Miho Museum

Miho Museum In Autumn

The Miho Museum is located southeast of Kyoto, Japan, near the town of Shigaraki, in Shiga Prefecture.


The museum was the dream of Mihoko Koyama (after whom it is named), the heiress to the Toyobo textile business, and one of the wealthiest women in Japan.[1] In 1970 Koyama founded the Shinji Shumeikai spiritual movement which is now said to have some 300,000 members worldwide.[2] Furthermore, in the 1990s Koyama commissioned the museum to be built close to the Shumei temple in the Shiga mountains.


The Miho Museum houses Mihoko Koyama's private collection of Asian and Western antiques bought on the world market by the Shumei organisation in the years before the museum was opened in 1997. While Koyama began acquiring stoneware tea ceremony vessels as early as the 1950s, the bulk of the museum's acquisitions were made in the 1990s. There are over two thousand pieces in the permanent collection, of which approximately 250 are displayed at any one time.[3] Among the objects in the collection are more than 1,200 objects that appear to have been produced in Achaemenid Central Asia.[4] Some scholars have claimed these objects are part of the Oxus Treasure, lost shortly after its discovery in 1877 and rediscovered in Afghanistan in 1993.[5] The presence of a unique findspot for both the Miho acquisitions and the British Museum's material, however, has been challenged.[6]

Many of the items in the collection were acquired in collaboration with the art dealer Noriyoshi Horiuchi over the course of just six years,[7] and some have little or no known provenance.[8][9] In 2001 the museum acknowledged that a sixth-century statue of a Boddhisatva in its collection was the same sculpture which been stolen from a public garden in Shandong province, China in 1994.[10][11]

Highlights of the collections have been featured in traveling exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1996,[12] as well as the Kunshistorisches Museum Wien in 1999.[13]


I. M. Pei's interior style in Miho museum
I. M. Pei's interior style in Miho museum

Mihoko Koyama and her daughter, Hiroko Koyama, commissioned the architect I. M. Pei to design the Miho Museum. I. M. Pei's design, which he came to call Shangri-La, is executed in a hilly and forested landscape.[14] Approximately three-quarters of the 17,400 square meter building is situated underground, carved out of a rocky mountaintop.[15] The roof is a large glass and steel construction, while the exterior and interior walls and floor are made of a warm beige-colored limestone from France – the same material used by Pei in the reception hall of the Louvre. The structural engineer for this project was Leslie E. Robertson Associates.

Pei continued to make changes to the design of the galleries during construction as new pieces were acquired for the collection.[16]

Pei had earlier designed the bell tower at Misono,[17] the international headquarters and spiritual center of the Shumei organization. The bell tower can be seen from the windows of the museum.

See also


  1. Lindelauf, Perrin (March 8, 2009). "Luck, trickery and treasure in Koka City". Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  2. "Encyclopedia of Shinto".
  3. Reif, Rita (16 August 1998). "ARTS/ARTIFACTS; A Japanese Vision of the Ancient World". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 August 2010.
  4. Curtis, John (1 September 2004). "The Oxus Treasure in the British Museum". Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia. 10 (3): 334. doi:10.1163/1570057042596397. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  5. Southampton, Kathy Judelson; Pichikyan, I.R. (1 January 1998). "Rebirth of the Oxus Treasure: Second Part of the Oxus Treasure From the Miho Museum Collection". Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia. 4 (4): 306–383 [308–309]. doi:10.1163/157005797X00126. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  6. Muscarella, Oscar White (1 November 2003). "Museum Constructions of the Oxus Treasures: Forgeries of Provenience and Ancient Culture". Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia. 9 (3): 259–275. doi:10.1163/157005703770961778. Retrieved 27 August 2014.
  7. Melikian, Souren (November 6, 1997). "A Splendid Art Collection Goes On Display in Japan". Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  8. Hoffman, Barbara T., ed. (2006). Art and Cultural Heritage: Law, Policy and Practice. Cambridge University Press. pp. 54f. ISBN 978-0-521-85764-2.
  9. McCurry, Justin (11 January 2007). "Italy to ask Japan for return of 'looted' antiques". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 March 2012.
  10. Sims, Calvin (April 18, 2001). "Japanese Agree A Stolen Statue Will Be Sent Back to China". Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  11. Abe, Stanley (2002). "Review: Return of the Buddha: The Qingzhou Discoveries by Lukas Nickel". Artibus Asiae. 62 (2): 296. doi:10.2307/3250269. JSTOR 3250269.
  12. Arnold, Dorothea (1996). Ancient art from the Shumei Family collection. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 9780870997730.
  13. Seipel, Wilfried (1999). Schätze des Orients: Meisterwerke aus dem Miho Museum. Milan, Wien: Skira; Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien. ISBN 9783854970033.
  14. Baker, Kenneth (18 November 2007). "Miho Lets Art Speak For Itself". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  15. Rosenblatt, Arthur (2001). Building type basics for museums. John Wiley and Sons. p. 32. ISBN 0-471-34915-1.
  16. Dobrzynski, Judith (August 28, 2013). "A Trek Well Worth Taking". Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  17. "Shumei - Art and Beauty".
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Coordinates: 34°54′52.6″N 136°01′22.4″E / 34.914611°N 136.022889°E / 34.914611; 136.022889

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