Photo:The Gallery of the 80 Paintings. Photo by Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery

Feels Like Being Inside The Meiji Era!: A Visit to the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery

Gaienmae Station may simply be one of the stations you may find on Ginza-line in Tokyo, but in fact, it is one of Tokyo's most lively areas especially for sports with the Jingu Baseball Stadium, ice skating rink, and a park with athletic facilities; all within walking distance. A new national stadium is also currently under construction in the area for the Tokyo Olympics. Art institutions such as The Tokyo Campus of Kyoto University of Art & Design are also close by and of course, the Akasaka Palace is located right next door.

Photo Courtesy of The Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery

A couple of minutes from the Gaienmae Station is a street known for ginko trees, and in a bit of a distance from this famous street, stands a classy-looking building with a dome-like roof-top. Some may mistake it for a duplicate of the diet building, it is in fact, the Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery; a gallery which is home to the 80 paintings that depict the history of the Meiji Period and the figure who led the era: The Meiji Emperor.

As you walk closer to the building, the architecture almost feels heavy yet bears a serenity, having been built with granite stone. A 90-year-old building welcomes the guests with a foyer that takes one back into history with its classic design with the floor and the walls filled with a mosaic marble design. The beauty of the building inside and out surely explains why it is designated as one of the most important cultural properties of the country.


Photo Courtesy of The Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery

The section on the right of the foyer is where you’d want to start. This section is filled with 40 Japanese paintings, whereas the section on the left exhibits 40 more pictures painted in Western style or oil paint. All pictures are painted by famous Japanese painters at the time when the museum was built to commemorate the late Meiji Emperor. In 1925, the paintings were assigned to the painters and 80 paintings were gathered as each was completed. It was a decade-long process! Some painters unfortunately died without seeing their paintings being hung in complete form of 40 Japanese and 40 western paintings.


Gallery of the 80 Paintings. Photo by Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery

The paintings capture the history of Meiji period, since the day the Meiji Emperor was born (a depiction of the house he was born in, without him being in the picture) until the day of his funeral in 1912. As the period was one of the most dramatic time in Japan's history, with open trade with the outside world, war, and the adoption of western culture blending with that of Japan’s, each picture is like a photo captured at every milestone of the era. With each picture being 3 meters high, you would feel like being inside a Meiji Period picture book!


“Resignation of the Last Shogun” by Tanryo Murata. Photo Courtesy of The Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery


“The Surrender of Edo Castle” by Somei Yuki. Photo Courtesy of The Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery

Make sure you plan on ample time for the visit, as you will surely find many works to call your favorites and they will not let you walk away for even a few minutes, if not, longer!

In case it is already dark out by the time you come out of the museum, don’t forget to turn around to see the museum lit up; a scene so surreal in the midst of Tokyo that it makes you wonder if you may have slipped into Meiji period!


Photo Courtesy of The Meiji Memorial Picture Gallery

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