Thursday, May 15, 2008

Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo (inside)

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The Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo is a large and excellent museum. Unfortunately photography is not permitted in the galleries!

The main collection is composed of several themed galleries. The first looks at the history of the grand shrine of Izumo Taisha. In 2000, excavations at the shrine revealed the base of 3 huge pillars that confirmed the old records that said the shrine rose to a height of 50 metres, making it probably the tallest wooden building in Japan, if not the world. There are paintings, artifacts, and models showing how the shrine looked.

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The next section deals with the Izumo Fudoki. Fudoki were gazeteers compiled in the early 8th Century at the request of the fledgling central government in Nara who were solidifying their control over the Japanese islands. The Fudoki contained information on the geography, history, and folklore of each province. Only the Izumo Fudoki has remained intact until the present-day, which goes some way to explaining why Izumo's traditions remain strong.

The main section deals with bronze implements, swords, and other ceremonial and grave goods. The centrepiece is one huge display case covering an entire wall that contains 358 bronze swords and 358 replicas of how they appeared new, before spending 1500 years buried in Kojindani. Before their discovery in Kojindani, there had only been 350 such swords discovered in all of Japan, a strong indication of the importance of Izumo in ancient times before the rise of the Yamato. Also on display are dotaku (ceremonial bronze bells), an ancient Chinese mirror, believed to be one of Himiko's mirrors, and the remains of an iron sword engraved with kanji which is believed to be the earliest known example of writing in Japan.

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Other galleries feature exhibitions on more recent Shimane history, Iwami Ginzan, and Izumo's ancient myths.

Entrance to the museum is a mere 600yen, and if you are a foreigner there is a 50% discount. Free digital audio guides are available free and give details on some of the exhibits in seceral languages.

One of the best museums I've visited in Japan!

Outside the Museum


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