the law, but its technology was gradually expanded in the following years and became popular goods around the country.  In the 10th century of Heian period, “Paper Workshop” (a kind of paper making technology center) was created, and manufacturing various decorative papers and paper museum- history x08.JPGpicture scrolls began to be manufacture in a large scale.
However, these papers were quite expensive at that time, so they were used only among the upper aristocrats or limited celebrities. But it had shown the situation that the paper was gradually spreading in the society.
Around the eleventh century of the Kamakura and Momoyama period, the technology of “Washi” production was advanced significantly, and many type paper museum- Washi x09.JPGof papers became produced just in the response to the rising demand for letters, document and records among ruling classes and merchants.
In addition, unique Washi paper was started producing in various places in Japan, and made many specialty products such as Mino Washi paper and Yoshino Washi paper as their local brands.
Further, in the Edo period, it advanced to the era of paper museum- Washi x08.JPGgeneralization of paper culture. Many clans encouraged the paper production as exclusively selected marketing products. And in the responding to the increase of production, the usage of paper had been expanded to cover the wide range of social commodities, such as wood-engraved printing paper, inexpensive disposal paper, paper fold “Chiyo-gami”paper, wrapping paper museum- Washi x10.JPGpaper, “Shoji” wall screen paper, as well as even for the umbrellas and rainwear too. Also, the demand of artistic paper materials was markedly rising, such as for the “Nishikie” printing paper, booklets of novel and drama, aesthetic paintings, and many others. So it can be imagine how the paper had become the essential goods to the daily life in that period.
paper museum- Washi x05.JPG       These products are exhibited in the museum as in the form of real goods, imitations, samples, as well as explanation panels, photographs, pictures.     And the exhibits there show the technology development in the manufacturing process too, particularly on the “Washi paper” and its variation of production methods.


♣  From traditional handmade Washi to modern paper making>

paper museum- illust x13.JPG     The exhibition of development process after Meiji era is also paper museum- history x09.JPGinteresting. The foundation of the modern paper industry in Japan was laid by a businessman Shibusawa Eiichi with the establishment of “Shoshi Kaisha” in Oji, Tokyo, where the Museum is now situated. Shibusawa was said to promote the papermaking industry for the paper museum- history x10.JPGsake of advancement of education and profusion of technology and social knowledge, and believed the production of the massive supply of the easy-to-print Western paper will be contributes a lot for them in the process of the Meiji modernization.
For the first time, the available raw materials were so limited that the first paper production was done by “Cotton Boro” (tattered old clothes) as raw materials. But when it came to near the 1890s, the materials were gradually shifted to paper museum- history x11.JPGwood pulp and the materials themselves upgraded and production scale became larger in scale.

Since then, the paper industries were dramatically grown through these transformations. As a result, the paper industry could make a great leap forward along the steep rise in social demand for the paper. So in the 1930s the production scale has reached one million tons in parallel with advanced paper museum- machine x02.JPGcountries. The paper making companies and their factories were also multiplied and expanded ubiquitously.
On the other hand, the production of Washi paper was declined in the following years, and the major players of paper production have completely shifted to the western type of print papers. Since then the production volume has accordingly also expanded.


♣   Newly development of paper industries after the War

paper museum- illust x05       However, in the Second World War in 1940s, many industrial facilities had been totally damaged and devastated across the countries, and the papermaking industries had also got catastrophic blows. Even in the serious situation, the recovery of the paper industry paper museum- machine x01.JPGhas been quick. Because the social demand for paper was quite strong even after the War, and the needs of printing papers were increased along the way of the economic recovery and beginning of economic grows. In addition, the paper industry has exerted significant innovation both in equipment and technology in this process. So the production is expanded not only on printing paper but also on cardboard and other various processed paper products.       In 1985, 20 million tons of paper could produce at this paper museum- Recycle x01time, and the industry itself was advancing to the huge business sector both in terms of economic and social scales.

The change of raw composition of material, the reformation of pulp making method, adoption of newly developed machines, and advancement of variety papermaking technology were contributed there much.


♣   Reviving traditional Washi making as a artistic works

paper museum- Washi x02.JPG      On the other hand, even in this trend of expansion of paper industry, Japan’s unique paper “Washi” production was drastically declined after the War. But, the “Washi” had been showing to revive and began to get a paper museum- Washi x06.JPGspotlight again as a retaining precious traditional industry. In addition, Washi is now beginning to be  notified as as materials for artworks, traditional calligraphy, culture paper museum- Washi x13.JPGtreasury and other fine arts.
In the museum, the movements of these twists and turns are persuasively displayed in the form of chronology, photographs, models, and other means in the museum.

♣  Memorial collection of the early time of papermaking industry

paper museum- illust x07.JPG       It is also impressive that the memorial monuments were quietly displayed in the paper museum- factory x02.JPGspecial zone in the museum in commemorating the rising period of the paper industry in the Meiji era. They are the precious remains, such as a watermarked gate of “Puppy Fabric” paper company (the first modern paper company of Japan) in the early Meiji Period, a lock gate monument of Emperor Meiji, a signboard of several paper companies existed at the time, and so on.

♣  Remarks after visit

paper museum- Washi x12.JPG      The Paper Museum of Oji was really impressive archive to give extensive knowledge about important rolls of paper in our society and paper museum- Peoducts x02.JPGits dynamic history of development. Since paper was invented in China before the BC, the paper had been spreading to the whole world in various forms, and finally transmitted to Japan around the 7th century. And after that period, Japan had exerted to develop various types of handmade papers “Washi” in its own initiatives using specific paper making technique.
And under this recognition, the museum explained much about the modern printing paper development in Japan, its technology advancement as well as evolvement of paper industry in history. So, the museum has taught us much about paper’s history as well as paper museum- Peoducts x01the way how they were utilized in our Japanese daily life and society.
Particularly, the interesting thing was that it showed us that the paper products was used not only for painting materials, but widely used for the daily necessities in our everyday life such as Shoji paper and sliding doors, lighting equipment, umbrellas and clothes. The museum has made me convinced these facts..




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Visit Yokosuka Ironwork & Shipbuilding sites

Footage of Technology Challenge in the 19 century of Japan and its destiny

Yokosuka- logo 05.JPGLast year, I’ve participated in a grand tour of the former ‘Yokosuka Yokosuka- Ironwork x01.JPGIronworks site in Yokohama. Currently the Yokosuka port are mostly devoted to the military facilities like SDFJ and US Navy base and dominantly designated as offsite area. But the former dock sites and harbor facilities of the “Yokosuka Ironworks” can be observable from the Yokosuka’s coastal park beyond over the sea. And the “Verny Memorial Museum” and other monuments are facilitated to record the history of the Yokosuka Ironworks in the park. Among them, the museum now exhibits Yokosuka- Museum x01.JPGof machinery and equipment which were used in the Yokosuka Ironworks to commemorate their historical activities.
They show the footage how Japan had been engaged in challenging work to master the modern technology in coping up with Western power at the end of the Tokugawa period and afterward.     This is a visit record at this time.

