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DAY 4 (1/3): SUMIDA HOKUSAI MUSEUM (すみだ北斎美術館), Sumida (墨田), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.17

After a full day excursion of historical temples and natural scenery in Nikko, we decided to spend the next day to explore another neighborhood in Tokyo.  We started the day at the southwest area of Sumida District (墨田区), near the metro station of Ryogoku (両国).  Many tourists come to Ryogoku (両国) for sumo (相撲): visit sumo stables to view professional practice, or checked out chanko nabe restaurants for a sumo meal, or even watch a game of sumo wrestling at Ryogoku Kokugikan (Ryogoku Sumo Hall).  We, however, came to the area for museum hopping.

Opened in 2016, the Sumida Hokusai Museum is being considered as a novel cultural icon of Sumida.  Designed by Kazuyo Sejima (妹島 和世), the sleek architecture houses exhibitions to showcase the life and works of the world famous ukiyo-e (浮世絵) artist Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎).  With his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (富嶽三十六景), Hokusai is definitely the most iconic figure of ukiyo-e (浮世絵) in the Edo Period (1603 – 1868).  Kazuyo Sejima (妹島 和世), the founder of SANAA and a recipient of the Pritzker Prize in architecture with Ryue Nishizawa, is also a generation defining Japanese architect in her own right.  From the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, New Museum in New York, Rolex Learning Centre in Lausanne, to Louvre Lens Museum in France, Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA have inspired uncounted architects and designers around the world in the last two decades.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Midoricho Park (緑町公園) where Sumida Hokusai Museum is erected, is also the birthplace of Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASejima’s building immediately became a cultural icon in the rather low key residential neighborhood.  The building provides an interesting backdrop for the community play area of Midoricho Park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe building scale and the facade’s level of reflectiveness express a certain degree of novelty without creating an overwhelming impact to the surrounding context.

04The cave like slit at each of the four sides provides a prominent entrance gateway at each side.

05The reflectivity of the museum’s metal cladding is right on.

06Everything on the facade is clean and minimal.

07We walked to the main entrance via one of the triangular opening on the facade.

08The facets of the glass panes and the reflections of the outside offer a unique entrance experience.

09The detailing of the triangular opening is once again clean and minimal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe angular aspects of the architecture is carried through into the interior.

11The washroom on the ground floor is a cute little cube at the lobby.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeside Sejima’ architecture, the works of Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎) were well worth the admission.

13The exhibition space is not big.  Most of his paintings are hung along the wall.  Artifacts such as books and sketches.

14The most famous works by  Kazuyo Sejima is Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (富嶽三十六景 Fugaku Sanjūroku-kei).  A selection of the 36 prints had been put on display.

15The Great Wave off Kanagawa is perhaps the most well known image by Katsushika Hokusai.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome of the final works by Katsushika Hokusai are also on display.

17A wax display depicting the studio of Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎) and his daughter back in the Edo Period.

18Outside of the exhibition area, there is a seating area with great views towards the Sky Tree.


Originated from the nearby provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang and Guizhou, the hand making of blue nankeen cotton fabric have been a local heritage for centuries.  Dyed in indigo and finished with white traditional patterns, the traditional blue nankeen fabrics have caught the eyes of many people, including Japanese artist Kubo Mase (久保麻紗).  Kubo Mase was a prominent collector of blue nankeen fabrics, dyeing tools, handlooms, and many other blue nankeen related tools collected from the rural areas across Southern China since 1950s.  Kubo Mase founded the Chinese Hand Printed Blue Nankeen Gallery in a small courtyard at Changle Road Lane 637.  It houses many of her collections, and also hosts a small shop selling hand printed blue nankeen fabrics.

Before leaving Shanghai, we were keen to drop by the Chinese Hand Printed Blue Nankeen Gallery to know more about the traditional indigo cotton.  Following the sign from the main road, we found our way through small lanes and courtyards until reaching the gallery forecourt where a few rows of indigo fabrics were hung.  In an old two-storey house, Kubo Mase’s collection and a small shop of a variety of blue nankeen products made up the off-the-beaten-track attraction for anyone who is interested in cultural heritage and beautiful handcrafts.  In a nation where modernization is rapidly wiping out authentic heritage, historical neighborhoods, and rural culture, the gallery appears like a peaceful oasis where the old ways of blue nankeen making is quietly preserved.

DSC_2539Entrance into the gallery forecourt.

DSC_2533Blue nankeen fabric hanging in the forecourt of the gallery.

DSC_2537Blue nankeen fabric hanging in the forecourt of the gallery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMore blue nankeen fabric hanging on the second floor of the gallery building.

DSC_2542Inside the gallery building, many blue nankeen fabrics were framed and displayed all over.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA With nice wooden floor and nostalgic pendant lamps, the gallery interior was an atmospheric old mansion.

DSC_2545On the second level, a traditional handloom was on display.

DSC_2551The Koinobori (Japanese carp flag) inspired print was also on display among the traditional blue nankeen fabrics.

DSC_2558Detailed patterns of a traditional blue nankeen fabric.

DSC_2560Detailed patterns of a traditional blue nankeen fabric.

DSC_2562Second floor exhibition hall showcasing dyeing tools in the glass display counters.

DSC_2567Traditional clothing made with the blue nankeen fabric.

DSC_2570A hallway marked by neat archways was also used to display blue nankeen fabrics.


Read other posts on Shanghai 2016:
0.0 SHANGHAI, 2016
1.0 SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China
3.0 LION GROVE GARDEN, Suzhou, China
5.0 ROCKBUND, Shanghai, China
6.0 M50, Shanghai, China
7.0 1933 SHANGHAI (老場坊) , Shanghai, China
8.0 POLY GRAND THEATRE (上海保利大劇院), Shanghai, China
10.0 POWER STATION OF ART, Shanghai, China
11.0 LONG MUSEUM (龍美術館), West Bund, Shanghai, China
12.0 THE BUND (外灘) AT NIGHT, Shanghai, China
13.0 TIANZIFANG (田子坊), Shanghai, China
15.0 LUJIAZUI (陸家嘴) OF PUDONG (浦東), Shanghai, China