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Japanese history

Things you should know in order to enjoy Kyoto's art museums

Bakumatsu Ishin Museum "Ryozen Rekishikan"

This museum specializes in Japan's period of modernization, the end of the Edo period and the Meiji period. It is the only museum in Japan to specialize in this period.
When Japan started to open its doors to the outside world approximately 120 years, many ambitious young people put their lives at risk for Japan by taking part in political movements. The museum has a large collection and exhibits materials relating to people who stood up to forces trying to protect the old order such as the Shinsengumi (shogunate police and military force located in Kyoto and dedicated to suppressing anti-shogunate activities). These people included Sakamoto Ryoma who tried to change the country by toppling the old government. There are many fans of all ages of this period in Japan, and it is often dramatized on TV. As well as permanent exhibitions, the museum sometimes holds special exhibitions based on set themes.

The Collections
The museum has a diverse collection composed of coins, crafts, paintings, maps, Nishiki-e (colored woodblock print), books, and arms. The museum has a collection of approximately 5,000 precious historical materials including mementos such as clothing and tools actually used by samurai in olden times; pictures by people back then recording the turbulent age; and real swords used for assassinations. It displays approximately 100 of these articles at exhibitions. The museum also uses models and 3D images to make its exhibits easy to understand.
It enables visitors to get an idea of what kind of people put their lives on the line for Japan and to thoroughly study the minds of these samurai.
Nearby is the Ryozen Gokoku-jinja Shrine, which deified many of the people covered by the museum, and the surrounding area has become a major spot for history-lovers. It is also a well-known spring cherry blossom and fall foliage spot. In addition, a panoramic view of the city can be seen from the top of the hill. It is also close to the highly-popular, Kiyomizu-dera Temple and Kodai-ji Temple.
Language Japanese (Website)
Museum Shop Yes
Cafes & Restaurants No
Address 1 Seikanji Ryozen-cho Higashiyama-ku Kyoto 605-0861 JAPAN
Contact 075-561-1414
Opening Hours

Daily:10:00 a.m.-17:30 p.m.

* Varies depending on the exhibitions.


Closed due to the replacement of exhibits

Admission Fees

Special Exhibition
Students(High school):400yen
Students(Junior high school/Elementary school):300yen

Students (High school):300yen
Students (Junior high school /Elementary school):200yen

* Discount available for a group over 20+.


Kyoto City Bus:Get off at "Higashiyama Yasui" bus stop #206(From Kyoto Station) (5 minutes' walk to the east)

Kyoto City Bus:Get off at "Higashiyama Yasui" bus stop #207(From Hankyu Kawaramachi Station/Keihan Gion-Shijo Station) (5 minutes' walk to the east)

Website http://ryozen-museum.or.jp/

Gekkeikan Okura Museum

This is a Japanese sake museum run by Gekkeikan Sake Co., Ltd., a sake brewer located in the sake brewing town of Fushimi.
Built in 1909, the museum's elegant building is a renovated sake brewery. Its exhibits include tools used to brew sake and a variety of materials such as photographs, which provide an easy-to-understand introduction to Fushimi sake-brewing and the history of Japanese sake. Visitors can participate in sake tasting after the tour. (This does not apply to minors or people coming by car)
Visitors can also see the actual state of the brewing sake by making a prior reservation. Spring water is used to brew sake at the facility and visitors are free to drink this water.

The Collections
The central focus of the museum's collection is its 6,120 traditional sake brewing tools designated by Kyoto City as tangible folk cultural assets. The museum uses approximately 400 of these articles to introduce the sake brewing process. Other museum exhibits include sake that was actually released for sale in the Meiji period (late 19th century) and past advertisements and photographs of working landscapes over various periods. These exhibits show the changing face of Fushimi as it developed into a sake brewing town. The "sake song" which has been sung over the years when carrying out brewing work is played in the background.
Nearby there are many buildings and breweries that have been there for around 120 years and the town still strongly retains its look of the late Edo period. As befitting the town's glorious past as a port town, sightseeing boat tours are provided with traditional boats that were once used for transportation.
Address 701 Shokokuji Monzen-cho, Imadegawa-dori Karasuma-higashi-iru Kamigyo-ku Kyoto 602-0898 JAPAN
Contact 075-623-2056
Opening Hours Daily:9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

O-Bon Festival (August)

New year's Holiday

Admission Fees

Students(High school/Junior high school):100yen
Students (Elementary school) and younger:Free

* Please make reservations in advance for group visits.


