The world of ukiyo-e: Ota Memorial Museum of Art, where you learn and enjoy at the same time

Ukiyo-e, a genre of traditional Japanese paintings, is said to be the root of manga (Japanese cartoons), and has been gaining higher and higher popularity in the world. If you want to know more about ukiyo-e, and appreciate real masterpieces of ukiyo-e up-close, here is the recommendation for you. In Harajuku, a place renowned as the origin of pop culture, there is an art museum specific to ukiyo-e.

Ukiyo-e, Japan's unique painting, depicts the local atmosphere

Ukiyo-e refers to the genre of paintings created in Japan during Edo period (around the 17th century). The word “Ukiyo” is literally translated as “floating world”, which implies a contemporary style and a hedonistic lifestyle, sometimes erotica as well. A wide range of subjects are drawn in ukiyo-e, such as landscape, people, theatres, customs and religions, mainly depicting the daily lives of the ordinary people at that time.

The main characteristic of ukiyo-e is the bold use of deformation expression. The application of realism and concise lines in ukiyo-e is believed to have a great influence on some famous European painters including Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet.

One of the few ukiyo-e art museums in Japan

The Ōta Memorial Museum of Art introduced this time is a museum specializing in ukiyo-e, while there are not many museum specific only to ukiyo-e, even in Japan. The museum was opened in Harajuku in 1980, centering on the ukiyo-e collection owned by the managing director of an insurance company. Since the establishment, there have been visitors from Japan and the rest of the world, including ukiyo-e lovers and people who have a deep interest in Japanese culture. The rotating themed exhibitions also play a role in the popularity of the museum, attracting frequent visitors.

The museum nestles in a quiet area in a hustling city

Ōta Memorial Museum of Art is located in Harajuku, which is known as the origin of Japanese pop culture. There are plenty of sophisticated shops lining up and crowds of young people gathering in Harajuku, giving the area strong characteristics.

Ōta Memorial Museum of Art is a 5-minute walk from Harajuku station (Omotesando Exit). It takes about 25 minutes to get to Harajuku station from Tokyo station by train. While Harajuku is always packed with people, the area around the museum is amazingly quiet and calm, making a peaceful atmosphere for visitors to enjoy ukiyo-e comfortably there.

Let’s head over to Ōta Memorial Museum of Art! The large commercial facility “La Foret Harajuku” serves as a landmark, and the museum is just behind it.

La Foret Harajuku is the most famous building in Harajuku. Get a complete set of clothes there, and you can be in the style of the world-known “Harajuku fashion” too! When you give a visit to Harajuku for appreciating ukiyo-e, why don’t you by the way enjoy shopping there?

12,000 items in Ōta Memorial Museum of Art!

Ōta Memorial Museum of Art houses about 12,000 representative works of ukiyo-e from the early Edo period (the 17th century) to Meiji period (the 19th century).

Among the huge number of collections, there are a lot of priceless collected artworks of Katsushika Hokusai, the most representative great master of ukiyo-e in the late Edo period. The museum is definitely not to be missed for ukiyo-e lovers.

Every month there are different works on display

There are two exhibition rooms in Ōta Memorial Museum of Art, one on the first floor and one on the second floor. Depending on the theme, around 80 pieces of works are carefully selected from the collection of approximately 12,000 items, and are displayed in the exhibition each time. The museum offers no regular exhibitions, but rotating exhibitions whose theme change monthly. Thanks to that, visitors can enjoy different works every month.

The themes of the exhibitions can be the highlights of one specific painter, or narrowed down to a specific subject such as cats, women, and night view. You will certainly have new discoveries every time you go to explore the fulfilling exhibitions there.

Have a deeper understanding of ukiyo-e through lectures and screenings

Besides exhibitions of ukiyo-e, Ōta Memorial Museum of Art further holds lectures and screenings to explain ukiyo-e, the history of it, as well as the production process. Basically, there are lectures on Saturdays and screenings on Sundays. Be reminded that the lectures and screenings are conducted in Japanese. Do not hesitate if you want to deepen your knowledge of ukiyo-e!

Do not forget to get yourself keepsakes!

On the first basement floor of Ōta Memorial Museum of Art, there is a shop that specializes in Japanese traditional towels (“tenugui”). Apart from towels, the shop also offers shirts and accessories made from “tenugui”, and things of the sort. What is more, there are exclusive goods tailored to the exhibition themes for sale only in the museum. After admiring the incredible artworks in the museum, it is highly recommended to get featured souvenirs here to mark the occasion.

Visit Ōta Memorial Museum of Art to enjoy the beauty of ukiyo-e!

Ukiyo-e is highly praised for representing the Edo culture of Japan. In Ōta Memorial Museum, you will have the opportunity to get to know about ukiyo-e, and enjoy the masterpieces of it. Make sure it is on your bucket list when you are planning the itinerary!