Grains of sand turn into art at Otsuka’s art museum

I held the headphones to my ears, I looked up at the ceilings to see the pale blue of the sky, angels and babies in flight looking back at me. On the wall painted in front of me was the extraordinary Last Judgement, the masterpiece of Michelangelo.  To my left was a group of Japanese listening to their guide, telling them about the painting. It took him four years to paint the ceiling and then 24 years later he painted the Last Judgement.


Johannes Vermmer’s Woman with the gold pearl

A few rooms up was El Greco’s masterpiece, The Altar surrounded by its bright gold frames and his interpretation of the resurrection of Jesus and the assumption of the Virgin Mary. The opposite room I was lured in by Johannes Vermmer’s Woman with the gold pearl.  I loved the colours of the bright yellow and blue scarf with the women’s pearl earing being the focal point of the work and then there was my favourite piece Rembradt’s Night Watchmen and how he captured the captain and the Lieutenant with his effective use of light and shadow.


Sistene hall Micaelangelo

There was more though.There was Monet and his lilies, DaVinci’s Mona Lisa  and art done by Picasso to just name a few but wait a minute, where can this be , these paintings are located in all different places throughout Europe. Well the story starts here.

Masahito Otsuka built the Museum to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Otsuka Pharmaceutical company. When Masahito was 5 years old he recalls being carried on his father’s shoulders and being shown the site of his father’s factory. He told his father that our factory is very tiny and his father agreed but he promised his son that it would grow into a huge company and that is exactly what happened.


El Greco’s The Altar


DaVinci’s Mona Lisa

One day when the boy, who was now president of the company was working at his office when a man came in and poured sand on his desk.

“What is this sand about?”  The man replied we want to make tiles from this sand after the meeting and  coming to an agreement, they set up a kiln to start manufacturing tiles.

On a business trip one day in Moscow in 1980 he visited a cemetery where he noticed a picture covered in plastic, but it had  no protection from the ultra violet rays of the sun even though it was a  relatively recent photo the portion of its face was discoloured, its colours in general were fading from here he got the idea that if we were able to have photographs printed on ceramic boards, we would then be able to produce wonderful pictures with preserved colours that will never fade.

Otsuka at the end of World War 2 had 17 employees  and the number of employees now exceed 23,000.

7,000 of these come from Tokushima. Having promised his father, who had passed away by now to give back to the local community. A spot was established on the Straits of Naruto to build a museum based on the concept that every visitor would be able to see the worlds most famous art.

The museum stretches for 4 kilometres and now exhibits over 1000 pictures printed on ceramics.  To think this all came to light from a handful of sand and a trip to a cemetery

Museum Information 

The museum is open from 9.30am-5.00pm  closed on Mondays

Tickets are very expensive  520 yen for children to high school students

2100 yen for university students   3150 yen for adults

For an audio head set which tells you about 100 paintings available in various languages costs an extra 500 yen

With prices this high you wonder if they are really giving back to the public or just running it as another one of their successful business ventures.

Though extremely expensive it is still worth visiting if you are in the Tokushima prefecture in Shikoku.

3 thoughts on “Grains of sand turn into art at Otsuka’s art museum

  1. Pingback: The force of Naruto whirlpools, Tokushima, Japan | we all travel together

  2. Chris… This is amazing….. never heard of it….. I too have been in cemeteries and seen the sad, faded pictures….. Wonderful that these tiles are created….. thanks for this great article….

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