Keihan Line:Get off at "Chushojima" station (5 minutes' walk from there) or "Fushimimomoyama" station (10 minutes' walk from there)

Kintetsu Kyoto Line:Get off at "Momoyama Goryo-mae " station (10 to 15 minutes' walk from there)

JR Nara Line:Get off at "Momoyama" station (18 minutes' walk from there)

Website http://www.gekkeikan.co.jp/english/index.html

Sumiya Motenashi Art Museum

This museum introduces Edo period culture. The building (important cultural property) is the sole surviving building of the Ageya architectural style remaining in Shimabara, a once-thriving Edo period area.
Ageya was a facility used as a banquet hall and traditional Japanese restaurant, and it was also a place to call geisha and high-ranking Noh actors to have them perform entertainments such as songs and dances. It also fulfilled a role as a cultural salon where many wealthy merchants and people of culture congregated. Particularly in the case of Ageya in Shimabara, people of historical importance involved in the Meiji restoration at the end of the Edo period (late 19th century) often gathered there and it was used as a secret meeting place.
The building is a traditional Japanese two-storied wooden structure and it still retains today its original outdoor and indoor appearance. Elaborate sculptures and beautiful paintings adorn the rooms and the building itself is a thing of beauty. By making a prior reservation you can tour the 2nd floor tatami rooms (additional charge required). Precious fusuma (sliding screen) paintings can be seen in a way close to their original environment.

The Collections
The museum's collection of over 10,000 items includes nationally designated important cultural properties such as paintings and notes written by the hand of the former Imperial family. It also has kimono as well as other articles. Special exhibitions are held twice a year, where a selection of these items is displayed in accordance with the exhibition theme. Fusuma paintings produced by esteemed artists such as Maruyama Okyo; a renowned painter active in Kyoto during the Edo period; can be admired from the same point of view as people who frequented the shop during that period. In addition, each room has a different design and the walls are decorated with mother‐of‐pearl work, allowing visitors to conjure up images of its splendor back in the day.
The museum is located in what was once a bustling area, and there are many buildings that retain the feel of olden days.
There is a large gate at the end of Hanayacho-dori Street, which is the entrance to the town of Shimabara. Geisha once used to live in this area and they were prohibited from venturing beyond this gate.
Address 32 Nishi Shinyashiki Ageya-cho, Shimogyo-ku Kyoto 600-8828 JAPAN
Contact 075-351-0024
Opening Hours Daily:10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Closed Monday(or, if Monday is a national holiday, the following Tuesday)
Jul.19-Sep.14, Dec.16-Mar.14
Admission Fees

Special Exhibition
Students(High school/Junior high school):600yen
* Elementary school and younger can't admission
* Reservation required to visit the Special Exhibition 2nd floor

The Collections Hall
Students(High school/Junior high school):800yen
Students (Junior high school):500yen


Kyoto City Bus:Get off at "Shimabaraguchi" bus stop #207,206(From Hankyu Shijo Omiya Station) (10 minutes' walk from there)

Kyoto City Bus:Get off at "Umekoji Koen-mae" bus stop #205(From Kyoto Station)(10 minutes' walk from there)

JR Sagano Line:Get off at "Tanbaguchi" station (7 minutes' walk from there)

Website http://www16.ocn.ne.jp/~sumiyaho/page/english.html

Tondaya Nishijin Lifestyle Museum

Tondaya is a "gofuku-donya" (kimono fabrics wholesaler) based in the kimono and textile town of Nishijin. It has a long and distinguished history dating back hundreds of years from the mid-Edo period.
Built in 1885, the museum's building is a traditional Kyoto house (kyo-machiya). It still retains the style peculiar to merchants' houses in the Nishijin district. In 1999 it was designated a nationally-registered tangible cultural property, and the interior was opened to the general public as an art museum. The museum organizes courses to experience traditional Kyoto customs and past traditions, as well as lectures showing participants how to put on a kimono. These courses allow visitors to experience firsthand the life and culture of Kyoto in olden times.

The Collections
Built over 100 years ago, the museum's building is made up of a store that faces the street and a residential section at the back. The building retains even today its appearance as a classic Kyoto merchant's house. In the grounds of the building there are lots of storehouses and gardens. A stage where Noh theater was performed and a tea‐ceremony room are also included, indicating the prosperity of the Nishijin district during the period the building was constructed. The museum conducts displays of traditional Kyoto events and holds public exhibitions of precious tools and furniture that have been passed down.
Visitors can take part in the tea ceremony and be dressed in a stunning Nishijin brocade kimono. (Additional charge required)
Address Omiya-dori Ichijo-agaru, Kamigyo-ku Kyoto 602-8226 JAPAN
Contact 075-432-6701
Opening Hours Daily:9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Closed New year's Holiday
Admission Fees

Regular plan (machiya visit and lecture):2,100yen
Tea ceremony experience:2,100yen
Kimono wearing experience:4,200yen

* Some other plans are available:please inquire


Taxi:15 minutes (from Kyoto Station)

Kyoto City Bus:Get off at "Ichijo Modoribashi" bus stop (3 minutes' walk from there)

Kyoto City Bus:Get off at "Imadegawa Omiya" bus stop (3 minutes' walk from there)

Website http://www.tondaya.co.jp/English/indexE.htm

Things you should know in order to enjoy Kyoto's art museums

Museum List