♣     Historic traits of the Yokosuka Steel Works

Yokosuka- Illust 02.JPGThe Yokosuka Ironworks is noted as the oldest shipyards in Japan constructed in 1865 of the Edo period. Since Admiral Perry arrived in Uraga of Edo bay, the Edo government was obsessed to build up Japan’s maritime defense forces for preparing against the Western military threats, especiallyYokosuka- Ironwork x02.JPG the strengthening naval power around the coast near the Edo castle was important. And the construction of shipyard had begun in this Yokosuka area. The strategic plan of Yokosuka Steel Works had started in the line of this policy. The building of Nirayama’s Reflection Furnace in Izu, and the construction of Daiba Fortress of the off-coast of Shinagawa, and others were also launched as parts of this maritime policy.

<Edo government’s initiatives to make up Ironwork and shipbuilding>

  Yokosuka- Illust 04.JPG     During this period, the Satsuma and Choshu clans of the Western Japan had beenYokosuka- Museum x09 approaching the UK to get their technology support, but the Edo Shogunate tried to contact to the France against these movements and wanted taking technology advantages in the ironworks and shipbuilding.
Then, Oguri Kozukenosuke, a Bureaucrat of Edo government, deal with the French minister, Roche, to be hiring a qualified engineer of shipbuilding. In this process a shipbuilding expert François L. Verny was designated as the executive manager in the project.
Afterward Verny had proceeded deep investigation around the Yokosuka bay area together with Oguri, and finally decided to set up an ironworks (shipyard) in this place because the water depth was being enough and the coastal lines are suitable for the building of port facilities.

<Meiji Government continued works and completed the Project>

However, the Edo government was collapsed in 1868 in the middle of construction of Yokosuka- logo 04the ironworks and the project itself had been forced to torn down. The even plan had been given up once under this political situation though, the Meiji government reaffirmed the importance of this steelworks, and the Yokosuka- Ironwork x03.JPGplan was handed over to the the new government.      Engineer Verny was requested to further stay in this position and continuously involved in the construction. Then, the ironwork facility was completed in 1871, the name has changed to Yokosuka Shipbuilding at that time though. The Yokosuka steelworks and shipbuilding operations started in this way. Now the iron works there was evaluated being greatly contributed to the later development of the Japanese shipbuilding and machine industry across the country.


♣   Significance of Yokosuka Ship & Ironworks

       The Yokosuka Ironworks was often cited as successful examples of establishment of various modern machines and facilities, such as, the construction and operation of the Yokosuka- Footage x01.JPGfirst stone dry dock in Japan, turbine production of the Aichi spinning station, Shinagawa lighthouse (the first lighthouse in Japan in 1870), construction of the Kannonzaki lighthouse, contribution to the establishment of the Tomioka Silk mill, and so on. Turbine Yokosuka- Footage x02.JPGturbines manufactured at this Yokosuka steelworks were also used in hydropower stations in various places in Meiji industrialization.
In addition, the establishment of many brick factories around Yokosuka ironworks have contributed to promote the Western architecture too, introduction of the metric system in the industries, etc. are also noted as business achievements related to modern industrial production system.

<Involvements of Yokosuka Shipbuilding in the Naval Power development>

Yokosuka- Illust 06.JPG      The Yokosuka Ironworks, which was established in this way, have headed to the construction of a large warship as a naval arsenal in its operation, and Yokosuka strengthened the characteristics of the naval base as the large scale military port, in parallel with Kure in Kobe, Nagasaki in Kyushu, and others.
Yokosuka- Museum x06.JPG     Main battleships built in this Yokosuka shipyard were included like Battlesh Seiki, Yamashiro, Mikasa, Mutsu, Cruiser Myoko, and others. They have exerted quite significant roles in the naval warfare of Nissin War (China Japan warfare), Nichiro War (Russia and Russia warfare), and even in the Pacific War.
Yokosuka- View 05.JPG       As such, the Yokosuka Iron Works has been transformed into the Japan’s main battle ship production sites and military port since Meiji era. Now it became major part of the US military bases.
So it might be possible to say that the history of the development of Yokosuka city, the port, and the Ironworks are well mirrored the evolution of machinery and shipbuilding industry and even the turbulent process of social and political changes of Japan.


♣   Views and heritages of Yokosuka’s port park

The “Verny Park” was founded as a symbol of Yokosuka in 2001 and now it is a good Yokosuka- View 11place for sightseeing and  relaxation of local citizens. From the park, people can view the dock facilities of the Yokosuka shipbuilding operating since Meiji period, the the MSDF and US military base over the sea. In the park area,there are also the half-length statues of Oguri and Verny who led the construction of Yokosuka steelworks, theYokosuka- Park 02 former quayside gatehouse of the Japanese Imperial Navy in 1930s, the large cannon used at the battleship Mutsu, and various relics of the former Japanese Navy facilities. In addition, the park has prepared a guide board of the Yokosuka steelworks to indicate how the shipbuilding and steelworks had been Yokosuka- Museum x07operated.  But, as a main feature, the particularly eye-catching thing in the park is the “Verny Memorial museum ” that commemorates Verny’s engineering achievement.
The museum is made with the steep sloping roof, stone walls and small windows, chimneys sticking out on the roof. So the building holds the characteristics of  Fabritany district in France where Verny was grown up. It might show the deep respect to the attainment and his personality of Verny by the Yokohama citizen.

♣   Exhibition of Verny Memorial Hall

Yokosuka- logo 02     The Verny Memorial Museum is a facility established in 2002 in order to honor the accomplishment of French engineer François VernyYokosuka- Museum x02 who led the construction of the Yokosuka Ironworks from the end of the Tokugawa period..

The museum exhibits the illustrations showing progress of the construction of Yokosuka Ironworks, the situation of the manufacturing site, in addition to the annual records of Verny and Oguri, as well as the documents of historical heritage of Yokosuka.
But the main exhibit would be a large Steam Hammer Yokosuka- Museum x04which imported from the Netherlands in 1865, brought in just before the collapse of Edo government. A steam hammer is a machine tool that forges a heated metal by steam power, and this is regarded as a machine whichYokosuka- Museum x03 practically used for the first time in Japan. This is evaluated as a valuable machine tool to show the steelmaking process and machine making activities at that time. The machine is now designated as a national important cultural  property of Japan.

Several parts and tools of the Gantrek Yokosuka- Museum x05crane which deployed for lifting large iron equipment at Yokosuka Shipbuilding were also displayed.

Besides, the museum displays the scale model of steam hammer power in order to picturize the way of operation, and the equipment and materials actually used at the Yokosuka mills, as well as the warship Mutsu model as an example of the significant battleship produced in Yokosuka navy shipbuilding works.

♣   Remarks after the visit

Yokosuka- Illust 01      Thanks to the visit Yokosuka, particularly the Verny memorial museum visit have yield me a valuable knowledge how the Japanese shipbuilding and machinery technology were evolved from the end of the Tokugawa period to the Meiji era.Yokosuka- View 04

The Yokosuka Ironworks began since the Tokugawa government had been growing by the hands of the Meiji government, and it enhanced the function as a major Navy Arsenal in the subsequent years and several decades afterward in Showa. Then, currently Yokosuka is frequently highlighted and referred as the large presence of the US Navy’s 7th Fleet and the bases of the MSDF of Japan. And the military-related institutions are prevailing around the region as the naval Yokosuka- View 07port from the prewar to now.

