Director Romi HIDA
Professor, Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Just as a library is a place where we can interact with people who came before us by encountering and reading books, a museum is a place where we can encounter and look at things, and by doing so, go beyond time and space and interact with the people who made and preserved them. There, you’ll find a gateway to understanding and relating to this world and the human spirit, and exploring knowledge. Waseda University Aizu Museum currently houses approximately 20,000 of those kinds of items, and is open to both Waseda University students and the public through its permanent collections and four to five special exhibitions it holds every year.
Here, you’ll find a wide variety of creative works and academic materials, all of which have been brought together through the efforts and dedication of many people who’ve been involved with Waseda University throughout its long history—faculty, alumni, and people who’ve taken an interest in the university.
The core of the collection of ancient oriental art—one of the main pillars of the museum—is the collection created by Yaichi Aizu (1881-1956), whose name the museum bears. The items contained in the collection include 54 roof tile discs and decorated bricks that adorned structures and tombs of the Chinese Qin and Han dynasties; terracotta statues of warriors, maids-in-waiting, horses, and so on that were buried as grave goods during the Later Han to the Tang dynasties; 395 pieces of grave goods with designs based on a charcoal-fueled cooking stove and well; 208 bronze mirrors with various illustrations and inscriptions on the back; and 532 rubbings of stone inscriptions. An art historian who taught oriental art history at Waseda University as well as a noted calligrapher and poet, Aizu gathered these artifacts from the Taisho period to the beginning of the Showa period in order to use them as teaching materials for his students. He paid for them out of his meager salary, by selling his own calligraphy works, with money earned from his writings, and sometimes with assistance from his mentor Shoyo Tsubouchi and others.
Aizu was also passionate about establishing a university museum. When Okuma Auditorium was completed in 1927, he gave a speech at a lecture to mark the occasion in which he emphasized the importance of actual materials in academic research and education, and declared that Waseda University needed to have a general museum. Aizu’s aspiration was finally fulfilled 70 years later. The Aizu Museum opened in May 1998, after the former library (Building No. 2) designed by Kenji Imai was renovated.
The vast collection related to oriental art centered on the Yaichi Aizu Collection consists of a variety of materials donated by many people. It includes collections by Aizu’s disciples Jun Kato and Kosei Ando; rubbings of the Yungang Grottoes by pioneer Buddhist statue photographer Seiyo Ogawa, who was a close friend of Aizu’s; paintings and calligraphy works of the Ming and Qing dynasties and historic materials collected by Masaji Ikebe, who was stationed in China as a diplomat from the end of the Qing dynasty to the Republican period; and Kazuhiko Hattori’s diverse collection of bronze mirrors, gilded bronze Buddha statuettes, and so on.
Among these, some 900 pieces from the former Tomioka Museum of Art, which was located in Sanno, Ota City, Tokyo, were donated all together—an exceptional event. The two pillars of this Shigenori Tomioka Collection are the Ming and Qing porcelain pieces, which are the acme of oriental ceramics, and the paintings and calligraphy works by Ekaku Hakuin and other Japanese early modern Zen priests. Other outstanding pieces include haniwa terracotta, which are Important Cultural Properties, catalogs of ancient calligraphy works dating from the Nara period onward, tea utensils, and lacquerware. The collection also includes about 700 stamps collected by Kenkichi Ichijima, the first director of the university’s library. Their having returned here to the former library gives a real sense of the bonds that academics and art have formed for us. These pieces from the Tomioka Collection are displayed sequentially at five themed events a year in the Shigenori Tomioka Collection Exhibition Room on the first floor of the museum.
Another major genre of the museum’s collections is archeological and folk materials. The pieces excavated from places such as ancient Egypt, Jomon shell mounds, Tennozuka ancient tomb in Mashiko Town, and the sites of former colleges are the fruits of archeological research Waseda University has been conducting since the early Showa period. The same is also true of the donated materials, such as the ones collected by Sugao Yamanouchi, known for his chronology of Jomon earthenware, and by Wako Anazawa, who collected bronze artifacts from East Asia and Southeast Asia. The Tosabayashi collection of Ainu costumes and tools is one of the finest and most extensive collections of Ainu materials in the country. The diverse collection of archeological and folk materials kept at the museum also includes African and Central American folk materials gathered by Yoshiro Sekine, an emeritus professor of the Faculty of Science and Engineering who was an explorer and mountaineer, and the Giichiro Ono Collection, which mainly consists of Southeast Asian and Islamic earthenware.
