Hiram College

Written by William Oswald ’20

This blog post is written in response to William’s spring 2019 3-week trip to Japan led by Professors Kirsten Parkinson and Erin Lamb.

Even in the United States of America, I have always greatly loved visiting museums of all kinds. From science museums to history museums, I have never hated my time visiting a museum. My love of these institutions, of preservation, of knowledge and history has also influenced my possible career path after my education at Hiram College. I would love to work at a history museum or similar preservation institution you can find across the country. As a result of my love of museums, when I saw that we would be visiting some museums during our travels in Japan, I was really excited to see these institutions in Japan and to see just how similar or different they would be when compared to American museums. While I did enjoy the Matsuri Yatai Kaikan (which is a exhibition of the festival floats of Takayama) and the Karakuri Museum (which is a museum dedicated to Japanese puppets and mechanical dolls) greatly when we visited Takayama; my favorite museums I visited in Japan were during the free time we had.  

My favorite museums I visited in Japan also happened to be two of the oldest museums in Japan, and they were the Nara National Museum and the Tokyo National Museum. Both of these museums had a main focus on ancient Buddhist artwork, with the majority of the artwork presented to the public being statues; and with the help of an English language audio guide, I was able to understand the subject material with relative ease. The Tokyo National Museum also held a larger selection of secular historical artifacts, with samurai weapons, armor, and secular artwork from other eras of Japanese history all present to the public. There was also an exhibit at the Tokyo National Museum that focused solely on restoration and preservation of the artifacts in their collection; seeing the various methods to preserve these ancient artifacts and artworks helped me better understand what I may have to do if I manage to become employed at a similar type of institution back in the U.S.  

I honestly wish I could share the sights I saw within the museum exhibits with you all but doing so will limit the experience of seeing these relics in person. It was also a common policy of in both museums that visitors were not allowed to take pictures of the artifacts on display. However, I can still describe the wonder and awe I felt when looking at the extreme care and detail shown in the ancient Buddhist statues and artwork shown at the exhibits, and some of those shown were even declared as national treasures or important cultural properties. Seeing the very intricate details in these statues, like the expressive and stunning facial structures and the beautiful folding of the clothing worn by the statues, was very impressive to observe. Knowing just how long someone had to take to work these statues out of a single piece of wood, and how these centuries old religious artworks managed to survive for centuries honestly amazed me. I even enjoyed visiting these historic museums when I was struggling with a cold, and I hope that if I ever return to Japan that I can visit these places again. I highly recommend these locations for anyone who happens to travel to Japan.