Saturday, June 18, 2011

Japan - In Search of a Folk Artist (Part 1)

Last October at the Japan Folk Craft Museum in Tokyo I saw some blockprints by folk artist Shiko Munakata that I liked so much that I wanted to see more of his works. I googled him and discovered not one but three museums in Japan devoted to this artist.

The closest, Shiko Munakata Print Art Museum, was about two hours away in Kamakurayama (suburb of Kamakura). The next morning I took an express train from Tokyo to Kamakura, got a map and directions from the tourist information center and after a thirty-five minute bus ride and a short walk arrived at the museum. It was closed.

The Shiko Munakata Print Art Museum in Kamakurayama. Photo from the website.

The place was locked up tight and from the look of the entry hall I got the impression of not just closed for the day but for awhile. There was a hand written sign on the door which I took a photo of so my daughter could translate it for me. How could the the museum be closed. I'd checked an English language things to do around Kamakura website and spoken with an English speaking woman at the tourist information center. After walking around the entire museum building and seeing no one I was so frustrated I jumped up and down ... several times. There didn't seem to be anyone out and about in this hilly residential neighborhood where the museum is located.

What a lovely vine covered archway in front of this home. I was so upset with myself for not planning more carefully that I only noticed how attractive this area is when I looked at my photos the next day.

I'd passed a Police Box so walked back to it intending to ask/mime for information. I had a print out of the museum's website which included a photo. The Police Box was closed too. A sign on the door said something about noon to 2 PM. It was then 12:05. Yikes.

Kamakurayama Police Box.

I went into a garden center but no one was there either. Was everyone out for lunch.

I decided to "cut my losses" and to return to Kamakura where I knew places were open. Also I knew the buses ran once an hour and with the way the day had gone so far I'd probably have a wait. Forty minutes later the bus to Kamakura appeared and I got on it. Forty rather than sixty minutes...things were looking up I thought to myself.

Bus stop. I kept peeking around the big tree so the bus driver would see me waiting.

Back in Kamakura I treated myself to a sweet potato soft ice cream cone which cheered me up and bought some small gifts for friends so the day ended well. The soft ice cream isn't real sweet but creamy and tasty.

At dinner my daughter told me the sign on the museum door said the artist's works were on tour and the museum was closed for several months. The Japanese website also had this information. She suggested that since I was so interested in Murakata we take our mimi away from Tokyo trip to the artist's hometown, the northern city of Aomori, where there was another museum of his works. First she would call to make sure that museum were open. It was and two days later we were off to Aomori.

To be continued.


YTSL said...

Nice photo essay, sbk.

Re your choice of ice cream flavor: never had sweet potato but love green tea, red bean and, especially, yuzu flavored ice cream! :b

BTW, did you change your blog design? It now looks so... white! :O

sbk said...

hi ytsl,


I agree, green tea and red bean ice cream are so yummy. I've never had yuzu flavored ice cream but from descriptions I've read it sounds very tasty.

Yes, I did change my blog design color. The grey/black seems too heavy for summer. The white seems too austere so I'm trying green for awhile.