However, it can be said that the role played by the Yokosuka Steel Works, had also been functioned greatly in the technical development of the non-military field business sector too, especially during the early industrial modernization process,
In the Meiji era, the Tomioka Silk mill and the designing of the spinning factory, the production of the power source equipment, the development of machine and Yokosuka- Illust 03shipbuilding industry, the introduction of the modern factory system, etc. were believed to be produced by the Yokosuka Steel Workshop. It was said that even the cars of Nissan Oppama factory located in Yokosuka are also being exported currently from Yokosuka Port.     This visit was a valuable experience for me to know an episode about the Yokosuka’s ironworks, Japan’s industrial history, as well as turbulent history of Japan since the arrival of Perry in Edo era, toward the Meiji and the Showa’s war time and now.



  • 「ヴェルニー記念館」案内パンフレット
  • 「ヴェルニーと横須賀」(ヴェルニー記念館)
  • 「小栗上野介と横須賀」(ヴェルニー記念館)
  • 近代日本のルーツ横須賀製鉄所」観光パンフレット
  • 「横須賀製鉄所の事跡を訪ねて」白石健一(東京往古学会講演資料)
  • 「横須賀の軍事遺産」観光パンフレット
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Visit Inuyama Karakuri Doll Museum

Amazing Inuyama Castle and Karakuri Art 

Inuyama- illust x01.JPG        I got a chance to visit Inuyama city in Aichi Prefecture lately. The cityInuyama- town x01.JPG is famous to have a national treasure “Inuyama Castle” built in the 16th century, and to retain historical townscape of Edo period, as well as to organize tradition of the old ritual festivals. So I went around seeing these historical sites and visited some memorial heritages and Inuyama- Doll x16museums in the city. Among them, the most impressive facility was the “Doll Pavilion” which exhibited the “Karakuri” dolls. It was showing the superiority of Japanese craftsmanship in doll makings.

It was a short time, but it was quite experience to observe the “Karakuri” exhibition there. Below is an impression of my visit.

 Karakuri Pavilion HP :

 ♣  Inuyama’s Castle, Townscape and Festival

inuyama- Museum x03.JPG    Inuyama- illust x08.JPG    The “Inuyama Castle” is a legendary castle built in 1537 in the Muromachi period. Its castle donjon is the oldest style one among the existing castles in Japan, and designated as a national treasure of Japan. In addition, the old township there is still remaining the original style of the Edo era townscape (same shape of Town Block of castle Inuyama- town x02.JPGtown) as well as the idyllic merchant houses.The Inuyama festival in Inuyama city is also famous across the country because of the magnificent ”Dashi” (shrine float vehicle) procession with theater-like play of the Inuyama- Float x03.JPG“Karakuri” dolls in competing their acrobatic actions on the street.  At present, the campaign of “Revitalization of Historical Town ” is going in the Inuyama city. Under these programs, Cultural Historical Museum of Inuyama, “Festival hall” (Donden Hall”), and other facilities like Doll Pavilion (called “Karakuri Kan”) were prepared to advertise their charms on their castle, old township, and Inuyama festivals and other activities.

 ♣  Legendary figure of Karakuri doll in Inuyama

Inuyama- illust x06    “Karakuri” is mechanical auto-moving mechanic tools which were produced and played from the old time of Japan, in particular, Inuyama- Doll x17.JPG“Karakuri doll” was showing a unique movement like human actions. This is equivalent to Western automata in the old days. In Japan, “Dolls” were perceived as a sort of spiritual “proxies” of human body from the ancient times and treated as the sacred ones. This feature is said to be embodied into the “Karakuri dolls”.  Then, human shape dolls have been used in festivals and others ritual activities for long since ancient Inuyama- Doll x20.JPGtime to now.

In particular, since the Edo period, besides festivals, these Karakuri dolls became popular as a general spectacles and entertainment purposes too.

And when the mechanical movement technology like gears and cams, which was widely used in mechanical watches, was introduced from Western countries in the early Edo period of the 17th century, this mechanism was effectively applied to the device movement of dolls. so as many specialized “Karakuri” craftsmen were born in that period and various human shape dolls was beginning to show the elaborate move became produced in Japan in the unique way.


<History  of Karakuri dolls>

In 1620 (the Genna 6th), the first “Karakuri” of “Benkei’s dolls” (an ancient hero Inuyama- Old doll x01.JPGwarrior) was mounted on the religious float “Yama” vehicle of “Nagoya Toshogu Festival”. Since that time, many festival floats carrying Karakuri dolls became popular and widely spread Inuyama- Old doll x04.JPGaround the Chukyo area (surrounding Nagoya area). Also, in 1662, Takeda Omi, a theater player, at Osaka had got a title name of master of Karakuri in the performance of “Karakuri Theater play” (Takeda Karakuri).

At that time, Tokugawa Muneharu, a lord in the Owari Han (clan), encouraged Inuyama- Old doll x02.JPGentertainment and performing festivals among local people to activate people’s daily life in the Owari Nagoya region. It is said that many craft workers were gathered there and started to produce various “Karakuri dolls” in the area. As a result, the areaInuyama- history x01.JPG became a major spot of Karakuri festivals since then. Tamaya Shobei, the first doll master, was one of them. In such circumstances, Inuyama have developed the unique floats and doll making technology which now are facilitating the present large-scale Oyama festival and unique Karakuri performance.

Refer: (

<Variation of Krakuri Doll>]

Inuyama- Doll x08.JPGInuyama- illust x03.JPG    The Karakuri doll can be roughly divided into three categories, such as (1) “Karakuri for festival float”, (2) “Zashiki Karakuri” and (3) “Shibai Karakuri”. The Karakuri for float (1) is loading dolls on the float vehicles that are played during the procession of festival. (3) Shibai Karakuri is used in playhouse, like Kabuki Theater and so on.          They are applied to Bunraku (Puppet    Inuyama- Doll x06  Inuyama- Doll x07       Inuyama- Doll x05play) and other theater stage later.  Karakuri dolls of (2) “Zashiki” (an in-house performing doll)  (In-house performing doll) and they are applied to Bunraku (Puppet Inuyama- craftsman x08.JPGplay) and other theater stage later.Karakuri dolls of (2) “Zashiki” (an in-are made just for entertainment, or use as pet like goods for Daimyo (great warrior lords) and rich merchants, and the dolls showed particularly elaborate movements. They are known well in the forms like “Tea serving doll”, “Bow shooting doll”, “Letter writing doll” and others.       

