The Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art in Haifa is the only Japanese museum in all of the Middle East. Founded by a Holocaust survivor who hid his collection of Japanese artifacts somewhere in Holland during the war, the museum has much to offer – a genuine glimpse at the historical culture of Japan. From the samurai swords that ruled Japan with razor-sharp precision to the carefully crafted fans that imbues much of Japan’s peaceful culture, the Tikotin museum is a home away from home for all things Japanese.
The Tikotin Museum
Perched on the crest of Haifa’s Mount Carmel, on the street above the main entrance of the Bahai Gardens, the Tikotin museum is easily accessible from some of the city’s hotels, and within walking distances from some of the other attractions of Haifa such as the Haifa Zoo and the Louis Promenade. For those using public transportation, the Carmelit underground train makes its last, and uppermost, stop just minutes from the museum. The Tikotin Museum also features a library of Japanese texts, free and only open once a week – best to call the museum beforehand to check the times and availability.
The Tikotin museum’s history is fascinating itself, from the fledgling start by a Holocaust survivor to the involvement of Haifa’s city council and eventually, emissaries from Japan itself. The museum is a true success story of preserving culture for others to see, a dream of Felix Tikotin – the founder. Born in Holland in 1893, Felix became an architect in his adult years. In his spare time he amassed a quite large and valuable collection of Japanese art and artifacts. His collection was often featured in museums, showcasing rare and remarkable works-of-art from the small Pacific island of Japan. At the onset of World War II it all changed. Felix was forced to flee his home and with no alternatives, hid his priceless collection somewhere in Holland. After the war he returned and recovered his hoard of Japanese valuables and decided that it should be showcased in Israel. He met with Haifa’s mayor, Abba Khoushy, and, with considerable help, began his plans for the museum’s establishment in Haifa. Felix then took to the road and, traveling from country to country, established a group of supporters and advisers for his museum. His committee included prestigious Japanese museum directors, academics and spiritualists such as Mr. Nagatake Asano, Professor Chisaburoh Yamada and Victor M. A. Suzuki, respectively.
In 1959, Felix purchased and built up the museum where it is today, a unique building incorporating Japanese architecture, including the iconic shōji screen inner doors and walls – translucent paper over a frame of wood. Benefactors began to contribute and through years of additions, renovations and ceremonial events, the museum now holds an impressive collection of 7,000 pieces, from swords to fans to ceramics to paintings and much, much more. Felix’s dream of a center for studying the Japanese culture and fine arts was more than just fulfilled. Today his daughter remains the executive director, continuing in her father’s ways as an upholder of the Japanese culture. As the Tikotin Museum is the ONLY Japanese museum in the entire Middle East, she has a lot to be proud of.
By: Shem Tov Sasson. A Contributing Journalist for Tourist Israel, Shem Tov lives in the small Israeli city of Ma’alot. His personal blog about his experiences and adventures in the Holy Land can be found at Israel’s Good Name.