The Toyama Memorial Museum is a collection of buildings founded by prominent businessman Gen-ichi Toyama as a home for his mother. Reconstructed from the original house in which he was born but forced to leave as a child, the traditional Japanese building took two years and seven months to complete, finishing in 1936. It became a museum in 1970 to allow people to experience a live turn back in time. The house remains entirely as it was and it feels incredibly personal – almost invasive – to explore it.
Even as you look from outside the grounds of the Toyama Memorial Museum, the place is imposing. It’s hard to imagine that this mansion was built for only one person just eighty odd years ago.
The gate is large enough to let in a car, and when you step inside, your eyes spot different buildings, all constructed differently. There’s Shoin-zukuri, the roots of the traditional Japanese house today, Sukiya-zukuri, characteristic of the Japanese tea ceremony, and Kura-zukuri, a clay-walled fireproof building style. You can see all three at once, in a fascinating blend of Japanese architectural methods.
Inside the buildings you’ll find that the rooms are untouched. Each room has ample space – a luxury in modern Japan – and you’ll see, in the little things, the way that Toyama’s mother lived. The living room has a sunken hearth and the tatami mats are uneven on the floor. The lounge on the second floor contains European sofas, while the austere tea ceremony room has nothing in it except a calligraphy scroll.
Toyama’s personal art collection is also on display, and the exhibits change regularly. Along with the garden – exquisitely well-kept in all seasons – the museum is a delight to visit at any time of the year.