(Performance can be seen in the Youtube *

 Inuyama- Doll x24.JPG“Tea serving doll” ( )
Inuyama- Doll x23.JPG“Letter writing doll” ( )

     ♣ Contact point of Karakuri and humanoid robot

The mechanism of “Karakuri” in human style dolls is regarded embody basic Inuyama- craftsman x03.JPGoperational principles of modern mechanical engineering. By an analysis of “Karakuri” expert, “The technical force that created a precision movement of wooden machine doll in the Edo period,Inuyama- Doll x09.JPG have actually made advanced the new manufacturing technology by using “iron” materials instead of wooden materials at the time of the industrial revolution of Meiji period.” (Suzuki Reiji “Karakuri Yume Studio” etc.).

It is also believed this technology background of Karakuri made possible effectively Inuyama- illust x07.JPGintroduce of new machinery technology from Europe in the industrialization process, especially in the Meiji period. The quick development of the watch industry and other precision mechanical Inuyama- craftsman x04.JPGindustries of Japan’s after the Meiji Restoration is said match due to these facts.

In the Nagoya area where the Karakuri making was quite popular, now many manufacturing companies concentrated such as automobiles, industrial robots, etc. It is evaluated that the development of Karakuri technology might have given a positive effects to flourish Inuyama- Doll x26.JPGsuch machinery industries in the area. It’s quite understandable why Japanese are holding so favorable and intimate image to the humanoid robots. It would be based on the familiarity to the “Karakuri dolls” which are often played in the daily life now.

      “Tanaka Hisashige” which was called “Karakuri Kyonemon” at the end of the Edo Inuyama- craftsman x02.JPGperiod is particularly famous in making these elaborate movement dolls and carving aesthetic wood puppets. Tanaka was also a scientific engineer, and invented “Exhaustible oil lamp” (Mujintou), a million years clock (Mannen Jimei Mannenn Dokei), and even built “steam locomotive production” in Saga. He is known to set up a manufacturing firm in the Meiji era “Tanaka Manufacturing” that became the founding basis of the current “Toshiba” company).

♣  Karakuri Museum’s human doll exhibition

        Karakuri Pavilion, an annex of Inuyama Cultural Historical Museum, exhibits inuyama- Museum x02.JPGmany Karakuri dolls and is regularly conducting demons of Karakuri performance in the hall. With visiting this pavilion, you can see the historical roots of Karakuri dolls in detail and also their various forms of performing dolls through explanation given by the staff.Inuyama- Doll x21.JPG

Beside many old Karakuri dolls in the hall in the Edo period, you can see various Karakuris there which are performed in the still being used the floats of Oyama festival, the ” Zashiki Karakuri ” which is showing elaborate movements at the stage, and others. We inuyama- Museum x05.JPGcan’t help admire how many numbers of the different and colorful Karakuri dolls with lively movement were made in the history.

They are quite fertile in content, such as Karakuri dolls based on the stories of old folk tales, noble aristocrats dolls wearing clothes of ancient dynasties, heroic warrior dolls in the medieval time, dolls of peculiar animals, and cute children’s dolls, and other variety of dolls are exhibited there.Inuyama- Doll x11.JPG

Also, the better understanding about structure and mechanisms of these Karakuri clearly, the Pavilion displays the wooden structure, gears, strings, and other parts inside the dolls.

Inuyama- craftsman x01.JPGHowever, the biggest attractive point is that you can actually observe the demonstration of movement of Karakuri doll and their production site by Mr. Tamaya Shobei, who is the ninth generation of the puppet master who continued the craft tradition from the Edo period. This Shobei, currently masterpiece of Karakuri doll, was nominated as a great craftsman of Inuyama- Doll x03.JPGJapan in the field of aesthetic wood manufacturing product. He has also reproduced and exhibited the classic Karakuri dolls in Edo period with fully using the traditional techniques, such as “Tea serving doll”, “Bow shooting doll”, “Letter writing doll” etc. The Pavilion actually highlighted these dolls as the main features of exhibition. There is also the episode that Shobei excellently manufactured a Karakuri of “Tea serving doll” and presented it to the British Museum in London for the special exhibition in 2005.

♣ Remarks after visit

Inuyama- Doll x23The production technique of Karakuri dolls and their craftsman’s traditions are often quoted as a root of the development of Japanese machinery industries and the showcase of excellent craftsmanship of Japan from Meiji era to now. And the modern robot industry was evaluated to be formed under this tradition and technology, particularly pertaining to the humanoid robot.Inuyama- craftsman x05.JPG    Especially, it is pointed out that Tanaka Hisashige who founded Toshiba was known as a “Karakuri doll masterpiece during the Edo period, and Toyoda Sakichi, who is a founder of Toyota, believed that he had applied the Karakuri mechanism for the invention of the first automatic woven loom in Japan. In addition, it is pointed that he was raised in the area of vicinity in Nagoya, Aichi where the Inuyama- illust x05.JPGKarakuri was thriving.
It was a quite experience to visit the national treasure “Inuyama Castle”, the streets of the castle town of Edo period. Particularly the amazingthing is that I could see the “Karakuri in the Pavilion and could know of the diverse features of Karakuri dolls by my own eyes.
Anyway, I was deeply impressed by the significance of “craftsmanship” in Japan which was shown in the Karakuri making techniques. The visit was really enjoyable and educational experience.



  • 「カラクリの基礎知識」
  • 「からくりー伝統・歴史・技術ものづくりを支える」(尾陽木偶師 九代玉屋庄兵衛)
  • 「からくり人形とものづくり文化」
  • からくりフロンティア
  • 「城下町でお遊びーKarakuri-」 (大山氏教育委員会篇)
  • 大山市城下町マップ
  • 大山市文化史料館パンフレット
  • カラクリ展示館パンフレット
  • 「旧磯江家住宅」紹介パンフレット
  • ドンデン館パンフレット
  • 「大山祭りーカラクリ解説集―」


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Visit a Theme Park “Meijimura” in Nagoya suburbs

   – Shows the Social Modernization and Development Industries in Meiji period, Japan–.

Meiji- logo x01.JPG      There’s a unique theme park which is called “Meiji Mura Village” in Inuyama city near Nagoya Meiji- Illust x03.JPG The purpose of Establishment of the park is to restore and display valuable historic building and facilities in the compound.. Last year I had  a chance to visit this Park while traveling around Nagoya.Meiji- Building x11.JPG      The buildings exhibited there were all brought in from various locations of Japan, and reconstructed them in the park with keeping original style as it was. So they  visualize how Japan  diligently learned the Western architecture  and how fast developed its technology since Meiji period. This writing is my observation of Meiji Village at this time of visit.

♣  What’s the “Meiji-mura Village”?

Meiji- Illust x02.JPG        The “Meiji-mura Village” is located at the spacious hill site in the outskirts of Inuyama City.  There hundreds of historical buildings, public facilities and monuments are constructed to keep historical heritage as they were, such as legendary hotels, Meiji- Building x19.JPGchurches, post offices, bridges, and guardhouse, and others.

In the Meiji era, a number of marvelous buildings and facilities were built as the symbol of social modernization. However, Meiji- Building x04.JPGunfortunately the most  were under the threat of going lost because of successive earthquakes, war damages and other natural disasters, particularly, by the vigorous construction booms in the economic development and social change.

