Names in this site follow the Japanese custom of family name first.

November 13, 2012

Kamakura Museum of Literature: Lawn above the clouds

There is not much to see in literature museums, but in the case of the Kamakura Museum of Literature you come for the great house and spacious garden. A Western-style villa right in the middle of the old warrior capital! The art deco manor was built in 1936 by the Maeda family, who had been the feudal rulers of the rich fief of Kaga, now Ishikawa prefecture with capital Kanazawa.

Many famous politicians used to come here, as prime ministers Eisaku Sato (after retirement he spent his weekends here) and Shigeru Yoshida. The house also figures in Yukio Mishima's novel Spring Snow. It was donated to Kamakura City in 1983 and after renovation became a literature museum.

That is not such a strange choice, as Kamakura has deep ties with Japanese literature. Kamakura already appears in the ancient poetry anthology Manyoshu. It also feautures in the Tale of Heike and other war literature, as well as in travelogues of the Middle Ages. One of the most important Kamakura poets was the Minamoto shogun Sanetomo, whose work has been collected in the Kinkai Wakashu after he was murdered on the stairs of the Tsurugaoka Hachiman Shrine in 1219.

Modern authors were attracted by the shrines and temples of Kamakura. Some, as Natsume Soseki, came to practice Zen meditation; he also situated his novel Kokoro in Kamakura. The haiku poet Takahama Kyoshi lived in Kamakura as well. Others came here to spend the summer, for recuperation, or to visit the charming vestiges of the old capital.

The most notable modern author who resided in Kamakura is of course Nobel Prize winner Kawabata Yasunari. Kawabata also situated important novels as Thousand Cranes and The Sound of the Mountain in the historical town. In addition, filmmaker Ozu made several of his postwar films here, marvelously capturing the relaxed residential atmosphere; Ozu is buried in Engakuji Temple (see here for directions).

The display in the beautiful house consists of manuscripts and photographs. Most interesting is perhaps the large garden, which has azaleas, roses and a lawn, that slopes down the hill. When you stand on the terrace of the house, you see the green grass of the lawn and immediately behind that, Yuigahama beach. The town is blotted out. It is as if you live in the clouds, far above the hustle and bustle of ordinary life, like all those Maeda marquises and politicians did.
Tel: 0467-23-3911

Hrs: 9:00-16:00. CL Mon.

Access: 7-min walk from Yuigahama St on the Enoden Line.