This small art gallery focuses mainly on pictures of famous actors from the Edo Period, like Nakamura Utaemon the 3rd or Kataoka Nizaemon the 7th. Located right next to the gate of Hozenji Temple known for its Fudo Myo-o statue, the cozy museum offers 30 exhibits across 4 floors. It is easily recognizable due to its pearly yellow outside walls adorned with an ornamental statue of the iconic Kabuki Cat and a silver fir-shaped object. On the first floor you can purchase a wide variety of ukiyo-e related goods, but the upper floors are dedicated gallery spaces where you can see the exhibits. As you go up the stairs you can already see the colorful panels featuring many interesting works, including a detailed map of the Dotonbori area from the early Edo Period. The exhibition on the 3rd floor rotates on a 3-month basis changing with each passing season. The 4th floor is designed in the warm and bright traditional Japanese style and features contemporary works of current wooden printing block carvers as well as their tools of trade. Here you can also find the semi-recent depictions of the Dotonbori area from the Showa Era, but also participate in the periodical events often held here.
For a more hands-on experience you can participate in one of the ukiyo-e workshops that lets you create your own print using the blocks and multiple colors of your choice. As it is easy to comprehend and participate in, it is a great chance to learn a little bit about this slowly vanishing artform, even if you are completely unfamiliar with it.
Dotonbori-style Kabuki themed Kamigata Ukiyo-e
The museum focuses mainly on the Kamigata Ukiyo-e woodblock prints, made popular In the Kansai region and especially Kyoto from late Edo to early Meiji Era. It is the only museum in the world that is specialized in the Kamigata style and as such gained international renown. The Kamigata style focuses heavily on depictions of prominent kabuki actors of late Edo to early Meiji periods and the prints were originally used for advertising purposes, but quickly became popular as a unique and prized collectibles among the common people. Especially the ukiyo-e of actors from around the Dotonbori area became highly sought after.
The creation process of a woodblock print starts with an artist that paints the final painting.
As a next step master carvers create wooden boards of various depths divided by color, tracing the outline of the original painting. Finally a master printer carefully applies the respective paints to appropriate sections of the respective boards and imprints them in succession onto a canvas or a paper effectively creating a perfect copy of the original painting. With just a minor miss the whole picture would be ruined so the final product hinges on the skills of all three craftsmen.
The museum was created to bring this old art closer to the younger generations and perhaps inspire them to reinvent and modernize the genre, or create something completely new. The museum welcomes all visitors, and also offers a more in-depth explanation of the artworks as well as the process for those interested in ukiyo-e.
As you climb up the stairs you can also see quite a few exhibits decorating the walls. The whole building has been renovated and may appear much more spacious on the inside than its outward appearance may hint at. The 4th floor also features authentic instruments that were actually used to carve the wooden blocks in late Edo Period.
A new special exhibition every 3 months
As you enter the museum you will be greeted by a depiction of Shibaemon-tanuki. This shape shifting racoon dog is revered as a guardian deity of performing arts and popularity and thus worshipped by many aspiring performers.
As you climb up the stairs you will be surrounded by ukiyo-e themed panels all the way up to the 3rd floor. This floor is dedicated to temporary special exhibitions that rotate every 3 seasons. The exhibits on display are carefully selected from the wide collection of the museum and the themes of respective exhibitions vary greatly.
For example the “crime and punishment” exhibit features Ishikawa Goemon and other folk legends featured heavily in kabuki stories about outlaws and rebels. Regardless of the theme of the exhibition, the accurate depictions will grant you a glimpse into the trends and of an era long gone.
Despite the above, the true headliner experience of the museum is the hands-on workshop.
Even though there are authentic wooden blocks from the Edo Period on display here, the museum also created their own wooden blocks that are available to the general public. Visitors participating in the workshop experience can then try their hand at painting and printing with the wooden blocks layer by layer, to make their very own ukiyo-e as a souvenir.
Due to its uniqueness and availability to anyone interested, the experience is highly popular among visitors. As individual skill and preference factors in, no two finished prints are alike so at the end of the experience your resulting print will be unique. The size of the finished product is close to an average postcard, a great keepsake to remind you of your travels in Osaka or perhaps send to someone dear back home.
