Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Kagoshima Walk - Museums and Galleries, Part 1

Nakanohiratori Street runs through an area referred to as "History and Culture Road" in Japanese and "the Cultural Zone" in English. This is not to be confused with History Road, which parallels the Kotsuki river and has the Meiji Restoration Museum at its west end. (History Road is essentially a long, narrow stretch of park land that includes marker signs describing certain historical figures and events local to Kagoshima.)

The bulk of the buildings around Nakanohiratori are between Central Park and the Shigakko school site. In order from the direction of Kagoshima-chuo station going towards the bay, we have the Kagoshima Prefectural Museum, the Museum of Archeology, Kagoshima Municipal Museum of Art, the statue of Saigo Takamori, Houzan Hall, the Yozan Museum of Art, the Modern Literature Museum, "Marchen" Fairy Tale Museum, the Tsurumaru castle ruins and the Reimeikan (history museum). Of these sites, I've already covered the Saigo statue, and the castle ruins are just the remains of the walls that surround the Reimeikan. Then, there's the Archeology Museum, which is now just an abandoned old building. The rest of the locations are fully-operational museums or galleries that on the whole have modest admission fees.

First, we have the Prefectural Archeological Museum, located right behind the Prefectural Museum. From the marker: "Rare Stone Building. 'Pavilion becomes museum". The Prefectural Arheological [sic] Museum is one of the few stone buildings in Japan. Nearly as old as the Shoko Shuseikan at Iso, it was built of local stones in 1883 as a pavilion for the 24th meeting of the Kyushu Okinawa Association. The new "neo-gothic" architectural style quickly became the talk of the town. The building later displayed industrial products from home and abroad, and with the birth of Kagoshima City in 1889 it provided temporary accommodation for local government offices. In 1932 it became the Institute tor [sic] the Promotion of Commerce and Industry. From 1953 the building housed the Prefectural Museum. but with the subsequent removal of the former library building it became the Archeology Museum. The balcony, balustrade and front steps stand in their original imposing condition despite natural disasters and World War II."

(I couldn't take pictures of the other sides of the building because they butt up against the neighboring structures. The building is now closed off and entry prohibited. Some of the tourist maps I've picked up still show this building as being open to the public, but a couple have "entry prohibited" stickers hand-pasted on them, meaning that it was closed-off only recently.)


While referred to as the Kagoshima Prefectural Museum, the building next door to the Archeology Museum is actually a natural sciences museum. Admission is free, and it's open from 9 AM to 5 PM. Special events for children are held on the weekends. Like most museums, it's closed on Mondays (or, on the following Tuesday if Monday is a national holiday). The first floor has a number of aquariums with small fish and some turtles and lizards, plus photos of the area around Sakura-jima. The second floor has a model of the Sakura-jima volcano and a video describing volcanic activity.

There are also some examples of various geologic formations and rock types. The third floor has a small library, a study space for children, and descriptions of local foodstuffs, including Satsuma imo (sweet potato). There's a description of the process for making shochu, with models of yeast organisms. In with all of this are stuffed animals and birds, and examples of local flora. If you are a bird watcher, this a good place to visit to see what kinds of birds are available to watch around Kagoshima. In the lobby is a JAXA satellite photo of Sakura-jima that speaks volumes about the 1914 eruption that resulted in the island becoming connected to the rest of Kyushu on the east side of the volcano.

(How to make shochu.)


A couple of blocks further down from the Prefecture History Museum, just before the statue of Saigo Takamori, is the Kagoshima City Walk tourist center. The people here are incredibly helpful, although I'm not sure how well they can handle English (most of the conversation was in Japanese). They focus on presenting 16 different tour routes of the city and have lots of fliers and maps available for free.


Right after the Saigo Takamori statue is the Kagoshima City Art Museum. This is primarily a modern art center that can be said to consist of 4 main sections. The left side of the first floor is a featured exhibit hall, with the the most recent exhibit dedicated to the artwork of Ultraman (Mar. 30 to May 8). The attendants were dressed up in costumes from the TV series, and there was a really big gift shop just beyond the ticket desk. The 1100 yen ($13 USD) was more than I wanted to pay for something that I only have a passing interest in, so I didn't go inside to look around. On the other hand, getting the main ticket would have meant getting a 10% discount on the 300 yen entry fee for the rest of the museum. The right half of the first floor is an art library.

