Dazzling Display Celebrates 130 Years of Pearl Cultivation

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A globe created using an abundance of pearls

TOBA, Mie — This year marks 130 years since Kokichi Mikimoto (1858-1954), known as the “Pearl King,” became the first person in the world to succeed in pearl cultivation in 1893. A special exhibition to commemorate the milestone is currently being held at the Pearl Museum on Mikimoto Pearl Island in Toba, Mie Prefecture.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
An exhibition commemorating 130 years since the invention of pearl cultivation is being held in Toba, Mie Prefecture.

The items on display at “The 130th Anniversary of the Invention of Mikimoto Pearls,” include Kokichi’s favorite globe, as well as a globe made of 12,541 pearls created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his successful cultivation of pearls.

Kokichi bought his favorite globe in Naples, Italy, during a fact-finding trip. In 1926, Kokichi, who was then 68, went to Europe and the United States for the first time to explore the possibility of global distribution of cultured pearls after his success in cultivating them. After returning to Japan, Kokichi is said to have placed the 63-centimeter globe in the alcove of his home, and while turning it with his hand, he would contemplate developing his business around the world.

The globe made of pearls was created in honor of this anecdote. It is made of silver, 33 centimeters in diameter, with the oceans represented by pearls and the land by gold. As many as 377 rubies are used to represent the equator and 373 diamonds to depict the ecliptic.

The latest exhibition includes a piece inspired by Yumedono, also known as the Hall of Dreams, in Horyuji Temple, Nara Prefecture. Also created for the 100th anniversary of pearl cultivation, the piece is made of 9,320 pearls along with gold, diamonds, sapphires, rubies and other materials. Decorated using shell and lacquer techniques, it stands 75 centimeters high and 90 centimeters wide and deep, captivating visitors to the museum. In addition, the exhibition showcases videos that document the production process of this artwork and introduce the designers and craftspeople involved in its creation.

A representative of Mikimoto Pearl Island said: “Kokichi always worked to develop his business worldwide during his lifetime, and we thought the globe exhibit was appropriate for the 130th anniversary. Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is over, we hope many people will visit the exhibition.”

The exhibition will run through April 7, 2024.