About the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum

17th December 2018

itchiku kubota art museum

For many years, Itchiku Kubota, dreamed of establishing an unusual and beautiful museum where people could visit to view and enjoy his work. The site he chose was along the shores of Lake Kawaguchi, an area where Mount Fuji, a national – if not international – icon, dominated the landscape, and a region considered to be one of the loveliest in Japan.

This location, with its spectacular views of this perfectly shaped volcano, was not a random choice. Kubota had long been fascinated by the mountain that was a major theme in his work, as can be seen in the eleven Fuji kimono in this collection that create a compelling vision of the mountain’s grandeur as well as of its physical and mystical presence and power, elements that Kubota incorporated into his vision of the museum he intended to build.

Kubota took a deep and active interest in all aspects of the planning and building of his museum. The result is a structure and environment that represents his unique – some would say idiosyncratic – worldview. The building draws inspiration from Gaudi as well as from more contemporary sources, just as Kubota drew from both tradition and modernity in designing his kimono. He based the design of the main hall where the kimono are shown on traditional Japanese architecture, but the structure evolves into a complex and spectacular pyramid-like puzzle of huge layered wooden beams that soar to a skylight thirteen meters above. He did not hesitate to mix coral and limestone from Okinawa with sculptural ironwork made by present-day artists to embellish the entryway to the museum.

Kubota also searched out dramatic hand-carved doors, gates and seating from India, Africa, and Southeast Asia to enhance the interior and exterior space. He studied what seasonal flowers and trees could best add to the beauty of the natural environment surrounding the museum, and he himself planted the Japanese maples that grace the site with blazing color in autumn – a perfect reflection of the Symphony of Light kimono representing Autumn. He also worked with expert gardeners to choose where the decorative rocks, quiet ponds, murmuring streams and cascading waterfalls should be placed to ensure ongoing visual and audio delights for visitors making their way over the carefully planned paths that lead to the museum’s entryway.

The Kubota kimono continue to be shown in the matchless museum that Kubota himself planned and built, the fulfilment of a dream best expressed in Kubota’s own words: “For me, this museum is the palace of miracles.”

Japan’s hidden gem – Itchiku Kubota’s  Art Museum – by Dr Jacqueline M. Atkins, Collection Curator