Special Report

Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History

Discover the spirit of Kanagawa culture and history
A reputation for easy to understand explanations
The building that houses the "Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History" (referred to below as the Prefectural Museum of Cultural History) in the center of Yokohama City used to be the central branch of the Yokohama Specie Bank (photo1). The Prefectural Museum of Cultural History is sandwiched between Hakubutsukan Street (on the front side) and Bashamichi, and easily accessed from Sakuragicho Station, Kannai Station, and Bashamichi Station. The Prefectural Museum of Cultural History has displays and introductions related to the culture and history of Kanagawa presented in a way that makes the subject matter very easy to understand. The displays are organized by theme (era), and visitors can follow a span stretching from the Palaeolithic era to today.

Kanagawa from prehistory to today
Let's take a look at the overall display content. The Kanagawa Prefecture region is blessed with a temperate climate and bountiful nature, and many remains of old villages and ancient tombs are located in the area.
In the prehistory and ancient era exhibit area, the ways people lived from the Palaeolithic era to the Heian era are introduced using archeological artifacts found within the prefecture and recreations of remains.
The medieval period exhibit area extends from the first days of the Kamakura shogunate established by Minamoto no Yoritomo to the downfall of the Gohojo clan (a name given later to prevent confusion with the Hojo clan of the Kamakura era) (photo 2). Centering on the changes in samurai rule, this area shines a spotlight on the history and culture of the medieval Togoku (eastern) region using various resources.
Kanagawa Prefecture region neighbored the capital of Edo in the early modern era, and answered the demand of the million person population of Edo. Tokkaido (the East Sea Road), which linked Edo and the Kyoto-Osaka area, cut through the prefecture region on an east-west axis. It left behind numerous facilities representative of the Edo period like castle towns, post towns, and checkpoints. This is a great place to really see the diverse regional character of the Kanagawa Prefecture region.
The actual city called Yokohama entered the flow of history after the mid 19th century had passed by. In the whirlwind of early modern history characterized by the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry in the famous Black Ships, the opening of the Yokohama port, and the flowering of civilization, the entire Kanagawa region was in the spotlight along with Yokohama. With the opening of the Yokohama port, settlement areas were built and Japan even started to absorb foreign culture (photo 3). The museum also presents a detailed introduction of the central branch of the Yokohama Specie Bank, which originally occupied the building in which the Prefectural Museum of Cultural History now resides (an important cultural property and nationally designated historic site that was completed in 1904) (photos 4 and 5).
The early modern era exhibit area takes the daily lives of prefecture residents as its focal point as it displays exhibits revolving around Kanagawa Prefecture during the Great Kanto Earthquake and restoration, the Showa Depression, military facilities during the Sino-Japanese War and Pacific War era, postwar restoration, the occupation policy of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (generally called GHQ for General Headquarters in Japan), and Japan's high economic growth period.
After the high economic growth period, the last threads of traditional lifestyle culture disappeared one by one. Our world became more convenient, but we lost something as well. Cast your mind back on the lifestyle culture of the past through exhibits of tools used in daily life and religious resources (photo 6).
In addition to the permanent exhibitions mentioned above, the Prefectural Museum of Cultural History also holds special exhibits and collection exhibits (both of which are on the first floor) as well as prefecture museum classes and special exhibit related events. It holds numerous events perfect for making history and culture into something intimately familiar.

Photo 1
The Prefectural Museum of Cultural History exterior. The building has a deep ambiance.

Photo 2
A "sodehan kudashibumi" (written order) by Minamoto no Yoritomo.
Minamoto no Yoritomo's seal is pressed to the right of the order. (From the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Cultural History collection.)

Photo 3
A model of a Yokohama settlement area. A port in Yokohama's most distinctive region, it was built so that the foreigner settlement area would be on the east side and the Japanese residential area on the west side, with Nihon Odori Street stretching through the middle. This setting of this display model is around 1887.

Photo 4
Underground safe door. This safe was used as safe-deposit storage in the bank years of the building. (Generally not open to the public.)

Photo 5
The dome area, which is a symbol of the building (generally not open to the public). The Prefectural Museum of Cultural History holds tours of the building several times a year. The underground safe and dome area can be seen during those tours. Discovering history from a different view point can also be great fun.

Photo 6
A roadside guardian deity called dosojin, seen here in the format of a seated statue attired as a Buddhist monk. These dosojin are sculptures in the round of deities seated alone and attired as Buddhist monks that are seen from the western part of the prefecture to the Izu peninsula. They are also the guardian deities of children.