Omodakaya Mingei Museum

Tools of the common folk in days gone by

By Justin Dart    - 3 min read

Have you ever wondered how people lived without coolers, watches, and iProducts? In downtown Gujo-Hachiman, there is Omodakaya Mingei Museum: The museum of Family Folkcraft. Though the front is a store selling local crafts, art and converting Kimono into western style fashion, the real treat is the back gallery containing tools from the late Edo and Meiji period collected by the Mizuno Family over three generations.

At first I thought I was just visiting a store, but was soon led down a narrow hall to the back where the guide introduced the main gallery. I wouldn’t call it a gallery in the modern museum sense. It is essentially the family kura or storehouse. These are white thick-walled buildings commonly found behind old houses in Japan. They are designed to protect the family treasures from fire and theft. They have 40 centimeter thick walls, steel inner doors and thick sand-filled outer doors. If there is a fire, families would shut up the kura, seal the vent at the base, keeping everything safe till the fire had been extinguished. This dingy storehouse is the museum gallery.

The Omodakaya museum was started by the current owner’s grandfather. He was not rich nor was he interested in collecting valuable items. He loved collecting everyday items like bowls, handcuffs, clocks, and storage boxes.

There are three galleries, two on the first floor and one on the second. The first gallery includes farming, commerce and tools for making shoes or for use in the kitchen. The second gallery features more technical items such as a still-functioning clock from the Meiji period and picnic equipment. One of my favorite items was the sake distributer and cooler. It thought it was a press! On this floor they do have some glass cabinets with some amazing items. The Enku statue is probably one of the most amazing. Enku was an Edo period buddhist monk who walked all over Gifu (and Japan) carving small wooden statues of Buddha. Having read about Enku and his adventures, seeing this made me giddy.

Back on the first floor in the final gallery are some iron items in glass showcases including Meji-period handcuffs and guns.

The lives of the nobel class have been very documented and their items have been perserved in national museums. But the stories and tools of the common farmer, getta maker, miller, housewife and constable are rarely told. At the Omodakaya Folkcraft Museum, you can imagine how they lived day to day.

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Justin Dart

Justin Dart @justin.dart

I am a country boy transplanted from Wisconsin in the USA to central Gifu Prefecture.The main focus of my life in Japan has been to introduce people to the world and the world to local communities and culture through international exchanges and educational programs. My hope is that people will hang a right at Nagoya, get off the beaten path and explore Gifu...what I call The Jewel of Discoveries.アメリカの田舎で育った男、岐阜県の田舎に引っ越しました。ジャスティン・ダートです。僕の日本での生活は「世界を紹介し、世界の地域における文化と生活を、国際交流や教育プログラムを通して紹介する」という目標です。観光客が名古屋で右を曲がって、岐阜県の旅を試してみたいという希望を持っています。岐阜県:発見の宝。多年前,我从美国的乡村搬到日本岐阜県的中部。現在我最大的志向是向本地人介绍世界各地的文化及把当地文化介绍给世界各地的人。通过国际交流和教育方案,我希望會有更多的人开始去探索岐阜県的美丽与文化。

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