Kyoto Seishu Netsuke Art Museum｜京都清宗根付館
One of the finest examples of art born from utilitarian items is Japanese netsuke: in a land without pockets they originally served as toggle-fasteners on the ends of cords used to keep one’s belongings secured at the kimono’s obi sash. Over time, these once simple, round pieces evolved into miniature sculptures, some of them becoming true works of art fit to be displayed beside the finest in the world. Netsuke reached an artistic height in the Edo period (1603 – 1868), and these classic works were built upon by generation after generation of craftsmen, their passion and skills inherited by contemporary artists operating to this day.
To gain true appreciation for these miniature works of art, don’t pass up the chance to visit the Kyoto Seishu Netsuke Art Museum located near Mibu-dera temple in central Kyoto. Housed in a two-story samurai residence painstakingly restored to its former glory, this art museum is the definitive place to learn and admire the fine carving and creative spirit of Japanese netsuke.
All things that can be found in the world are represented beautifully in netsuke.
This art museum displays approximately 400 antique and contemporary netsuke at one time, and a leisurely stroll through the traditional Japanese rooms reveals a staggering variety of materials, shapes, and themes. The collection exhibited at the Kyoto Seishu Netsuke Art Museum encompasses classic materials such as ivory and wood, as well as netsuke carved from more rare choices like amber, ceramics, antler, tusk, and ebony. All kinds of shapes are represented as well, from the round, bun-shaped manjū netsuke to the thin, vertical sashi netsuke designed to be inserted behind the obi sash. Animals, people, flowers, masks, everyday objects, and more… All things that can be found in the world are represented beautifully in netsuke.
One of the best things about the Kyoto Seishu Netsuke Art Museum is that they are constantly rotating their exhibits to showcase different netsuke, making it just as interesting for returning visitors as well as first-timers. Showcasing a particular artisan, relevant season, theme, or style of netsuke, there is a monthly rotation, so that the entire collection is refreshed every three months. Check the current exhibitions at the Kyoto Seishu Netsuke Art Museum’s official website!
Samurai Household Architecture
Though you’ve undoubtedly come for the netsuke, the museum itself is a gorgeous example of residences typical of the class of samurai who transitioned back into farming in the Edo period. Formerly the home of the Kanzaki family, this Tangible Cultural Property is the only extant samurai residence remaining in Kyoto. In preparation for the museum’s opening in 2007 the entire complex was renovated, with great efforts taken to preserve the traditional architecture and its historical features in order to retain everything that adds to the atmosphere of the museum today. While it may be difficult, make sure to tear your eyes away from the netsuke collection to admire the byōbu folding screen, the garden, the artwork displayed in the tokonoma alcove, the polearms that would once have been used to defend the residence, and the layout of the old kitchen and loft areas. The museum has as much love and care put into it as the netsuke themselves, making the visit even more worthwhile!
- General Admission: ¥1,000
- Students: ¥500
- General Admission: 10:00 – 17:00 (last entry 16:30)
- Closed: Mondays, holiday periods (consult the official website)