The right half of the second floor featured something roughly called "Looking at the Unseen" (AKA: "How to see hidden things", from Apr. 21 to May 8), which consisted of about 40 or 50 pencil sketches by Odilon Redon and Max Ernst. The left half was the permanent collection display, with pieces from Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Chagal, Ernst, Fujita Tsuguharu, Yamaguchi Takeo and others, plus Japanese artists that painted Meiji era figures like Saito Takamori. The basement has a few meeting rooms, one of which was showing some very nice high quality digital photos of local birds, and close-ups of the Sakura-jima eruptions.

If you're in the area, the Art Museum is a good way spend an hour or two looking around. There's also a small cafe on the second floor if you want some light desserts and coffee, although it is a bit pricey (600 to 800 yen per item).


Another couple blocks towards the bay and you get to the ruins of the Tsurumaru Castle. According to the wiki article, it was built in 1601 by Shimazu Iehisa, following his father's defeat at the Battle of Sekigahara against Tokugawa Ieyasu, and that the castle was kept on an embarrassingly small scale to avoid antagonizing Tokugawa. According to the historical marker, Iehisa kept the castle modest as a symbol of the greater strength of the people of Kagoshima. In any event, it burned down in 1868, leaving just the moat and castle walls. The walls here also show bullet damage from the battle involving the Shigakko School against the British. The grounds currently house the Kagoshima Prefecture Library and the Reimeikan.

(Note that in with all of the fighting that happened in Kagoshima (the Satsuma-Anglo war was in 1863, and the Satsuma rebellion of the Shigakko schools was in 1877), Tsurumaru's burning seems to have been a completely separate event.)

At the entrance leading to the library, there's a monument to an ancient bible presented to Kagoshima by a Shanghai mission in 1869. The English text on the "pages" displayed on the monument is mostly gibberish.

Kagoshima Prefecture Library:

The library is fairly modest, compared to what you may be used to. There are some sculptures and paintings scattered around the hallways, and at the moment there's a display of watercolor paintings by local school kids. The first floor contains a children's reading room, and a magazine/newspaper room. Admission is free, but you need to leave your bags and cameras in the lockers provided. No English papers, though. The library is a good place to hang out if you just want to sit and chill.

(On the left of the photo, an instruction guide on how to use the instruction guide.)

The second floor is largely offices and meeting rooms. Windows overlook the gravel garden in the central courtyard. The front half of the 2nd floor, though, is the adult library, with textbooks and literature. Most of what I glanced at was in Japanese. I was impressed by one book - a collection of rubber band guns. Some of the guns pictured in the book looked like works of art, others like realistic guns such as the Dessert Eagle, and there were many variants on machine guns and shot guns firing many rubber bands at one time. Assembled by the Japanese Association of Rubber Band Gun Collectors.

(Girl with Blue Ribbon and Parasol.)


Oh, where to begin with this one... The Reimeikan is a huge art and history museum spread out over 3 floors. There's a special exhibit space which is currently showing ceramics, and I think costs 300 yen to enter. The primary space is across the hall and is 300 yen for all three floors. A lot of the explanations are in Japanese, English and Chinese, but the bulk of it is in Japanese only. No cameras allowed. There's also a good sized cafeteria at the other end of the building, with prices in the 800 to 1000 yen range. And at the back of the building is a garden with a pond, a small walkway and 2 old buildings to look at.

(The "real" Atsuhime.)

The first floor has the history of the Satsuma region (later, Kagoshima), from the Jomon period up to about the Meiji Restoration. The second floor has the history of the Meiji period, with a really nice recreation of the Tenmonkan shopping district circa roughly 1920, I think. The third floor has some stuffed animals and artwork, plus short biographies of the local Meiji Restoration heroes.

It took me 2 hours to look at everything, and even then I wasn't trying to read the Japanese descriptions. There's curators on all three floors waiting to answer questions, and just tons of pictures, models, recreations of whole villages, electronic guide kiosks, interactive displays, etc. If you really want to understand Satsuma's role in the westernization of Japan after 1850, the Reimeikan and the Meiji Restoration Museum are must-see destinations, and are both worth every yen of the 300 yen entry fees.

No comments: