Pottery Museum Reopens in Vietnam Through Long-lasting Bonds With Late Japanese Archaeologist

The Yomiuri Shimbun
From right: Nguyen Viet Hong, Noriko Nishino and Dao Viet Binh view items on exhibit at the Kim Lan Commune Museum of Ceramics and History on Nov. 18.

KIM LAN VILLAGE, Vietnam — A pottery museum, which a late Japanese archaeologist worked enthusiastically to help establish, reopened in Hanoi in November.

Courtesy of Noriko Nishino
Masanari Nishimura

Masanari Nishimura, a Japanese national who died at 47 in a traffic accident in 2013, had conducted excavations of ruins in numerous locations in Vietnam over more than 20 years.

Locals with friendship ties to Nishimura made utmost efforts in the refurbishing of the museum after the original location was closed because of the deteriorating building that housed it.

The Kim Lan Commune Museum of Ceramics and History, stands beside the Hong River in Kim Lan Village. The white-walled facility is about a 30-minute drive from central Hanoi.

The museum was initially completed in 2012 as the country’s first village-run museum.

The facility features about 300 items of excavated pottery and other ceramic wares that date back to between the eighth and 18th centuries.

Nishimura, who contributed heavily to the construction of the museum, studied in Vietnam in the 1990s. Following graduation, he continued archaeological excavations in various parts of the country.

He subsequently wed fellow researcher Noriko Nishino, 51, and remained in Hanoi to push forward with his research.

Nishimura later received a prestigious honor from the academic society for his book, “Betonamu no Koko, Kodaigaku” (archaeological and ancient history studies of Vietnam).

What prompted the establishment of the museum was Nguyen Viet Hong, 87, a local historian, who assumed pottery items and copper coins excavated in the village might be precious materials. Hong consulted research institutes about the items that had been recovered.

Nishimura joined the research team and after discussing matters with local village officials, they decided to establish the museum.

Nishimura then made the utmost effort to collect donations from Japan. Though the building for the museum was completed in 2012, Nishimura was killed in a traffic accident in a Hanoi suburb the following year.

Hong still voiced gratitude to him, saying, “If Nishi [Nishimura] had not been with us, the history of our village would not have come to light.”

The museum was closed in around 2020 because the building had developed serious problems such as leaks due to its age.

Members of the village’s Kim Lan Pottery Association felt sorry because the museum was built out of the goodwill of people in Japan, and thus considered repairing the building.Local authorities in offered aid to refurbish the building. And a bust of Nishimura now stands in the renovated facility.

Village residents in about 400 households continue to earn a living through jobs they hold in the production of pottery and other ceramics.

But the name of the village was not widely known because it is near Bat Trang, a village more famous for its ceramics.

Dao Viet Binh, 51, the head of the pottery association, said that the village has become famous for the museum, and production volume of the Kim Lan Village has increased about 10-fold, compared to about 20 years ago.

“I would like people around the world to see the museum, which is proof of the friendship between Japan and Vietnam,” he said.