About art and unexpected discoveries

Someone once said that when you spend a month in a foreign country and culture, you are likely to want to write a book, having spent at least six months – an article, and having lived in a country for a year or more you will not want to write anything.

I guess there is a lot of truth in this, I feel the same way. Not because there is nothing to talk about, but rather the opposite, the more you get into it, the more nuances you discover and the less you feel like talking about the surface…

Also, a few months ago I got into interior design course, thus, with a full time job, studies in the free time, and some traveling here and there, the time goes much faster than I can notice.

Time flies, autumn in a Japanese garden, Tokyo

Previously I was searching for topics and places that would connect France and Japan that I could tell you about. Then one day, I was just meeting an old friend who was in Tokyo for a few days and… we ended up in a place that is a perfect example of how French and Japanese art can go together and that I had not known before – Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum. I must tell you right away that it is not your typical museum, rather a former residence of Prince Asaka.

Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, also known as Former Residence of Prince Asaka

Prince Asaka was studying in Europe in 1920s and after a road accident in France, he had to stay there for a couple of years to undergo medical treatment. His wife joined him and during those couple of years they happened to visit the 1925 Art Deco Exhibition in Paris.

A poster from the 1925 Art Deco Exhibition in Paris.

The couple was so affected by the exhibition that they decided to build an art deco mansion when back in Tokyo.

The beautiful glass relief doors were especially designed for the residence by a French jewellery designer and glass artist René Lalique.

The residence was completed in 1933 and the project employed both the experts from the Imperial Household Ministry’s Construction Bureau and a number of French artists and designers, like Henri Rapin, René Lalique and several others.

The Salon in chic Art Deco style, with paintings on the panels and a perfume tower by Henri Rapin, beautiful chandelier by René Lalique and the silver-frost etched door glass by Max Ingram.

The members of the Asaka collateral branch of the Imperial family lived in the residence until 1947, when they lost their imperial status. Later the building served as a guesthouse for state and government guests, and in 1983 it was opened to the public as the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum.

The Great Dining Hall, Former Residence of Prince Asaka.

Interior décor and furniture are not always on display, it depends on the exhibition at the time (and luck).

Entrance to the veranda that offers views of the lawn and the Japanese garden.
Japanese garden. Photo taken in September, for the current autumn view see the the first photo above. Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum.

The museum also has a garden with both western and Japanese sections, and a café where I enjoyed a short break over a cup of coffee and a (pistachio) dessert thinking about the paradox of life where we tend to discover things only when we stop searching for them…

Museum cafe and one of those rare times (in Japan) when a green dessert colour means pistachio rather than a green tea taste.

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