The Japan Folk Crafts Museum by Aya Sekine
The Japan Folk Crafts Museum in Komaba is a place that I always visit whenever I go home to Japan.
Scholar Soetsu Yanagi - father of designer Sori Yanagi – founded the Museum in 1936, to promote the Mingei “folk crafts” movement that was popular in Japan during the 20s and 30s. Yanugi was one of the first people to celebrate the simple beauty in everyday objects, and wrote numerous essays promoting his philosophy for the magazine Shirakaba, published by members of the influential Japanese literary set in the early 1900s.
Spread over two floors, the museum collection consists of around 17,000 examples of hand-crafted items - including pottery, glassware, textiles and furniture by many of Yanagi's lifetime friends, including Bernard Leach, Shoji Hamada, Kanjiro Kawai and Shiko Munakata. Many of the vintage ceramic jugs, kimonos and prints date back to the 18th century but their influence on contemporary Japanese design is clear.
Yanagi was involved in both the design and construction of the building and most of the interior fittings and furniture. With its traditional black-tiled roof and white stucco exterior, the museum stands in stark contrast to the rest of the architecture in the area. Viewing it from the road, you feel as though time has stood still since the 1930s.
It’s hard to believe that this quiet and peaceful residential neighbourhood is only a twenty minute walk from the hustle and bustle of Shibuya’s famous intersection crossing. It's not very well known, but this quaint little museum is a must-see if ever you visit Tokyo.
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