The Most Beautiful Museum

The entrance gate to the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum.

Even in the rain, the Itchiku Kubota Museum in Kawaguchiko was the most beautiful I have ever visited.

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The museum grounds were equally as beautiful as what was displayed within.

Itchiku Kubota (1917-2003) was a fabric artist and dying expert who created deeply gorgeous, beautiful kimono, each one a work of art in its own right. Inspired by the lost Japanese dying art of tsujigahana seen on a visit to the Tokyo National Museum when he was 20 years old, Kubota studied and worked to figure out how it was accomplished, and then created a contemporary style of the technique now known as Itchiku Tsujihanan. Along with other dying techniques such as shibori (tie dye), resist dying, and layered dying along with embroidery and other fabric techniques, each one of the kimono he created is a unique work of art. It took nearly a year to make each kimono (with the help of assistants), and while almost all are individual works, some are parts of a larger work when placed together.

Mt. Fuji was a frequent theme in Kubota’s art. (photo credit: Is Japan Cool? https://www.ana-cooljapan.com/destinations/yamanashi/itchikukubotaartmuseum)
Thousands of tiny knots were made in the plain white silk fabric he used for all kimono, then dyed to create intricate patterns and intense depths of color. (photo credit: Is Japan Cool? https://www.ana-cooljapan.com/destinations/yamanashi/itchikukubotaartmuseum)

Kubota designed the museum himself, and set up his studio there. Located on a forested hillside just outside of the city of Kawaguchiko in the Fuji Five Lakes district, the museum experience begins at the front steps where visitors pass through a large wooden gate surrounded by a swirling bronze sculpture. A path leads visitors up through a large garden filled with ponds, waterfalls, benches and seats where visitors are invited to stop and reflect. The museum building itself is very organic, constructed of chalk and covered with limestone, and built partially into the hillside. The actual kimono gallery is a large pyramid, built from over 1,000 ancient cedar trees chosen by Kubota. The pyramid allows light to stream in (even on a rainy day) making it possible to view the kimono in natural light.

Entrance to the museum building
A large pyramid created from cedar beams forms the kimono gallery (photo credit: Is Japan Cool? https://www.ana-cooljapan.com/destinations/yamanashi/itchikukubotaartmuseum)
The kimono gallery (photo credit: Is Japan Cool? https://www.ana-cooljapan.com/destinations/yamanashi/itchikukubotaartmuseum)
The kimono gallery (photo credit: Is Japan Cool? https://www.ana-cooljapan.com/destinations/yamanashi/itchikukubotaartmuseum)
Natural light streams through the top of the pyramid into the kimono gallery. (photo credit: Is Japan Cool? https://www.ana-cooljapan.com/destinations/yamanashi/itchikukubotaartmuseum)
Detail of the above kimono (photo credit: Is Japan Cool? https://www.ana-cooljapan.com/destinations/yamanashi/itchikukubotaartmuseum)

None of the kimono on display are behind glass; visitors are encouraged to get as close as they’d like to inspect the kimono (without touching, of course) and see how the different techniques come together to create the larger images on the kimono. Visitors are also shown a short video about Kubota before entering the gallery to understand some of his technique (some of it remains unknown) how the kimono are made.

Museum interior leading to the kimono gallery (photo credit: Is Japan Cool? https://www.ana-cooljapan.com/destinations/yamanashi/itchikukubotaartmuseum)
Kubota’s former studio is now a tea room.
This large circular design is etched into the wall of the former studio.

The entire experience left Brett and I speechless and filled with wonder, and we both agreed that it was the most beautiful of any museum we had ever visited, both inside and out. Whether you are interested in fabric art or not, the experience of seeing Kubota’s work and visiting his museum is worth the effort. To reach the museum from Tokyo, take the JR Chuo line limited express train from Shinjuku station to Otsuki station; change to the Fujikyuko line to Kawaguchiko Station. The museum is a 10-minute taxi ride from the station. The entrance fee is currently ¥1300 per person.

10 thoughts on “The Most Beautiful Museum

    1. We almost didn’t get to go – a sign for the museum caught my eye when we were driving and we were thankfully able to arrange a time to go. And when I think of what we would have missed . . . .

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  1. Oh, lordy. I LOVE textiles (sold them and worked with them for much of my career) and this museum looks just amazing. I love that they’ve turned his studio into a tea room. It’s so amazing to see this type of art and realize the hours that went into it. Wow!

    The Airbnb that we stayed in while in Sedona had a really gorgeous piece of framed textile art on the wall from Thailand. I wasn’t able to capture a perfect picture of it, because it was under glass, but it was stunning. Textile art is one of my favorites. Thanks so much for sharing this!

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    1. Also just the sheer imagination that dreams this stuff up and then creates it. Wow.

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      1. Agree – Kubota’s imagination and desire to keep adding to his technical knowlege were the foundation for all he created. He said he wanted to create 100 kimono before he died – he made 104!

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    2. I thought about you as we toured the museum and the kimono gallery, thinking how much you would love it all. We so appreciated the video at the beginning because it gave a deeper understanding of the technique and time that went into creating each kimono. They are stunning!

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    1. Absolutely! I had seen his work on Pinterest, which is what spiked my desire to visit the museum. To think we almost missed this! It was truly one of the highlights of our time in Japan.

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