Skull Museum Amagasaki

Skull Museum, Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture シャレコーベ・ミュージアム

Jake Davies

Amagasaki is a fairly nondescript industrial town between Osaka and Kobe that at first glance would seem to have nothing much to offer a visitor.

Skull Museum, Amagasaki
The only Skull Museum in the world in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture
Skull Museum, Amagasaki
Unique skull shaped building houses the Skull Museum in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture

However, Amagasaki is home to a museum that is possibly unique in the world, one dedicated purely to the human skull.

While there are certainly many museums that have examples of human skulls on display, there seems to be none focusing only on human skulls and their representations in myriad cultural forms.

The Skull Museum is the brainchild of Dr. Keiji Kawamoto, a local brain surgeon and professor who has also published several books on the human skull which  covered stories and customs about skulls from around the world as well as more mundane medical topics.

Skull Museum, Amagasaki
A lot of the displays are humorous, the Skull Museum, Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture
Skull Museum, Amagasaki
A tiny selection of the over 7,000 items on display at the Skull Museum, Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture

Skull Museum Exhibits

In 1998 he opened to the public his private collection  of skulls and related paraphernalia and as his collection grew he built a purpose built museum in his garden that opened in 2011.

From the street it may look like a typical three storey suburban house, but from the entrance at the rear it looks - surprise surprise - like a huge skull.

Inside is not like a traditional museum with lines of glass display cases filled with dusty relics. It's a veritable riot of color and whimsy as every available space from floor to ceiling is covered with displays.

There are currently over 7,000 items in the collection, so it takes some time to see everything. The first floor is devoted primarily to novelty items: anything using the motif of skulls in their design, and that includes furniture, clothing, jewellery, and all kinds of everyday items and products.

There are more than a few motorbike helmets and numerous T shirts with Grateful Dead and heavy metal bands like Metallica well represented.

Skull Museum, Amagasaki
Skulls, skulls, skulls, and more skulls, the Skull Museum, Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture
Skull Museum, Amagasaki
From Tibet, a human skull with overlaid metalwork, the Skull Museum, Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture

At different times the museum hosts events, and in the summer of 2017 a T-shirt competition is being held. Up on the second floor the emphasis switches to toys. Plenty of Halloween products as well as pirates.

There are plenty of buttons to press to see thing move or light up. Masks, both novelty and from world cultures are featured along with more anthropology in the form of skull objects from Nepal, Indonesia and other nations.

Up on the third floor we get to the real skulls. There are skulls that show the development of humans from their predecessors as well as from infancy to old age. Also on display are deformed skulls and objects made out of real skulls.

There is even a 3D printed model of Dr. Kawamoto's own skull. Particularly interesting are some skulls made out of crystal that nobody knows exactly how they were made as well as skulls made out of all kinds of other materials.

This is an intriguing and entertaining museum that will appeal to a wide range of interests as well as all ages. It is unfortunately only open on Sundays, but is well worth the visit especially if you are interested in the quirky. There is some information in English, but often Dr. Kawamoto himself will help guide visitors and he does have some English ability.

Skull Museum, Amagasaki
Some of the real skulls on display at the Skull Museum, Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture

Access - how to get to the Skull Museum

Skull Museum
5-49 Hamada
Hyogo 660-0062
Tel: 06 6417 7069

Open from 10am to 5pm on Sundays only. Closed over the New Year period.
Phoning in advance will ensure meeting with Dr. Kawamoto.
Admission 500 yen for adults, kids 6-12, 200 yen.

The Skull Museum is located just off Route 2. Its is 1.3 km north of Deyashiki Station on the Hanshin Line and 1.6 km south of Tachibana Station on the JR Tokaido Sanyo Line. There are taxis and regular buses from either station.

Skull Museum, Amagasaki
The author receiving his certificate from Dr. Kawamoto for successfully passing a short quiz on skulls. I must admit the good doctor gave me plenty of hints to help me pass

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