One of the many interesting places to visit on the bank of the Vistula River in Cracow is a museum that brings two distant cultures together. Fancy having a glimpse into Japan while in Poland? Visit the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology in Cracow.
The museum was opened by one of the most prominent Polish directors – Andrzej Wajda, and his wife Krystyna Zachwatowicz, in 1994, primarily as a part of the National Museum in Cracow. In 2007, the Manggha Museum became a separate entity, focused on promoting Japanese culture in Poland and preserving the examples of Far Eastern art in Polish collections. One of the first characters in the Polish cultural scene to be interested in Japan was Felix 'Manggha' Jasieński (seen above, portrayed by Jacek Malczewski in 1903). Part of the Cracovian bohemia, this art critic, patron and writer became immensely involved in researching and collecting examples of Far Eastern art. His nickname derived from the title of the collection of drawings by Hokusai and later became the name of the Cracovian museum. The nickname was transliterated from French in the 19th century – today we would know him as Manga. As it is commonly known, Japanese art, especially of print, had an immense influence on the Western culture of the 19th century and has contributed to the evolution of impressionism. The Polish art scene was no exception. Jasieński contributed to popularizing the eastern aesthetics but also actively supported local creators. In 1920, he donated his huge collection to the National Museum in Cracow, thanks to which we can publicly admire some real masterpieces.
On a daily basis, the Museum of Japanese Art and Technology hosts only temporary exhibitions, often merging them with the pieces from their own collection. The last time I visited, I had the chance to admire beautiful works of ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblock prints, as well as contemporary works created by artists inspired by the city of Tokyo. I encourage you to check their program, as the museum hosts various concerts, performances, and workshops throughout the year. Another interesting part of the museum is the architecture itself. The building was designed by this year's Pritzker Prize winner – Arata Isozaki, in collaboration with Krzysztof Ingarden and Jacek Ewý. The wavy structure of the building beautifully resonates with the Vistula River, and its terrace opens to a stunning view of the most popular hill in Cracow – Wawel.
The museum also has a café, specialized in oriental food and tea. There, you can enjoy a variety of meals inspired by Japan as well as an enormous number of teas. It's worth noticing that they are properly brewed (which doesn't happen often) and served in beautiful Japanese pottery. The café has its own terrace that overlooks the river.
Manggha is a center for a cultural exchange, where you can see examples of good art, enjoy a cup of real Japanese tea or even learn the language (one part of the Museum is a Japanese Language School). If you feel like experiencing Far Eastern Asia in Eastern Europe, this is a perfect place to be. The Manggha Museum in Cracow will bring you closer to Japan, while in Poland.
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