Kuji Amber Museum
Kuji’s Arts & Crafts
Kuji Amber Museum is an exhibition gallery located in the south-west of Kuji City, on the north of the Sanriku Coast. Iwate prefecture is Japan’s first amber producing region and also one of the most ancient and prolific in the world. The museum retraces the trail of the organic gemstone from its origins to its artistic use.
The amber originating from this coastal area in the Tohoku is 85 million years old, a time when Kuji was covered by a large Metasequoia forest and dinosaurs were roaming the earth, a fact funnily reminded by the animated tyrannosaur welcoming visitors at the entrance of the museum. Rooms are arranged in the facility to provide detailed information on amber, from its formation from the sap of trees to its thousand years history with Humanity.
A fun exploration
The exhibition uses two buildings, the visit starting from the most recent one, the Amber Land Welcome Center, with large windows opening on the surrounding forest in the reception hall. In this edifice, a large variety of amber gemstones is shown in well-lighted display cases, with a focus on the 250 hues that can be found in amber from the classical orange-yellow to black, and red or blue tones. The Amber Laboratory is aimed at the discovery of the ore’s structure and composition with a microscope. Some of its physical properties are also displayed through experiences such as making an amber gemstone float in very salty water.
Another space is dedicated to the legends surrounding amber and its supposed properties with introduction and illustration of all beliefs from Asia, the Roman Empire or Ancient Greece. The Amber Sanatorium is a room whose floor is lined with amber, specifically built for visitors to experience the relaxing effects of the stone.
At the second floor, the Amber Gallery presents a beautiful collection of artworks and jewels made of amber, with quite large items displayed, such as a mosaic, and of course smaller size objects such as lovely artisanal boxes.
History of the fascinating gem
The visit continues in the Main Building dedicated to the origins of the organic gemstone, from its state of liquid sap to the fossilized resin into the ground. Insights of the environments of its formation during the Cretaceous and Cenozoic eras, with samples of prehistoric insects preserved in amber as eloquent memento of the past.
Lastly, the visit concludes on a summary of the exploitation of amber. An interactive world map locates the main amber deposits and the related commercial routes merchants have been treading since Antiquity. A focus is also made on the history of the fossilized resin in Japan: from its discovery to the mining tools, and the craftsmanship that have been developing ever since.
Various workshop experiences
Several workshops are also available such as an amber mining experience, an amber pendant or Kaleidoscope making. A souvenir shop, the Kuji Amber Flagship Store, is the classical ending of the visit with an array of amber jewels and miscellaneous objects.
Kuji Amber Museum is located a bit far away from Kuji City’s center and of a relatively small size but it was well designed. The buildings are nestled in a managed forest where two Shinto shrines are also hidden. For the visit, we recommend borrowing an English-language audioguide, as it is particularly useful and handy.