Located inside the Ikuta Ryokuchi Park is the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art. The museum opened in 1999, three years after Taro Okamoto's death in 1996. His name may not ring a bell but he is quite known in Japan.
Taro Okamoto was born in 1911 in Kawasaki. His father was a cartoonist while his mother was a writer. He was interested in abstract painting, surrealism and later studied ethnology at the University of Paris. When he returned to Japan after the war, he established a studio in Tokyo and from there created many of his now-famous works.
Once you get inside the museum, you will have to buy the ticket from the ticketing machine. It has an English translation so no worries. The permanent exhibition costs 500 yen. Just like most museums here in Japan, they have an annual pass for only 1,500 yen. If you have Waon Card or Tokyu Card, you can buy the ticket for only 400 yen. Select the Discount Ticket option and pay the 400 yen. Show your Waon or Tokyu card together with the ticket at the reception. There are special exhibitions held every year and will require an additional fee.
Inside the museum, you will see pictures that he took from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. His interest in ethnology brought him to many places including Okinawa, Aomori, Yamagata and even Mexico. His photographs of old Japan are so nostalgic and brings you back in time. It was fascinating to look at the black and white photos, but one, in particular, caught my attention. It was a picture of Kyoto near Kiyomizudera Temple. I wonder after more than 50 years if the street and houses in his photos are still there.
A museum staff kindly explained to me in Japanese that one of Mr. Okamoto's paintings was inspired by a picture he took in Mexico, She showed me the sketches in pencil and ink and pointed out the picture and painting. The most fun part of the museum was the chair furniture designs. Guests were allowed to try and sit on the chairs. Surprisingly, the colorful string chairs and hand-shaped chairs were pretty comfortable.
Throughout the museum, there are small television screens that showed scenes from Mr. Okamoto's life. Among them was an interview where he spoke in French, one showing the actual making of the Tower of the sun, and some of his T.V. commercials, Replicas of his famous sculptures, including the Tower of the Sun, are displayed inside.
Walking around the museum, I found out that Mr. Okamoto was a man of many artistic talents. He was a photographer, writer, painter, sculptor, designer, and he even delved into pottery. He was also a performer and did television commercials for Japanese companies like Maxell, Citizen, and Kirin Beer.
According to the staff, the paintings and special exhibitions are changed a few times a year so you can visit the museum again. Some of his artworks and designs can be seen in various places across Japan including hotels and hot springs. If you go to Ginza, Shibuya, or Aoyoma, you might catch a glimpse of them. His home and studio in Tokyo have been opened to the public and is now called the Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum.