YAMAMOTO Tamesaburo's Collection
The main building predominantly exhibits the masterpieces of Mingei collections. Most of them were collected and used daily by Tamesaburo YAMAMOTO, who was the founder of Asahi Breweries, Ltd. and an enthusiastic patron for the Mingei Movement. To coincide with the opening of the museum, his family donated the collection.
·What is the Mingei Movement?
"Beauty is a kind of mystery, which is why it cannot be grasped adequately through the intellect."
Soetsu YANAGI (adapted by Bernard Leach, "Seeing and Knowing", The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty, Tokyo and New York, 1972)
The Mingei Movement was initiated and led by a Japanese philosopher, Soetsu YANAGI, during the first half of the 20th century. His idea was quite revolutionary because he insisted on reevaluation of the beauty in daily used crafts. He appreciated the beauty in handicrafts by anonymous craftsmen. His view was shared by many artists such as potters - Kanjiro KAWAI, Shoji HAMADA, Bernard LEACH, a textile artist - Keisuke SERIZAWA, a lacquer artist - Tatsuaki KURODA and a woodblock printmaker - Shiko MUNAKATA.
The movement coincided with the time when handmade objects were replaced with low cost mass-produced items by machine industry. These circumstances are similar to the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain which was led by John RUSKIN and William MORRIS. In fact, both Leach and Hamada had been to Britain and visited artists' community in St. Ives and Ditchling. Then they had hands on experience of the Arts and Crafts Movement.
On the other hand, the Mingei Movement was based on the eastern philosophy of Buddhism and Sado (Tea Ceremony), and this enabled it to create its own sense of value.
The movement even had a significant impact on craftsmanship outside Japan. It played an important role to rediscover the beauty in crafts overseas such as crafts works in Korea and slipware in England. Leach established a style of studio pottery, and it has been passed on to later generations.
Mikuniso was originally constructed by the members of the Mingei Movement as an exhibition pavilion for the Tokyo Exposition of 1928. After the exposition, it was moved and used as a residence of Yamamoto. There, those craftsmen and supporters pursued and formed an ideal aesthetic; they experimented and created an entirely new living space decorated with their works. It also aimed to harmonize the exterior and interior designs in order to make a total atmosphere. Most of the items used there were later donated to the museum.
(supplied by Nihon Mingeikan, Tokyo)