The Silk Road Museum of Ikuo Hirayama

by Yuri Yuhara

Ikuo Hirayama (1930-2009) is one of the biggest names in Nihon-ga, which are contemporary paintings that use techniques and materials from traditional Japanese art such as washi paper, silk, Japanese brushes, and pigments made with the most diverse natural ingredients (coal, minerals, corals, and shells for example). His interest in Buddhism and cultural monuments of mankind, in addition to his passion for ancient civilizations of the East, are translated into his works, such as his famous series on the Silk Road and the hundreds of items the artist collected over his career.

A survivor of the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, a city in which he lived for part of his childhood and youth, Hirayama saw his health weakened due to radiation poisoning, and the fear of death led the artist to learn about Buddhism. From then on, his interests expanded to the Silk Road and to ancient civilizations of the Middle East, China, and other regions, inspiring his most famous works.

The Ikuo Hirayama Silk Road Museum is located in Hokuto City, near Kai Koizumi Station, on the JR Koumi Line, and houses hundreds of works by Ikuo Hirayama including the large series of Silk Road panels and watercolors by the painter as well as Buddhist and silk-related works that the artist and his wife had collected for more than 40 years, totaling more than 9,000 paintings, sculptures and other artifacts such as pots and coins from more than 30 countries.

In addition to appreciating the works of Hirayama and learning about the Silk Road, visitors can have fun wearing typical costumes of various different ethnic groups and create their own postcard using washi and various painting techniques.

The Museum is open from 10am to 5pm (admission until 4:30pm) and costs 1200 yen for adults, 800 for high school students and university students, and is free for middle school students and below.

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