Shimadzu Corporation & Shimadzu Foundation Memorial Hall

Text & Photo by Baba Kenta
Translation  by  Yoshifumi Nomura

Feel the passion and attitude of Kyoto craftsmen who proudly presented their invention to the world.


Tracing back to the origin of the production at companies and shops with the history in Kyoto, there are some cases that ‘the roots are coming from a craftsmanship raised in Kyoto.’

A typical example, there is a company called <SHIMADZU CORPORATION> which specializes a production of precision equipment, measuring instrument, medical equipment, and aviation instrument in the world.



On the corner of Kiya-machi Nijo, there is <Shimadzu Foundation Memorial Hall>. They exhibit about 300 instruments such as laboratory instruments and industrial equipments which had been produced since their inauguration. You can study a several histories of their Nobel prize, World-first and Japan-first invention.




It used to be a house of the founder, Genzo Shimadzu and Genzo Jr.




It looks totally Kyoto style house, so it doesn’t make me feel like this is the place for ‘the foundation of high-tech company leading in the world’
Whatever it is, let’s take a look at inside!





First things that comes into my eyes are medical equipments with strong aura around.
These are the primal equipments of X-ray photography and the main product of

It was in 1896 that succeeded in X-ray photography. It was also astounding speed that they developed the system a year after Dr. Roentgen found X-ray first in the world.


First manned balloon which was created by Kyoto buddhist craftsman in Japan.


Next is a foundation history section.
‘From making buddhist tools to producing laboratory instruments.’
The founder, Genzo Shimadzu used to be a buddhist craftsman.




In early years of Meiji era, Kiya-machi Nijo was the birthplace of modern science which established a lot of industrial facilities such as laboratories and factories innovated the latest technologies from Western countries by Kyoto Prefecture.

Genzo Shimadzu was born in a buddhist craftsman family, however he went to ‘SEIMIKYOKU’, which was a school of chemistry, all the time and learned its knowledge. He combined his own buddhist craftsmanship with what he learned, then he started producing an educational scientific apparatus. This is how started.



It was in 1877 that people started getting to know about Genzo Shimadzu.

Kyoto prefecture ordered him in order to ‘show some concrete examples of development to science technology and make people be interested in it.’
So, he produced a balloon within a few months through his trial and error and succeeded in first manned balloon in Japan.

He only had a picture on a foreign magazine as his primary source.



His passion to create new stuff in this world and his attitude to accept superior thing by looking outside Japan seem never stop since then and the founder Genzo made ‘a list of laboratory instruments’ having 110 laboratory items within 7 years after the inauguration of his company.
On the last page of this list says, “I am going to make anything you want”. What a craftsmanship soul he had!




After the founder passed away, the second, 26-year-old Genzo Jr. inherited everything and he was also the great man on earth. When he was 15, he produced a new type of electric generator with only one image source just like his dad did.
He is still called as ‘King of invention in Japan’ and he had 178 patents in his whole life such as first X-ray photography in Japan and a dry battery.




(This is a new type of Wimshurst’s Electrostatic-Induction Generator created when he was 15)


A model of ‘GS battery’ which shares no.1 in Japan as a car battery was also created by Genzo Shimadzu Jr. I didn’t know that GS stands for Genzo’s initial.




Personally, the most exciting thing was in a section of inventions and laboratory instruments.

Laboratory instrument in Meiji and Taisho era succeeded to a trend of Western culture which was particular about design and decoration for the rich.
However, the founder Genzo changed the whole design and color for the kids in order to let them enjoy science.




It makes me excited even though I have no idea what this is all about. Not only just for practical reason, but also he sticked with design and decoration more.

It was absolutely coming from his origin of buddhist craftsmanship. His idea and skills were used for all these details.




We don’t usually see all these laboratory instruments in Meiji and Taisho era. It is probably good for designers and craftsmen as inspiration.



First mannequin production was also here at in Japan. Surprisingly, its basic idea was coming from ‘an anatomical model of the human body’.




After WWII, it seems like they produced and developed industrial machines.  A spirit of invention by Genzo Shimadzu succeeded to people who works at and achieved ‘Japan-first and World-first’ so far.
Koichi Tanaka who received Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2002 is also a member of .




In the same room, there is a section for people who wants to touch and control old inventions.
You can actually spin Wimshurst’s Electrostatic-Induction Generator created by 15-year-old Genzo Jr. for the development of X-ray photography in the future.



When you spin a lever in front,



Electricity will be produced with a sound of electric shocks. Once you try to use this generator, you are going to feel amazed how fantastic this young 15-year-old man, Genzo Jr. is.



This is a model of 3D eye glasses. When you look into it, you can see the photos becoming 3D.

Shimadzu Foundation Memorial Hall from beacon kyoto on Vimeo.

This is a model of movie which you can see pictures moving when you roll them. Although I am used to watch movies at this modern age, I almost wanted to shout out loud, so it means that I can’t imagine how people excited about this of those days.




(Living space for Shimadzu family)

I followed a history of its foundation and their unique invention through all exhibitions and I, again, admired their greatness and the origin of their family buddhist craftsman business. I think this company was supposed to happen like this in Kyoto for a reason.

A passion to make this world better by using their skills comes out from everything at this
This is a rare establishment that you can see something that you never seen before in Kyoto.
I totally recommend you to visit this place.





ADDRESS : Kiyamachi Nijo Minami, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto city (MAP)
HOURS : 9:30 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m. (the entrance will close after 4:30 p.m.)
CLOSED : Wednesday
PHONE : +81 (0)75-255-0980
adult – ¥300
Junior and High school student – ¥200
Elementary school student and younger age – free
Group – (more than 20 people will be 20% off and reservation will be needed including guide)