By Peter Sidell
If you've made the journey to see Sengen-jinja shrine in the middle of Shizuoka City, then it's worth taking a little time to look round the neighbouring Cultural Property Museum. It isn't big and won't take you long to get round, but what it has is interesting enough to justify the small entrance fee.
When I visited, there was an exhibition by a (presumably) local artist called Mitsuhiro Unno, displaying his roughly cut woodblock prints of modern scenes, many of them alongside the photographs on which they were based. The contrast was very striking, and I found it interesting to see taxis, stations and Shinkansen bullet trains rendered in this very traditional form.
Of the permanent exhibits, pride of place goes to a very big wooden statue of Ieyasu Tokugawa, first Shogun of Japan. Holding a falcon on his arm and flanked by two komainu guardian wolf-dogs, he's an imposing figure indeed. This statue was the model for the one in Sunpu-jo Park, where you'll also find the some reconstructed towers and the few remaining ruins of his castle.
Other than the statue, you'll find around the compact museum a very eclectic mix of exhibits.There are vintage photographs of children at play, traveling vendors, tea harvesters, carpenters and joiners; painted panels from shrine halls, showing horses and noblemen; objects from peoples' everyday lives, such as a radio, a TV and a gramophone, some womens' magazines; displays on the lives of (I guess) two prominent local historical figures, one of whom seems to have been an explorer, judging by the artifacts displayed.
I say 'I guess' because pretty much everything is in Japanese; the only English explanations were with the statue of Ieyasu and with some Indian coins brought back by the presumed explorer. Even without any captions, though, the photographs especially were fascinating, giving an unvarnished view of how life was was for ordinary people all those years ago.
The museum is open from 9:00am to 4:30pm daily from Sunday to Tuesday (with some temporary closures for New Year and to change exhibitions); if a public holiday falls on a Monday, the museum is open on the Monday and closed on the Tuesday. Admission is JPY200 for adults, JPY50 for elementary or junior high school students (free if they're residents of Shizuoka City), with discounts for repeat visits and for groups of 20 or more.
The museum is in the grounds of Sengen-jinja shrine, about thirty minutes' walk north of Shizuoka station, or reachable from the station on the Sunpu Roman bus.
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I came to Japan from Manchester, England in summer 2003, and have travelled a lot since then, around Japan and in Asia. When I`m not working I write satire at www.iothern.blogspot.com and perform stand-up comedy in and around Tokyo. Check my youtube channel `CunningPunster` for a taste.