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A new way of experiencing Japan’s old city

by Norman Munroe

In a city that rightly boasts of its numerous monuments to its glorious and illustrious past, the Kaleidoscope Museum of Kyoto provides a counterpoint to the ancient capital’s architectural and religious treasures.

The museum, located on a quiet street in the city’s Nakagyo Ward, boasts a fascinating array of these instruments of light and color. And unlike other museums where you can only gawk at the exhibits, here, you are encouraged to peer into the instruments and enjoy the patterns the kaleidoscopes create.

Many may be surprised that there is little in the way of barriers to the forms kaleidoscopes can take, ranging from test tubes up to ones featured in music boxes, and ones shaped like garbage cans and even statues. One particularly colorful and exquisitely decorated kaleidoscope was shaped like a geisha.

For a city that quantifies its past in centuries, the museum, or Anekojikan in Japanese, is not even properly a baby, having been established only in 2004.

According to Ayaka Kawai, a member of the museum’s staff, the facility was established with one of its main aims being to offer therapy to troubled kids who are treated at Kyoto’s Municipal Education Counseling Center for Children, to which the museum, is attached. Since its second year of operation, it has, however, operated as a nonprofit organization.

Kawai believes that the instruments, termed mangekyo in Japanese, have therapeutic powers. The museum has been a hit, not just with the troubled children but with just about all who have come through its doors.

So, the next time you happen to be in Kyoto and you want to do something completely different, why not go appease your inner child in a world of light, color and fascination.

The kaleidoscope Museum of Kyoto opens Tues.-Sun, and National Holidays, from 10:00 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. A 3 min. walk from Karasuma-oike Station on the Karasuma and Tozai lines. www.k-kaleido.org/museum