On Monday we shared on Facebook and Twitter about an exhibit at The Museum of East Asian Art in Bath. As I have the week off from work for half term, I decided to visit myself, which I did yesterday (Wednesday 27th October.)
Now for once I’m not sure what to actually say because…. there wasn’t really that much to see. The exhibit itself was just one room, and the photo below shows maybe 40% of it.
What they do have was interesting to look at, with my favourite thing being a letter from Sarah Mayer to Gunji Koizumi during her visit to Japan. It was interesting to read because it shows how she felt about Judo, her own doubts at her ability and her perspectives on the Japanese way of life.
But I can’t escape from from the simple fact that there just wasn’t a lot to see in the museum as a whole. I don’t want to disparage the museum. It’s clean and well presented, but I spent probably a total of 40 minutes at the museum, 20 minutes in the exhibit and the other 20 looking around the rest of the museum. And I saw everything.
What might be the most disappointing thing is finding out later on how much is in the larger collection. According to the University of Bath archives, the Richard Bowen Collection has over 2000 items in it! To quote the Museum of East Asian Art website:
“This exhibition features material from the most significant judo archival collection in the UK, which is now housed at the University of Bath. The collection was assembled by Richard Bowen (1926-2005), who represented Great Britain at the first World Judo Championships in Japan. The valuable photographs, rare books, old posters and other important documents illustrate the history of judo in the UK as well as provide fascinating insights into Anglo-Japanese relations, the role of gender in sport and the popularity of judo around the world.”
Unfortunately it appears that aside from what is on show at the Museum of East Asian Art, the rest of the collection is in the University of Bath archives and not available to the public. Which is a shame, because it looks like quite a lot more could have been shown diving more into the history of Judo in the UK.
In conclusion? I would say if you’re in the area (the Royal Crescent is nearby) and have an hour to kill, go for it. Otherwise, don’t go to Bath exclusively for this exhibit. To be honest, after I left the museum I spent the rest of the day just walking around the city of Bath being a tourist, and had a better time for it.