Tokyo: Artworks and books convey the charm of glass

Yomiuri Shimbun photos
Left: The Little Museum of Glass Books is filled with books on glass and glassware. Visitors can pick up books they are interested in and read them in the museum. Right: Copies of notes left by craftsmen who worked at Shotoku Glass.

The Little Museum of Glass Books in Sumida Ward, Tokyo, has a stylish exterior reminiscent of a cafe, Upon entering, I found myself surrounded by myriad books and glass artifacts.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The exterior of the museum is reminiscent of a stylish cafe.

“Some people are taken aback as they enter the museum expecting to find a book made of glass because of the museum’s name,” said Eri Muramatsu, 39, the director of the museum, mischievously.

After graduating from Tama Art University and working at a handicraft store for about four years, she was approached to be the museum’s director by her father Kunio, 71, the third-generation owner of the long-established glass studio Shotoku Glass Co. She became the director upon the museum’s opening in December 2011.

Eri recalls, “At first there were very few visitors, and I spent a lot of time in a daze.” However, she was helped by her connections in Sumida Ward, a municipality that excels in manufacturing. Following advice from crafspeople, she started a glassworking workshop that became so popular it now attracts about 200 visitors a month, including students and families. The museum has been selected as a “Sumida Small Museum,” a designation given by the ward to facilities that exhibit items related to local industry and culture.

The museum is filled with glass-related materials and photo collections from Japan and abroad that Kunio collected in Germany, where he studied, and that were donated by his peers. There are apparently more than 850 books, but Eri says, “I stopped counting halfway through because there were so many.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Books about glass in Japan and abroad are seen on the shelves.

Visitors can also see copies of handwritten notes left by glass artisans working at Shotoku Glass. They are valuable documents for those interested in glassware making.

The shop also sells colorful plates, vases, and other glassworks that are no longer manufactured. Many of these came from the Shotoku Glass factory, and are no longer in stock, except for the items on display.

The number of glass factories that make glasswork by hand is decreasing every year due to a shortage of workers and the rising cost of fuel to heat the kilns. Eri said: “I want people to know the charm of handmade glass, which is individually unique. I would be happy if we could get people interested even a little bit.”

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Little Museum of Glass Books

The museum is close to Asakusa and Tokyo Skytree, so after enjoying the glass, visitors can take in the sights.

Address: 1st floor, Yazaki building, 1-19-8 Azumabashi, Sumida Ward, Tokyo

Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays to Sundays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays and public-holiday Mondays. Closed on Mondays or the day after a public-holiday Monday.

Admission: Free