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Tenshin Memorial Museum of Art, Ibaraki

Tenshin Memorial Museum of Art, Ibaraki

In a nutshell

If you’re interested in learning more about nihonga, Japanese paintings created with traditional materials and techniques, the Tenshin Memorial Museum of Art in Ibaraki is an ideal place to visit. The museum provides historical information about the life of Okakura Tenshin, a founder of the Nihon Bijutsuin (the Art Institute of Japan), which is dedicated to nihonga and promoting the art form through a biennial exhibition called Inten. Tenshin moved from Tokyo to the Izura coast with several Japanese artists, including Yokoyama Taikan, to focus on nihonga. This museum is one of several venues in Japan that exhibits paintings from the Inten exhibition and awards one of its most prestigious prizes. The photo above, Wild Geese Fly North by Yoshinori Tani, is a Tenshin award recipient.

Insider tip

While you’re in the area, check out Tenshin’s house and the Rokkakudō, a red, hexagonal wooden retreat designed by Tenshin. It sits right on a beautiful, rocky coast line and was rebuilt after being swept away by the 2011 tsunami.

The venue

The museum is located right on the ocean, offering scenic views of the water and surrounding pine forests. The Tenshin is one museum with two distinctive parts. The smaller, permanent collection provides information about the life and influence of Okakura Tenshin, a leading figure in modern Japanese art. The larger area is a gallery space for special exhibitions.

English? (labels/audio guides/handouts)

Very little English. The website’s English information is limited to basic information about the museum and nothing about the exhibitions. There is an audio guide in English for permanent collection about Tenshin’s life. There is no English, other than the titles of the works on the title cards, in the exhibition space.

Photos?

Photos are not allowed.

The feels

Many of the large-scale nihonga paintings on display during the Inten exhibition were stunning to see in person. It is interesting to see the variety and to compare the different subject matters rendered with nihonga techniques.

Appeal

This is great place to learn about the history of nihonga, Tenshin and the modernization of Japanese artist.

How far out?

Kitaibaraki is about two hours away from Tokyo by JR and about two and a half hours by car. There is bus information (in Japanese) on the museum’s website.

How much time?

About an hour.

How much money?

¥190 for general admission for the permanent exhibition space; additional fee for the special exhibition ( ¥620 for the Inten exhibition for example).

Rating: make a special trip, see it if you’re in the area or have some free time, see it only if you like this specific type of art

Definitely worth seeing for the Inten exhibition, if you’d like to learn more about nihonga, or if you’d like some culture while visiting Ibaraki.

Links:

http://www.tenshin.museum.ibk.ed.jp/07_english/index.html (basic information in English) or http://www.tenshin.museum.ibk.ed.jp/ (if you use a translation browser extension)

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