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Model of lost architectural treasure returns to Japan after more than 100 years

Release date: Thursday, 5 February 2015

Meiji model of Taitokuin Mausoleum on display at the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition in London

Meiji model of Taitokuin Mausoleum on display at the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition in London © Illustrations Bureau

A spectacular 1:10 scale model of one of Tokyo's most important lost architectural treasures has returned to Japan after more than 100 years.  Part of the Royal Collection, the model represents the Taitokuin Mausoleum, built in 1632 as the memorial to Tokugawa Hidetada (1579–1632), the second Tokugawa Shogun (military leader). It was destroyed by the wartime bombing of Tokyo in 1945. 

Following painstaking restoration by Japanese craftsmen and women for the past twelve months, the model will go on long-term display at the Zojo-ji Temple in Tokyo, where the original building once stood.  It will form the centrepiece of an exhibition (open to the public from 2 April) to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of the founding Tokugawa Shogun. 

Commissioned by the City of Tokyo for the 1910 Japan-British Exhibition in London, the model was created by a team of the finest carpenters, lacquer artists and sculptors.  Measuring 3.6 metres wide, 5.4 metres long and 1.8 metres high, it replicates in intricate and colourful detail, both inside and out, the three interlocking buildings of the Taitokuin Mausoleum complex – the Main Hall (honden), Worship Hall (haiden), and Connecting Hall (ainoma) – even down to the thousands of miniature copper roof tiles, each the size of a thumb-nail.

The Japan-British Exhibition, which took place at White City, London, from 14 May to 29 October 1910, was the largest international exposition that Japan had participated in. The exhibition included demonstrations of Japanese crafts, music, sports and entertainments and was visited by more than eight million people, including Their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary. The model was subsequently presented to the King and for many years was on public display at Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew.

Jonathan Marsden, Director, Royal Collection Trust, said, 'The significance of this extraordinary model has greatly increased, owing to the loss of the original building and its site.  I am delighted that, thanks to this remarkable partnership between Royal Collection Trust and Zojo-ji, the model is being restored by the very best craftsmen so that the people of Tokyo can fully appreciate one of the great architectural glories of Edo.'