Taiken Japan

Autumn Leaves 2016

Toyama Rakusui-tei Museum: Pioneers of Avant-garde Ceramics

Photo: feministjulie on Flickr

Toyama Rakusui-tei Museum: Pioneers of Avant-garde Ceramics

Marie Wintzer

If you are visiting Toyama City in Toyama prefecture this summer, do not miss the exhibition “Pioneers of Avant Garde Ceramics” at the Rakusui-tei Museum, going on until August 30, 2016.

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Rakusui-tei, meaning “enjoying the vivid green of jade”, is a unique setting, incorporating art and architecture in the aesthetics of a serene Japanese garden in the flow of the seasons.

The museum is the former home of a rich merchant. Built after WWII so it escaped the 1945 air raids on Toyama, it was constructed in a traditional Japanese pre-war style behind its western façade, on a peaceful retreat from the city center.

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Large verandas and numerous sightlines into the garden allow the curators to make maximum use of natural light for their exhibitions. The five alcoves of the house have become beautiful display areas.

My favorite room is the bathing room, where you can sit in the empty cypress soaking tub while admiring the garden, with a direct view on the meditative artwork (now covered in moss) by Ryoji Koie, “Wind is the Human Path”.

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Fraser Graham on Flickr

The garden is designed in a Japanese strolling garden type, with a path around a central koi pond and spring. Paths lead up to a temple gate on a forested hill, past a tea garden with a tea ceremony waiting room, all of this within a few steps only.

The trees in the garden—many over 150 years old—include Japanese black pines, red pines, cherry trees, maples, oaks, plums, magnolias and olive trees. The many varieties of plants include camellias, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, lilies, mosses, and a miniature forest of bamboo stalks in front of the tea ceremony room. The garden also harbors a traditional storehouse with heavy doors and thick wood beams, also used as exhibition space.


Randy Woolsey on Flickr


Ashley Van Haeften on Flickr

Exhibitions in the museum have included work in ceramics, pottery, glass, lacquer, ikebana, textiles, metal, stone and ink wash, and a wide range of artists from Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol and Claes Odenberg to the famous sumi or ink wash paintings of Toukou Shinoda. Notable artists in the permanent collection include Ryoji Koie and Koichi Uchida (ceramics and pottery), Bunpei Matsuda (stone carving) and Koji Hatageyama (metal work).


feministjulie on Flickr

The current exhibition is a wonderful collection of work by Japanese avant-garde ceramic artists, from the 1950’s to the 1990’s, playing on the abstract, the figurative, the whimsical, the decorative, the functional. For an additional ¥500 you can also visit the second floor of the museum, dedicated to pottery craft from around the world. There, you will find a selection of tea bowls, cups and pots, some of them by contemporary artists still active and successful in our era. The variety of textures and shapes of the artwork on display calls for an interactive, sensory experience, which is, of course, impossible. One can’t help wondering what it would feel like to hold those unique bowls in one’s hands, to drink tea from them. A good idea for a future event?

Access: From JR Toyama Station North Exit, take the tram to the first stop at INTEC. Turn left on the first street past the stop. Walk north over the canal. Turn left at the 4th street past the tram stop. Rakusui-tei is on your right.

Official site

Opening hours: 10:00 – 17:00

Closed: Every Wednesday unless Wednesday is a national holiday, then open on that Wednesday and closed the next day. Hall closed for New Year Holidays.

Admission fee: Y1,000