Israel's museums are known for showcasing its art and history through the years, but few know that one of the country's most popular museums celebrates the culture of Japan.
Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art in northern Israel is located on the crest of Mount Carmel that overlooks the entire city of Haifa and it's the country's only museum dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of Japanese art.
The museum has recently celebrated its 60th anniversary, in honor of which it launched two unique exhibitions, showcasing the institution's rich history. With museums in Israel finally reopening after months of coronavirus lockdown, Israelis finally have a chance to visit Tikotin as it celebrates its birthday.
The first exhibition offers a look into museum's remarkable treasures collected over the years, which include among other things Netsuke statues (invented in 17th-century Japan to serve practical functions such as wallets), lacquerware, authentic Japanese swords, scroll paintings and folding curtains from the 19th-17th centuries.
The second exhibition displays 60 contemporary print works by 60 biggest Japanese artists, who contributed their works to the museum through the Yoseido Gallery in Tokyo.
The new exhibits are called "Kanreki" - a Japanese phrase signifying a new beginning or rebirth when a person turns 60.
The museum attracts some 70,000 visitors a year and offers educational activities related to Japanese culture that include, among other things, study of the Japanese language, calligraphy, ikebana, origami, traditional cooking and even tea-making ceremonies.
Visitors who were lucky enough to be invited for a sneak peak of the exhibits also had the chance to participate in the traditional calligraphy workshop, where you could learn to draw Japanese symbols that would then get framed and signed with your name as a unique gift.
The guests also attended the Japanese tea ceremony, showcased by one of Japan's artists, involving the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha, powdered green tea, the art of which is called temae.
In addition, this year the museum offers visitors an opportunity to see where the works are being stored, with those in charge of keeping it safe explaining the detailed process of maintaining the works that are thousands of years old.
"We strive to further expand the window of Japanese culture and art with new and fascinating contemporary exhibitions, expanding the museum and the variety of activities we offer," said Haifa Museums General Director Yotam Yakir. "I believe the number of visitors will continue to grow with the interest and resonance it invokes among all audiences: from children and youth, to professors and experts in Japanese culture."
The museum was established in 1960 on the initiative of Felix Tikotin, an internationally renowned Jewish collector and dealer in Japanese art, who after World War II decided that his unique collection should be taken to Israel. In 1956 he donated the collection to one of Israel's museums, but during a visit to Haifa he met Mayor Abba Hushi, and decided the collection should remain in the northern city.