Costume Museum

A Devoting Museum on Tale of Genji and Heian-period Fashion

Text: Yukari Ouchi / Photo: Takashi Oka


Costume Museum is a small museum on the 5th floor of a building near Nishi Honganji Temple. A 1/4 miniature diorama exhibiting scenes from the Tale of Genji expresses the culture of Heian period (794-1185) in detail. It is run by Izutsu Hoiten, company selling religious items for over 300 years. The late representative was a passionate researcher of traditional items and had started this museum to show how things were actually been used in the past.

The main exhibition is the model of Rokujo-in, the house of Hikaru Genji in the Tale. A scene of Minori, using Rokujo-in as Nijo-in, had been the theme on my visit. This is a very popular scene among the fans of this literature. The ceremonial scene is colorfully replicated.

The heads of the dolls are made by traditional crafts person of dolls, Tomoko Isogaki. The round faces has a charming expression. The kimonos are all made specially for each exhibition theme. Visitors can also learn about the kimono through detailed explanation on the brochure. (English version also available)

A seasonal events are also shown, as well as the daily lifestyles of people which shall be more easier to understand for those not familiar with the Tale. For instance, there is a section in explaining on the concept of 'beautiful women' during that time. The most important is back hair. Small eyes, big nose, curly hair was considered ugly. It is interesting how the concept of beauty is so different then from now. Although it seems the same that women have always cared for how they looked, even until today.

Costume Museum is a very maniac place. They do not welcome visitors in large groups. They welcome those who are really interested in their exhibition and wants them to carefully look around. Fans are always looking forward to the exhibition renew every half year. You do not have to be an expert in the Tale of Genji. It an interesting museum if you are keen of Heian traditional fashion.

ADDRESS: IZUTSU SAMEGAI BUILDING 5th Floor, Horikawa-Dori, Shinhanaya-cho Sagaru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto(map
PHONE: +81(0)75-342-5345
HOURS: 10:00-17:00
CLOSED: Sunday, holiday, summer holiday (August 13-17), changing time of the exhibition (June 1~July 31, December 1~February 3)
ENTRANCE FEE: Adult 500 yen, Student 300 yen, Elementary children 200 yen