In the meantime, after the passing time a century since Meiji, the Meiji- person x03.JPGreservation movements emerged for these historic constructions, and this “Meiji village” was established in 1965 Meiji- Building x02.JPGby the great initiatives by Taniguchi Yoshiro (famous architect) and Tagawa Motohiro of Nagoya Railway chairman. Since the establishment, many celebrities and intellectuals have contributed and supported the development of the Park as a whole. As the result, the Village Park now become famous as a public facility received nationwide supports including the tourism organizations and local people.

Meiji- Building x07.JPG    Meiji- Building x10.JPG The significance of the park is  not only showing appearance of the historic buildings, but displays valuable utilities in the historic buildings, like machines, pictures and documents, and other goods to be recorded the life style and social conditions in the Meiji period. So, people will be charmed by the exhibition of figures of buildings, but they could appreciate historical goods and facilities inside them. Actually many of the buildings and facilities are nominated as cultural treasuries of the country.  We can list many examples like in the following lists.

< Some examples of Meiji-mura’s Historical Buildings >

Meiji- Building x13.JPG     The oldest Western style lighthouse ” Shinagawa Lighthouse” (1870), Rokugo River restored bridge (the oldest Japan’s iron Meiji- Building x16.JPGbridge), Mie prefectural office building (1879), the wooden post office in the Meiji “Ujyamada” (1909), the former Japanese “Kyoto Episcopalian Concordia Hall”(1907), old “Sapporo Telephone Office”, “Kyoto St. John’s Church”(1907), the House of novelists “Mori Meiji- Building x06.JPGOgai & Natsume Soseki”“Tendo Arch Bridge” (1887), and so on.Meiji- Illust x11.JPG
Besides buildings, as the special exhibition, we can spot several treasury collections like “Meiji Emperor’s Special Coach” No.6, (as a railway monument), Kyoto City’s electric streetcar (1895), Meiji- Building x22.JPGJapan’s first public telephone box (1900), Steam Meiji- Building x21.JPGlocomotives imported from England No.12 (1874), etc.

All of them are describing  the diligent people’s initiatives to promote the modernization of architectures, civil engineering, transport and communication facilities of early time of Japan.

Meiji- Machine x01.JPGAmong them, the particularly important would be the “Shimbashi Railway Repair Workshop of  Japan Railway ” (“Machine Hall Museum”), because it clearly portrayed the first situation of railway operation and its development process regarding mechanic industries at that time.

♣   The first “Shimbashi RailwayWorkshop” and “Machine Hall Museum”

Meiji- Machine x15.JPG       The buildings and facilities there are all fascinating  and important, but the “Machine Hall” Shimbashi Factory of JR was particularly attractive among them, because the Hall exhibits various industrial machine tools practically   used in the Industrial Rising Period of Meiji.Meiji- Railway x01.jpg

In a way, the Machine Hall is positioned as a valuable railway heritage as it was constructed in 1872 at the moment of railways starting in Japan. In addition, the Hall exhibits a number of old machines which had been used in the industrialization of Meiji period. So the exhibits seem to indicate how Japan has been developing machinery industries and advancing the industrial revolution in Meiji.

Meiji- person x05.JPG     Anyway, when the railway run first in Meiji, the railway technology was completely lacking in Japan. Then, all the railway related materials and machine tools were directly imported from the UK as well as technology,Meiji- Machine x02.JPG and the facilities were produced by foreign engineers. However, Japan had steadily learned its engineering technology in the consequent year of Meiji. The materials exhibited in the Hall would Meiji- Machine x06be good evidence how Japan’s domestic technological skills had been formed in the Meiji era.
Such as power machinery, various machine tools, textile machinery etc. displayed there. They were all real things to be able trace the course of Japanese <industrial development, including railway.

< Examples of exhibits of Machine Hall Museum >

For example, the following machines and facilities are exhibited in the Hall;

       Meiji- Machine x11“Steam hammer” (1881) produced and imported from Vulcan Iron Works (1881), “Horizontal single cylinder steam engine” (so called Brunat Engine, imported in the early Meiji era from France) which was used as a prime mover at the Tomioka spinning mill, “Prime steam engine for fog signal light” used at the Niwayama lighthouse in Otaru City, Hokkaido (1897) which manufactured by Yokohama Seisakusho, “Special Meiji- Machine x04Plane milling machine” embedded emblem chrysanthemums as a Japan’s oldest Meiji- Machine x08.JPGmachine tool which domestically produced (manufactured by Akahane Kokubu Branch office, Ministry of Engineering, 1879), first Japan-made Inokuchi type of Centrifugal Water Pump (1912) produced by Japanese engineers with dual suction volute” which applied fluid dynamics engineering theory Meiji- Machine x09.JPG(manufactured by Kokuto Machinery Mfg, (1912), “Mule spinning machine for wool” (made in England) which had significantly helped the establishment of early Japanese spinning industry, “Ring spinning mill” (made in USA), Wooden handmade “Gara-Bo spinning machine” that performed the spinning with a water wheel (invented by Japanese technician and inventor of Gaun Tatsushi, in the early Meiji era), “Francis turbine generator” (made in US, 1913) used at the hydroelectric power plant of Kami-tatsumi, Kanazawa, and many others are found there.Meiji- Machine x05.JPG

Looking at these machines, we could recognize the situation that Meiji people had to fully depend on the imported machines for the first time, as seen in the power Meiji- Machine x16.JPGgenerators, steam engines and others. But under this condition they’ve learned energetically its manufacturing techniques from foreign engineers to master them. Because Japan were completely lacked the technology of industrial power machine and metalworking that time. But Japan quickly emulated the ideas effectively and successfully began to produce the sophisticated machinery in the successive years.

For example, in the spinning industry, Japan started emulating  technology of the imported Mule and Ling systems from Europe in the first stage, and gradually mastered the skills Meiji- Machine x12.JPGof spinning, cotton drawing process, and tackled the roving

Meiji- Machine x13.JPG

spinning machines, and finally shifted to the using of domestic textile machines.
These processes are well observable in the exhibition. The good example of them would be the domestically produced spinning and weaving machines which have developed by  the Japanese engineers, like the Toyoda-style automatic weaving machines (This machine wasn’t displayed in the Hall unfortunately though).Meiji- person x06.JPG

Meiji- Machine x14.JPG      Among many exhibits related to the textile industry, the most interesting example is a unique spinning machine named  “Gara-Bo”, which was inexpensive and easy to use machine applied the Japanese traditional wooden technology.

Looking at these machines and tools exhibited, we can recognize how quickly and widely the textile producing technologies were developed and spread across the country in the industrial regions, even in the rural areas.

♣   Impression of visit

Meiji- Illust x07      Actually this was my second visit to this “Meiji village”. If compared with this visit in 1994, the Park was looked the facilities have increased in number, and improved the contents and quality of exhibition as a theme park.

Of course, the buildings and facilities  in Meiji Village were only a part of the historic buildings and facilities existed in Japan, but it Meiji- Illust x05.JPGclearly  pictures of the Meiji people’s efforts which  grappled with modernization of society and tried to advance the skills by attentive assimilation of the western technology, and  promoted further Japan’s own technology from the scratch.
In this meaning, this “Meiji village” is a valuable park that makes us feel the weighs of historical process, not simply for the nostalgic memory.  I really felt I’d like to visit the Park again and want to examine the exhibition there. .



