The Kosetsu Museum of Art

The Kosetsu Museum of Art was established in 1972 as a facility to house the collection of Japanese and Asian antique art works that Murayama Ryohei, the founder of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper company, had amassed over the years. In addition to preserving and studying these masterpieces and the time-honored modern architecture of the building, the museum strives to convey irreplaceable cultural assets to future generations through a wide range of activities targeting the general public.

In addition to 18 Important Cultural Properties and 27 Important Cultural Assets (designated by the Japanese government, Agency for Culture Affairs), the museum’s genre-spanning collection includes everything from Buddhist art, calligraphy, and early modern paintings to tea ceremony utensils, lacquer ware, and weaponry.

The collection is presented to the public in exhibitions based on specific themes that are held every spring and fall, and other special exhibitions focusing on the work of a variety of Japanese artists. In addition, related events such as lectures and tea parties are held several times each year to promote a greater understanding of the museum collection.

While operating and maintaining the former Murayama Residence as a means of conveying Meiji and Taisho Period culture and architecture, the site is also used in a more practical manner. In addition to holding garden-viewing events held every spring and fall and allowing visitors to see the building’s exterior, we also present a Yabunouchi-style Gennan Tea Party, with both strong and weak tea and refreshments served in utensils from the tea room, study, and museum collection, to provide an opportunity for the general public to experience traditional Japanese culture.

In addition to the museum’s primary objective of helping to advance art and culture, we have established a scholarship system for outstanding students of the arts with links to Hyogo Prefecture (where the museum is located) and also provide economic support for various education and research activities.

As part of the recently adopted regulatory system for public-service corporations, the museum became a public-interest incorporated foundation in November 2010 in order to carry on Murayama Ryohei and successive administrative directors’ love of art and desire for cultural advancement in the future.

Kosetsu Museum of Art
Public-interest Incorporated Foundation

About the Collection

The name “Kosetsu” was the sobriquet of Murayama Ryohei, who amassed many of the items in the museum collection.

Murayama Ryohei was born in 1850 in the castle town of Ise Tamaru, a subsidiary domain of the Kishu Tokugawa clan, as the first son of the feudal retainer Murayama Morio.

In January 1879, after the country began to settle down following the Seinan War, the 29-year-old Murayama founded the Asahi Shimbun newspaper company. Along with his business partner Ueno Riichi, he strove to develop the company and cultivate a newspaper that would suitably represent the country.

He also published Kokka, an art magazine overseen by Okakura Tenshin, who was known for his deep interest in the arts. And when countless valuable art works began flowing out of Japan and into foreign collections after the country’s borders were reopened to the outside world in 1868, Murayama put his energies into creating his own collection as a means of stemming the tide. By the beginning of the Taisho Period in 1912, he had assembled a large body of masterpieces, including swords, calligraphy, and ancient writings.

Moreover, after founding the newspaper, Murayama came to be renowned as a man of refined taste through his friendship with other businessmen and acquaintances in the world of tea ceremony. As part of his profound interest in tea, he also acquired countless tea utensils.


Battle of Lepanto and Map of the World Folding Screens
Color painting on six-panel screen
Early Edo Period
Important Cultural Property

While one screen shows a battle scene, the other depicts a map of the world. The Battle of Lepanto was a naval conflict between the Holy League (a coalition of southern European Catholic states) and a fleet of ships from the Ottoman Empire that occurred in the Gulf of Corinth, off western Greece, in 1571. It was a historical event that commemorated the victory of the Christendom. The actual battle, however, did not take place on land, nor were there any elephant corps. This painting is comprised of various battle scenes taken from Western prints and book illustrations, which were rearranged and reshaped into a single picture.

The world map was based on a Caelius map from 1609 and is perhaps the most opulent and brilliant depiction of the world ever attempted on a screen.

Though the themes of the two screens differ, both works are united in their method of depicting the sea waves. These well-preserved paintings represent a style developed by Japanese painters after a close examination of Western painting in the early Edo Period.

