New Japanese gallery at Maidstone Museum opened



Maidstone Museum’s new gallery, ‘Japan: Land of power, craft and culture’, was formally opened on Sunday 22 April by Ambassador Hayashi. The museum was honoured to host Mr and Mrs Hayashi, Lord and Lady Bearsted, the Mayor, Cllr Brian Mortimer, and his wife, along with invited guests to the private launch on Sunday afternoon. Also present was Sir Rober Worcester, a keen supporter of the new development, who had invited Ambassador Hayashi to the event. It was an auspicious date, as 88 years to the day the present Ambassador’s namesake, then-Ambassador Baron Gonsuke Hayashi, had opened the Lady Bearsted Wing extension, which was paid for by Lord Bearsted and housed the museum's first purpose-built Japanese gallery as well as Victorian prints donated by Lady Bearsted. To mark the present occasion of the opening of the new Japanese gallery, a photograph replicating the original 1924 commemorative shot was taken.

Then-Ambassador Baron Hayashi with Lord & Lady Bearsted at the opening of the Lady Bearsted Wing, 22 April 1924

Ambassador Hayashi, Lady Bearsted, Cllr Dan Daley and Lord Bearsted at the opening of the new Japanese gallery, 22 April 2012
The new gallery is located in the East Wing extension and provides a light and spacious room in which the objects can be clearly viewed. On display are the generous gifts of Victorian and early twentieth-century collectors, including the Hon. Henry Marsham, the Hon. Walter Samuel and the Maidstone explorer, Julius Brenchley. The objects take you on a journey through Edo-period Japan to Meiji and beyond. Through six display cabinets the power struggles of the Daimyo, the dedication of the Samurai, the development of trade, manufacturing and craftsmanship as well as the stories of the collectors are told. The visitors' attention was drawn to the Soma ware on display. The items are significant as the kiln was lost in last year's devastating tsunami. There is also an education area, part-sponsored by the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, which is full of activities to help visitors to the gallery understand Japanese culture and the people who would have made, used and then collected the objects on display.

Inside the new Japanese gallery at Maidstone Museum

With over 600 objects on view, from imposing Samurai armour and weaponry to rare Nabeshima and Imari porcelain, there is much to interest the visitor and connoisseur. The museum is free to visit and welcomes study trips to view the reserve collection of over 2,400 objects. If you would like to find out more, then please visit the museum's website www.museum.maidstone.gov.uk. We look forward to welcoming you soon!


Fiona Woolley
Interpretation Manager
Maidstone Museum & Bentlif Art Gallery