Museums in South West Japan

Museums in South West Japan: Shimane, Hiroshima, Okayama & Yamaguchi

Museums & Galleries in South West Japan

South western Japan has a number of fine museums and art galleries located in Okayama, Shimane, Hiroshima and Yamaguchi prefectures.

See below for a list of museums in south west Japan.

Lafcadio Hearn Old Residence, Matsue, Shimane.
Garden of Lafcadio Hearn Old Residence, Matsue, Shimane
Matsue Kyodokan, Matsue, Shimane.
Matsue Kyodokan, Matsue, Shimane

Shimane Museums

Matsue, the prefectural capital, and Izumo are the two major towns in Shimane Prefecture with a number of fine museums.


Matsue is associated with the life of the Meiji Period writer and Japanophile Lafcadio Hearn and has a number of museums associated with Hearn close to Matsue Castle.

These include Lafcadio Hearn's Old Residence, the Lafcadio Hearn Memorial Museum, and on the same street the Buke Yashiki, the house of a samurai named Shiomi, which remains exactly as it was when built in 1730.

In the grounds of Matsue Castle is the Meiji Period Matsue Kyodokan, a guest house built for the Emperor Meiji and now the local history museum. The modern Shimane Prefectural Art Museum (Tel: 0852 55 8311) is located on Lake Shinji, west of Matsue Station, and has paintings by Monet, sculptures by Rodin, wood-block prints by Utagawa Hiroshige as well as works by contemporary Japanese artists.

20km east of Matsue in Yasugi is the recommended Adachi Art Museum (Tel: 0854 28 7111), a private museum founded by businesman Adachi Zenko in 1970. The Adachi Art Museum showcases contemporary Japanese art by such artists as Kawai Kanjiro and Yokoyama Taikan, set in an award-winning Japanese garden - usually voted Japan's best. Take the JR train to Yasugi Station and an hourly shuttle bus to the museum or a direct bus from Matsue JR Station (50 minutes).

Izumo Yayoi-no-mori Museum, Shimane, Japan.
Izumo Yayoi-no-mori Museum pottery exhibits, Shimane Prefecture
Izumo Museum of Quilt Art, Shimane, Japan.
Izumo Museum of Quilt Art, Shimane Prefecture


Izumo has some fantastic museums for such a provincial city far from the main population centers on the Pacific Coast. Pride of place goes to the fantastic Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo, which displays some of the major finds in the Izumo area of recent years - a area key to the historical development of Japan due to its close cultural and trading ties with Korea. The several sections of the musem include exhibits on Izumo Taisha, Lafcadio Hearn, and the superb 358 bronze swords that were excavated at nearby Kojindani.

Also in the Izumo Taisha area is Old Taisha Station converted to a free museum in 1990. Opened in 1924 the wooden station building is modeled on Izumo Taisha Shrine. Taisha Station is unusual in that it is completely traditional and not incorporating any western architectural features like most other stations built at that time, and is now registered as an Important Cultural Property.

The Izumo Yayoi-no-mori Museum is situated in the hills to the south of central Izumo city, across the road from the Nishitani Tumuli Park to which it is adjacent. The Izumo Yayoi-no-mori Museum opened in 2010 to display artifacts that had been unearthed from the burial mounds in the tumuli park.

Located in a renovated traditional farmhouse surrounded by rice paddies east of Izumo city, the Izumo Museum of Quilt Art is both difficult to reach and not well advertised, but is nevertheless attracting rave reviews from those who do manage to visit it. In fact the works on display come from just one artist, Mrs. Mutsuko Yawatagaki, a local woman whose quilts have been exhibited internationally.

Located a short distance from Unshuhirata Station on the Ichibata Line near the western end of Lake Shinji, the Honjin Memorial Museum is often overlooked by visitors to the Izumo and Matsue area but has much to offer and well worth a detour from the main tourist destinations

Hiroshima Museums

The most famous and most visited museum in Hiroshima, of course, is the Peace Memorial Museum dedicated to the tragic events of August, 1945 but the city and wider prefecture have many other museums of quality.

Recommended museums in Hiroshima include the Hiroshima Museum of Art, the Hiroshima Children's Museum, The Yamato Museum or Kure Maritime Museum (Tel: 0823 25 3017), a 5 minute walk from JR Kure Station, and dedicated to the 'Yamato,' the world's largest battleship, which was built in Kure, the site of a former Imperial Navy shipyard and naval academy.

Other museums in Hiroshima include the Hiroshima City Transportation Museum with 2,000 vehicles from around the world on display, the Hiroshima City Ebayama Museum of Meteorology housed in a building that has been preserved from the atom bombing, the Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum and the Hiroshima City Museum of History & Traditional Crafts, which utilizes a red brick building dating from 1911 that was once a packing plant for the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA). There are displays on the area's local industries including oyster farming.

