Treasure hunting at the opening exhibition of “Seikado Bunko Art Museum”!

This month, a new museum for Japanese and Oriental art opened its doors in the Marunouchi area around ​​Tokyo Station! The Seikado Bunko Art Museum moved locations from Setagaya into the historic Meiji Seimei Kan Building, which was big news for its many fans. The ongoing opening exhibition offers the rare chance to see the stunning National Treasures of Japan!

From a library to an art museum

The Seikado BunkoArt Museum has its roots in a book collection of Baron Yanosuke IWAKSAKI (1851-1908), the younger brother of Yataro IWASAKI (1835-1885), who was the founder of Mitsubishi. The collection became a library (=bunko) which later led to the establishment of the Seikado Foundation. The Seikado collection now encompasses 200,000 books and documents (120,000 Chinese books, and 80,000 Japanese books). The art collection holds 6,500 works of art, including 7 National Treasures of Japan and 84 Important Cultural Properties, or Important Art Objects.

Statues of Yataro IWASAKI (left) and Yanosuke IWAKSAKI (right) displayed in the foyer of the Seikado Bunko Art Museum)

Celebrating the 130th anniversary of its founding, Seikado moved its museum galleries to the Meiji Seimei Kan Building, an Important Cultural Property, in Marunouchi, Tokyo. It had always been Yanosuke IWAKSAKI’s dream to build an art museum in this area. Now, after 130 years, this dream has been fulfilled. Under the new nickname “Seikado@Marunouchi”, the Seikado Bunko Art Museum has opened its doors to the public.

Meiji Seimei Kan Building, an Important Cultural Property
The classic atmosphere is fabulous!

In contrast to the Meiji Seimei Kan Building, built in Western style, the works of art that are on display at Seikado@Marunouchi all derive from Asia. I imagined this combination of Japanese and Western styles would feel odd, but strangely enough, it works. It felt like the perfect stage for the many astonishing artworks.

The foyer of “Seikado@Marunouchi”
There is a retro-elevator in one corner of the exhibition room! Unfortunately, you cannot use it.

Go see National Treasures!

The highlight of the ongoing opening exhibition currently is Seikado’s collection of National Treasures of Japan. Rarely shown art treasures such as tea ceremony utensils, Rinpa school (Japanese painter group of the Edo period) works, Chinese calligraphy and paintings, ceramics, swords, and other selected masterpieces, are all on display during the first or second half of the exhibition period!

There is also an audio guide in Japanese. The narrator is Yuichiro Umehara, a well-known anime voice actor!
Commentary in Japanese and English. Wakan Roei-shu poetry anthology, known as “Ota-gire” (edition) Heian period, 11th century
Exhibition view of the area “Selected Masterpieces of the Chinese Arts” with “Segment of scenes of Zen enlightenment”, Priest Zhichang (and Chang Shuibu), Yuan dynasty, 14 century

While visiting the exhibition, a discovery for me was (unexpectedly) a new type of museum glass. The lighting is well-thought-through, and the glass cases show almost no reflection allowing visitors to have a clear view of the artwork and enjoy the realistic colors. It is a luxurious type of art space that you might have never experienced before!

Exhibition view of the area “The Beauty of the Rinpa School with the Brilliance of Gold and Silver” with Tawaraya Sōtatsu “Miotsukushi (Channel Markers)” and “Sekiya (The Barrier Gate)” chapters from the Tale of Genji, Edo period, 1631
Look at these two adorable lions pleasantly scratching their chins – such a clear view! I loved this work of art a lot! Exhibition view of “The Successor of the Collection with the National Treasure Yōhen Tenmoku Tea Bowl – Aesthetic Eyes of Iwasaki Koyata” with Pair of lions, sancai (three-color) lead glaze, Tang dynasty, 8th century

One of the many highlights is a special piece of pottery, the “Yohen Tenmoku” tea bowl. It is one of only three Yohen Tenmoku tea bowls in the world! The beautiful shades of blue and the irregular pattern are beautiful and captivating.

Jian ware Tea bowl “Yohen Tenmoku” (called “Inaba Tenmoku”) Southern Song dynasty, 12th-13th century, China
This is me fascinated by the exquisite colors of the ceramics.

After visiting all four exhibition areas, don’t forget to check out the original items at the museum shop. You will find a lot of cute gifts!

At the museum shop, you can buy the exhibition catalog, original items of the museum, pin badges with motifs of exhibited works, and even a stuffed toy version of the “Yohen Tenmoku” tea bowl!

As for me, it was a priceless experience to see so many National Treasures at the first special exhibition of the new museum. Furthermore, it was a lot of fun to stroll around and find my personal favorite. Maybe not a National Treasure, but finding art that speaks to you is like treasure hunting, don’t you think? Don’t miss the chance to visit the first exhibition at “Seikado@Marunouchi” and to find your very own “treasure”, too!

Commemorating the 130th Anniversary of Seikado and the Opening of the New Museum Inaugural Exhibition I

The Resonance of the Art Treasures: The Seikado Collection

Date: October 1st – December 18th, 2022
(1st term: October 1st to November 6th, 2nd term: November 10th to December 18th)
Opening hours: 10:00-17:00 (Friday-18:00) *Last entry 30 minutes before closing
Closed: Mondays, November 8th, November 9th
(Open on national holiday Mondays and closed on the following days; during installation periods; and New Year holidays. For irregular openings and closings, please check the exhibition schedule and news.)
Admission: Adults ¥1,500 / University and high school students ¥1,000 / Junior high school students and younger free

Meiji Seimei Kan 1F, 2-1-1, Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Google Maps:
Nearest stations: Tokyo Station, Yurakucho Station, and directly connected to Nijubashimae Station
You can also use the free shuttle bus “Marunouchi Shuttle” which connects the Otemachi, Marunouchi, and Yurakucho areas.