Hello, I’m still here. I traveled near the end of the month, last month. With February being a short month and me being a procrastinator, it’s not unexpected that I didn’t post anything. However, I’m back now and will work harder than ever to catch up with my backlog. So back to Japan we go… When I visited Takayama, it was raining, so I got to visit two museums, so here’s the second…
Takayama Museum of History and Art, located in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture
The Takayama Museum of History and Art is open year round from 9am to 7pm, although they maybe occasionally closed. Admission to the museum is free. The museum is accessible via walking, driving and public transportation. If you’re already in Takayama, then the best way to reach the museum is by walking as Takayama isn’t all that big, so most places can be reached on foot. If you prefer driving, it’s definitely an option, as there is parking nearby, but I’m not sure if it’s free or not. As for public transportation, there is a bus stop right by the museum. Take the Machinami bus and get off at the Museum bus stop, M21, to reach the museum. Other interesting places to visit nearby include the Takayama Festival Floats Exhibition Hall and the Kusakabe Folk Museum for those who don’t want to wander off too far. For those who don’t mind going further, check out the Hida Takayama Teddy Bear Eco Village and Hida Folk Village, which are both on the other side of Takayama.
The Takayama Museum of History and Art is a small complex of interconnected buildings that were originally the storehouses of two wealthy merchant families, the Yajimas and the Nagatas. Within these buildings, are 15 different exhibits housed on two floors. (The buildings are connected via hallways, so you don’t have to venture outside to reach the various exhibits.) The exhibits are labelled from 1 to 15 on the museum floor guide and at the museum, so it can be inferred that there’s a set route to see the exhibits, in chronological order. However one is free to explore as they please (but an exhibit will lead to the next exhibit in chronological order, so if you do want to skip around, you’ll have to double back). The museum has a no photography policy, so there’s no other photos in this post.
Since the museum has a suggested viewing route, my travel companion and I followed it and started with the exhibit #1, which is “Welcome to the Museum”. This exhibit gives visitors a brief overview of Takayama as a castle town, the culture of the local region, and the history of the museum. The next exhibit is “Takayama Festival”, which focuses on the bi-annual festival that the town is famous for and the floats that appear in the festival. The third exhibit is “Takayama Machinami and Hida Carpentary”. Visitors can learn about Hida carpentry, a highly regarded skill that has been passed down through the generations, and see models of old private houses, known as machinami, that display the region’s famed woodwork skill. The last chronological exhibit on the first floor is “History of Takayama as a Castle Town”. This exhibit explores the history of Takayama, starting with the founding of Takayama to its eventual rule under the shogunate to the present. Visitors can learn about the different lifestyles of the townsfolk throughout different periods of time, see various artifacts, such as clothing, paintings, weapons and maps of the town.
First exhibit on the second floor is “Lord Kanamori’s Family History”, which focuses on the Kanamori family, who are the founders of Takayama, and their subsequent rule over the area for the following 100 years. The following exhibit appears to be a rotating exhibit that highlights folk events. When I visited, there was documentary about the making of pickles for the winter. Next is “Traditional Events”, which highlights Takayama’s various annual events. Visitors can see different types of costumes, dolls and talismans on display that are used during the festivities. “Takayama Artwork” is the following exhibit, however it was closed when I visited, so I didn’t get to see any Takayama artwork. “Religion in Takayama” is an interesting exhibit that focuses on Enku’s Buddhas. Enku was a Buddhist monk who traveled throughout Eastern Japan and carved tens of thousands of wooden Buddhas during his priestly training, which he gave away as payment for temple lodgings or as comfort items to those in mourning. As such, the exhibit has many carved Buddhas on display, some of which are still objects of worship, in addition to displaying some documents relating to Enku. “Life and Culture” displays a variety of artifacts relating to the local life of the people of Takayama, such as household goods and equipment. Last of the permanent exhibits on the second floor is ” Academics and Literature”, where visitors can view books and paintings that are of significance to Takayama and the surrounding region. In addition to all the permanent exhibits, the second floor contains a temporary exhibit. When I visited, the temporary exhibit was “The Kanamori Family”, which is now no longer on view. Whereas the permanent exhibit focused solely on the Kanamori’s connections to Takayama, the temporary emphasized their contributions to Japan as a whole.
Returning to first floor, “Massive Fires and Disaster Prevention” introduces visitors to the history of fire fighting and disaster prevention in Takayama. Due to the closeness of the buildings, Takayama frequently experienced large scale fires, thus fire fighter teams were formed. Visitors can see the uniforms and tools used by these early fire fighting teams. “Local Traditional Crafts” highlights the traditional crafts found in the Hida region, such as Hida Shunkei Lacquerware, Yew wood carvings, and Hida Ceramics. Last, but not least is “Takayama’s Economic History”, which focuses on the various industries that contribute to Takayama’s economy.
My usual travel buddy and I spent about 1.5 hours at the museum, but as always, other visitors may take more or less time depending on their interest. (The museum suggests about 2 hours to see all the exhibitions, which I think is a better estimate than my own 1.5 hours. I arrived kinda late to the museum, so I had to rush through some of the exhibits to make sure I saw everything, especially towards the end when it was near closing time.) The museum is free and has so much to see that it’s a really good option for anyone to visit to learn more about Takayama. However, it may not be an ideal choice for families with younger children, as there isn’t much to engage them (but they do have stamp stations in several of the rooms; stamp collecting is quite popular in Japan.) Anyone interested in learning more about Takayama or its history or general history will want to take a visit as it’s brimming with artifacts and information. Takayama is known as the “Little Kyoto of Hida” with its traditional buildings and rustic atmosphere, and where better to learn more about this charming city’s local history and culture than at the Takayama Museum of History and Art.