Bringing the history and culture of the old Echigo Province to life, the Northern Culture Museum is located in the former residence of the Ito family, wealthy landowners who occupied the residence for seven generations. Covering almost 30,000 square meters, the land is surrounded by earthwork fortifications, a fence, and a moat, while the warehouse-like gate, the zelkova-wood gabled main entrance, and other unique structures convey its unique history. The jewel of the museum is the roughly 4,000-square-meter Japanese-style residence featuring 65 rooms. Inside the residence and an additional separate building, you can discover art galleries featuring historical masterpieces and various treasures from China and South Korea, collected as part of the first post-WWII private museum.
Most interesting of all, however, is the building itself. Dedicated craftsmen incorporated various techniques and materials into this “farmhouse palace,” which includes the main building, a triangular tea room and study, a separate tatami room, relocated former private houses, and much more. All of these structures coexist in exquisite that exists in harmony with the residence’s beautiful garden.
The garden was created by a famous gardener with close ties to Kyoto’s Ginkaku-ji Temple who toiled 5 years to achieve its perfection. This garden features a variety of flora for year-round enjoyment, including cherry blossoms, Japanese wisteria, ancient lotus flowers, and the unique colors of autumn foliage. The 150-year-old Japanese wisteria with a 160 cm trunk is a particularly beautiful sight, coming into bloom around the start of May. With seemingly countless tendrils hanging down from a single main tree, it provides a uniquely colorful sight accompanied by a sweet perfume.