Japan Museums: Kobe City Museum
Kobe City Museum 神戸市立博物館
Kobe City Museum in central Kobe opened in 1982 and combined the previous collections of the Municipal Archaeological Art Museum and Municipal Namban Art Museum.
The museum's theme is the interaction of eastern and western culture as exemplified by Kobe's history as an international trading center. The Kobe City Museum stands in the heart of what was once Kobe's Foreign Settlement.
Kobe City Museum is housed in the neoclassical former Yokohama Specie Bank building, which later became the Kobe branch of the Bank of Japan.
The bank building with its elegant Doric columns dates from 1935.
The building was damaged by the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake but reopened after a year of repair work.
The Kobe Municipal Museum has an eclectic mix of around 39,000 exhibits which are rotated. These include archeological items, 8,000 old maps from both Japan and overseas, woodcut prints and paintings.
Kobe Municipal Museum's collection of Nanban Art (art depicting the so-called "southern barbarians" or western foreigners) from their arrival in the 16th century and later sojourn at Dejima in Nagasaki during the Edo Period is world class.
The works include byobu (folding) screens by such artists as Naizen Kano (1570-1616), a portrait of St. Francis Xavier and the Equestrian Kings of Europe (Important Cultural Asset) - a painting of western knights on a folding screen. There are also western-style works by the Japanese painter Kokan Shiba (1747-1818).
Other exhibits focus on the early cultural exchange between the Asian mainland and Japan and include bronze bells and halberds unearthed during excavations of burial mounds at Sakuragaoka in Nada-ku, Kobe. There are also model ships of the type that ploughed the sea lanes between Osaka and Tokyo during the Edo Period.
Western telescopes, glassware and clocks that found their way into Japan during the sakoku (seclusion) period are also on display along with the many new items from overseas that flooded into Japan during its period of westernization and industrialization in the early Meiji Period. Such industries included western-style furniture making, printing, shipbuilding and match making.
Kobe City Museum also hosts many popular temporary exhibitions of both Japanese art and art from other nations.
Getting to Kobe City Museum
Kobe City Museum is located a ten-minute walk from the south exit of JR Sannomiya Station. Walk south along Flower Road until you get to the Flower Clock on the right side of the street (the Hanadokei Mae Kobe subway stop is here). Turn right. Walk one block to Kyomachi Street. Turn left. The Museum is two blocks down and on the right side of the street.