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A Closer Look at Tombodama Lampwork Glass Beads

Have you ever heard of lampwork glass beads (“tombodama”)?

These are a part of a form of glass art that’s been gaining attention from people from around the world in recent years.

Mr. Miyamoto, director at the Kobe Lampwork Glass Museum, where these lampwork glass beads and other glass works are displayed, spoke with Kobe Study Abroad to tell us a little more about this wonderful museum.

The Kobe Lampwork Glass Museum opened in 2005, ten years after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. Mr. Miyamoto, who was introduced to glass beads and glass crafts after the earthquake, opened the Kobe Lampwork Glass Museum with the hope of conveying his experience of the earthquake through glass crafts. Glass craft artists from across Japan and the world contributed some 400 pieces and messages of support for Kobe for the opening of the museum.

For Mr. Miyamoto, the best part of the Lampwork Glass Museum is that, “despite its small size, it manages to impart how wonderful the craft of lampwork glassmaking in a multifaceted way.”

Here, we’ll look at the museum’s appeal through these four modes: create, view, purchase, and learn.


At the museum, visitors can participate in lampwork glass bead-making workshops. Choose your favorite glass color and pattern, melt the glass stick into a round shape in the burner, and after letting it cool for about an hour your creation will be complete. During the activity, you’ll be carefully guided by the staff, so even beginners can participate.

I was able to try it out for myself, too! Making the glass round was a hard part for me, but it was a fun experience.

The lampwork glass bead-making workshop is also very popular with foreigners. The workshop has English language guidance, and even if you don’t speak Japanese, you can follow along, imitating what the staff are doing. It’s a good activity for international visitors who aren’t very confident in their Japanese ability.

There is extensive support for foreigners, including explanations in English.


In the exhibition space, you can see not only the tombo beads made with lampwork techniques, but glass artworks dating from ancient times to today.


You can also purchase glassworks at the museum or online. The collection ranges from one-of-a-kind works crafted by artists to affordable studio pieces such as necklaces, bracelets, and straps. The museum also ships overseas, making it a popular destination for international collectors. The most popular item is the museum’s glass pen.

When visiting the exhibition, you can listen to explanations of the exhibits in Japaneseor English by scanning a QR code on the audio guide with a smart phone or other device. Glass art has a long history, dating back to the 15th century B.C., about 3,500 years ago.

Mr. Miyamoto shared his recommendations for the Kobe Lampwork Glass Museum.

“Glass beads like these have been made in many parts of the world, from 3,500 years ago until the present day, for a variety of purposes. Here, we exhibit works that use the same glass to express the world of the artist, and their originality. We hope our visitors will fully appreciate the enormous potential of glass when they visit.”

We invite you to visit the Kobe Lampwork Glass Museum, too and experience these incredible glass artworks, including tonbodama glass beads, for yourself!