Money Museum with Artworks of Hiroshige Utagawa

Trip Start Jul 26, 2008
Trip End May 17, 2013

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Flag of Japan  , Aichi,
Sunday, August 28, 2011

The official name of the money museum is Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Money Museum. It is a building of former Akatsuka branch of the bank. The museum was small and free admission, but much more interesting and popular than I expected. To be honest, I had expected that I would see only a few visitors in the museum, but I was surprised that people went in and came out frequently, while I was seeing a poster at the gate of the museum before I entered. To tell the truth, I was not interested in the monetary museum or a collection of coins and bills, but I was eager to see a woodblock print series of Hiroshige Utagawa (1797-1858), which was open to public only in a special exhibition. The museum houses a few different series of his including "The Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido (Hoeido edition, 1833)" and this year they celebrate the 50th anniversary since it founded, having a plan to hold a few exhibitions of the series. Incidentally, the Hoeido edition was Hiroshige's debut work and the most popular work. He published more than 20 editions later.

The Tokaido Highway started at Nihonbashi Bridge of Edo (the present Tokyo) and ended at Sanjo-ohashi Bridge of Kyoto. At the time of Hiroshige, it took two weeks to travel the distance of approximately 500 kilometers on foot, but it only takes just over two hours by bullet train. That changed our way to enjoy travels: nowadays people are likely to seek for joys in the destinations, not on the way to the destinations. On the other hand, the photography was invented in the 19th Century (introduced to Japan in 1848) and it enabled us to take a picture instantly and many pictures during our travels. In addition, nowadays thanks to digital cameras, we can make as many copies as we want, using a PC. Still in the Hiroshige's prints, we can see similar joys of travels: interesting people, beautiful landscapes, seasonal attractions, and unique experiences. It is said that Hiroshige's works caught on, not only because they were artistically excellent, but also because even common people had just started to get interested in travelling for fun at that time. They must be inspired by his works. (Secretly, I also hope that my blog inspires other travellers....) Even today, some people travel along the old highway to look for remains from his period and I tried some parts of it myself, but it was difficult to sense a taste of the past. Hiroshige's works are all the more attractive for stiring up the imagination of modern people. Anyway, the fifty-five copies (of the fifty-three stages plus Tokyo and Kyoto) were displayed with Japanese and English captions, but somehow the descriptions were not the same. Unfortunately, it was prohibited to take a picture of them, and it is common in Japanese museums. By the way, this exhibition is scheduled to end in next month and then the exhibition of a different edition will start. I am looking forward to it. 

The Fifty-three Stages of the Tokaido, Hiroshige Utagawa, Japanese Woodblock Prints (video)
You can see how beautiful his works are. In this video, Hoeido version of the work are featured.

Ukiyo-e Woodblock Printmaking with Keizaburo Matsuzaki
You may wonder how ukiyo-e is made. This video gives you the answer.
Actually, the collections of the museum was also very interesting against my expectations. It was the first time to see the oldest coin of Japan, Fuhonsen. More than two decades ago, I learned at school that the oldest coin of Japan was Wadokaiho/Wadokaichin minted in 708, but in 1998, the older coins Fuhosen were excavated in Asuka, Nara. Honestly, I didn't even know the fact..., so I was excited at the new finding and the real thing displayed. The model of the old Japanese coins, Kaigentsuho from the Tang Dynasty of China, was also showcased as well as the largest bill of the world from the Ming Dynasty. Moreover, they showed some intriguing money such as stone money from Yap Island and shell money from the Marshall Islands. Counterfeit bills and bills with an error were interesting, too. All in all, there are a lot of things to see in this museum and no wonder that it is so popular.

On my way back home, I dropped by Sakae, the busiest streets of Nagoya. I knew that Nippon Domannaka Festival was being held in Sakae. It's a festival made up of parades and stage performances by many dance teams, including a contest. Seemingly, the festival was not my taste, but it was obviously very popular. So I had hesitated to try the festival for a long time before I made up my mind. After lunch at the fountain of the Central Park, I was waiting for a parade to come at the end of the main venue, but I found out the parade was intermittent, which meant dance teams came and went one by one. It was very time-consuming and I didn't like it. Eventually, I felt I wasted a lot of time there, when I went back home. However, if I had danced in the parade, I could have had a chance to enjoy the festival.

P.S. I got an invitation card from the museum and revisited there on September 29 to see The Fifty-Three Stages of the Tokaido Gyosho Edition by Hiroshige. The edition is not as popular as Hoeido edition, but it also inspired people to travel on the highway. The museum gave me a postcard of "Nihonbashi" of the edition.
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