The Museum I Recommend

Museum of Ehime History and Culture: A Museum of the Reiwa Era

Maki Shimizu, Museum Lab

The history museum of Ehime Prefecture standing amidst greenery
The history museum of Ehime Prefecture standing amidst greenery

The large prefectural museums of Ehime are located throughout the entire prefecture. The art museum is in the Chuyo area where the prefectural hall is also situated, the science museum is in the Toyo area, and the history museum is in the Nanyo area. While this may be inconvenient for tourists, the residents of Ehime have, thankfully, been saved by these prefectural facilities on numerous occasions, such as when we have to take our families on outings, or when we are stumped by where to go on a rainy day.

The other day, I dropped by the Museum of Ehime History and Culture in Uwa-cho, Saijo City for my first visit in a while. At the entrance to the permanent exhibits, there was a display about the Manyoshu and the Reiwa era. “Shoshun no reigetsu ni shite, kiyoku kaze yawaragi, ume wa kyouzen no ko o kaorasu.” It is now the choice month of early spring; the weather is fine, the wind is soft. The plum blossoms open—powder before a mirror; the orchids exhale—fragrance after a sachet. The poem is explained thus: In the garden, butterflies are flying, and if you were to look up at the sky, you will see wild geese flying back north. The sky is the ceiling; the ground a place to sit. People are sitting knee to knee and drinking together. What a wonderful thing it is to have a moment of joy!

I did not think that the Manyoshu would have anything to do with my life, besides appearing in test questions in school. However, I was happy at the thought that there is an overlap between the emotions of the people from the time of the Manyoshu and us today. Like the people back then, we, too, delight in getting together to enjoy and admire the natural beauty of the passing of each season. I am grateful to the staff of the museum for providing me with the space to become acquainted with new knowledge through this rather tiny display regarding the origin of the new era name. Through this display that was about the size of a single tatami mat, I was able to feel the ceaseless flow of an unending history from the past to the present.

In this new era of Reiwa, what role does a museum play? What kind of world does it take us to? I eagerly await the new vistas, far away from our busy everyday lives, which even a tiny display at a museum can take us to. What a marvellous thing it would be if different people could gather and experience beautiful, interesting, fun things through the museum, and find joy in such contact and interactions.

A sign in front of the ticket counter to entice visitors

A small display regarding Reiwa and the Manyoshu
A small display regarding Reiwa and the Manyoshu

The Saga Prefectural Museum and the Saga Prefectural Art Museum

Shinichi Etoh, Museum Lab

The Saga Prefectural Museum (front) and the Saga Prefectural Art Museum (back))
The Saga Prefectural Museum (front) and the Saga Prefectural Art Museum (back)

I would like to introduce to you the Saga Prefectural Museum and the Saga Prefectural Art Museum. These two museums are located on the san-no-maru site of Saga Castle in the heart of Saga City. The Saga Prefectural Museum opened in 1970. Later on, the Saga Prefectural Art Museum opened in 1983, after which the functions of an art museum were transferred over. As can be observed from the photograph, the two structures were built next to each other, and are linked by two corridors. Museums sporting such a building design are not commonly seen today, and the fact that both the museum and the art museum are operated as a single entity is also interesting.

Together, they house collections of materials relating to the natural history, history, craft, and folklore of Saga Prefecture, as well as paintings, sculptures and books with a connection to the prefecture. The Saga Castle History Museum is also located in close proximity. This area is certainly a concentration of the culture of Saga.

A corridor connecting the two museums
A corridor connecting the two museums

The Saga Castle History Museum located in the immediate vicinityす
The Saga Castle History Museum located in the immediate vicinity

Aquamarine Fukushima: The Ideal Expression of an Aquarium

Koji Takada, Director of Umi to Hakubutsukan Kenkyujo (Ocean and Museum Research Lab)

Aquamarine Fukushima
Aquamarine Fukushima

Please indulge me for first starting off with a little bit about myself. I joined the Oita Ecological Aquarium (now the Oita Umitamago Aquarium) in 1976. Then, in 1988, I left and joined the Uminonakamichi Marine Ecological Science Museum (Marine World Uminonakamichi). By 2016, I have 40 years of experience working in aquariums. After that, I taught in the Department of Marine Bio-Science of the Faculty of Life Science and Biotechnology in Fukuyama University. At the same time, I was involved in various efforts focused around the university-affiliated aquarium, such as educational outreach programs and research in the developing of exhibitions. I worked there until the end of March in 2019, and set up the Ocean and Museum Research Lab in spring of the same year. The main factor contributing to my being able to accumulate such experiences is solely due to the fact that I was given a place at an aquarium. Thus, I intend to spend the rest of my life repaying my debt of gratitude towards aquariums, seas, oceans, and marine creatures. This is both my raison d'être and my goal.

From the moment I dived into the world of aquariums, I have developed various different activities under the slogan “Turning aquariums into museums (educational facilities).” I am grateful for the very important opportunity to make a submission to the “International Museum Day Newsletter” on several occasions. I am deeply honored to be able to contribute to the continuing publication of the newsletter this year as well.