The third major genre is Japanese early modern and contemporary paintings. In particular, the Tekisendo Collection by Katsuhiro Kobayashi contains paintings and calligraphy by Edo period artists who were active in regions such as Osaka, Kyoto, Nagasaki, and Chukyo, and includes works by rare artists that have been preserved for generations. The Nagasaki prints, old maps, documents about porcelain for export, and more in the Mariko Tomita Collection are also valuable as historical materials. The Yoshiya Hibi Collection contains some 80 stone paintings and books revealing Yoshiya Hibi’s interests in stones. It’s an extremely unique collection that offers insight into the literati cultures of China and Japan through a love of stones.
With regard to contemporary paintings, the first collection to note is the one consisting of works transferred from different places all over the university to the museum when it was opened. Meian (Light and Dark), a joint work by Taikan Yokoyama and Kanzan Shimomura, has been at the top of the grand staircase in the front hall since the library was first built in 1927. Seison Maeda’s Roma Shisetsu (Envoy to Rome) was donated to the library in 1929 and is currently in the center of the Grand Gallery on the second floor. They remain magnificent iconic works of the building even now it’s become a museum. There are also portraits—such as Shigenobu Okuma by Seiki Kuroda and Ayako Okuma by Saburosuke Okada—and collections of contemporary paintings donated by painters when art history professor Shizuka Sakazaki called for donations on the 70th anniversary of the university’s foundation, and again when Otsuro Sakazaki, a professor at the School of Political Science and Economics, did so on the 100th anniversary. Following the achievements of the Sakazakis, on the 125th anniversary, the museum’s third and fourth directors—Katsuaki Ohashi and Ken Yabuno—worked tremendously hard and got leading contemporary artists to donate epic works.
In addition to these, the museum also keeps materials related to the magazine Shojo no Tomo, which led girl culture from the Taisho to the post-war period. In particular, the Motoi Uchiyama Collection focuses on original paintings by Junichi Nakahara, who drew the front covers and illustrations. It’s also home to works by and materials related to unique artists such as nanga painter Hachikushi Yamaguchi, war painters Manshu Hanaoka and Renzo Kita, and Tatsuoki and Fumio Nambata, who studied at the university. These items were donated together from people involved with the artists concerned. They make a tremendous contribution to the reevaluation and socio-historical and socio-cultural study of painting.
20 years after opening, the Aizu Museum saw major renovations of its exhibition rooms before entering the new Reiwa period. In addition to the Shigenori Tomioka Collection Exhibition Room, a new Yaichi Aizu Collection Exhibition Room, which houses the above-mentioned pieces of oriental art and Aizu’s calligraphy, and a Contemporary Art Exhibition Room, which houses paintings and sculptures by contemporary and modern artists such as the Okoso Collection, opened on the first floor of Building No. 2. The large space in the Grand Gallery on the second floor will be used to host a wide range of permanent and temporary exhibitions. The archeology and folk section display its collections in an exhibition room on the 10th floor of Okuma Memorial Tower (Building No. 26) .
The museum’s mission is to store valuable works and academic materials and exhibit them so they’re widely available and accessible, but needless to say, it’s not a place where works are just put on display beautifully like a gallery. Our mission is to study and research individual works and collections in order to gain insight into their historical position and significance, and to add new value to them through exhibition concepts. It’s also to further artistic and academic pursuits at Waseda University through the accumulation of such efforts. I believe that this is what Aizu Yaichi and our other predecessors aspired to achieve, and is a way to meet the expectations of our donors.
The whole of the museum staff will devote themselves to this mission. We’d like to ask for your further understanding and support, and are looking forward to your visit.