Nestled in the heart of the city, Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum in Osaka towers over several stories and houses 20,000 tomes, collected by the acclaimed historical novelist Shiba Ryotaro during his lifetime.
The museum is built alongside the writer's house and contains many of the books he used for his writing, including histories, biographies and dictionaries. These books were once scattered throughout his house, lining every wall and corridor. With these books the author wrote about five hundred historical novels and essays.
Designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando, in his signature glass and concrete style, the museum’s objective was to create a framework that allowed visitors to visualize the inner workings of the author's mind. The books are stacked in Japanese oak shelves, from floor to ceiling. The rest of the museum forms two overlapping curved segments, partly sunken into the compact site and accommodates office space, storage and a small lecture theatre as well as the exhibition area.
Further into the museum, towards the central library, natural light is reduced until it comes from just one source - an opening with opaque glass set in a geometric pattern composed of panels of various shapes and sizes that filters the light, making it fall in many different patterns. This interior, with its numerous levels and its visual and spatial possibilities, is a metaphor for the complex mind of the author.
The densely wooded area that surrounds the museum extends right up to the front of the building to create a scenic backdrop. A fundamental element to evoke the spirit of the writer, who loved and revered nature. While the author's home itself is not open to visitors a view of his study is seen through its windows opening onto the garden.
The museum is a unique sanctuary within the bustling city where people can reflect, meditate and feel inspired by the poetic architecture and by an author who has shone a profound light onto the essence of his homeland.
Ryōtarō Shiba, born Teiichi Fukuda (August 7, 1923 – February 12, 1996), was an important figure in Japanese literature after World War II. He is recognised for his ability to look critically at modern life and for the moral support his writings gave to Japanese people after the war. His sudden death in 1996 was widely mourned and his works are still seen by many Japanese as a guide to life.
Shiba Ryotaro Memorial Museum
3-11-18, Shimo-kosaka, Higashi-Osaka
Words by Rohini Wahl
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