Places to Go
Furukawa museum Nagoya

Furukawa museum Nagoya

Added In: Places to Go › Museums and Galleries

Address: Ikeshita station, Higashiyama subway, Nagoya

Judith Fischer

As the founder of Nippon Herald Films, Tamesaburo Furukawa (1890-1993) was a wealthy and famous man living in Nagoya. Obviously the driving force behind the business––after his death the company went bankrupt––he was also known as a connoisseur of tea and a generous host. His last will was that his home should remain a place for recreation and relaxation for everybody.

When a guest at Tamesaburo Furakawa’s former home you can be assured your senses will be stimulated. It will be both sweet and bitter and your eyes will be delighted. You will face emptiness with a cool breeze brushing against your cheeks, while joy will suffice you along with some deep insight into the nothing. But to start with you will be greeted by the warm and fresh smell of wood as it can only be savored in houses made my craftsmen’s hands.

The house was built 80 years ago when it first served as a restaurant. When during the Second World War many houses in Nagoya were destroyed in the air raids, this house was luckily spared, and in 1945 it was bought by Tamesaburo Furukawa. He lived there from that time, creating an oasis by imbuing in the house elements of the traditional Japanese tea house (sukiya architecture). As a lover of tea he frequently invited guests to share tea and leisure time with him. It is said that two days before his death, at the age of 103, Furukawa went through the house, wishing that people will continue to visit and enjoy the residence. His last will was respected and in 1995 the house opened as the Tamesaburo Memory Hall, which is an annex to the Furukawa Museum. The latter preserves the ceramics and art collected by Furukawa, and holds exhibitions throughout the year. It is worthwhile visiting the Furukawa Museum as well, but this time we leave the main building aside and focus on the annex, the Tamesaburo Memory Hall.

Wandering through the house you can imagine Furukawa’s voice talking about his favorite topic: tea. And you will also recognize what an important role wood plays in this house. Take for example the pillars in the so called “Ogiri Room“ (“Big Paulownia Room“). They are kept unpeeled and rough in order to make us think of their pure nature. Or take the room partition in the “Aoi Room“ (“Hollyhock Room“). It is created from a range of different timbers and leaves you with the illusion that you are looking over a range of mountains. Other wooden details worth mentioning are a woven wickerwork ceiling and hard chestnut pillars which are as strong and straight as the samurai spirit. Always accompanied by Furukawa and the smell of the wood, you can go on strolling through the corridors where you will find more and more treasures.

While most of the rooms are designed as traditional Japanese rooms, one room has a rather modern touch. In this room, natural wood is combined with black lacquer ware. Then there are the arranged ornaments like multitudes of glass birds,  while above them all there is a ceiling fresco “Ki-no-Arashi“ (“Storm of the Season“), painted by the artist Noriko Tamura. It shows cherry blossoms falling from heaven over women playing instruments. While letting your imagination run wild you can sit under those falling blossoms and order sweets with matcha or, if you prefer, with coffee –– again the sweetness and the bitterness. This and the fact that the round window, representing the moon, opens onto a wonderful view of a  bamboo thicket, makes it an ideal spot for a romantic date or a sentimental farewell. The setting is even further enhanced if you come during the evening opening hours (see below). Lights, which illuminate the garden, will reflect in the window and create a unique atmosphere.

Talking about the garden, it plays an important role in a house designed for the tea ceremony . The garden features everything one would expect of a Japanese garden, from the waterfall and the small brook to the carefully shaped trees and flowers which bloom according to the seasons. If you prefer drinking tea in a more traditional surrounding (rather than in the above mentioned modern room), then sit down in front of the big windows facing the garden. According to the museum staff it is especially rewarding if you sit here during the rainy season. Besides, there is always more craftwork to admire. While enjoying the matcha you definitively should not miss opening the wooden shutters and letting a refreshing breeze enter. What a tender touch on your skin! Or if you came with kids, who might start feeling bored, look out for the six frogs in the garden. Nicknamed “Mukaeru“––a play on words with “muttsu“ meaning “six“, “kaeru“ meaning “frog“ which makes “Mukaeru“ meaning “to welcome“. Although made out of stone, do not expect them to sit always in the same spot!

The Tamesaburo Memorial Hall is located almost in the heart of Nagoya. From Sakae it just takes a few minutes by subway to get there. But despite the central location, the house is still a hidden treasure. Until this year it was only open during spring and autumn, but from now on it will be open all year round. Visitors during the coming rainy season will be among the first to experience the unique atmosphere. Also new are the evening hours. From September 8 to October 8 the Tamesaburo Memorial Hall will be open until 8pm; outside of this period it is open from 10am to 5pm (the evening opening hours might be extended later on). Being the annex to the Furukawa Museum, the Tamesaburo Memorial Hall holds exhibitions in conjunction with the Furukawa Museum. Currently it is exhibiting “ikimonotachi no jikan“ (“time for the living things”) until July 29th. Regardless if there is an exhibition or not it is worthwhile visiting the Memorial Hall. If there is an exhibition it provides an extra twist to the experience as in the case of the exhibition this spring; paintings by the artist Mika Toba on images of Vietnam. But it can also be tempting if there is no exhibition. Then the place invites you to sit down, look outside––and think about nothing.

How to get there
Starting at Nagoya station or Sakae, take the Higashiama subway line bound for Fujigaoka. Get off at Ikeshita and take exit number 1. Then follow the signposts to the Furukawa Museum. From the museum turn right, go up the slope a little bit and you are in front of the Tamesaburo Memorial Hall. It is easy to find and takes only a few minutes to walk. Entrance fee: Adults 1,000 Yen. High School/University Students 500 Yen. Elementary and Junior High School Students 300 Yen. Sweets and matcha or coffee 600 Yen. Closed on Mondays (If the Monday falls on a national holiday, it will be open, but closes the following day instead).

Furukawa museum Nagoya