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Wakayama: Can Dragon Museum Help Village?

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Artworks featuring dragons are exhibited at the Ryujinmura Dragon Museum in Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture.

TANABE, Wakayama — Residents of Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture, are hoping that the Ryujinmura Dragon Museum, which exhibits works of art featuring dragons, will revitalize the community this year, the Year of the Dragon.

The museum, which is located in a mountainous area of Tanabe, was named after the community of Ryujinmura, which means village of the dragon gods. Ryujinmura was once an independent village but is now a part of the city of Tanabe. Depopulation has progressed steadily due to the village’s remote location, an hour’s drive from the city center. Residents have called on artists from all over the country to collect works of art featuring dragons.

In 1983, the former village government began projects aimed at using artwork to revitalize the community. In the 40 years since then, artists from numerous fields have moved into the district.

The Dragon Museum — one of the art community projects — opened in July 2022 and now houses 183 works of art sent from both professional and amateur artists. Among the exhibits are large, elaborate artworks which have deeply impressed visitors. However, the museum had only seen about 5,600 visitors as of November 2023.

“I hope it’ll be a lucky year for Ryujinmura,” Yoshiaki Manago, director of the museum, said. “We plan to exhibit new works of art, so I want more people to visit our museum.”