Asahi Beer Oyanazaki Villa Museum of Art/アサヒビール大山崎山荘美術館
Trying to avoid crowds during a long holiday called Golden Week, which falls in early May, I opted to go to this villa museum in Oyamazaki, Kyoto. It is a 10 minute walk and climb up a hill from JR Yamazaki station. I was right! The place wasn’t that packed, and my mom and I could stroll around quite at our leisure.
I was interested in the art work permanently exhibited there,but more so in the structure itself , which building started on in 1912. The owner of the villa, Shotaro Kaga, a rich businessman, took 20 years to complete the building.
There is an amusing anecdote about him.
He requested Soseki Natsume, among Japan’s most prominent writers, to name the villa. At that time, Shotaro was only 20, Soseki, 41. And the latter was already famous nationwide as a writer. They became acquainted through a geisha (known as ‘geiko’ in Kyoto) who was an avid reader of Soseki’s books.
Soseki was in Kyoto recuperating from a severe stomachache when the young businessman requested him to come over to his cottage. Soseki went all the way there by palanquin from Kyoto city center, possibly feeling pain in his stomach. (It takes over 8 hours on foot by the way.)
A while after the visit, Soseki listed about a dozen of ideas for the name in a letter to Shotaro and said to him, ‘Feel free not to use them if you don’t like them. ‘ His exact wording is funny, I find, which goes: ‘If you don’t find them competitive enough, drop them out (of the course) ‘, just as if all the names he came up with were flunked students.
And Shotaro did just that.
Later it was christened Oyamazaki Villa―compared to Soseki’s ideas, it’s far from glamorous.
Another episode;the villa was once on the verge of demolition,and was due to be replaced by an apartment compound in 1989. However,in cooperation with Kyoto City and Oyamazaki Town, Asashi Breweries Ltd. bought and restored it ,and converted it into a museum. Thanks to their efforts and finances, we are fortunate enough to experience a piece of history and culture sustained by the intellectuals, artists, and potters of the time.
The museum building adjacent to the villa was designed by the renowned architect Tadao Ando,and houses a small collection of art work by Monet and others. Most of the museum is undressed concrete,characteristic of Mr. Ando, and is underground, so it is not so conspicuous. The only parts visible are the glass walls above the staircase that leads to the underground exhibition room and the concrete elevator shaft. They nicely blend to the surroundings and go well with the 100-year-old villa.
The villa has a café on the second floor from which you can see a splendid view of the southern part of Kyoto. If you are tired of having to plow through tourists in Kyoto, the villa might offer you some peace of mind.