Please pardon me for my rather long introduction. I often get asked, “Which aquarium do you recommend the most?” given the field that I work in. And I would always answer without any hesitation, “Aquamarine Fukushima.” I do not think that there are any other aquariums in this country that offer anything like the Aquamarine Fukushima does. It is like a top athlete who is equally balanced in all aspects of performance. Rather than the size of the facility or the large number of exhibits, I am, instead, referring to the excellent content of the exhibits and the highly accomplished rearing techniques. The international standard quality of research here, coupled with an exemplary vision regarding educational purposes, makes it a unique aquarium that is constantly the leader of its field. Be it the positive attitude found in the various efforts, or the talented staff supporting all of the exceptional activities, no matter which aspect, no other aquarium in this country can top the Aquamarine Fukushima. It is indeed fitting that this aquarium hosted the 10th International Aquarium Congress last fall.

Amidst the different ways that an aquarium could and should be, I would like to make a special mention of the fact that Aquamarine Fukushima manages to delight its many visitors, be they professionals like myself, or casual visitors—despite the fact that it has no large marine creatures nor any star animals. The aquarium opened in 2000, and is approaching its twentieth anniversary soon. During this period, the aquarium was hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake, and subsequently, by other related accidents. Instead of being disheartened, the staff, along with people in the surrounding area, managed to overcome this great hurdle. Aquamarine Fukushima continues to grow from strength to strength, and its subsequent developments remain to be seen.

While I am happy if my article can support Aquamarine Fukushima in any way, I hope that everyone can experience this aquarium directly, rather than learn about the various attractions it offers merely through this page. I wish from the bottom of my heart that your next visit supports the Aquamarine Fukushima.

The Entire World is a Museum

Shinsuke Nishiura, School Principal, Free School1 e-root, Free Schools Ehime

Why do museums exist?

I am a principal of a free school who believes in the educational philosophy that the entire world itself is a museum. This philosophy means that I experience and share the many events and happenings of daily life together with my students, and link these to learning. When written down in words, this idea does not necessarily appear to be obvious, but I would like to take this opportunity to explore it further. First, I would like to do a quick overview of museums. Any errors in the numbers provided here are my own.

Beginning with the Tokyo National Museum, there are about 6000 of what are designated as museums in the whole of Japan. They include general museums, science centers, historical museums, art museums, zoological gardens, biological gardens, aquariums, archives, memorial museums and so on. Museums are regulated in accordance with the Museum Act. They are defined as institutions that collect, preserve, and display materials regarding history, art, the natural sciences, and so on. The aim of a museum is to let members of the public make use of its materials, as well as have curators carry out studies and research on these materials for the purpose of education. Museums are grouped into three different categories. Starting from the strictest category, there are around 900 registered museums, around 400 museum-equivalent institutions, and around 4,700 museum-like institutions. Here, it is worth mentioning that of the 4,700 museum-like institutions, 4,500 of them are not operated as museums, but they are institutions that do very similar things. There also exist many small institutions that are not reflected in the data. When the Museum Act was established in 1951 (Showa 26), museums lacked the diversity present today, and numbered only 200 in total.

The free school that I work at takes care of children who do not attend regular schools. I started to notice something as I conducted personal information sessions with the families of these children. As recently as 20 years ago, many people treated the refusal to go to school as a disease that impeded learning and was something that necessitated treatment. However, nowadays, the number of children who have very solid dreams about the future has increased. Such children have doubts regarding positions on learning and the system in regular schools, but many of them have very strong interests in the arts, natural sciences, and history. Having different experiences can prompt them to become completely absorbed, to focus single-mindedly on learning something, or to enjoy a hobby. There are, of course, children who have trouble interacting with others, or who stop going to school because they were bullied, and are full of anxiety and grievances towards the entire world. There are also children who, besides sleeping, stay at home and play video games all day long. But even the parents of these children wish for them to see different things and have many different experiences.

Personally, I like the many railway museums dotted around the country, and often visit them with my two children. I especially love the tiny, individually run places, and the ones operated by the rail companies themselves. When I travel, I always check the local magazines, the Internet, and so on, and make sure to visit the smaller museums. I do not know when I may start having an interest in the field covered by one of these institutions. At the moment, I am working at the local fish market in the wee hours of the night because visiting one with my family during the morning hours when it was open to the public left such a huge impact on me. Once again, I strongly feel the importance of having a special exhibition at a fish market (thereby making it a museum-like institution?).
In light of my own experiences, I bring the students of my school to various museums, as well as incorporate the things that I have learned from the museums I visited into my classes. I also teach my students that everything around them is a splendid museum too, including the nearby forests and rivers that they never pay any attention to, or overseas culture, or even the lives of their upperclassmen.

