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Eclectic Tokyo museum allows photos, sketching in calm atmosphere

The Ancient Asian Sculpture exhibit hall is seen at the Matsuoka Museum of Art in Tokyo's Minato Ward on Nov. 7, 2017. With Buddhist statues from the ancient kingdom of Gandhara, Hindu statues of gods and goddesses and sculptures from the Khmer Empire, the Matsuoka collection covers genres rarely seen in Japan. (Mainichi)

At the Matsuoka Museum of Art in Tokyo's Minato Ward, visitors are allowed to take as many pictures as they like and even make pencil sketches of the artwork.

    Upon opening the door to the facility, a fresh and calming scent fills one's nostrils. The original scent is called "Kigi no Ibuki" (the breath of trees) specially crafted for visitors to experience something different from their daily life in a space away from Tokyo's bustling metropolis.

    With a colorful ancient Egyptian wooden sarcophagus from around the fourth century B.C., a statue of the Buddhist bodhisattva Maitreya in a sitting posture from the ancient kingdom of Gandhara (present-day Pakistan) in the third century and a collection of oriental ceramics, the exhibits span a wide variety of genres. The aesthetic of each item caught the eye of Seijiro Matsuoka (1894-1989), founder of Tokyo-based real estate company Matsuoka Jisho Co.

    The private museum in Tokyo's Shimbashi district that displays the roughly 2,400 pieces of the Matsuoka collection opened in 1975. In 2000, it was moved to the current site, Matsuoka's former residence in the Shirokanedai area. That's why museum director Osamu Matsuoka is flexible with the museum's operation to create "a space where people can come view the items my grandpa gathered." There is no security staff posted at the museum, and visitors can leisurely take photos or sketch. The museum has maintained Matsuoka's policy of not donating or lending out any pieces, or borrowing any collections from other museums.

    Until Jan. 21, 2018, the museum will be holding the exhibition "Elegant and Sophisticated Chinese Ceramics from the Matsuoka Collection" from the Ming and Qing dynasties, along with "Folding Screens and Hanging Scrolls from the Matsuoka Collection," which utilizes the atmosphere of the Matsuoka estate's Japanese-style room. The museum, located a 7-minute walk from Shirokanedai Station, is closed on Mondays except for when a Monday falls on a holiday. It will also be closed from Dec. 30 to Jan. 4 for the winter holidays.

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