  • 博物館・明治村ガイドブック(名鉄インプレス刊) 2015
  • 明治村案内パンフレット
  • 明治村ホームページ
  • 明治村ホームページ(English)
  • 博物館・明治村の楽しみ方
  • 博物館・明治村の楽しみ方 (鉄道寮新橋工場)
  • ウィキペディア博物館明治村
  • 明治村 《-愛知(名古屋)観光地紹介サイト-》
  • 明治村機械館(愛知の産業遺産を歩く 25)石田正治


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Visit a historical Heritage in Mietsu, Saga

Historical Heritage of the Mietsu Navy Site in Saga, Kyushu

-= Challenges of modern shipbuilding by the local clan under the feudal Edo

 ♣  Outline of Mietsu shipbuilding heritage 

Mietsu- Illust x01In Saga prefecture in Kyushu, there’s the famous historical heritage  of Mietsu- Outlook x01navy facility,  named “Mietsu Kaigunnsho” (Navy Training Site in Mietsu).  This heritage was later designated as a World Industrial Heritage.  I could happen to visit this heritage of Saga in my travel to Kyushu.  The Site was constructed for building up Mietsu- Outlook x05military vessels and conducting naval training by the Saga Han (Feudal local clan) in the Tokugawa period (in the end of 19c). This report is a small visit note of my visit



<Saga’s Development Challenge of Shipbuilding>

The Saga Han, and its Daimyo Nabeshima Naomasa,  was well known as one of the  enlightened feudal land lord Mietsu- castle x01who was actively working  introducing  modern science and technology from the early time of his rule, even under the seclusion of Japan at that time. Mietsu- Old x01So this heritage was a precious evidence being able to  trace the technical challenge of the local government Han in the Edo period. Eventually this navy site got  successful to build the Western steamships and to construct modern docks  in this Mietsu, Saga, by Saga clan’s local initiatives.

Mietsu- Nagasaki x01.JPG       In the meantime, around that period, Tokugawa Shogunate (Edo government) had been engaging the strong policy to  counter the threat from Western naval power by building own battleships and conducting naval training in several strategic points. Mietsu- Ex Board x02.JPGThe “Nagasaki Navy Training Institute” was major one for this purposes. And they had nurtured a bunch of naval engineers and talents there. However, it was closed soon because of the financial reasons. Then the Saga Han had created its similar facility in the Mietsu district by themselves, and began the “Naval Training” independently by their own initiatives, because they felt the direct threat from the foreign naval power and it required to cope with them.

 ♣   Mietsu Navy Training Site and Sano’s Memorial Hall

Mietsu- ruins x01        The local government and academic circles, which have recognized the historical importance of this navy site, have launched the investigation on the footage of the Mietsu Navy Training Site (Mietsu NTS) in 1990s. Then they found the several remaining relics at the site of Mietsu recently, such as ruins of shipment lodges, sailing training spots, ship buildings, and Mietsu- Ex Board x07.JPGrepairing facilities. Among them, the relics of dry dock in the premises was highly valuated  as the first modern ship’s dry dock constructed in Japan. People could observe the clear trails there how energetically Japan, even the local government, had been challenging to develop shipbuilding technology by using the traditional craftsmanship combined with the Western modern technology when facing the foreign military threat.

Any ways, this historic site was begun to excavate since the 2000s while the local government Saga was hoping the nomination of “World Heritage” of Unesco. And it was Mietsu- Outlook x04decided to become a historic park in order to memorialize the old time endeavors of Saga clan.

However, when people visit the the site now, unfortunately they couldn’t see much of the visible appearance of the relics, except of the several scattering stone marks in the grassy field, which is associated with the iron furnaces, training stations, repairing sites, mooring places, and others. Mietsu- dock x01They seem to be the only remaining proof which certificates the old working sites there. Of course, there were a number of explanatory boards facilitated on the remaining ruins here  in the site including dry dock though.

As a matter of facts, these environments might be inevitable if it considers the preservation of historical heritages like these. Mietsu- Ex Board x06.JPGThe restoration of the Mietsu NTS, particularly the sites of the dry dock was quite hard to deal with them, because they were made of wood, and easily damaged if expose them to the open air. Then, the heritage sites had been buried back under the ground in order to protect them. It is a pity for the visitors, but it might be the fate of the historical remains like this .

Instead, the artifacts and reproduction pictures as the result of excavation are displayed in the Mietsu- Outlook x02“Sano Tsunetami Memorial Hall” located nearby the Mietsu NTS . So the whole figures of the “Naval Training and Shipbuilding sites” can be examined by these. Also,  a kind of CGI scope was prepared there for visitors to inspect the former figures of the site by 3D’s live figures.


 ♣  Historical significance of Mie-tsu Navy ruins

Mietsu- Ex Board x01        Meantime,  this Mietsu Naval Relics are regarded as a valuable evidence to illustrate the development process of shipbuilding technology of Japan from the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate to the Meiji Period. Firstly it shows the footage of construction process of the large style vessels by Mietsu- ship x01combining the techniques of traditional Japanese shipbuilding methods and Western technology, and for the second, it was indicating the existence of highly level of technique in Japan’s engineer which built up steamships for the first time in Japan under the limited resources and short knowledge about the modern shipbuilding techniques. It can be well recognized, more than anything, in the several remaining  “Repairing and Production sites” found around the dry dock compound .

Mietsu- Tools x03.JPG       At the production site, many fractured bricks of rectangular furnace, crucible furnace, casting place were found by the excavation of the academic teams, in addition to the lots of components made by iron and copper alloy, like the iron bonding rivet used for assembling boiler and others. These were never found anywhere in Japan before. It was believed that  the extremely high skill for its production, and well organized material control method required to crimp the red heated rivets on to the curved iron plate in a short time.

Mietsu- person x03.JPG       In these works, Tanaka Hisashige and other talented engineers, who had been Mietsu- Old x02invited by Saga Han, were actively involved, and they had been working at the so called “Seirenngata” (Science and Technology Institute of Saga in the Edo period). Along with this lices,  Japan’s first steamship “Ryo-Fu maru” was completed by facilitating the unique boilers made of Saga in the end of Edo period.

Mietsu- ship x02       In addition, the Mietsu NTS is listed as the existing oldest dry dock in Japan which was used for restoring the large Western ships by Saga clan. In this dry dock, structurally the wooden frame staircase was used, and huge numbers of shells were placed on the bottoms  to protect the dry dock.

Additionally, whereas the dock of Mietsu- dock x02”Yokosuka Steel Works was constructed under the hand of foreign engineers, but this dock was designed and built by Japanese engineers using only its own ingenuity.  So it is the unique facility never being observable in the other docks in this meaning. It is considered that the wisdom and ingenuity of engaged engineers who developed new technology were shown there.

