Katsushika Hokusai is arguably the most famous ukiyo-e painter in Japan. His most famous work is the Wave of Kanagawa. Although he never actually visited Tsuwano, there is a museum here dedicated to his art. After the discovery of Hokusai's manga in Tsuwano, the museum was established by a Hokusai researcher.
The most famous work housed here is one of Mount Fuji, but the museum owns over 1000 of his works. The art cannot all be displayed at once, so they are rotated. The museum is a rather small two-story museum, but fans of Hokusai and ukiyoe should definitely stop if you are in Tsuwano.
Entrance is 500 yen.
Taikodani Inari Shrine was first built in 1773 as a shrine to protect nearby Tsuwano Castle. The shrine is known for the 300 torii gates that lead to it. The torii gates are smaller than those found at Fushimi Inari in Kyoto and the area is more open, but the feeling is similar.
Taikodani Inari Shrine is designated as one of the Five Great Inari Shrines of Japan. The list is highly contentious, so it is difficult to name the other four, but Taikodani Inari seems non-contentious.
The shrine ground are free.
Tsuwano Catholic Church was built by Father Villion after his arrival in Tsuwano in 1892. This is interesting because the last martyrdom of Catholics that took place here was in 1871, so in just 21 years the town changed from a place of persecution to having its own Catholic church. The church is very simple inside and there are no pews. Instead, there are tatami mats. The current church dates back to 1932 after the original burned down in 1931.
Within the church grounds is a small museum about Catholicism in Tsuwano and the torture and killing of Christians that took place in Otome Pass. They also have Bibles in various languages, including Ainu.
Although it is a popular tourist destination in the town, it remains an active church to this day. It's a true testament to the resilience of the faithful.
The Mori Ogai Memorial Museum is dedicated to the Tsuwano native, Mori Ogai. Ogai was born to a family of doctors and so he, too, studied medicine and eventually became the Surgeon General of the Army in the Japanese Army Medical Corps serving during the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese Wars. He is perhaps best known though for his writings. He enjoyed writing novels as well as poetry. The museum has some of his belongings and a lot of his writings. Outside the museum stands his actual former residence.
Entrance is 600 yen.
Nishi Amane was a philosopher who is said to have brought the words "philosophy", "subjectivity", and "reason" to Japan. He had a great interest in Western philosophy and introduced various concepts to Japan. He lived here for 21 years. The house is quite small. You can view it for free from the outside.
The Hanko Yorokan is a historic building that dates back to around the end of the Edo Period (mid-19th century). It was the university of the Tsuwano Clan. They taught the important subjects of the time, such as Confucianism, mathematics, military and medical science, etiquette, and martial arts among other things. Mori Ogai is one of the famous graduates of the school.
Today, the building has been preserved and turned into a small museum. The museum contains historical artifacts such as old currency, samurai armor, and household tools. They are all from the area although I don't believe they necessarily have a connection to the former school.
Entrance is 250 yen.
Kuwabara Shisei is a professional photographer born here in Tsuwano. He gained fame with his photographs of the affects of Minamata disease in Minamata. At the time, science had not studied or been aware of the affects of dumping chemicals (in this case mercury) into the sea on the food chain, particularly how it could lead back to people. When the entire town began developing strange symptoms and studies were being conducted on the citizens, Shisei was there to document it through photography.
Although he is known most for those works, he has had a rich life of photographic moments. He was in Vietnam during the Tet Offensive, in Russia in 1991 as the Soviet Union was collapsing, and spent a lot of time in Korea after the Korean War as the nation was still in turmoil. Exhibits of his photography from these events are on display at the museum. During my visit, the exhibits were from his Russia series. His photography was very interesting. It made me want to see his other photos.
The museum is located to the right of Tsuwano Station. Entrance is 300 yen.
Overlooking Tsuwano is an Inari Shrine, (the ones with all the red torii). It is neatly tucked away on a hill below the castle ruins and has an excellent atmosphere. Make sure you walk through the torii to the shrine and not up the other road by car.
Tsuwano is famous for its colourful koi. They can be found in the river under and around the bridge as well as in the waters running along some buildings next to the streets.