One of the most underrated places in Kyoto must surely be the Kawai Kanjiro Memorial Museum—or more simply, Kawai Kanjiro’s House. Kawai Kanjiro was a legendary potter, writer, artist, and key figure in the mingei or folk art movement. His house is testament to the way he lived his life: in pursuit of beauty and creativity, embodying joy found in all of life. Fortunately for us, his family decided to preserve and open up his gorgeous wooden townhouse to the public.
One of the most striking things about the house of Kawai Kanjiro is the sheer amount of light that comes into the house. It’s a little unusual for traditional houses in Japan to have this many windows, and this much light streaming into the indoor spaces—mostly because it’s rather cold otherwise!
The shoji paper screens diffuse harsh sunlight beautifully. Indeed, the interplay of light and shadow inside the house is a real joy to behold. We could spend ages just watching the light change indoors. Additionally, some of the windows and doors open up onto beautifully-framed views of the courtyard garden and other plants.
There are many small details to notice and enjoy while exploring the house, from the simplicity of the white-tiled sink to the hand-carved low tables and chairs in front of the open hearth. Beauty in all shapes and forms greet you at every turn, wherever your eyes alight.
One of the most impressive parts of the house must be the large noborigama or climbing kiln at the back of the house. It’s one of the few remaining ones of this kind in Kyoto that are apparently still in use. There are about 9 levels to this kiln set on a slope.