Mietsu- Expo x01.JPG    It would be significant that the Saga clan, which was just a local force, but how could accomplish such a great works by overcoming many technical barriers. And it is surprising too how they could mobilize numerous technicians in the last days of Edo period. We have to astonish the engineering power and outstanding leadership of Saga’s government at that time.

 ♣  Sano Tsuenetami’s accomplishment and his  Memorial Museum

Mietsu- person x02.JPG      While the archaeological excavation of the “Mietsu NTS “ was proceeding, the “Sano Tsunetani Memorial Hall” was constructed in Mietsu- exhibit x03.JPG2004 to introduce the Mietsu’s significance as historical heritages and the great role of Sano in associated with the construction of the naval base.

In this memorial hall, a number of relics and materials are stocked and displayed which had been excavated from the Naval site. There, the three-dimensional models, the space-time Mietsu- person x05.JPGchronology, the dome theater, etc. are facilitated to convey the history of naval center. And particularly the Hall is playing the role of information spot for the Mietsu heritage after the designation of ” World Heritage” in 2015.

Sano Tsunetami known as a head of management staff of this naval facility in the Edo era, so, the Hall also exhibits the materials which show his yearly notes, memorabilia and others related the Mietsu NTS and his pioneering works of scientific and various social activities.

Mietsu- person x04.JPGAccording to the explanation, Sano learned “Ranagaku” and “Western Medication”Mietsu- Ragaku x01.JPGdeeply from the the master piece of Ogata Koan and Ito Genboku in Edo and Osaka after finishing his study at the Saga’s “Kodokan” school in his young age. And then Sano was ordered to back to Saga to take post of head of “Seirengata” institute (Saga’s science institute) by Saga’s Daimyo Nabeshima Naomasa.

Mietsu- person x01.JPGThere, he contributed much to the advancement of modernization of military and development of industries in Saga, such as the construction of Reflectance Furnace at Tsukiji, completion of steam engine model, Mietsu- Furance x01.JPGbuilding of Western large vessels, etc. with the collaboration from the great Edo’s engineers like Tanaka Hisashige (Later become a founder of Toshiba in Meiji), Nakamura and other figures.

Sano was also assigned to the leader at the Mietsu NTS and directed the operations of shipbuilding there. The steamship “Ryofu-maru” constructed in 1865 as a first large steam ship  in Japan by his hand.       In addition, Sano had participated to the Paris Mietsu- Expo x03.JPGExpo in 1867 as a representative of the Saga Han clan in the end of the Tokugawa period, and after Meiji, he was even assigned to take a leading figure at the first held domestic Expo in Japan.

However, his greatest achievement would be the establishment of the “Japanese Red Cross Society” (the original name is “Hakuaisha”) in the early Meiji Era.     Therefore, Sano’s great achievements would be the introduction of “Benevolence” , a global  humanistic ethics, to Japan and promoted the modernization of society as a whole, not only introducing modern technology.

In my understanding, “Sano Memorial Hall” is a valuable museum to acknowledge about the Japan’s initiatives to promote the social and science modernization even under the reclusive Edo period.

 ♣  Last remark

I’ve had a lot of opportunities to visit Fukuoka, Kitakyushu, Nagasaki and Mietsu- Expo x02.JPGKumamoto, and Kagoshima of Kyushu region, but I haven’t been  in Saga for the long time. But I found this time that it is an unique and amazing place worth to visit.
Although Saga played an important role in politics, economics Mietsu- exhibit x02.JPGand society from the end of the Edo period to the Meiji era, but it looked somewhat inconspicuous about its role in history so far. However, through this visit, I realized strongly the fact that Saga had played the outstanding pioneering works in modernizing Japanese society.

Mietsu- person x06.JPG        In particular, it should be noted that under the isolation and feudal system, many pioneering works were tested and done in association of the absorption of Western industrial technology, including shipbuilding, steelmaking, business promotion, social modernization and many others. Even in terms of human resources, significant figures such as Okuma Shigenobu, Fukushima Shiomi, Sano Shizunaku, Eto Shinpei have contribute greatly to build foundation of society after the Meiji era. Mietsu- Outlook x03.JPG
In particular, Sano played important role in the “Seirenngata” science institute,  the innovative activity in the Mietsu NTS, Expo project, social activity like foundation of the Red Cross Japan, and so on. Through visit the Mietsu Navy Training Station and the Sano Memorial Hall, I reminded again of the great role of Saga for modernizing society and science, and social dynamism in the infant period of Japan.




  1. 三重津世界遺産HP
  2. 三重津世界遺産HP History ;
  3. 佐賀・精錬方HP:
  4. 佐野常民博物館
  5. 佐野常民記念館パンフレット
  6. 佐賀城本丸歴史館パンフレット
  7. 「佐賀の幕末維新八賢人」佐賀歴史館刊
  8. 「佐野常民―佐賀偉人伝」佐賀歴史館刊
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Visit artistic Kawashima Textile Museum

– Find the culmination of weaving technology of art there

kawashima- Logo x01.JPG       Kawashima Textile (currently Kawashima Selkon Textiles) is a Kawashima- Museum-x02.JPGlegendary Nishijin textile companies in Kyoto. This Kawashima established an artistic museum in 1990s, named “Textile Museum”, to explore the new form of weaving technology and to disseminate Japanese traditional textile-making craftsmanship in the world. The Museum now exhibits various historical fabric works in Japan as Kawashima- Tsuzure -x01.JPGwell as variety of textile products around the world. Especially, the exhibition of fine artistic woven textiles are glorious. I had a chance to stop by this museum and could observe its wonderful collections while traveling in Kyoto. I found there amazing fusion of modern textile industry and traditional artistic woven works which crystalized into the aesthetics world.  This is a description of this visit.


川島織物文化館 (Kasahima Memorial Hall) Home Page:Kawashima- Museum-x03.JPG


♠  What’s Kawashima Textile in history

Today, “Kawashima Co.” is known as a total textile manufacturer which is Kawashima- Jinbehe x01.JPGproducing room curtains, theater backdrop, car seats, etc. not only Kawashima- Jinbehe x04.JPGJapanese Kimono. But, the history of Kawashima Textile is quite long and it could traced back to 1843 when the Kawashima Jinbehe opened a kimono shop “Umedaya” at Nishijin area in Kyoto. After that, Jinbehe Jr. (Second Kawashima) established “Kawashima Weaving Company” in 1887. There, he challenged to produce a new interior decoration works using traditional woven cloths, especially for the Western style wall decoration “tapestry”.

Kawashima- Jinbehe x02.JPG     Among them, the wall fabrics with sophisticated making of the decoration for the German Imperial Room, and Emperor Meiji’s New Palace interior decorations are quite significant and these works builtKawashima- Deco room x04.JPG the foundation of company as an establishing company. Also, the company successfully gained reputation by producing Japanese style interior decoration for the authentic room art of “Jakuchu no Ma” ( a famous Edo painter of Jakuchu’s picture room) at the Expo of St. Louis in 1904).

