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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Kobe City Museum


On a glorious spring day, we ride the express train from Kyoto down to Kobe's Sannomiya Station in order to take in the "Mummy: The Inside Story" exhibit at the Kobe City Museum.

The exhibit was co-sponsored by the British Museum, and featured some of the best works from its collection. The experience, though, represented the best and worst of Japanese museum-going.

kobe museumFrom a block away we could already see tell-tale signs of trouble. First were the young guys in suits yelling out instructions to people lined up in front of and snaking around the corner of the entrance. Also, a prominent sign tells us that the current waiting time to get in is 45 minutes.

And so we wait under a beating sun.

35 minutes later, we are inside buying tickets. It is cool and spacious. The Meiji Era building has both gravitas and style.

After presenting our tickets, we are herded up to the second floor and into a room with television monitors. Young women pass out 3D glasses. After a short video presentation, we are then squeezed through a narrow doorway into a theater.

Following a 20-minute movie in 3D on how to mummify a corpse, the young women at the exits yell for us to not forget our belongings and to NOW leave the theater.

We do, and then are penned into a holding area shoulder to shoulder in front of a staircase, which leads up to the third floor where the exhibit awaits.

An officious woman at the foot of the staircase blocks access and thanks us for our patience as we stew. Finally, she gets the ok signal on her headset and announces that we can progress up. Heads down, we hike up the steps and into the exhibit area.

Women in the exhibit rooms yell out that it is very crowded--No!--and that it is ok to jump ahead to see other items. Even at 182 cm (six feet and a bit), I have trouble seeing the jewelry, stele (tablets), etc. over the heads of those in front of me. For children and others, the first room is just a sea of jeans and sweaters and bags.

The next room, in which the mummy and its case are displayed, is a bit better. The jewelry, in particular, is amazingly intricate and beautiful.

After 15 minutes, we are through the galleries and don't have the will to backtrack to the first room--and instead opt for lunch in nearby Chinatown.


From Sannomiya Station, walk south along Flower Road until you get to the Flower Clock on the right side of the street (the Hanadokei Mae subway stop is here). Turn right. Walk one block to Kyomachi Street. Turn left. The Museum is two blocks down and on the right side of the street.


Kobe Museum
24, Kyo-machi, Chuo-ku, Kobe, 650-0034

The exhibit costs 1,100 yen and runs until June 17.

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