Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts

Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts

“People’s Museum”, the ancient forerunner of Osaka City

Museum for the benefit of the people of Osaka City

Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts
The dignified entrance hall illuminated by chandeliers is a fine venue for concerts.

Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts, which opened in 1936 and is one of Japan's oldest museums, stands in Tennoji Park. Back in 1920 when “museum” was a word unfamiliar to Japanese people, Osaka City conceived a plan to build a major museum so as to offer the people of the city opportunities to appreciate excellent fine arts and culture, support the endeavors artists, and promote the cultural development of Osaka.

The main building, with two floors above ground and two below, is a symmetric, modern building in a Japanese style. A permanent exhibition is held in the main building, consisting of items selected from the museum’s holdings of over 8,500 works, including Japanese and Chinese paintings, sculptures, and traditional crafts, as well as works donated by temples and shrines. The underground gallery is available for use by various art associations for their exhibitions. Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts is indeed a people’s museum.

Donation of land where the House of Sumitomo’s main residence stood

Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts
View of the museum from Keitakuen. As one season gives way to the next, the appearance and atmosphere of the building change too.

In Chausuyama, where Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts now stands, the main residence of the House of Sumitomo once stood. This place is steeped in history for it is here in Chausuyama that Tokugawa Ieyasu established his military headquarters for the winter campaign and Sanada Yukimura his for the summer campaign during the siege of Osaka (1614 and 1615). From the Meiji era onward, Tomoito (Shunsui), the 15th head of the House of Sumitomo, acquired land in Chausuyama and eventually, in 1915, the main residence of the House of Sumitomo was relocated there. And In 1918, celebrated Japanese garden designer Ogawa Jihei VII (Ueji), completed the Keitakuen garden in Chausuyama.

In 1921, Shunsui heard that Osaka City planned to construct a museum but was finding it difficult to secure a suitable site. He donated about 10,000 tsubo (33,000 m2) in Chausuyama, including Keitakuen, to the city to accommodate the museum. Thanks to the donation, Osaka City’s museum project moved forward.

Although the project was suspended several times in the aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the Great Depression, which began in 1929, Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts opened 17 years after the plan was unveiled.

Blessed with donations

Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts
Spacious galleries where the exhibits include works donated by the House of Sumitomo.

One characteristic of Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts is that its holdings consist of many works donated by residents of Osaka City. Typically, museums in Japan, especially public museums, purchase works of art to build collections aligned with a certain concept. But ever since Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts first opened its doors to an eager public, many individuals have heartily endorsed Osaka City’s objective of offering the people of the city opportunities to appreciate excellent works of art. They have generously donated works or loaned them for exhibitions. These works included national treasure and important cultural properties. In particular, the museum’s collections of Chinese paintings and Buddhist sculpture are outstanding.

Wang Chao-chun Departing for the Country of the Huns
by Kung Su-jan / Jin dynasty (12-13th century)
Ink on paper / 30.2 cm (H) x 160.2 cm (W)
Wang Chao-chun (Wang Zhaojun, one of the Four Beauties of ancient China) was sent by Emperor Yuan of the Han dynasty to marry Chanyu Huhanye of the Xiongnu Empire. The poignancy of her departure for a harsh environment in the north is exquisitely rendered. An important cultural property. Donated by Mr. Kojiro Abe.
Ink Orchid
by Zheng Sixiao / Yuan dynasty (1306)
Ink on paper / 25.7 cm (H) x 42.4 cm (W)
Zheng Sixiao originally served the Song dynasty. Leading a secluded life, he remained loyal to the Song dynasty even after it was replaced by the Yuan dynasty. Orchids, which symbolize the man of virtue, were Zheng’s favorite subjects. It is said that Zheng depicted no roots in this work because, figuratively speaking, the Yuan dynasty had stolen the soil. Donated by Mr. Kojiro Abe.
Clam Gatherers on the Shore
by Katsushika Hokusai / Edo period (early 19th century)
Color painting on silk / 54.3 cm (H) x 86.3 cm (W)
Hokusai painted this masterpiece when he was about 50 years of age. Clam gathering was a traditional springtime activity in Edo. In this striking work, in which the perspective is emphasized to create a spacious vista, the clam gatherers are vividly depicted. An important cultural property. Donated by Koichiro Nakajima.
Gold and silver lacquerware boxes with depictions of legendary characters
Edo period (late 18th century) / 33.0cm in width
A hand-drum-shaped frame accommodates octagonal nests of boxes, a sake bottle, and other items. The gold and silver lacquerware design depicts the Twenty-four Filial Exemplars and a Boy with Chrysanthemums from a Chinese legend.
Kumiko Doi
Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts
A curator of Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts who is an authority on the history of the museum and its holdings. Identified and recovered many excellent works that went missing during the chaos of wartime and the immediate postwar years.

(Affiliations and titles of the persons mentioned in the article are as of the time of publication.)


Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts

1-82 Chausuyama-cho, Tennoji-ku, Osaka 543-0063
(inside Tennoji Park)
Opening hours
9:30 a.m. to 5:00 pm (Last admission 4:30 p.m.)
Closed days
Mondays (open on national holidays but closed on the following days), Year-end and New Year holidays, Period during change of exhibits