Urasoe City Museum of Art

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  • Established: 1990
  • Japanese: 浦添市美術館 (Urasoe shi bijitsukan)

The Urasoe City Museum of Art is an art museum in Urasoe, Okinawa, dedicated primarily to the display of Ryukyuan lacquerware. Though preceded by a number of institutions such as the Chinretsukan (exhibit hall) and GRI Museum established by the Occupation-era Okinawan civilian government, the Urasoe City Museum, which opened in 1990, is generally said to be the first dedicated "art museum" in Okinawa.


The museum got its start in a 1983 exhibit of some 180 pieces of Ryukyuan lacquerware organized by the city, aimed at combatting an image of Okinawa as an undeveloped place lacking in culture in which people could take pride. The exhibit was well-reviewed and successful, and afterwards Urasoe mayor Higa Noboru worked with lacquerware artist Maeda Kôin and others to convince other members of the city government to support a plan for the city to purchase these 180 or so pieces and to use them as the core of a new art museum. Though Maeda initially declined invitations to serve as assistant director of the new museum at that time, he later served as director for a period from 2005 to 2010.

The museum ultimately opened in 1990. Though the original plan named it the Urasoe City Handicrafts Art Museum (Urasoe shi kôgei bijutsukan), the "Crafts" (kôgei) was dropped from the museum's name around the time of its opening. Though lacquerware remains the predominant focus of the museum's permanent displays and special exhibits, in theory it is an art museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art more broadly.

Historian Asato Susumu credits the opening of the museum with playing a significant role in the revival and expansion of appreciation for & production of Ryukyu lacquerware.


  • Asato Susumu 安里進, Kinjô Satoko 金城聡子, et al, "Maeda Kôin shi o itamu" 「前田孝允氏を悼む」, Shurijô kenkyû 首里城研究 23 (March 2021), 95.