Towada Art Center (Towada City, Aomori, Japan)

Towada City, Aomori Prefecture. Experience the contemporary art by overturning the stereotypical concept of museum architecture.

A contemporary art museum in Towada City, Aomori prefecture in Japan. When thinking of Towada, Lake Towada comes to mind, but Towada City is about 30 km away from Lake Towada. It is in the center of Towada City, less than an hour by car from Hachinohe Station on the Tohoku Shinkansen.

This is famous contemporary art museum and I had often heard the name. I surprised because it was different from what I had imagined. When thinking of art museums, there is a tendency to imagine large building, however this museum consists of small building.

When standing in front of the museum, I surprised to see that the entrance is a sliding door on the side of the passage connecting with small building. Sliding door is manual operation, not automatic. When visited, the person entered had left the door open. Then museum staff find the situation and walking to the door and closed it manually.

Tohoku area is very cold, and the manual door rather than automatic door may have something to do with it. Just looking at this scene makes me imagine a small, privately owned art museum in the countryside. However, Inside was a wonderful space.

At the ticket office on the left side of the entrance, there is a ticket vending machine, and there is a counter next to it, and the staff explained me about this museum. The service is reminiscent of the friendliness of a small museum. As soon as entering the first exihibition building/room, I found the iconic artwork of this museum: “a giant statue of an elderly woman”.

This giant statue is the only in the room. There are multiple rooms, each connected by a corridor. The room and corridor are structured so that the outside can be seen from the ceiling to the floor.

When I visited, one room was occupied by “Chiharu Shiota” ‘s latest exhibition of red threads strung around the room. Personally, the artwork that caught my eye was the one that recreated a café-diner in America in the dark room. It was a space that I would never get tired of.

The artworks in this museum are truly contemporary art, and all of them are objects and installations. There were no paintings of any kind. The museum itself is by no means large and the space with the sole purpose for exhibiting artworks. Each room forms an extraordinary feeling.

From the building point of view, it is a structure that has never seen before, including overseas. In front of the museum, across the road, there is an area for outdoor installations. In my humble opinion, the surrounding area is ordinary private houses and buildings, so there is a limit to make an extraordinary space. Therefore, I feel that this space should also be expanded with the current building concept.

There was also a room for special exhibitions, but basically it would be a museum to show the permanent collection. This museum has already become popular for overseas’ visitors, and I would like to see further upgraded museum while maintaining its current charm.

By the way, more than 10 years have passed since 2008 of opening. Given the severe winter environmental conditions, continued maintenance is important. Overseas, there are examples of art museums contributing to the revitalization of towns. I think that this museum scale of success becomes reference for other museum.

Visited in 2021

Basic Information

■ Name : Towada Art Center
■ Address : 10-9 Nishi-Nibancho, Towada-shi, Aomori, Japan
​■ Homepage :