Kamakura Museum

Access map

Due to catastrophes such as earthquakes, typhoons, conflagrations, floods, famine and wars, many of valuable artifacts and antiquities in Kamakura were lost or destroyed. The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 in particular was most devastating.

For the purpose of protecting those finest antiquities, Kamakura Museum was constructed in 1928, five year after the Earthquake, to showcase masterpieces of the past. It also functions as a Kamakura cache for antiquities of great importance and presently has 4,800 items including five national treasures. The building design was modeled after the Shoso-in in Nara. The Annex was built in 1983. This museum is called Kokuhokan in Japanese, meaning a national treasure house. You might imagine a great museum of a magnificent building, but this is not the case. Rather, it is a petit one having only one floor with a exhibition space of about 600 sq. mtrs., owned and managed by Kamakura City.

Main arts and crafts owned or stored by the Museum and usually on display

In addition to those above, Kokuhokan keeps the following five National Treasures, which are rarely on display:
(1) A self-portrait of Daikaku Zenji (Buddhist title of Priest Rankei-Doryu), the founding priest of Kenchoji. A portrait of the great priest sitting on a chair.

(2) A Taima mandala picture scroll, owned by Komyoji. It originates in Taima-dera in Nara, of which main object of worship is Taima Mandala. Part of Taima Mandala can be seen at the temple's website.

(3) A lacquered writing-box designed in mother-of-pearl inlay owned by Tsurugaoka Hachimangu.
A picture of a typical lacquered box with mother-of-pearl inlay at TNM.

(4) Rules and regulations prescribed by Daikaku Zenji following the teachings of Zen Buddhism.

(5) Ancient fittings for Shinto deities owned by Tsurugaoka Hachimangu

Ukiyo-e collection also has to be referred to. Kokuhokan has 200 sets of Ukiyo-e paintings, all of which are not woodblock printing but drawn by painter's hand. The late Mr. Takeo Ujiie (woo-g-e-a), founder of a pharmaceutical company, used to have them, but donated all of them to Kokuhokan in 1974 forming a foundation called "Ujiie Collection." In January every year, part of the collection are on view. The pictures look like Ukiyo-e, but are obviously clearer than conventional Ukiyo-e.

(Updated August 2014)