Friday, January 7, 2011

Ryotaro Shiba Memorial Museum

Although the city already restored its livelier beat, I was still in the mood of holiday after happy family reunion and wanted solitary walks and musings.   I made my way to Ryotaro Shiba Memorial Museum.

Ryotaro Shiba (1923-1996) is one of the most prolific and popular journalists and novelists in Japan. He wrote novels, especially historical novels, essays,  travelogues, and treatises on civilization.  He loved history as he loved his parents. When asked what was history, he answered “It is a big world where some hundred millions of lives once existed are contained.” He had wonderful friends to interact with and still more friends in the history who had encouraged and inspired him.  Learning history is like travelling through 2000 years beyond time and space.

Ryotaro Shiba Memorial Museum is in the residential area of eastern Osaka.  It is composed of two parts: his former residence and a museum.  Visitors enter the front gate of the house where Shiba lived till he passed away. 

The carved letters on the nameplate is Shiba’s own handwriting.  His real sir name is Fukuda. 

The garden consists of miscellaneous tall and small trees and seasonal flowers.
Sunroom and study where his many works were created: image via this website
His study is preserved as it was when Shiba was alive.  Visitors can see it through windowpanes. 
Sunlight, shadows and wind play around glass arcade.
Walk deeper inside, and you'll come to a museum designed by an architect Tadao Ando.   Visitors walk through the arched glass gallery which slightly curves to the entrance.    One of the characteristics of Ando’s buildings is exposed  silk-like smooth concrete.  The simple concrete walls let sunlight, shadow, and wind, speak.  To him, walls are not only the most basic elements of architecture but also the most enriching.

From the opposite direction
I love buildings designed by Ando. One of examples is Suntory Museum at Tempozan in Osaka Bay area. (It was closed at the end of the last year and was presented to Osaka City by Suntory.)

Suntory Museum at Tempozan in Osaka Bay area;  image via here
The huge glass wall reflects the surrounding scenery of bay area.  In his buildings, people can enjoy recurring themes of light, shadows, views and geometric forms.

According to wikipedia, “Tadao Ando's body of work is known for the creative use of natural light and for architectures that follow the natural forms of the landscape (rather than disturbing the landscape by making it conform to the constructed space of a building). The architect's buildings are often characterized by complex three-dimensional circulation paths. These paths interweave between interior and exterior spaces formed both inside large-scale geometric shapes and in the spaces between them.”

Well, let's get back to Ryotaro Shiba Memorial Museum.  Due to “no photography” inside the building, the following three images are from the website.  I suppose photography was not forbidden in the past.
Giant bookshelf from this website
The moment visitors enter the museum, they'll see huge 11-meters high bookshelf built in wellhole style, called “Giant bookshelf”, which contains about 20000 copies of books and reference materials he collected and read.
Shiba's glasses, fountain pens, colored pencils, his favorite accessories like colorful bandannas and the likes are also displayed on the slightly curving bookshelf;  image via this website

Uncolored stained glass; image via this website
There is a huge uncolored stained glass at the stairway connecting basement and the second floor.  It is made of various uncolored glasses of different size, shape, texture and patterns.  The color of the glass changes reflecting nature according to the weather and the season. 

Uncolored stained glass seen from the outside

I think museum is not just for a large scale of exhibition of world fine arts but rather is a space to muse, kind of a sanctuary, or a place of reflection free from everyday rush.   This museum would be a place where people can sit, meditate, and feel inspired by the space created by the architect Ando and by the author Shiba who dug deep insight into what is "homeland" or Japan by treading the highways, listening to the wind, and encountering people, and who tried to seek for what is to be a human by researching both popular and unsung heroes in the critical historical period.

The scenery Shiba depicted in On the Highways (街道をゆく)with his interesting interpretation (in Japanese)


  1. Hello Stardust!

    Shiba Ryotaroが残した作品の数と彼の人気にふさわしい りっぱな建物と、蔵書ですね。

    I found that he wrote about a history of Tokyo
    Akasaka,where I grew up, in the one of his best sellers “街道を行く”.私の頭の中の地図とぴったり一致したのです…….
    See you soon!

