The Fitzwilliam Museum owes its foundation to Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion who in 1816 bequeathed to the University of Cambridge his works of art and library together with funds to house them. The Museum opened in 1848 and acquired its first Japanese object in 1863.
The Japanese collections are divided between the Department of Paintings, Drawings and Prints and the Department of Applied Arts. The former has a superb collection of some 2,500 prints (including fan prints and 480 surimono), 400 drawings and 36 woodblock books. Highlights include very fine impressions of prints by Hokusai and Hiroshige, a unique complete album of Utamaro��s Chūshingura series, and the surimono collection. The Department of Applied Arts has a collection of some 1,300 Japanese objects plus about 300 items on long-term loan from private English collections. The collection is of high quality and includes pottery and porcelain, lacquer (including inro), netsuke, textiles, fans, sculpture, swords and armour, sword furniture (including tsuba), sculpture and examples of metalwork. The strength of the collection lies in its holdings of ceramics and lacquer.