An odd bucketlist but it was my goal to head to Aomori and also the Aomori Museum of Art (青森県立美術館 site). Back in 2011 Japan Railways ran these commercials on their trains called “My First Aomori“. They were really cheesy and featured a very handsome train conductor and some girl from the big city discovering all of Aomori’s charm. This was because of the expansion of highspeed rail. Me and my man would make fun of the whole series of commercials and everything we visited in Japan became “My First…”, but well it got stuck in my brain. So I finally did “My First Aomori” and it is truly a really cool place to visit.
One of my big complaints about the Japanese art scene as its portrayed in Museums is how little Japanese art there actually is. There was a huge boom in Japan collecting overseas art and even in extremely famous museums you may not see much art from Japanese artists (Mori Museum, Tokyo National Gallery, Bennessee Art House to call out a few).
It’s an absolute shame because Japan has had a lot of great artists!!
Aomori Museum of Art was one of the rare places I’ve seen embracing Japanese artists. Aomori Museum of Art was such a shock it actually became my favorite museum in Japan.
The Aomori Museum opened in 2006 so like the Matsumoto Museum of Art it’s another new edition to the crew. It’s designed to resemble the Sannai Maruyama buried ruins from the Joumon Period of Japan which is right next door. So most of the museum is underground.
Reading up on reviews on this museum people seem to hate it for two seasons:
1) Its concentration modern art
2) Its complicated system of entry even though its (supposedly) minimalist
3) Mostly you cannot take photos.
You can read more about the architecture of the Museum on Arch Daily.
My answers to these complaints:
- It WAS modern (yay!). I love modern art!
- Agreed but it only takes like 10 minutes to figure it out
- That’s annoying but my quiet iPhone I snuck a few.
There’s a lot of angles and mix outside because like others I had a hard time finding the actual entrance.
Once going inside and paying my fee I was greeted by giant painted backdrops done by Marc Chagall. He’s a personal favorite so I was really happy. It’s his original paintings for the ballet Aleko he painted in exile in America. The seated person gives an example of how insanely giant these are.
Once you enter the full museum which requires an elevator you’re in the Yoshitomo Nara area. Yoshitomo Nara (奈良 美智 wiki) is one of the most famous living artists of Japan. He’s currently 58 and has his art displayed in most major modern art museums. Uncomfortable children’s book would be my best description of his style and motives.
The rare item you can take photos of. Aomori-ken (あおもり犬）it’s a play on words of Aomori Prefecture or 青森県 (Aomori-ken).
Seeing this baby online for years I thought you could walk around it or at least step outside near it. Nope it’s behind glass and really impersonalizes how cool and giant it really is. I would say it’s at least 3 storeys tall.
While I wasn’t allowed to photograph much of the Yoshitomo Nara exhibition I couldn’t resist taking photos of this piece. It’s actually a giant white box inside of the space and when you look in via one of the portholes.
There is also a whole area dedicated to Shiko Munataka (wiki). Who is another Aomori native and did this modern Ukiyo-e technique of woodblocking. He uses a lot of Buddhist themes that are popular in Aomori Nebuta (floating giant lanterns).
While the Shiko Munataka collection in the Aomori Museum of Art is a bit over-expansive taking up 4 rooms, it did grow on me seeing his art used for so many practical purposes. He was tasked with designing bags for fancy malls like Takashimaya or doing special gift wrapping at fancy Kyoto stores. Actually showcasing an artists graphic art was really cool to me.
There were a few other rooms showcasing some really interesting pop art that combined some overseas and Japanese artists. I really like them all, but the no photos thing became an issue.
Special Exhibition: Tohl Narita
This really won my heart. I didn’t really know much about this artist but everyone has seen his work. To me that’s just such a cool concept.
Tohl Narita was the character creator of Godzilla in the original Godzilla movies and also the concept artist behind Ultraman. And when I mean artist it is truly some art. Paintings, drawings and sculptures of all of his character creations. This is from the Fukuoka Museum but you can read about the traveling Tohl Narita exhibition here in English.
Character design is so neat. It must be amazing so have watched so many of your own ideas come to life for so long.
His sculptures are all this style. So dark and demonic and really play up his character style even more.
I mean the man created Garamon. I’m forever a fan.
To fit the minimalism of the Museum signs like this advertise the upcoming events. It’s all done by the Museum’s art director.
Big quality gift shop. Soft spot for museum gift shops. Well soft spot for museums. Lots of fun Yoshitomo Nara items along with Shiko Munataka and the Tohl Narita traveling works.
Aomori Museum of Art cafe is called the Four Dancing Cats. The coffee and apple tart (apples are an Aomori speciality) was quite cheap at 500 yen and the place was big and offered sandwiches as well.
Aomori Museum of Art information:
jp: 青森県立美術館 Aomori Kenritsu Bijutsukan
google maps: here
hours: 9am-6pm closed the Tuesday after Monday holidays. Also closed for a block for New Years.
getting there: Kenritsu Bijutsukanmae bus stop (県立美術館前), a twenty minute, 280 yen bus ride from Aomori Station. However it’s Aomori so buses are usually every 30 minutes. Instead I took a cab ride there and it was around 1,500 yen or $13. There’s a taxi stop near the museum that also has a taxi parked outside for return back.
This is the first time I’ve talked about Aomori in a travel post. I came back from my two days there thinking wow Aomori was cool and I definitely filled up my days. Not during the Nebuta Matsuri (giant float festival) it doesn’t get much tourism which feels nice considering Japan has a tourism boom and everywhere feels crowded. I feel I missed out on some things to do there, but I had a good time. So consider a stopover in Aomori on your way to Hokkaido or take a dip higher from Sendai.
If you like Museums I have a ton more Japan museum posts coming because I went to a lot recently. Also check out the Matsumoto Museum of Art.
yea yea I know this isn’t a fashion post, it’s a travel post. And culture is cool, get some in youuuu! I actually have something combining that next post when I talk about Tokyo Disney. So stay tuned.