Baron Yanosuke Iwakasi, a member of the family who founded what became the international Mitsubishi corporation, was determined to help to safeguard the cultural heritage of Japan that he felt was being forgotten by a majority of Japanese as a result of the westernization that followed the Meiji Restoration of the 1860s.
He and his son, Baron Koyata Iwasaki, who became the fourth president of Mitsubishi, worked together to collect 200,000 books and manuscripts, 80,000 Japanese and 120,000 Chinese, 6500 works of art and historical artifacts such as swords, tea ceremony utensils, Japanese and Chinese paintings, scrolls, screens, calligraphy, pottery, porcelain, lacquer ware, paper, brushes, and wood carvings, with a view to establishing a library and art museum that would “preserve the artistic and literary heritage of East Asia”. Plans for the Museum were interrupted by World War II but it was finally opened in 1992.
Housed in an English country cottage-style building, the art museum encompasses treasures dating back to the Han dynasty of 206BC – 220AD, the Tang of 618 – 907, the Song of 960 – 1279, the Yuan of 1279 – 1368, the Ming of 1368 – 1644, and the Qing of 1644 – 1912. Its comprehensive and chronological collection of Chinese pottery and porcelain is representative of each of these dynasties.
Among the hundreds of exquisite artworks are: two 11th century hand scrolls of calligraphy, Wakan-Roei-sho, known as “Otagire”, from the Heian deemed as “national treasures”; a colorfully-decorated ceramic Jianware tea bowl, also a “national treasure”, from the 12-13th century; a celadon, drum-shaped water jar with peony-design reliefs, an “important cultural property” from the 13th century; a Tachi sword by Tegai Kanenaga, a “national treasure” and an illustrated hand scroll of tales from the Heiji Civil War called the Scroll of Shinzei, “an important cultural property”, both from the 13th century Kamakura period; a pair of screens with six folds each, decorated in color on gold-leaf paper depicting scenes from the Sekiya and Miotsukushi Chapters of the Genji Monogatari, the Tale of Genji, by Tawaraya Sotatsu, a “national treasure” from the 17th century Edo period; an “important cultural property” lacquer ware writing box with a Sumino-e design made by Ogata Korin in the 17th – 18th century, during the Edo period.
This spectacular collection is a perfect introduction to the stunning creations of East Asian societies through the ages, the societies who invented typography, the compass, the application of gunpowder, among countless other scientific and cultural innovations.
Location: 2-23-1 Setagayaku, Tokyo 157-0076, Japan Telephone: 81-3-3700-0007
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 10:00AM – 4:00PM
Admission: Adults: 800 Yen ($8.00) Students: 500 Yen ($5.00)