It all started with an exhibition. At the time, the world was a seething mass of industrialization, colonization and globalization. Japan had newly been forced at cannon-point to open up its borders for trade, the British Empire covered vast swaths of the world, and the U.S. and European powers were rapidly following suit.

It is against this backdrop that we can trace the origins of the Tokyo National Museum, which is now marking its 150th year.

The trend of the "world’s fair" began in London, with the Crystal Palace Exhibition — officially the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations — held in London in 1851. Big names of the day in attendance included Charlotte Bronte, Karl Marx and Charles Darwin. Schweppes sponsored the event. Japan was not present; it was two years before the Black Ships of Commodore Matthew Perry would arrive there.