Photo:Naoko Tochibayashi

Sumida Hokusai Museum: The Origins of Manga Inside Modern Architecture

You may pass by a young sumo wrestler or two on a bicycle before you reach this somewhat futuristic building from the Ryogoku station; a surreal experience!

In the midst of the town filled with dozens of sumo stables, appears a modern building in its metallic exterior! The architecture is one of the latest works by Kazuyo Sejima, also known as one of the partners of a multiple award-winning architectural firm based in Tokyo; SANAA. As SANAA, Sejima has worked on works in and out of Japan:  21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (Kanazawa), The New Museum of Contemporary Art (New York), and Le Louvre-Lens (Paris). And now, she has her own work in the downtown area of Tokyo!

The building which opened in Ryogoku in the fall of 2016, is the Sumida Hokusai Museum; a museum focused on arts by Katsushika Hokusai: Do the image of the wave with the Mt. Fuji afar, the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji series ring a bell? Vincent van Gogh and Edgar Degas are some of the western artists at the time, who were said to have been very much influenced by Ukiyo-e, if not, Katsushika Hokusai.

"The Wave of Kanagawa" and “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji” series is probably one of the most well-known works by Hokusai. Photo Credit: Naoko Tochibayashi

Katsushika Hokusai was an artist of 18-19th century Japan known for his works in Ukiyo-e (woodblock printing). He spent most of his life in Sumida, although he moved his residence more than 90 times throughout his 90-year life. He was said to have stated that he would want to live until 100-years-old, by then he would become a true master of art. His passion did not end with Ukiyo-e. Hokusai’s famous works also include “manga”; he was said to be one of the founders of the “manga” we see today. His meticulous works in this field are also exhibited at the museum in a form of what seems like textbooks that could be used as examples, today!

The drawings of “manga” will make you smile, as the depictions are fine and the poses of the characters often comical. Photo Credit: Naoko Tochibayashi
Meet Hokusai, drawing away! Photo Credit: Naoko Tochibayashi

You may find Ukiyo-e and/or manga that seem new as he is said to have left more than 30,000 works throughout his lifetime, of which this museum proudly holds 1,800.

The Peter Morse collection also captivates the visitors, which was directly sold to the museum by the family, along with the collection by Dr. Muneshige Narazaki. Together with those works collected originally by the ward, the three collections will be able to enjoy a variety of work by Hokusai both through the permanent exhibition and the special exhibitions to be held periodically.

Some of the museums in Tokyo started allowing photographing art works at them except the ones that specifically prohibited being photographed. Photo Credit: Naoko Tochibayashi

Next to the four-story building is a park where the local seniors simply enjoy their daily walks or the children fanatically play with the playground equipment. It is no more than a daily scene often viewed in the corner of a town in Tokyo. It is as if the building, if not Hokusai, has always been what they have lived with, side-by-side in Sumida ward.

At the same time, the museum has a fresh and cozy atmosphere inside, along with areas with fascinating architecture that may interest the visitors. A 3,000 sq. meters building is rather a modest chunk of land for a museum to be built, but inside, it is filled with lots of “treasures”!

The combination of daily lives in Tokyo, the latest architectural design and the works by Hokusai from the 18-19th century blends very well in and through this museum.

Some spaces are animated with a similar playfulness as the works of Hokusai. Photo Credit: Naoko Tochibayashi
The view from inside the museum. Interestingly enough, the stylish design of the 21st century goes well with Hokusai’s work! Photo Credit: Naoko Tochibayashi
The library on the ground floor is also accessible to the visitors, just in case the world of Hokusai lured you further into the world of Ukiyo-e! Photo Credit: Naoko Tochibayashi

Official Website

Opening hours:
9:30 am – 5:30 pm (Entry until 30 minutes before the closing time)

Days closed:
Mondays (on the following day if it falls on a national holiday or a compensatory holiday), year-end holidays.
The museum may close on a temporary basis besides the dates above.

Admission fee

Permanent exhibits
1. Adults: ¥400 (Group fee: ¥320)
2. High school, university, and vocational school students and seniors (age 65 and above): ¥300 (Group Fee: ¥240/person)

Special exhibits
The admission fee varies by exhibition.

2-7-2 Kamezawa, Sumida-ku, Tokyo 130-0014

5-minute walk from Toei Oedo Line Ryogoku Station A3 exit
9-minute walk from JR Sobu Line Ryogoku Station East exit
Get off at the “Sumida Hokusai Museum (Thugaruke kamiyasiki ato) Stop” of Sumida ward Circular Bus

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