Hokkaido: Architect Kengo Kuma, Celebrities Help Hokkaido Town to Build Museum

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Warehouses, which are expected to be renovated to create a design museum, are seen in Higashikawa, Hokkaido, on Dec. 26.

HIGASHIKAWA, Hokkaido — The municipal government of Higashikawa, Hokkaido, has teamed up with world-renowned architect Kengo Kuma and other celebrities to build a museum featuring architecture and furniture.

The municipality-led initiative has garnered support from a wide range of people, including TV personality Tamori, who has offered to donate about 10,000 vinyl records to the envisaged museum.

The city aims to open the museum in the town in fiscal 2026.

Three warehouses, located in front of where Higashikawa Station once stood, will be renovated to build what has provisionally been named the Kagu Design Museum. About ¥2 billion in renovations is expected to be funded through the furusato nozei hometown tax system.

These so-called design museums are facilities intended to preserve and introduce various types of design rooted in the history and culture of a country or region. Such museums are also aimed to help visitors gain inspiration by showing them trends of the time. Municipalities in major cities, such as London and Berlin, have established these types of facilities, attracting many visitors, including specialists, design students and tourists.

According to the Cultural Affairs Agency, there is no legal definition of a design museum in Japan. As a private initiative, for example, the late fashion designer Issey Miyake opened the 21_21 Design Site, which generally features exhibitions that have an emphasis on design, in Tokyo’s Roppongi district in 2007.

“If such a facility run by a public entity is completed, it will be a rarity in Japan,” said a Higashikawa municipal government official.

The municipality — together with Kuma, sculptor Kan Yasuda, singer Tokiko Kato and others — formed a group to support the establishment of the museum in November. By using the furusato nozei system, the group intends to raise funds through ¥10,000 donations from individuals and ¥500,000 donations from companies to cover construction costs.

The planned site of the museum is currently occupied by warehouses used to store JA Higashikawa’s agricultural products. The municipal government plans to purchase these warehouses in 2024 to proceed with the project.

The museum will showcase various exhibits, including models and photographs of Kuma’s architectural works, as well as internationally acclaimed furniture and household items, which are owned by the municipal government, from the collection of chair researcher Noritsugu Oda.

According to the municipal government, Tamori, who has an extensive jazz vinyl record collection, asked Kuma and other acquaintances last summer about where he should store his records. Kuma recommended that Tamori donate them to the museum, and Tamori readily agreed.

The municipal government plans to build a facility similar to a jazz cafe, which will be adjacent to the museum, so local residents and tourists can easily drop by and listen to Tamori’s records. Higashikawa Mayor Ichiro Matsuoka said the municipality wants to explain to Tamori the museum’s concept, upcoming schedule and other project details so it can move forward with making arrangements in accepting Tamori’s donation.