3 Great Sado Museums

by Luke - TripleLights travel specialist

In Sado, there are three museums that stand out above the rest. The Historical Legend Museum is a great place to learn about Japanese history. The Ogi Folk Museum features articles pertaining to the history of this old port town. And, at the Sekisui Ito Pottery Museum you can learn about traditional crafting methods, and enjoy works of art from a Living National Treasure:

Sado Historical Legend Museum

Between the 13th and 15th centuries on Sado Island where noblemen, warriors, artists and high priests were exiled for political crimes, numerous legends remain of these figures who had important and historic roles to play. The Sado Historical Legend Museum is divided into 12 scenes in which everything ranging from the many dramatic episodes of Imperial family tragedy and the miracles of Saint Nichiren to the performances of exiled Noh actor Zeami and the folk tales of Sado are introduced. Although the performers are robots, the performances and elaborate garb which can only be found in the Noh nation of Sado Island are excellent. Effects such as light and sound are freely used so that you will want to enjoy the legends of Sado through this beautifully recreated spectacle.

In the Shoudou Sasaki Museum which is located within the Sado Historical Legend Museum, the works of Sado-born sculptor Shoudou Sasaki are on display. It is a valuable facility where you can see some of his finest masterpieces. Sasaki was known for his style merging traditional Japanese beauty and Western modernism and has received numerous awards in Japan including his inclusion as a Human National Treasure in 1960. One of his representative works, “Zuichou” (Crane), had its design used as a decorative element in the new Kyuden facility of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, with a replica of the same size displayed at the entrance of the building. A chronology for Sasaki through a panel display and the production process behind wax metal casting are very interesting.

Original goods with a Sasaki motif can only be purchased here. Along with accessories with a motif of “Zuichou”, iron tea plates that are patterned after his other work of “Onigawara” (Demon Tile) are popular for being items of rare beauty only available on Sado. The souvenir area sells special goods on Sado and folk craft as well as many kinds of candy and local sake in great variety. The shop is also famous for one of its employees, Charles Jenkins, whose wife, Hitomi Soga, had been one of the North Korean abductees who was returned in 2004.

Admission: Adult ¥ 800 / Child ¥ 400

Guidebook from Planetyze about Sado Historical Legend Museum
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Sado Historical Legend Museum
Tours of Sado Historical Legend Museum

Sadokoku Ogi Folk Museum

The history and culture of the town of Shukunegi that had proliferated as a port for the cargo shipping business up to the Edo Era of the 19th century are reflected through folk materials on display. The interior of the museum is divided into 3 galleries: the Senkokubune Museum which displays the reproduced senkokubune cargo ship, the Large Gallery, a once abandoned schoolhouse which includes displays such as lifestyle artifacts from the old days, and the New Wing which displays farming and fishing tools, so that there is an overflowing display of around 30,000 items.

At the Senkokubune Museum, Japan’s first replicated senkokubune cargo ship is on display under the name of “Hakusan Maru”, based on the blueprints of the “Kouei Maru” that had been built in Shukunegi in 1853. With a total length of 23.75m and a maximum width of 7.24m, the cargo vessel possesses a mast which is over 20m tall that was created from a whole cedar tree on Sado. You can board the ship for a tour where inside, the boatman’s cabin with tatami flooring, the kamidana household shrine, and the ship chest of drawers which had stored valuable items have been recreated so that you can get catch a glimpse of what life was like for the crew. The replica has been recreated at one-tenth its actual size, and in so doing, there is another smaller vessel on display that is one-tenth the size of the replica. The reproduction of the ships is the result of efforts by craftsmen and citizens on Sado Island. In late July, the Hakusan Maru Festival is held in which the ship with its huge sail is pulled out of the museum so that its gallant appearance can be viewed under the blue sky.

In the Large Gallery which uses the old Shukunegi Elementary School, artifacts such as kimono from the old days, Buddhist objects, pottery, dolls and lifestyle items are on display, and exhibits from a port town including collectibles that came over from the mainland by cargo ships can be viewed. Furthermore in the New Wing, tools which were used for work such as farming and fishing implements from the southern part of Sado are displayed. Within the 30,000 artifacts on display, there are items including these implements from southern Sado and ship carpentry tools which have been designated nationally as Important Tangible Folk Cultural Properties.

Admission: Adult ¥ 500 / Child ¥ 200

Guidebook from Planetyze about Sadokoku Ogi Folk Museum
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Sadokoku Ogi Folk Museum
Tours of Sadokoku Ogi Folk Museum

Sekisui Ito Pottery Museum

Mumyoi-yaki is created from the reddish clay known as mumyoi which was first discovered in 1844 near the end of the Edo Era within the shaft of a Sado gold mine. Its notable characteristic is the brilliant reddish-brown color along with its smooth texture due to the extremely fine particles in the clay and its toughness when fired. The first Sekisui Ito (born as Tomizaburo Ito) started Mumyoi-yaki whose technique and artistry have been brought down and honed by succeeding generations up until the current Sekisui Ito V who was selected to become a Living National Treasure due to his extremely high ability.

Many of Sekisui Ito V’s works can be seen in the museum. The elegant works with flower patterns appear to have been delicately drawn by hand, but they have actually been created through a process called neri-age. This distinctive technique involves clay of different colors layered on top of each other, rounded and then cut into round pieces before being shaped. Furthermore, works so versatile that it is hard to imagine that they have been created by the same person are created through techniques such as youhen (color variations through the firing process) which bring alive the texture of Mumyoi-yaki products and the crushing and kneading of the mumyoi clay via rocks from the sea bottom by Sado Island. These works include “Sado Shima” which reveals the ferocious nature of Sado. Even though the artist has become a National Treasure, Sekisui Ito V has continued to strive for further possibilities when it comes to Mumyoi-yaki.

In the small gallery at the back of the exhibition room, you can also view the generational works of Sekisui Ito I to IV. These are very precious displays where you can take away an understanding of the passage of time, the differences in style and the characteristics of each artist. Beginning with the works of Sekisui Ito shown in the museum, almost all of the products which include tea cups and other types of cups created by artisans in the Sekisui kilns can be bought.

Admission: Free

Guidebook from Planetyze about Sekisui Ito Pottery Museum
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Sekisui Ito Pottery Museum
Tours of Sekisui Ito Pottery Museum

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