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Kakegawa Ninomaru Museum

Why tobacco pouches are like iPhone cases

Kakegawa is a pleasant but small place, with not many sights to detain visitors. That said, those it does have are definitely worth visiting, and the Ninomaru Museum is a case in point. A small, charming art museum, it's next to the castle and neighbouring palace hall, and is built to blend in with them, with a long, low profile and harmonious design.

When I visited, the special exhibition was of centuries-old pipes and tobacco pouches. That subject didn't immediately grab my imagination, but I found it much more interesting than I expected, both for the objects themselves, and for what they represented. The spacious lobby gave me an idea of what I would see in the museum rooms; there's a diorama of Kakegawa as it was in the past, and displays of pipe cabinets and cases, tools, pipes, and seals for tobacco pouches.

There were two exhibition rooms, filled with display cases full of centuries-old smoking paraphernalia, from the delicate pipes to the decorated cushions that people clearly sat on while puffing away. One thing that struck me was the variety of styles: even just the pipe cases could be carved from ivory or wood, or some of them were lacquered or even cloisonneed, making me think that those ones must have belonged to samurai or noblemen.

It was the tobacco pouches and clasps that were most interesting, though. The variety of designs was just endless: birds, trees, flowers and landscapes are some of the simpler ones, but still display intricate detail and beautiful colours. Then there were snakes and dragons, birds in flight, a knight spearing a lion, even a woman with a bag on her head leading a pack animal, all exquisitely crafted.

As well as being fascinating and beautiful in their own right, these everyday objects reflect the time in which they were made, and the people who used them. What kind of person would choose these Buddhist demons, these bearded sages, these monkeys or crickets? In a way, they were the phone straps or iPhone cases of their day, an outward sign of the owner's status, personality or interests.

On a later visit I saw some modern Japanese painting, which I also enjoyed a lot. Again, the exhibition was well organised, with plenty of space to enjoy the understated but colourful paintings. And there were few visitors, making for a peaceful, relaxed atmosphere.

Before you leave, there is of course a souvenir shop, with scarves and bags, cards and stationery, tea and teapots, purses and accessories.

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Peter Sidell Author 9 years ago
Thanks for your comments. I wasn't sure how interesting it would be, but I was prepared to gamble a couple of hundred yen, and I'm really glad I did.
Justin Velgus 9 years ago
Tabacco puches seem as varied as netsuke. I would love to have a look around here.
Anonymous
Anonymous 9 years ago
Interesting to know the daily life of communities..
Iain Stanley 9 years ago
Well written. I hope they don't become anachronistic in the modern world......