Hiroshima Museum of Art, Hiroshima.
The Hiroshima Museum of Art, Hiroshima

Okayama Museums


Okayama city has a number of worthwhile museums alongside its major attractions of  Korakuen Garden and Okayama Castle. These include the Okayama Prefectural Museum (Tel: 086 272 1149) and botanical garden. Other museums of interest in Okayama are:

Okayama Orient Museum (Tel: 086 232 3636; 9:00am-5:00pm, last entry 4:30pm. Closed Mondays;) with excellent exhibits from ancient Iran, Syria, Iraq and the Greek and Roman Empires.

Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art featuring mainly Japanese artists (Tel: 086 225 4800; 9:00am-5:00pm, last entry 4:30pm. Closed Mondays).

Yumeji Art Museum features the works of Yumeji Takehisa (1884-1934), born in what is now Setouchi City - a small town about 20 km east of Okayama City, and who is famous as a "people's painter" in Japan for having eschewed formal art schooling (Tel: 086 271 1000; 9:00am-5:00pm, last entry 4:30pm. Closed Mondays)

Hayashibara Museum of Art featuring the visual arts and crafts of Japan and East Asia. (Tel: 086 223 1733; 10:00am-5:00pm, last entry 4:30pm.Closed Mondays).

The Shizutani School, established in 1670 in a secluded valley in rural Okayama Prefecture, is known as Japan's first public school for commoners, as well as being among the first in the world.

Ohara Art Museum in Kurashiki
The Ohara Museum of Art is the oldest museum of western art in Japan


Kurashiki boasts the excellent Ohara Art Museum, which houses a large collection of European art including works by Cezanne, Degas, El Greco, Gauguin, Monet, Munch, Picasso and other artists, founded by the fantastically wealthy textile tycoon Keisaburo Ohara (1880-1943). The Ohara Art Museum also houses collections of local folk art and Chinese paintings.

The Japanese Rural Toy Museum has a large selection of traditional Japanese toys for sale in the attached shop. The toys make great souvenirs.

Other museums of interest in Kurashiki are the Kurashiki Museum of Folkcraft which has exhibits of baskets, clothes and pottery, the Museum of Natural History (Tel: 086 425 6037), the Torajiro Kojima Museum and the Kurashiki City Art Museum (Tel: 086 425 6034).

Yamaguchi Museums


Hagi has a wonderfully preserved late Edo Period samurai town with a number of excellent museums, many of them referencing the men and women who shaped Japan's transition to modernity in the 1850's and 1860's.

The Kikuya-ke Jutaku (Kikuya Residence) (Tel: 0838 25 8282) is the spacious home of a rich merchant family with a beautiful garden, storehouses and with over 500 period pieces on display.

Nearby is the Kido Takayoshi Kyutaku, the simple wood and tatami family home of Takayoshi Kido (aka Kido Koin). The Kyu Kubotake Jyutaku was the residence of the Kubota family, rich kimono and sake merchants. Aoki Shusuke Kyutaku is the former house of Shusuke Aoki, a clan doctor and student of Dutch studies (rangaku).

Ito Hirobumi's early childhood home (Ito Hirobumi Old Residence) and his later, grander residence from Shinagawa, Tokyo, the Ito Hirobumi's Second Residence are now preserved in Hagi a short walk from Shoin Shrine. The Second Residence is a spacious, traditional-style Japanese home with tatami flooring. Visitors must remove their shoes before entering.

The inside of Hagi Station also contains a museum.

Hagi Station
Hagi Station Museum


Yamaguchi city, the prefectural capital, offers the Yamaguchi Prefectural Museum (Tel: 083 922 0294) with a wide range of exhibits covering Yamaguchi's history, nature, geology as well as on the more general themes of science and astronomy.

The Yamaguchi Prefectural Art Museum (Tel: 083 925 7788) also in Kameyama Park has a permanent collection of the photographs of Katsuji Fukuda (1899-1991).

St Francis Xavier Memorial Church (Sabieru Kinen Seido). The original Gothic-style church, built in 1952 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Xavier's visit to Yamaguchi, burnt down in mysterious circumstances in 1991 and was rebuilt by 1998 in modernist style with superb stained glass windows.

The church stands atop a hill in Kameyama Park (亀山公園). Below the church is a museum on the life and times of Francis Xavier and his epic journey to Japan.

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St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church, Yamaguchi.
St. Francis Xavier Memorial Church was rebuilt in 1998 in a modernist style of architecture

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