There are multiple courses divided by difficulty, with the total amount of colors, techniques, as well as motifs differing by difficulty level. Among them there are not just popular and famous designs you may have seen before, but also original ones like the iconic beckoning cat ornament on the outside of the museum. All courses are available for groups of three or more people, excellent for small groups of travelers
The selection of all original goods on sale, including the Kamigata ukiyo-e catalog, has been carefully selected to bring you only the best. A lot of the goods are designed in a traditional Japanese style, for example merchandise by the famous and popular brand sou sou.
Furoshiki bags, tenugui towels, ukiyo-e themed postcards and bookmarks, Japanese style book bindings and more are extremely popular among foreign visitors. There is also a wide selection of handbags and wallets with clasps, scarves, patterned cloth, mizuhiki cords and more available, all at a very reasonable price. The cheerfully colorful oiwaibukuro “celebration pouches” are nowadays quite a rare sight in modern Japan, despite being an indispensable part of the culture in times long gone. The museum shop is available to everyone and not just museum visitors, so if you for example visit the museum and then take a stroll around the area exploring sights like the Hozenji temple before returning to the museum shop for some last minute souvenir hunting, it’s perfectly fine to do so.
Since you came all the way to the museum it would be a waste not to explore the nearby Hozenji temple and its surroundings!
In the vicinity
The museum is located in the center of the Minami area, once popular due to numerous kabuki theaters located here. As a result there are countless shops and shopping arcades remaining in the area even in the present day. One of the most important transit hubs of Osaka, the Namba Station, is also nearby making it an area easy to visit. This area is home to several major polyfunctional facilities and malls, like the Osaka Takashimaya, NAMBA CITY, O1O1 NAMBA MARUI, TOHO CINEMAS and more. The building of the Osaka Takashimaya department store became somewhat of a symbol of the area due to its unusual, iconic curved design. Since it is directly connected to the Namba Station, it draws large crowds of customers. On the inside you can find many popular shops with cosmetics, famous apparel brands, fancy restaurants and more.
Namba CITY department store focuses mostly on younger ladies and is known as somewhat of a fashion center with apparel stores carrying clothes following the newest fads and popular trends, casual and laid back restaurants and cafes.
O1O1 NAMBA MARUI is known for its impressive architecture and on its premises you will find the TOHO CINEMAS Namba movie theater among other features.
For a more cultural experience we highly recommend visiting the Hozenji Temple located next to the Kamigata Ukiyo-e Museum and its adjacent Hozenji Yokocho alley. The main object of worship of the Hozenji temple is Mizukake Fudo, overgrown with lush green moss as part of the worship requires believers to pour water on the statue. He is believed to be the local patron of traffic safety and success in business, so there is no shortage of temple visitors. The adjacent Hozenji Yokocho alley is a quaint, atmospheric back alley with cobblestone path and excellent authentic restaurant serving local specialties like the kushikatsu, takoyaki or okonomiyaki, but also classical Japanese cuisine. With its unique atmosphere and close proximity to many bars and restaurants it is a great spot to visit both during the day and night.
Not far from here you can find the Ebisubashi shopping arcade, spanning from Ebisu Bridge all the way to Nankai Namba Station. It is one of the most popular and busiest spots in the already busy Minami area, great if you want to mingle with the locals. Some of the most iconic sights of Osaka can also be found in this area, like the Dotonbori street, Glico Man, or the countless neon-lit shops and animatronic statues over famous stores.
If you follow the Doton River you will come up to the Amemura American village, or you can diverge to Shinsaibashi, Ebisu, Dotonbori, Sennichi-mae or any other of the famous shopping arcades.
Venue Name: Kamigata Ukiyo-e Museum
Business Hours: 11:00 - 18:00 (Hours may differ due circumstances)
Regular Closing Days: Mondays (Tuesdays in case Monday is a public holiday)
Address: 〒542-0076 Osaka Chuo Ward, Namba 1-6-4
Access: 5 minutes from Namba Station on the Osaka Metro Yotsubashi, Midosuji, Sennichimae lines
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