Showa Era Life Style Museum

Yoshinori Ichihashi

Director, The Showa Era Lifestyle Museum

Showa Era Life Style Museum

53 Osakaki, Kumanosho Kitanagoya City, Aichi Prefecture 481-0006, Japan

Japanese Association of Museums Award 2020


Care For The Aged Through Cooperation of Education, Welfare, and Medical Fields




The Showa Era Lifestyle Museum exhibits objects from people’s daily lives during the Showa era (1926–1989) with an emphasis on the challenges that Japan faced after World War II. It was a time of rapid economic growth for the country, bolstered by the Games of the 18th Olympiad held in Tokyo in 1964. With a collection of over 100,000 daily life necessities, the museum hosts over 40,000 visitors every year. Exhibits evoke nostalgic feelings and sentiments among visitors, who are encouraged to actively share their memories. With this as a foundation, a new relationship with the elderly in the community was formed by incorporating the reminiscence method into the museum.

The Showa Era Lifestyle Museum received the Japanese Association of Museums Award 2020 in recognition for its pioneering involvement in a reminiscence project for the elderly through the use of an extensive collection of everyday items. This award was newly established to recognize excellent museums for their outstanding contribution to the promotion of Japanese museums and their prominent outcomes in serving as models for other museums.

The Kitanagoya City Museum of History and Folklore, well-known as the Showa Era Lifestyle Museum, opened in 1990. The facility, erected adjacent to the city library, houses a collection of lifelong learning materials pertaining to local history starting from the Jomon period (about 5000 BCE). Three years after the opening, a program began to supplement its collection with materials from everyday lives in the Showa era with a focus on the decade from 1955 to 1964 that marks the beginning of our present way of life. This period of dramatic change in general lifestyle included the appearance of electric appliances such as televisions, refrigerators, and washing machines, which were considered the most sought-after items by ordinary persons at that time. Assembling a new collection of donations has deepened the museum's relationship with visitors, especially with local senior residents. Furthermore, new opportunities were provided for lifelong learning through museum-welfare collaboration with public welfare agencies.

Following the development of learning programs for the elderly in 2003, the Japanese Association of Museums promoted initiatives in 2004 and 2005 to create museums that were welcoming to all, especially to the elderly. Case studies and surveys were carried out to determine how senior citizens typically interacted with museums. Verification of non-infrastructural projects then began, employing case studies of reminiscence methods and elderly volunteers.

Meanwhile, the Basic Law on Measures for the Aging Society was enacted in 1995. Its decision incorporated commitment to coping with Japan's aging society, with a focus on securing opportunities for lifelong learning, providing a variety of learning opportunities, promoting senior citizens' participation in social activities, and establishing a foundation for volunteer activities; the case can be made that museums have a vital role to play in achieving these goals.

Japanese museums are forwarding the theme "Model museums in the era of the centenarian." Based on a 28% ratio of senior citizens, the fact is that many elderly people are visiting museums and seeking opportunities for learning. Given this situation, it once again becomes apparent that museums can play an important role in a society that is increasingly aging.

Workshops to encourage intergenerational exchange. Washing with an old washboard


Reminiscence project in Kitanagoya City

The reminiscence project adopted by Kitanagoya City is a psychological and social approach to activate the brain and revitalize the mind and body. Visitors’ discussions, anecdotes, and memories are prompted by nostalgic photographs and daily utensils. This recollection method involves listening to their thoughts and reminiscence with sympathy and utilizing that feeling as a lens through which we can view the present and future.

The method using recollections began in Europe and the United States in the 1960s, and research has advanced since then. In Japan, this method has been a useful tool in providing care as a nonpharmacological approach to therapy for dementia, primarily in hospitals and long-term care facilities. However, there have been no cases of its use in care on a more local basis. Thus, as a national model project, we have established a style for providing care for senior citizens by employing the reminiscence method in coordination with individuals in the welfare, education, and medical fields. In 2002, the Reminiscence Center was opened on the premises of an old Meiji-era (1868-1912) home, the former Kato family residence that has been registered as a national tangible cultural property. The project was set up with authorization from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and following the construction of the Reminiscence Center facilities our group reminiscence officially began. Initiatives included:

• Establishment of the reminiscence project committee,
• Hosting of the reminiscence school,
• Forming of volunteer groups to support the reminiscence project,
• Appraisal of the project, and measurement of its results,
• Rental of reminiscence kits to relive the past, etc.

The reminiscence project has been carried out by making use of evaluation indices, including cognitive function, quality of life, and degree of withdrawal from society, with effects measured before and after participation in the reminiscence school along with ongoing evaluations. Currently, the recollection method is being used as an initiative to revitalize local elderly residents. We have put into practice the method for memory recollection and communication with the collaboration between the museum and welfare-related agencies who are advancing care for the benefit of the elderly, prevention of dementia, promotion of health, and other aims. We named this effort the museum-welfare collaboration and made it one of the core aspects of our activities. Beginning with the reminiscence school where senior citizens discuss their recollections, participants maintain their health by continuing activities as members of the IKIIKITAI graduates’ association while also pursuing intergenerational exchanges with children. In the museum, the IKIIKITAI members hold opportunities to play a role as museum educators in an intergenerational exchange workshop style.

Three generations of visitors chatting and laughing. Families visit together


Our scope has expanded tremendously, first from avoiding the need for nursing care and preventing dementia, then to promoting good health, and now further to lifelong learning. Linking different generations, the reminiscence method leads to the development of human bonds, while expansion of the related activities fosters ties within the community, broadening networks and resulting in greater manifestation of local residents' potential abilities (empowerment). Such is the regional reminiscence method of Kitanagoya City as it aims to cultivate a healthy and comfortable city.

The Showa Era Lifestyle Museum operates on a small scale, with a limited budget and the minimum number of people. In fact, it began with just one member and today operates with two. The museum’s materials have been acquired at zero cost, as the collection consists only of items donated by citizens. This enables the project to be run in a more compact fashion anywhere, while allowing various modifications in accordance with the scale of museums and their regional characteristics. Furthermore, the project can be incorporated into current workshops and other existing programs at each museum, as some museums already feature regional environments and materials that induce feelings of nostalgia. The project has thus rapidly spread and become a standard for promoting museum education in Japan. As the reminiscence method is further developing its role, we aim to continue its use in providing opportunities to deepen cross-cultural understanding and foster cultural diversity in our lives.

Paint analysis has confirmed the theory that originally the figureheads were painted lead white and were only painted in bright colours once displayed on shore. We chose an authentic, more subtle colour palette, using illustrations from a set of 1911 cigarette cards.


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