Tokyo National Museum and Isetan Mitsukoshi Gift Collection

Celebrating the Japanese gift giving season of Ochugen

By Rachelle Joy Potente    - 3 min read

The Tokyo National Museum is located in Tokyo's Ueno Park. Established in 1872, it is one of the oldest national museums of Japan, and the largest art museum in Japan. The museum boasts many facilities and five exhibition buildings: Honkan (Japanese Gallery), Toyokan (Asian Gallery), Hyokeikan, Heiseikan, and the Gallery of Horyuji Treasures.

What is Ochugen?

Ochugen is a midsummer gift-giving custom, where people show their gratitude to those in their care. This custom started in the Edo Period and continues to be an important tradition in Japan today. Gifts are usually given from early to mid-July, but most people start ordering these gifts in June.

What products did Tokyo National Museum and Isetan Mitsukoshi introduce?

Tokyo National Museum and Isetan Mitsukoshi have collaborated since 2016 to create special gifts for ochugen. This year's special exhibition introduced about 30 new gifts with famous works of art from Japan printed on them.

Special exhibition introducing ochugen gifts for 2019
Special exhibition introducing ochugen gifts for 2019

Perhaps the most notable product introduced was a beer can emblazoned with art by Katsushika Hokusai called The Great Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa (冨嶽三十六景 神奈川沖浪裏). During the Edo period, Hokusai first released this print for his ukiyo-e series entitled Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (富嶽三十六景). The artwork is on display on the second floor of the Honkan Building in the Tokyo National Museum until 30 June 2019.

Hokusai's famous 'The Great Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa'
Hokusai's famous 'The Great Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa'
Beer featuring Hokusai's ‘The Great Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa'
Beer featuring Hokusai's ‘The Great Wave Off the Coast of Kanagawa'

The second product introduced was a beer can printed with a famous painting by Hishikawa Moronobu titled "Beauty Looking Back." Another beer product featured an artwork entitled The Lively Prosperity Tanabata Festival (名所江戸百景 市中繁栄七夕祭) from Utagawa Hiroshige's One Hundred Famous Places of Edo ukiyo-e series.

Beer featuring with Moronobu's 'Beauty Looking Back'
Beer featuring with Moronobu's 'Beauty Looking Back'

The next beer product introduced Hiroshige's artistic rendering of Nihonbashi (Bridge of Japan) from the series The Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido Highway - Hoeido edition (東海道五十三次之内).

"Nihonbashi (the bridge of Japan)" from Hiroshige's series 東海道五十三次之内 (The Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido Highway - Hoeido edition).
"Nihonbashi (the bridge of Japan)" from Hiroshige's series 東海道五十三次之内 (The Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido Highway - Hoeido edition).
Beer featuring designs from Hiroshige's collection 'One Hundred Famous Places of Edo'
Beer featuring designs from Hiroshige's collection 'One Hundred Famous Places of Edo'
Four canned beer gifts from the 2019 Tokyo National Museum and Isetan Mitsukoshi collection
Four canned beer gifts from the 2019 Tokyo National Museum and Isetan Mitsukoshi collection

Along with the canned beer introduced in the special exhibition, candies, chocolates, and other products were also unveiled, drawing on other famous Japanese artworks for inspiration. The products will be available for purchase in the coming weeks. Details about ordering them are forthcoming.

The closing of the special presentation
The closing of the special presentation

Please note that these products are in limited edition.

Getting there

The Tokyo National Museum is located in Ueno Park. It is a 10-minute walk from Ueno Station on the JR Yamanote Line. The Isetan Shinjuku store is a 5-minute walk from the East Exit of Shinjuku Station on the JR Yamanote Line. The Nihombashi Mitsukoshi Main Store is a 7-minute walk from Shin-Nihombashi Station on the JR Sobu Line.

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Rachelle Joy Potente

Rachelle Joy Potente @rachelle.joy.potente

I like food and history. Traveling around Japan and currently an intern at Japan Travel KK.

Join the discussion

Elizabeth Scally a month ago
When the ochugen gifts appear in store displays, you know it’s summer.

A Tokyo secret - when you go shopping at Mitsukoshi in Nihonbashi, linger on the grand staircase and look at the walls of marble. They’re loaded with fossils! It’s a good rainy day activity for kids.
Sleiman Azizi a month ago
I love the ukiyoe designs. They make for great souvenirs.
Kim B a month ago
Love the beer + ukiyo-e combination!