Mingei (National Art) Movement (民芸運動)

MINGEI (National Art) Movement is a movement started by the first issue of "Prospectus for establishment of the Japanese Folk Crafts Museum" in 1926. The movement is unique to Japan in which "beauty of necessaries" in daily necessities used for handwork in everyday life, are found and used. The activities are still continued even now in the 21st century.


Muneyoshi YANAGI, who was the founder and key figure of the Mingei (National Art) Movement worked hard to discover beauty of folkish art craftworks by unknown craftsman of ceramic ware, dyeing and weaving, lacquer ware, and woodwork such as daily use ware in various places in Japan and art crafts in Korean Dynasties period and Buddha statues of traveling monk or mokujiki in the Edo period which had not been fairly evaluated and not fine arts or expensive antiquities in the western sense and introduced them to public. (The term "Richo" was generally used in Japan when Yanagi was engaged in collection and Yanagi himself used "Richo", but in this section, the term "Korean Dynasties period" is used.

Yanagi, who was a member of the magazine "Shirakaba" and introduced Western modern art, became interested in Korean art through meeting Noritaka ASAGAWA, a researcher of Korean clay, in 1914. He worked hard to introduce the earthy beauty of white porcelains, folk paintings and furnitures in the Korean Dynasties period.

In 1923, when Yanagi moved to Kyoto after the Great Kanto Earthquake, he expanded the so called "Mingei Movement" together with Shoji HAMADA and Kanjiro KAWAI. Yanagi, Hamada and Kawai worked hard to find real beauty in the folkish handicrafts by unknown craftsman such as articles for daily use in various places in Japan that were almost ignored in the art industry at that time. Yanagi, who was the key figure of the movement, actively traveled to various places in Japan to investigate and collect folkish handicrafts that had hardly been researched or evaluated as art.

Yanagi did not think to make his collection of handicrafts private, but wanted to show it to the public. At first, he was thinking about donating his collections to the Imperial Museum, but the museum refused the donation. After living in Kyoto for 10 years, Yanagi moved to Tokyo again, obtained financial help from Magosaburo OHARA (founder of Kuraray, Ohara Museum of Art and Ohara Institute for Social Research) and opened the Japan Folk Crafts Museum near his own house in Komaba, Tokyo in 1936. The main tower of the Japan Folk Crafts Museum which looks like kura-zukuri style of two-story wooden tiled roof remained after World War II and steady efforts are being continued as the foothold of the Mingei Movement after the war.

The word "mingei", folk art, that is now established as an expression in modern Japanese such as "Mingeihin selling space" or "Mingei style furniture" is a coined term Yanagi and others started to use.


Muneyoshi YANAGI, Director of the Japan Folk Crafts Museum
Noritaka ASAGAWA
Kichinosuke TONOMURA, Director of Kurashiki Museum of Forkcraft, Director of Kumamoto International Folk Craft Museum
Sanshiro IKEDA, founder of Matsumoto mingei furniture
Ryuzaburo SHIKIBA

Ceramic artist

Bernard LEACH
Kanjiro KAWAI
Michitada FUNAKI

Wood craftsman

Tatsuaki KURODA

Dyeing and Weaving artisan

Toshiko TAIRA

Woodcut print maker

Tomisaburo HASEGAWA


Tamesaburo YAMAMOTO

[Original Japanese]