Dive Into The Long History Of Man And The Sea At The Toba Sea - Folk Museum

Dive into the long history of man and the sea at the Toba Sea-Folk MuseumA 20-minute drive from central Toba, along the scenic "Pearl Road” that snakes alongside the deeply indented coastline of the Shima Peninsula, will take you to Uramura.
Known for its delicious oysters, it is a special place, even when compared to Toba, a city blessed with abundant fresh seafood. Here, tucked deep inside a forest, the striking pitch-black building of the Toba Sea-Folk Museum will catch you by surprise.

Dedicated to the theme of understanding the relationship between man and sea, the unique museum might come across as too serious for tourists looking forward to spending a lazy day at the beach followed by a good meal. But for anyone interested in the rich maritime culture of the Ise Peninsula and its long history with the ocean, the Toba Sea-Folk Museum is not to be missed.

Step inside the coal-tar painted building, and get ready to be surprised once again. Numerous strong wooden beams run across the high ceiling, creating a massive structure. No vertical columns are visible, so nothing obstructs the view of the huge hollow space. While it looks like it was modeled on a ship, the architect Hiroshi Naito actually designed the building with a whale’s belly in mind, according to a museum official.

When the Toba Sea-Folk Museum was built in 1992, it was awarded the Japan Inter-Design Forum Prize and received prizes from the Architectural Institute of Japan and the (then) Ministry of Education. The building is highly acclaimed as one of the wooden structures that best represents Japan. Many visitors make the trek to Toba just to see the building.

But the striking building also houses a rich array of displays. The museum policy is “data comes before everything,” and it appears it takes its reference material seriously. At the moment, the museum houses a collection of 59,000 actual items, of which 6,879 items have been designated important tangible folk cultural properties by the Japanese government.

The exhibition’s main focus is a reconstructed tuna fishing boat with themed displays of various fishing gear, different methods of fishery, and marine products. Especially notable is the volume of material on display under the themes “Boats” and “Ama Divers.” There is plenty of material collected from here in Japan as well as items from abroad. Visitors can also see small fishing boats from all over the world on display in a special storage room.

Toba Sea-Folk Museum
1731-68 Daikichi, Uramura-cho, Toba, Mie Prefecture
Phone: +81-(0)599-32-6006
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Open daily
Admission: 800 yen
Access: 20 minutes by car or by bus from JR Toba Station