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History and Overview

Welcome Message

The Nakano House Memorial Foundation is a public interest incorporated foundation established with the donation of a residence, garden, and art pieces built and collected by two generations of the Nakano family, Kan'ichi and Chūtarō. The foundation was officially recognized in 1997, and subsequently in April 2013, it was authorized as a public interest incorporated foundation. The residence, constructed by local master carpenters, represents a quintessential example of wooden architecture from the Meiji period in Niigata Prefecture. The garden, centered around maple trees and featuring renowned trees and stones from across the country, was crafted over a period of 40 years. The intention was to allow the trees to grow naturally, enabling visitors to enjoy the beauty of the changing seasons without excessive human intervention.

The residence and garden both served charitable purposes, providing employment opportunities for local residents as a countermeasure against unemployment at the time, which resulted in the projects’ extensive and prolonged nature. Over time, they have become valuable cultural properties for future generations.

The museum's uniqueness lies not only in its exhibition of outstanding art pieces but also in its presentation of the residence and garden as art pieces themselves, inviting visitors to appreciate the entirety of the space. We hope that you will take a moment to forget the passage of time, immerse yourself in the beauty of bygone days, and enjoy the various forms of beauty that await you here.

Nakano House Memorial Foundation

About the Nakano Family

Kan'ichi Nakano
Kan'ichi Nakano
(Around 80 years old)

Born in 1846, died at the age of 83 in 1928

He spent 29 years discovering commercial-scale oil fields. He introduced machine drilling from the United States, earning him the title "Oil King of Japan."

Chūtarō Nakano
Chūtarō Nakano
(Around 75 years old)

Born in 1862, died at the age of 78 in 1939

He was born as the eldest son of Kan'ichi when he was 16. A prominent collector of his time, his collection included 12 national treasures and 30 important art objects.


Purpose of the Establishment of the Nakano House Memorial Foundation

Oil is an indispensable source of energy and a vital part of modern society. Although Japan relies heavily on imports for its oil needs, the country has a long history of oil production, dating back over 1,300 years as mentioned in the "Nihon Shoki" (Chronicles of Japan). The city of Nitsu in Niigata Prefecture, where the Nakano House is located, has a particularly ancient and well-documented history of oil production, making it internationally recognized as one of the birthplaces of oil.

In particular, the Kanazu area of Nitsu experienced unparalleled prosperity during the early Meiji period with numerous oil wells in operation. Among them, the Nakano family, who had been landlords and village headmen since the mid-Edo period, achieved significant success in commercial oil field development under Kan'ichi Nakano's leadership. After overcoming numerous challenges, he struck oil in 1903, transforming his business into a major oil producer and earning the title "Oil King of Japan" during the Meiji and Taisho periods.

The residence and garden built by Kan'ichi Nakano, the "Oil King of Japan", during the peak of his success from 1900 to 1903, along with a vast collection of art pieces from the Edo period onward owned by the Nakano family, were donated to establish the Nakano Residence Memorial Hall. The goal of the foundation is to preserve and publicize these valuable cultural assets related to oil, architecture, gardens, and art for future generations, contributing to the cultural advancement and development of Nitsu City and Niigata Prefecture.

(Note) Nitsu City mentioned in the text is now part of Akiha Ward, Niigata City. Niigata City became a government-designated city in April 2007, transitioning to a ward system.