Global True Lithuania Encyclopedia of Lithuanian heritage worldwide


Lithuanian community in Japan is small and young (formally established in 2005). Therefore it used to be very surprising to see a Lithuanian-named institution right next to Akihabara (world capital of electronics). This was the Zemaitis museum (address: 11-5 Kajicho, 2-Chome, Chiyoda-ku, under a railway line), which unfortunately closed in 2012. "Žemaitis" means a "Samogitian" in the Lithuanian language (a person from Samogitia, one of the country's traditional regions). However, the museum is dedicated not to Samogitia but to Antanas Kazimieras Žemaitis (a.k.a. Tony Casimere Zemaitis 1935-2002), a very famous Lithuanian luthier. His pearl-incrusted expensive instruments have been played by such celebrities as The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Jimmy Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Paul McCarthney, Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, James Hatfield and Ronny Wood. Tony Zemaitis was born to a Lithuanian emigrant family in London but now the base of "Zemaitis Guitars" company he established has been curiously moved to Japan where most of his guitars are also sold (thus the museum in Tokyo).

Interestingly there is another Lithuania-related museum in northern Hokkaido dedicated to a Lithuanian who never live in Japan. That is Miri Hiroko Stasys Museum with some works by a Lithuanian painter Stasys Eidrigevičius and a local painter Mori Hiroko. It has been established on an initiative of director Hasegawa who met Eidrigevičius in his study in Poland back in 1978 and became mesmerized by his works. Address Yubinbango 047-0034, Otaru city.

Miri Hiroko Stasys museum in Otaru. Google Street View.

In Inami town (Toyama prefecture), a sculpture for Lithuanian Pagan fire goddess Gabija has been constructed in 1999 by sculptor Algimantas Sakalauskas. It has a Lithuanian inscription "Gabija, Fire goddess". It is located in a park next to the Inami Sculpture General Hall.

Gabija sculpture in Inami

Gabija sculpture in Inami. Photos by Algimantas Sakalauskas.

Another point of interest is "Little Lithuania" clothing store in Hiroshima. Marked by a tricolor it uniquely has nothing to do with local Lithuanians as it had been opened by a Japanese family fond of Lithuanian linen and culture.

Japan is among the ethnically purest countries and lacks immigrants. However, its entirely different yet modern civilization lured some Westerners (including Lithuanians) in, coupled with business opportunities. Business relations caused Lithuania to establish its embassy in Tokyo (3-7-18 Moto-Azabu, Minato-ku) but the diplomatic mission now hosts the events of Lithuanian community.

Click to learn more about Lithuania: Asia / Africa, Japan 3 Comments