  2. That would be a magnificent place to browse and contemplate, whatever might be on ones mind. The glass arcade and the window of uncolored stained glass are beautifully designed. Thanks for the lovely tour!

  3. Hello in 2011, Stardust! Can you imagine reading 20,000 books? Or - having such a gigantic bookshelf? The architect's use of materials such as smooth cement and glass allow natural elements to become an integral part of the building. It looks as though you were walking in solitude - a lovely way to spend time after the busy holidays. PS That baby girl on your sidebar looks very wise!

  4. I've heard the memorial day of Shiba Ryotaro,Nanohana-ki, is very popular, but I haven't yet been there.
    I imagined the atmosphere of the the museum, reading your description.
    When I visited Hyogo Prefectural Museum designed by Ando for appreciating the sculptures by Giacometti, I was surprised the dark metallic statues looked so fresh and vivid in the simple concrete exhibition hall, and I noticed how effective the structure of the architecture was.

  5. Hi, redrose. Yes, I agree and think that Ando’s architecture matches well not only with Shiba’s works and reputation but also with his personality and natural taste. For example, Shiba’s love for Japanese things made of unpainted wood is reflected in Ando’s exposed silk-like concrete and unpainted stained glass.

  6. Wanda,
    thanks for your visit and comment continually. It's so nice to have you back.

    I wish your husband is getting better and better quickly and you be able to feel at ease and rest to the full.

  7. I think the same with you, Barb, but don’t be surprised: about 20000 books in the library are not all, there are additional 60000 books in his residence. Shiba was a great lover of books and once recalled he was contented without schools but with libraries and used-book stores alone.

    Thank you for your attention to the baby. She's getting more and more expressive.

  8. Haricot,
    Nanohana(rape blossoms)-ki is Feb. 12th. I hear memorial events are held at the auditorium of the museum.

    I also like and felt impressive about Hyogo Prefectural Museum at seaside of Kobe.

  9. Osaka is the town of the art.
    Yes. Therefore born people are artists.

    The food is artistic, too.
    Creativity is vitality.

    Thank you.

  10. I love both of the works of Ryotaro Shiba and Tadao Ando. Both of them are giants.

    Last winter, NHK TV introduced several buildings designed by Tadao Ando, especially Hyogo Prefectural Museum. I was so moved by his design that I wanted to visit his structures as many as possible,starting from the breakthrough work.

    Thank you, Stardust. Your blog reminded me of how I had felt at that time.

    I wonder, if the second Tokyo Olimpic Games had come true, what buildings he would have designed.

    He doesn't choose the size of buildings.

  11. Ruma,

    People and things in Osaka have unique and distinct culture.

    As for the foods, local faborites food, okonomi-yaki and tako-yaki are so delicious.

    “Creativity is vitality”: I feel vitality in your creative art of photos with thoughts.

    Thank you, as always.

  12. Hi, snowwhite,

    Regardless of the realization of the second Tokyo Olympics, project “Sea Forest”, making landfill made of dumped garbages into sea forest in the sea of Tokyo seems to be going on.

    Me, too, I’d like to visit the buildings designed by him regardless of scale, as many as possible. So little time, so much to do.

  13. I am so glad to visit your beautiful blog and see your beautiful country! I am visiting through Bard at Live and Learn. What an amazing place for you to live. I am so happy for bloggers and sharing...! many smiles...

  14. Thank you, Linda, for visiting. Your comment is really appreciated. I look forward to visiting and seeing your world, too.

  15. I have been to a caffe and a okonomiyaki shop that Shiba used to visit during his stroll. They were near his house in Higashi-osaka. The caffe decorated some pictures on the wall and had some Shiba's works at that time. We ate mix-okonomiyaki and it's delicious.
    By the way, did you see a stain of Ryoma-like?

  16. Eating at the café and the okonomi-yaki restaurant Mr. Shiba would often stopped by and thinking of him would be fun for the fans of his. I wonder what was his favorites.

    Thinking of the fact Shiba surely would walk the streets around there made me have a strange feeling that I was a time-traveler.

    I didn’t notice any stain.


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