Guide Main Exhibition Rooms

The Cultural Exchange Exhibition
"Ocean Ways, Asian Paths"


The theme is "Ocean Ways, Asian Paths". Visitors get to experience the dramatic history of how Japan progressed amidst its interactions with Asia and Europe.

Kyushu was an important stage for international interactions since ancient times. This was due to its geographical proximity to continental Asia and the Korean Peninsula. Kyushu National Museum uses the concept of “understanding the formation of Japanese culture from the Asian historical perspective” as the basis for Cultural Exchange Exhibition (permanent exhibition; around 3,900m2 floor area). It introduces the history of cultural exchange between Japan and Asia.
The exhibition shows five themes, from the Paleolithic period to the end of the early modern period (when Japan opened its borders). The gallery comprises of the “main exhibition area”, which displays the objects representing the cultural exchange of each period, and 11 surrounding exhibition rooms.
Exhibits in some display cases are changed almost every week to constantly offer fresh content. “Touchable objects” and impressive super high-definition videos heighten the realistic experience of the exhibition.


Cultural Exchange Exhibition Layout


Five Key Areas

縄文人、海へ
I Jomon Culture: Ocean-Bound 2.5 million years ago to 400 BCE

People in the Paleolithic period hunted large animals and gathered plants for food. During the Jomon period, the climate became warmer, making more nuts, berries, and small animals available from forests, as well as more fish and other food available from the sea. People made pottery vessels, cooked and stored food, and established settlements. They also felled trees to make boats, which increased interaction between people living in different parts of the country.

II 稲づくりから国づくり Political Power: Cultivating Rice
II Political Power: Cultivating Rice 400 BCE to 663 CE

During the Yayoi period, rice cultivation and metalwork were introduced to Kyushu from abroad, contributing to more stable yields, better living standards, and population growth. People farmed the land in cooperation with each other, which eventually led to the emergence of local rulers. During the Kofun period, there was a great influx of people, customs, and skills from the Continent. Japanese rulers also sent envoys to the Continent, starting Japan’s history of international exchange in East Asia.

III 遣唐使の時代
III Nation Building: The Age of the Envoys 663 to 1192 CE

During the Nara period, Japanese envoys were sent to the Tang dynasty capital Chang'an, which was the terminus of the Silk Road. This brought advanced knowledge, art, and government systems to Japan, and also introduced an international flavor to Japanese culture. During the Heian period, uniquely Japanese cultural traditions, such as the kana syllabary, emerged from among members of the aristocracy. Meanwhile, Japanese Buddhist priests increasingly travelled abroad to study the teachings of Buddha.

IV アジアの海は日々これ交易
IV Merchants of the Asian Seas 1192 to 1573 CE

During the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, Asia’s seafaring merchants traded in a wide variety of goods. Commerce developed in many parts of Japan, in particular, cities such as Kyoto and Hakata. Ports became assembly points for goods from across the country and abroad. During the same time, ink wash painting̶originally introduced from China by Zen Buddhist monks̶and the consumption of matcha (powdered green tea) became fashionable among members of the ruling samurai (warrior) class, and evolved into the art of the tea ceremony.

>V 丸くなった地球近づく西洋
V Smaller World, Closer West 1573 to 1853 CE

Between the final years of the Muromachi period and Azuchi Momoyama period, European merchants making inroads into Asia also started trading with the Japanese. Firearms and Christianity were brought to Japan, while Japanese decorative art objects found customers abroad. During the Edo period, when foreign trade and travel were officially banned, active trade carried on via the so-called“four mouths,”or international trade windows that included Nagasaki and Tsushima. Exported Japanese porcelain and lacquerware fascinated the world.


Eleven Surrounding Exhibition Rooms

Exhibition Room 1 A Museum Conserving and Communicating Cultural Heritage

One important mission of a museum is to preserve cultural properties for posterity. Exhibits in this room show Kyushu National Museum’s activities to conserve and restore cultural objects, and conserve the natural environment.

Exhibition Room 2 KANEKO Kazushige Memorial Gallery: Asian Ethno-Forms

Mr. Kazushige Kaneko donated 1,171 valuable Asian ethnographic objects to the Museum since its opening. The gallery showcases the quintessence of the diverse and rich everyday cultures nurtured in Asia.

2 Political Power: Cultivating Rice
Exhibition Room 3 The Emergence of the Ancient Japanese in East Asia

In Northern Kyushu during the Yayoi period, rice cultivation ̶ which became one of the foundations of Japanese culture ̶ and goods such as metal objects were brought and traded. Excavated objects are mainly displayed to introduce the techniques and thought that supported the nation-building of Japan.

Exhibition Room 4 The Ancient Tombs: Colorful Murals and Ornaments

Haniwa (clay figures) and stone figures placed at the outer circumferences of kofun (ancient tombs) bore witness to history in the making during the kofun period. This area displays the photos and replicas of splendid kofun mural drawings. These decorative drawings reflect the kofun culture in northern and central Kyushu.

Exhibition Room 5 Virtual Theater: The Ornamented Ancient Tomb

Access into the ornamented kofun (ancient tombs) has been limited. The inner areas of the kofun have been filmed with the latest technology. This theatre brings to viewers the realistic experience of entering an actual stone chamber and seeing the decorative murals. (Film screening every 15 minutes interval. Visitors are free to enter the room anytime.)

3 Nation Building: The Age of the Envoys
Exhibition Room 6 Image of Ideal Asians

Visitors can take their time to enjoy and learn about the various worlds of Buddhist art and its development in Asia, such as elegant and dignified Buddhist sculptures and paintings.

Exhibition Room 7 Journeys through Asia

Without focusing on any specific countries, regions, or time period, this exhibition room is mainly composed of the collections of Kyushu National Museum. The room is designed to offer the feeling of a leisurely walk through Asia.

Exhibition Room 8 The Voyage of the Envoys and the Silk Road

This interactive exhibition room displays replicas of the cargos of the envoys to Tang-dynasty China. Excavated objects from the Eurasia region are used to introduce the trades that occurred around areas adored by the envoys‒ Changan and the Silk Road.

4 Merchants of the Asian Seas
Exhibition Room 9 Interaction of People and Goods in Medieval Asia

This area highlights the historical development and cultures of Asian countries through the similarities and differences of the artwork and historical materials.

5 Smaller World, Closer West
Exhibition Room 10 Ceramics of Kyushu: The Tanakamaru Collection

Do look through the range of fine objects on display. These are the Kyushu ceramics collected by Mr. Zenpachi Tanakamaru, who was a businessperson and famed expert in ceramics collection.

Exhibition Room 11 Edo: a Multifaceted Culture

This room displays the various fine art and craftwork that shows the elegant and multifaceted development of the Edo period. Highlights include objects from the cultural exchanges in Nagasaki and Ryukyu.