The Museum Yamatobunkakan (大和文華館)
The Museum Yamatobunkakan is a private museum that displays mainly oriental antique arts.
In 1946 Torao OITA, the president of Kinki Nippon Railway Company (Kintetsu), established the Museum Yamatobunkakan Foundation. OITA decided to establish a hall of arts worthy of the railway company connecting cultural centers of Japan--Kyoto, Nara, and Ise-- and appointed Yukio YASHIRO, worldly known historian of art as the first director and requested the works to do so. All the works ranging from the management of the museum to the selection and collection of the artworks were entrusted to YASHIRO. YASHIRO, a scholar, worked hard to collect high-quality artworks not according to his personal taste but systematically. The artworks he collected include 4 national treasures and 31important cultural properties.
OITA soon died, but his wish was taken over to Isamu SAEKI over 10 years and carried out with the opening of Museum Yamatobunkakan as a part of commemorative event of the 50's anniversary of Kintetsu in 1960. Most private museums are based on a large collection of entrepreneurs and Daimyo family (feudal lord family), etc. The Museum Yamatobunkakan, in contrast, is unique in that a plan for establishing the museum existed in the first place and a collection was formed later. This is why YASHIRO called the museum "the museum for beauty." Masterpieces were collected for the collection with their ornamental value being prioritized. One of the features of Museum Yamatobunkakan is its well-balanced and thorough collection of masterpieces that represent an aesthetic sense of a period or region without considering personal preferences.
For reference, many of the masterpieces including Kokuho (national treasure) Nezame monogatari emaki (Picture Scroll of the Tale of Nezame) and Ichiji Rendai Hokekyo (Lotus Sutra with Lotus Pedestals for each of the Characters) were the collection of Tomitaro HARA (Sankei HARA), founder of Sankei-en Garden in Yokohama. "Bunka" of the Museum Yamatobunkakan came from the Nanjing Museum in Nanjing, where YASHIRO found in his visit that an exhibition room for natural objects was called "Bukkakan" and that for human arts "Bunkakann." "Bunka" in the Chinese old language refers to the way talents of fine writing and culture is flourishing. The name reflected YASHIRO's expectations toward post-war Japan.
The collection includes the Sohaku Bunnko Library collected by Naokatsu NAKAMURA and the calligraphic works and paintings of Tessai TOMIOKA and Suzuka Bunko Library formerly collected by the Kondo family, in addition to about 2000 masterpieces of oriental antique art mainly in China, Korean Peninsula, and Japan. These are displayed consecutively seven times a year in feature exhibitions mainly of the collection possessed by the museum. A special exhibition was also held nearly once a year.
The Museum Yamatobunkakan is not only a museum but also a research organization. The museum has an art laboratory in its establishment. "Yamatobunka," a semiannual journal of oriental antique first published in 1951 is the oldest private journal of art in Japan and well accepted at home and abroad.
"Museum with a bamboo garden"
The Museum Yamatobunkakan is located in a quiet residential neighborhood in the west suburb of Nara City. On a hill facing Sugawara-no-ike pond (also known as Kerumata-ike Pond), it stands surrounded by old Japanese red pine trees and a natural garden called "Bunkaen." The exhibition hall was one of the most important work of Isoya YOSHIDA, an architect and a member of the Japan Art Academy. Included in its motif is 'Namako-kabe wall' (covered with square tiles jointed with raised plaster), which can be associated with a castle or brewery.
The exhibition hall is laid out so that it surrounds a courtyard of bamboo tress. Its balcony can command a distant view of Mt. Kasuga and Heijo-kyo (the ancient capital of Japan in current Nara). This is why the museum is dubbed 'museum with a bamboo garden' and well known by many people. This natural environment surrounding the museum is an achievement of the following ideals of Oriental Arts that Yukio YASHIRO entertained: "an exhibition hall whose air is colored by natural green" and "the orient art that can look most beautiful in a frame of nature."
The lounge of Nara Hotel designed by Kingo TATSUNO and built in 1909 was relocated and innovated in a series of a project commemorating the 25th anniversary of the establishment and is utilized as a hall.
Education and Information
Curators explain displays at 2 p.m. every Saturday. Inspired by activities of museums in Western countries, Yukio YASHIRO started this. This is a traditional event of the Museum Yamatobunkakan and has continued since its opening.
Sunday art lecture is also held nearly once during an exhibition. An easy-to-understand lecture is given using slides to show the appeal of oriental antique art and based on the latest findings of the research (only with a regular museum charge and without no fee for attending the lecture). The museum actively accepts appreciation education of elementary school children as well as study tours and training of university students. Visitors can also join a club whose members have the privilege of being sent a quarterly publication named 'Bi no Tayori' (news of the beauty) carrying exhibition plans and essay of art.
The surroundings of the museum is a natural garden called Bunkaen Garden, where visitors can enjoy the following flowers throughout four seasons of the year: plum-grove (around in February and March), Miharu cherry trees (early in April), Lilium japonicum (around in May), Japanese hydrangea (from June to July), cotton rosemallow (September), bush clover (around in November), Christmas camellia (around in December), Chimonanthus praecox and common camellia (January to February).
Address: 1-11-6, Gakuen Minami, Nara City, Nara prefecture 631-0034
Traffic Access: seven minutes from Gakukenmae Station of Kintetsu Nara Line
Information for nearby spots
Shohaku Art Museum
Nakano Museum of Art