<Nishijin’s  turbulence history>

Meanwhile when Looks back to the textile development history, the Kawashima- Obi x01.JPGformally traditional Nishijin industry in Kyoto had been greatly flourished during the Edo period, but, since the end of the Tokugawa period, the expensive Nishijin Kawashima- works x02.JPGtextile products was declined and lose market caused by the fall of affordable Kyoto’s wealthy class. Under these circumstances, Kawashima visited Lyon, the center of the French textile industry at that time, in order to find the way of new modern textile industry. It seemed that they tried to explore the new sphere of Nishijin waving technology, particularly by focusing on the pattern weaving technique developed by Jacquard looms.

<Challenges of Kawashima Jinbehe>

        Kawashima Jinbehe (second) paid attention to the Goran woven products used for Kawashima- works x01.JPGtapestries at that time. He thought that if they applied the “Tsuzuri-ori” weaving technology which had been developed in Japan, applied it to Golan weaving Kawashima- Tsuzure -x12.JPGtechnology of Europe for the tapestry, then Japanese professional craftsman was surely able to produce a competitive interior decorative s tapestry fabric using silk threads.

<Epoch-making Tsuzre-nishiki Ori and Hibo Kannon>

Kawashima- Museum-x01.JPG        Based on this idea, in 1889, “Kawashima Textile Reference Center” was established in northern Kyoto and started the research work on the full-fledged “Tsuzre-nishiki Ori” weaving methods. (This research facility has been upgraded to the “Kawashima Textile Museum” kawashima- Kannon x03.JPGseveral decades later). Here, Kawashima first opened the new ground of artistic woven fabrics by upgrading Japanese textile technology with “Warimoku” (stereoscopically expressing weave with blur) and cultivating other methods. As its final achievement was come when the company gained the worldwide reputation by presenting a woven works at  the Paris Expo, named “Hibo Kannon”(Mercy Mother Bodhisattva)“which was faithfully simulated fabric of notable painter’s “Kano Hogai” painting.(see picture)

<Technology transfer to the next generation>

kawashima- Logo x03.JPG        Kawashima Textile is said to be designated as a prominent company which effectively blends the traditional Japanese textile industries with artistic cultural world, and also the company built the Kawashima- illust x07.JPGfoundation of interior fabrics of western-style (such as tapestry) in the early time of Japan with fine artistic technology. So “Kawashima Textile Museum” would be one of the most precious facilities in Japan to show the artistic and the historical achievement of textile technology.

Kawashima- illust x02.JPG       In addition, Kawashima has established the “Central Technology and Cultural Center” near the Museum. Many R&D institutes were situated like Kawashima’s textile research function, traditional hand-woven workshop, modern machinery weaving factory, and others. The Kawashima Textile School and Kawashima Maestro School is also installed there to educate young people.

 Exhibition of Kawashima Textile Museum

The Museum has collected tens of thousands of textile products describing Kawashima- Old x04.JPGdevelopment history of textile culture in the world, such as ancient fabric clippings, China’s woven cloths, Coptic textile pieces, various costume goods, and others. Among others they store over eighty thousand kawashima- Kimono x01pieces of Japanese textiles from ancient times, hundred thousands of world fabrics, woven ornamental paintings and sketches, and designated as one of the Japanese textile research center, particularly on the artistic textile technology.

<Artistic exhibits of products of Tsuzure-nishiki >

The exhibits are arranged along the line of historical order and artistic category, so visitors well understood the background of artistic textile technology and the meaning of their cultural bases by observing collection.

Kawashima- Tsuzure -x01.JPG      The exhibition is roughly displaying following order, like “Mai” (Ancient dance picture) series, Kawashima’s Meiji period works, decorative tapestry work, Japanese Kimono & “Obi” (Japanese waist belt) works, and world textile world.Kawashima- Tsuzure -x03.JPG

The first “Mai” products are a group of woven works of describing the scene of “Bugaku” dance that was usually performed on the occasion of rituals and festivals from old days. They are artistic products processed by the fine combination of threads woven vertically and horizontally. These are the weaving products to illustrate precise appearance with the original artistic painting.

<Kawashima’s memorial products>

Kawashima- Tsuzure -x10.JPG

Kawashima- Deco room x03.JPG        The “Meiji fabric” of the second exhibition is the woven design works of designed with flower and bird motifs that had been ardently produced in the Meiji period. The flower and bird design was known as the most favorite theme of Kawashima in the initial time of the company, and the series of products were highly appreciated around the world. Among the collections, the magnificent works which were ordered by the Russian Prince Nikolai (Nikolai II) are included.

<Modern art of tapestry>

Kawashima- Tsuzure -x05.JPG        The third exhibition is the works of wall-hung tapestry for indoor decoration, which is mostly the new modern design ones in the late Showa period. Many wall-hanging fabrics drawing abstract paintings are displayed there, such as saddle-walled hangings named “Blowing Wind” (1973) and “Birth of the Universe” (1986), and Kawashima- illust x01.JPGothers.  All of them were wonderful designed fabric works with full of artistry.
(Unfortunately, photography in the museum was not allowed, so I cited the most pictures from the images in the available pamphlets and others sources).

Besides these works the Museum also tries to exhibit the historical records and documents which is indicating the development history of weaving technology from Meiji to Showa period, as well as the production and interior decoration pictures produced by Kawashima

Kawashima- Tsuzure -x04  Kawashima- Tsuzure -x06.JPG

<Technology of Tsuzure-nishiki > 

Inside the hall, the special corner is provided to introduce the peculiar technology of Kawashima- illust x06.JPGKawashima- Tsuzure -x08.JPG“spinning and weaving” developed by Kawashima and shows actual weaving process by video, so visitors is able to learn the history and development background of artistic woven fabrics from them.

It is remarkable exhibition, in every sense, that makes Kawashima- Tsuzure -x09.JPGvisualize the technology advancement of woven products from simple clothes of Kimono to expand to the world of room interior decoration, and enhances “weaving products” as a painting art works applied Japanese traditional woven technique.

♠  After visit

To be honest, it was my second time to visit this Kawashima Textile Museum here. kawashima- Kannon x02.JPGKawashima- Tsuzure -x02In the 1990s, I had visited there once accompanied with overseas students and trainees to introduce Japanese traditional textile industry. I still remember that I was impressed to see the fabrics being transformed into the fine artistic paintings with sophisticated designs at that time though I knew a bit about the Nishijin textile technology in Kyoto, of course. Particularly, I was amazed with the work of “Mercy Kannon” that was displayed in the front wall of the museum hall. When I visited, I couldn’t see this artistic product because it had already gone to other museums, but I could confess that I was deeply moved by observing many other artistic collections this time again.

Honestly I’ve satisfied I could touch a little about the footprints of Kawashima’s fabric development during the Meiji modernization processes, which seemed to add new values to the “textile” by fusing traditional handcraft work of        Japanese Nishijin with modern textile industrial technology, It was really impressive experience for me.



  1. 川島織物文化館パンフレット
  2. 「美の体現 技の系譜」(川島織物文化館刊)
  3. {建築を飾るテキスタイル}(川島織物文化館刊)
  4. 川島織物文化館 (Kasahima Textle Museum) Home Page:
  1. 西陣織とは(西陣織工業組合)
  2. 川島テキスタイル・スクール




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