Museums are magnificent. There are also many enjoyable museum-equivalent institutions, and there are probably many more institutions that do not exist in the official data. Please look for them! By the way, I recently encouraged a student of mine to enter university and explained about the career of an art museum curator to she. This student, who is of high-school age, does not attend much school, but loves drawing. She was absolutely delighted to find out that such possibilities exist for her, and has started to save the drawings she makes. The entire world is definitely a museum!

1. The term “free school”, as used in Japan, refers to a non-profit group or an independent school which specializes in the care and education of children who refuse to attend regular schools.

Uwajima Historical Information Center

Tsutomu Sumida, Matsuyama Kita Junior High School

Uwajima Historical Information Center

Hidemune Date, the eldest illegitimate son of Masamune Date of Sendai, entered Uwajima Castle in the early Edo period. After that, the Date clan ruled as the tozama daimyo, or “outside” feudal lords of the Iyo Uwajima Domain of 100,000 koku1. The eighth head of the domain, Munenari Date, known as one of the shikenko, or four remarkable feudal lords, of the Bakumatsu period, participated in the politics of the shogunate. Munenari advanced the reform of the domain government system. He also modernized the military together with the help of Choei Takano and Zoroku Murata (also known as Masajiro Omura). Ryotaro Shiba, in his works such as Kashin and Date no Kurofune, depicted the fact that such progressive opportunities were available in Uwajima, a remote corner of the country. The Uwajima Historical Center is housed in a quasi-Western style building constructed in the 17th year of the Meiji period (1884). The building held a police station at first, and after numerous changes, reverted to the city of Uwajima. Displayed on the second floor are materials covering many different topics. There is information on Nobushige Hozumi, who was active during the Meiji period and received the first doctorate of law in Japan, Iken Kojima, who was active during the Otsu Incident, and Tetcho Suehiro, a political novelist. If you wish to experience for yourself the climate and culture of the place that Ryotaro Shiba loved so much, and the soil that nurtured so many historical greats, please take a trip to Uwajima.

1. The koku is a Japanese unit of volume, equivalent to approximately 180 litres. It was used as a dry measure for rice, and one koku was considered a sufficient quantity of rice to feed one person for one year. A feudal lord was considered a daimyo when his domain amounted to at least 10,000 koku.

New Yashima Aquarium

Kenji Iwao

New Yashima Aquarium Figure 1

The predecessor to the New Yashima Aquarium was first opened in 1969 and the aquarium reaches exactly 50 years of history this year. It was known as the Yashima Mountaintop Aquarium when it opened, and, as the name would suggest, is found at a height of around 300m at the top of Mt. Yashima. Even though the aquarium is at the top of a mountain, it has a dolphin pool with a diameter of 10 meters and a depth of 4 meters. The legendary “Live Dolphin Show” takes place there. The staff members are well known for their enthusiastic performances and the show involves audience participation, so much so that the dolphins’ antics almost take a back seat to the rest of the show. I watched “Bakuretsu Kaiyo Sentai Dorufinja (The Explosive Ocean Force Dolphin Rangers)”, and children were seeking autographs from staff members who played the “Dolphin Ranger” roles after the show. Such a sight is hardly common at dolphin shows. There are many other highlights available in this cosy venue. Visitors can witness Humboldt penguins taking a walk right in front of them, or watch harbor seals perform. They can also see West Indian mantaees here. This is the only location, besides the Okinawa Churami Aquarium, where one can see West Indian mantaees in Japan. Thus, it is a pity that the facility is showing signs of age here and there. However, plans were put forward regarding the upgrading of this aquarium at the local city council meeting last year. It is hoped that the New Yashima Aquarium can continue to develop its unique attractions in the future.

New Yashima Aquarium Figure 2

Archaeological Museum at Matsuyama City

Yoshiko Yamamoto, Minna Daisuki Matsuyama Boken Asobiba

The Archaeological Museum at Matsuyama City

Located near the entrance of the stairs leading up a hill in a playground of the Matsuyama City Park, which is the base of our organization’s activities, is the Archaeological Museum at Matsuyama City. One can admire the changing scenes of the four seasons in the surroundings of the museum can forget that it is located in the midst of a city. The ancient Dalian lotuses bloom in the beginning of June, and have very cute, pink flowers. These lotuses were sprouted from seeds that were around 1000 years old, and discovered in Dalian City of China. In 1996 (Heisei 8), a group visiting Matsuyama from Dalian gifted the city with these seeds, and since then, lotuses bloom every year in around June. There is a certain period of time between which lotus flowers open, from around 7 to 11 in the morning, after which the flowers close up. Then, they open up again the next morning.

The Archaeological Museum displays pottery unearthed in and around Matsuyama. The exhibits are set up with elementary school children in mind and are easy to understand. There are also areas where children can learn through play. There is now an area in the permanent exhibits room showcasing ruins from the Kamakura period to the Edo period. It introduces visitors to ruins from the Warring States Period, discovered near Minamiedo, and to Matsuyama Castle as well. A touch screen near the display case allows visitors to look for more information on the ruins that cannot be displayed there. So why don’t you take a trip down to the Archaeological Museum at Matsuyama City?

Ancient Dalian Lotuses