Special Exhibitions & Feature Exhibitions

Feature Exhibition

The Beginnings of the Nara Imperial Museum:Traces of Effort in Architectural Drawings and Documents
Traces of Effort in Architectural Drawings and Documents

In this exhibition, we will look back on the course of the creation of the Nara Imperial Museum, a building which today serves as the Nara Buddhist Sculpture Hall of Nara National Museum, through an examination of the architectural drawings and documents preserved from this important project undertaken in the middle of the Meiji era (1868–1912). Construction of the Main hall was completed in December of 1894 (Meiji 27), and it was opened as a museum in April of the following year. Katayama Tokuma (1854–1917), a leading Meiji-era architect, was an engineer in the Bureau of Palace Artisans of the Imperial Household Ministry. He oversaw the design of the building, which is known as the first Western-style building to be erected in Nara Prefecture.

Katayama graduated in the first class of students from the Building Department of the Imperial College of Engineering (the forerunner to the Department of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering at Tokyo University). He went on to design the Kyoto Imperial Museum (now the Meiji Kotokan Hall at Kyoto National Museum) in 1895 (Meiji 28), the Hoken Bijutsukan (now the Hyokeikan, Tokyo National Museum) in 1908 (Meiji 41), and the Crown Prince’s Palace (presently the State Guest House, or the Akasaka Palace) in 1909 (Meiji 42). Yet even before completing these prominent projects, he had constructed the Nara Imperial Museum building, which becomes all the more significant when viewed as an example of his early work.

Through recent study of the project’s architectural drawings and documents, we now have a better understanding of the process of this important building’s design and construction. For example, it appears that the Nobi Earthquake of 1891 (Meiji 24) propelled an emphasis placed on seismic stability and sturdiness. A great deal of thought went into devising how to bring in natural light from the windows, and into protecting the building from rain. More has been learned, too, about various causes behind delays in the construction process, and difficulties in securing funding. Indeed, those who were involved in creating a museum building when there were few if any examples of such architecture in Japan at the time were up against several challenges.

奈良博物館正面昇降口矩計弐拾分壱之図 (「内匠寮奈良博物館建築工事図面」のうち) 奈良国立博物館蔵
Cross Section, Front Elevation
Main Entrance to the Nara Museum in 1:20 Scale
(From “The Imperial Household Architectural Drawings of the Nara Museum”)
(Nara National Museum)


Saturday, February 6th–Sunday, March 21st, 2021 (Reiwa 3)
The Museum is closed on Mondays (except for February 8th, March 1st and 8th).


The West Wing, Nara National Museum


9:30 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.

*On Saturdays, hours are extended to 7:00 P.M
*Last entry is 30 minutes before the museum closes.


General AdmissionHigh School/College Students


Nara National Museum


Bukkyo Bijutsu Kyōkai (Buddhist Art Foundation)


帝国奈良博物館の誕生 -設計図と工事録にみる建設の経緯-
帝国奈良博物館の誕生 -設計図と工事録にみる建設の経緯-
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