Kawai Kanji Memorial Museum is a simple house where you can see the masterful works by Kawai Kanjiro
Kawai Kanjiro (1890-1966) was a potter active from the Taisho period to the Showa period. He was a central figure in the “Mingei” folk craft movement that saw beauty in the everyday, utilitarian objects. The present day Kawai Kanji Memorial museum was in his lifetime both his house and his workshop. The museum is in the Higashiyama Gojo area where the famous Kyoto pottery styles Kiyomizu-yaki and Kyo-yaki were born, but looking from the outside, you wouldn’t believe the house is a museum. It looks just like every other machiya town house. The atmosphere inside is cozy and you get to really feel that Kawai Kanjiro and his family actually lived here. At the two-story museum, you can see his works, his wood engravings, pottery, and furniture he designed, everywhere, but they are placed in the house like they were in everyday use; they are not labeled at all like in most museums.
You can also see the inner garden and the “noborigama” climbing kiln, so there is a lot to see at the museum, so much in fact that it seems that time slows more slowly at the museum. This museum is a very enjoyable experience even if you don’t have any prior knowledge of Kawai Kanjiro’s works.
Kawai Kanjiro’s works and furniture
The two-story museum has works and furniture by Kanjiro in all of its rooms. Some of the works are very utilitarian like chairs with wheels, but some of the later works by Kanjiro like the masks he made have a more abstract design.
Behind the museum you can a climbing kiln Kanjiro used together with other potters and used this kiln to make their pottery. There used to be many kilns like this in Kyoto, but after the city implemented stricter rules in 1971 the number of kilns went down dramatically. So nowadays it is rare to see kilns like this in the city.
See items cherished by Kanjiro and his works
In this exhibition, you can see items Kanjiro cherished like his pipe and his works, but you can also see the books and poems he wrote during the war. The items on display are changed four times a year.
Take a break in the garden
The garden is well taken care of, but it is not as fancy as many other Japanese gardens, it has a much simpler charm to it. This is because the garden was also a place where Kanjiro worked. I want to recommend sitting by the garden and just relaxing. A few years back a cat called “Eki-chan” started living by the museum, so it may come to take a nap and you may get to see a cute cat when at the museum.