The red rick former central branch of Akita Bank dates from the early 20th century and has been renovated and turned into a repository of Akita's most representative arts and crafts.
Designed by local architect Yamaguchi Naoaki, what is now the Akarenga-kan Museum was completed in 1912 and served as a functioning bank until 1969. On the 100th anniversary of Akita Bank and the 90th anniversary of Akita municipality in 1981, the bank building was donated to Akita city authorities and re-opened as a museum in 1985.
Over half of the cost and construction time was spent on the bank's solid foundations which have kept the structure safe from earthquakes for exactly 100 years so far. The Renaissance style exterior gives way to the Baroque interior complete with colored tiles, white marble staircases, plaster ceilings and archways and zelkova wood paneling. A particular highlight are the huge metal doors of the bank vault.
The interior of the bank now hosts rooms dedicated to some of Akita's greatest crafts persons such as Katsuhira Tokushi and Sekiya Shiro.
Katsuhira Tokushi (1907-1971) was a celebrated wood block print artist working in bold colors depicting scenes of local Akita life and customs. Visitors can view a recreation of Katsuhira's studio and see the original tools the artist used to create his works along with a fine selection of his art.
Sekiya Shiro (1907-1994) was a metalwork artist who worked in a variety of metals specializing in a fusion technique called hagiawase. The second floor of the building displays a number of the artist's masterpieces as well as a selection of the tools of his trade in the Sekiya Shiro Memorial Room.
The Akarenga Red Brick Folk Museum also puts on special exhibitions and on the day I visited there was a show dedicated to the haiku poet Ishii Rogetsu (1873-1928).
Akarenga Red Brick Folk Museum
Tel: 018 864 6851
Admission: 200 yen
There are city or Chuo Kotsu buses from Akita Station to Koshu Kosha mae. The "Kururin" Pass for 500 yen allows admission to Akarenga Red Brick Folk Museum, The Satake Historical Material Museum, Kubota Castle's Osumiyagura Turret, the Akita City Folklore & Performing Art Center, the Old Kaneko Family House, the Akita Senshu Museum of Art and the Old Kurusawa House.
The Akarenga Red Brick Museum is close to the Omachi and Kawabata entertainment and red light district on the Asahi River.
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