The Shiseido Museum: 140 years of beautiful history

The best part of my Japan trip last week was the visit to the Shiseido Museum in Kakegawa. It wasn't the shopping or the sight-seeing around Tokyo - it was the museum housing 140 years worth of stories and innovations! Remember my post on the rich history of the oldest cosmetics brand in the world? I was so in awe of Shiseido when I wrote that, so imagine my delight in visiting the place where the brand's product archives, ad materials, and art work are stored!

The museum is about two hours away from Tokyo via the Shinkansen (bullet train), and four hours by car. It's surrounded by a quiet suburban neighborhood - the kind of place where Doraemon and Nobita would have lived. It was an offbeat location for a corporate museum but the curator explained why it was built there. The first in place was actually a factory. The location was chosen for convenience since it's between Tokyo and Osaka, making it easier for employees to commute to work

The factory utilized the most cutting-edge technology at that time so people visited it to satisfy their curiousity. It became so popular that Shiseido decided to build something that could accommodate visitors while displaying and storing their extensive archives. Hence, the Shiseido Museum was born.

Okay, enough talking and more sight-seeing. Are you ready for a virtual tour of this awesome museum? ^_^ Click click!

The first soda fountain of Shiseido. This was from 1902, when the brand started selling soda waters and ice cream. They were the first in Japan to sell these treats.

Toothpaste was one of Shiseido's first products, released in 1888

Old illustrations of the Ginza store

Shiseido was one of the first, if not the first in the world to sell colored powders. Before, women only had one choice for face powder - white - but Shiseido came up with shades that actually look like skin and even did some color correction. Imagine, this was in 1917!

Vintage Shiseido fragrances

Shiseido's first luxury line, simply called De Luxe, which was released in the 1930s. This was the point when Shiseido started to become known as a luxury brand. Trivia: these products were considered an extravagance during the war, so they were discontinued until the Japanese economy started to recover in the 1950s.

Close-up of the Arabesque design

Copies of the Shiseido Geppo, which was a cultural magazine for customers. The owners were avid photographers and art patrons, so this is where they showcased their valued work

The evolution of the iconic logo

You can also watch all Shiseido TV ads starting from the 1970s (if I remember correctly!) up to today

Going up to the second floor...

I LOVE vintage cosmetic ads. There were three whole walls of the stuff! It showed the first ads, which were only in print (no images), and how they evolved over time into elaborate works of art. You can see how important visual presentation is to the brand. 

More products from other brands under Shiseido

...but this is the real motherload. Shiseido has a fully-airconditioned archive filled with 60,000 products from the 1800s up to today! Everything is arranged by year! Shiseido items are all there, as well as its sub-brands like Maquillage, Benefiance, Majolica Majorca to name a few. 

The one and only existing bottle of the Eudermine, Shiseido's first cosmetic product released in 1897. The ones displayed downstairs are just replicas - this is the real deal.

Shiseido has a life-long commitment to support the arts, so they also have a gallery a couple of minutes' walk away from the museum. They periodically have new exhibits.

Stolen shot inside the gallery (before I found out that photos are not allowed, to be fair)

So there you go. :) I hope you enjoyed the tour! When you visit Japan, do visit the Shiseido Museum - it is worth the trip not just for cosmetic junkies, but for art and history enthusiasts as well. 

I loved this museum because it showed that Shiseido is the kind of company that respects tradition yet looks to the future with eyes and arms wide open. It takes product innovation and presentation seriously, and up to this day, it remains in the forefront of research and development in beauty. 

Shiseido will always be a brand close to my heart. They had me at museum.