Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art (アサヒビール大山崎山荘美術館)
Asahi Beer Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art is a private art museum operated by Asahi Breweries, Ltd. It is located in Oyamazaki-cho, Otokuni-gun, Kyoto Prefecture. It is built on the mountainside of Mt. Tenno which is on the boundary of Osaka Prefecture and Kyoto Prefecture, and overlooks beautiful scenery where the Kizu-gawa River, the Uji-gawa River, and the Katsura-gawa River join together to make the Yodo-gawa River.
The centerpiece of the collection of Oyamazaki Villa Museum of Art is the items collected by Tamesaburo YAMAMOTO, a businessman in the Kansai region who was known as the founder of Asahi Breweries, Ltd. He agreed to and supported the 'Nihon Mingei Undo' (Japanese folk art movement) that Muneyoshi YANAGI and others set up from the Taisho period to the beginning of the Showa period. Oyamazaki Villa exhibits works collected through his interaction with artists who were involved in the movement such as Kanjiro KAWAI, Bernard LEACH, Shoji HAMADA, Kenkichi TOMIMOTO, Shiko MUNAKATA and Keisuke SERIZAWA. The collection contains not only art works including ceramic ware, dyed fabrics and paintings, but also everyday pieces which are considered works of art and which inspired him, such as ancient ceramics from the time of the Korean Dynasties, and pieces of Slipware, a type of ancient English pottery, which Yamamoto himself loved to use daily. Also, it contains more than one of the series of paintings entitled "Water-Lilies" by Claude MONET, and it exhibits modern works of artists in and around the time of the Second World War, such as Maurice de VLAMINCK, Amedeo MODIGLIANI, Paul KLEE, Isamu NOGUCHI, Alberto GIACOMETTI and Henry MOORE.
The building consists of a main hall built as a three-storey English Tudor-style villa which was completed by a businessman Shotaro KAGA in 1932, and an adjacent newer building underground called 'Underground Jewelry Box' which is a modern piece of architecture designed by Tadao ANDO. The villa had become dilapidated after the War, but growing calls for its preservation led to it being restored as a private museum in 1996, in the form it is today.
Oyamazaki Villa used be owned by Shotaro KAGA. Born to a stock speculator in Senba, Osaka in 1888, after graduating from present Hitotsubashi University he went to study abroad in Britain and other European countries, and was one of the first Japanese to climb the Alps. After returning home, he tried to introduce elements of the modern lifestyle he learned in Britain into Japan by founding a securities firm (Kaga Securities) and, in 1934, by taking part in the foundation of Dai Nippon Kaju (Japan Fruit Juice, later Nikka Whisky) supporting Masataka TAKETSURU who started up Yamazaki Factory of Kotobukiya, former Suntory Holdings Ltd., but tried to start producing whisky on his own by disagreeing with the owner.
He decided to have a villa built on this site at the foot of Mt. Tenno overlooking the Yodo-gawa River, comparing it to the scenery of Windsor Castle overlooking the Thames. He began work on the construction in 1912, completed the wooden observation tower 'Haku-unro' (literally White Cloud Tower) in 1915, and expanded the building several more times to complete 'Seikeiro' (literally Clear Scenery Tower), the main hall today, in 1932. Its frame structure is made of ferroconcrete, and the exterior half-timbered with brick walls between exposed wooden pillars, equipped with a terrace overlooking the Yodo-gawa River. He equipped the inside of the building with solid English-style furnishings. In the attached greenhouse Kaga devoted his time to study and the selective breeding of orchids he had been obsessed with since his time in Britain, and he finally published a picture book of flowers called "Rankafu" (Genealogy of Orchids) before he died in 1954.
Movement for Preservation
This villa later left the hands of the Kaga family and its ownership changed several times, once being used as a members-only restaurant, but becoming older year after year at the end of the bubble economy a construction firm bought it as part of a plan to have it demolished and build condominiums in a bid to raise land prices around the area. Local residents opposed the plan, claiming large condominiums on the side of Mt. Tenno would harm the scenery, and demanded a reevaluation of the villa and the preservation of it and the surrounding forest. This moved Oyamazaki-cho Town and Kyoto Prefecture to reach an agreement where Hirotaro HIGUCHI, who was the president of Asahi Breweries and a friend of then governor Teiichi ARAMAKI, would help to preserve the villa in a form of corporate patronage in response to the governor's request. It was fortunate that Shotaro KAGA and Tamesaburo YAMAMOTO, the first president of Asahi Breweries, had a deep personal connection through their friendship and the fact that Asahi Breweries was a parent company of Nikka Whisky that Kaga helped to found.
Thus, Kyoto Prefecture and Oyamazaki-cho Town bought the land from the construction firm, and it was decided that the villa was to be turned into an art museum for Yamamoto's collection operated by Asahi Breweries, with Tadao ANDO later selected as the designer and supervisor of its new building. The structure of this villa and its interior were refurbished to restore its original classic appearance, and the cylinder type new subsidiary exhibition room was planned to be constructed underground, connected with the villa by a corridor in order not to disturb the natural environment and the calm atmosphere of the villa. The corridor is a stairway shielded by glass to create a space full of light, and at the foot of the stairway the underground exhibition room makes a serene space with dim light. At the center of the cylinder room, there is a square room illuminated by natural light from a skylight.
The villa was refurbished and preserved, and was opened to the public as an art museum in 1996. There have been many visitors ever since.
Collections and Exhibitions
Born in Osaka in 1893, the businessman Tamesaburo YAMAMOTO operated hotels (later Rihga Royal Hotels), and supported artists as well. He had an especially close relationship with the Japanese folk art movement, and collected works of art by them, old everyday ornaments they admired, and antique art works, which he stored in his mansion 'Mikuni-so' villa in Mikuni, north of Osaka City. He also collected modern Western artwork, which make up the other main collection of this museum.
Today, works related to the Japanese folk art movement are exhibited at the villa, and works such as "Water-Lilies" and other paintings in the underground exhibition hall. They not only put these on display in seasonal rotation, but they also work energetically to hold special exhibitions that display works created by artists of the present day who have been inspired by these collections, and to conduct workshops inviting visitors.
There is a coffee shop with a terrace overlooking the Yodo-gawa River and Kyoto Basin. Most of the cakes it serves are baked confectionery from Rihga Royal Hotels in Osaka.
The museum shop sells a variety of items such as bags and notebooks with a small motif of Water-Lilies of Monet. Outside the villa is a large garden with a walkway around it.
Local Area and Access
It is within ten minutes walking distance of Yamazaki Station on the JR West Kyoto Line and from Oyamazaki Station on the Hankyu Railway Kyoto Main Line. However, the road to the museum is steep, so a pickup shuttle bus service between the stations and the museum is provided. There are no parking facilities.
There are several temples and shrines in the local area, such as Hoshaku-ji Temple and Yamazaki-shoten Temple which are especially beautiful in spring with cherry blossoms. People visit the museum to see the building when hiking because it is on the way to the summit of Mt. Tenno.