Chigo Daishi (Portrait of Kobo Daishi as a Child)
Color painting on scroll
Kamakura Period
Important Cultural Property

In this portrait of Kukai (also known by the posthumous name of Kobo Daishi) as a boy, he is depicted with a kamuro hairstyle (in which the top of the head is shaved) joining his hands together in prayer. As a child, Kukai was called Mao or Mana. He is said to have assumed this praying position at the time of his birth, and by the time he was two or three, he could already recite Buddhist scripture and dharani ritual speeches. At twelve, Kukai set to become high priest of the three realms of Buddhism.

In this scroll, Kukai is depicted as a cherubic child with a plump face, vermilion lips, and slightly visible ears. He is wearing an upper garment that is adorned with a charming, small chrysanthemum pattern, and navy blue hakama (formal skirt-like garment for men). The depiction of Kukai on a lotus-pedal pedestal with his hair cut to an even length is executed with delicate brushstrokes. He exudes an air of nobility from his splendid louts seat. Gold foil is used in the circular outline to further accentuate the beautiful image of the boy.

Sesshu Toyo
Poetic inscriptions by Lee Son and Pak Kobun
Monochrome ink painting on paper scroll
Muromachi Period
Important Cultural Property

Depending on the particular circumstances at the time, Sesshu Toyo (1420-1506) chose a different subject for his paintings. This work was created when the artist was in his mid- to late 60s. At the time Sesshu was staying with the Ouchi clan in Yamaguchi. An envoy of the clan took the picture with him on a trip to Korea, and brought it back with poetic inscriptions by the government officials, Lee Son and Pak Kobun. As the work was set to be shown in diplomatic meetings, Sesshu adopted a Shubun-style of orthodox landscape.

Dahui Zonggao (Daiei Soko)
Hanging scroll
Southern Song Dynasty, China
Important Cultural Property

A disciple of Yuanwu Keqin, Dahui Zonggao (or in Japanese Daiei Soko; 1089-1163) formulated and widely disseminated a system of introspection called k’an-hua based on the kung-an (or koan) question-and-answer technique as a central method in the “five houses and seven sects” of Chinese Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism. In 1141, after being accused of criticizing Prime Minister Qin Gui’s administration, Dahui was sent to Hengyang and later to Meizhou, eventually spending a total of 14 years in exile. A number of letters he wrote during this period to disciples and followers are extant. This is one of these and it conveys something of Dahui’s personality. The letter begins with an expression of gratitude for the books and presents he had received from Sai Choro, and while describing his recent situation and mental state, he continues by providing some guidelines for spiritual salvation.

Shino Ware Water Pitcher with Painting of Bamboo Fence
Momoyama Period
Important Cultural Property

Shino and Oribe were two peerless types of tea ceremony ware used in the later Momoyama Period. This work is one of several excellent examples of Shino-style water pitchers.

Painted on the front of pitcher’s bright ground are pines trees and mountains, and on the back the checked pattern of a bamboo fence. The texture of the brushwork is powerful and outstanding. The coloring of the oniita glaze is perfect and the white underglaze shines through beautifully. The vigor of the form and the soft quality of the body are also notable. While deftly conveying the broad-minded and carefree qualities of Mino pottery from the Momoyama era as a whole, individual parts of the work, such as the spatula technique and the design of the mouth, neatly finish the pitcher.

Museum Hours / Admission

Hours 10:00-17:00 (last entry 16:30)
Admission Adults: ¥700 (¥550 for groups of 20 or more)
High school and university students: ¥450 (¥350 for groups of 20 or more)
Children: Free
※Prices may vary for special exhibitions
Closed The museum is open throughout each exhibition, but closed during the summer and winter.
Address 2-12-1 Mikagegunge, Higashi Nada-ku, Kobe, Hyogo, Japan
Inquiries 078-841-0652


Google Map

  • ※Five min. walk southeast of Mikage Station on the Hankyu Kobe Line
  • ※Fifteen min. walk northwest of Sumiyoshi Station on the JR Kobe Line
  • ※Five min. walk southeast from the Hankyu Mikage bus stop (city bus no. 19) departing from Mikage Station on the Hanshin Main Line