A new version of the Kaunastic map, first issued in May 2016, is now available! The Japanese edition is smaller and shorter as it concentrates on the story of Chiune Sugihara. The Japanese Consul-General who resided in Kaunas with his family saved the lives of a few thousand people in the wake of WW2 by issuing them transit visas.
All of the objects you will find in this map are connected to the Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara one way or another. The people of Kaunas have been and always will be thankful for his deeds that have been recognized worldwide by the Righteous Among The Nations award. We hope you will feel the emotional connection between Lithuania and Japan by following the Sugihara Route in Kaunas. Below are some tips on how to make it more pleasant.
Here’s the Sugihara route in English. Fancy a walk?
Vaižganto g. 30
The Japanese Consul-General Chiune Sugihara signed a few thousands life visas and therefore saved numerous lives of Jewish people in the wake of the Second World War. The consulate building is now a small yet very popular – not only with Japanese tourists – museum that was opened in 2000. It was refurbished with the help of Japanese government in 2008. The house is also home for Sugihara foundation ‘Diplomats For Life’.
Photos by Artūras Bulota.
S. Daukanto g. 21
The hotel and the restaurant, extremely popular back then, became home to Chiune Sugihara as the Japanese Consulate was closed in the wake of the war. The Consul continued to sign life visas for those escaping Holocaust while residing here. A memorial plate celebrating the humble resident of the hotel was installed on the facade late 2015; the event was joined by AURA dancers.
KAUNAS RAILWAY STATION
M. K. Čiurlionio g. 16
It’s important to notice that the building that is serving as a railway station and is bearing the memorial plate of Chiune Sugihara was actually built after WW2, as the old station was demolished during the war. Nevertheless, it is the exact place from which Chiune Sugihara left Lithuania as he was following the orders of Japanese Empire. He managed to sign the last few dozens of life visas and save lives of those running from Holocaust while physically boarding the train.
Gedimino g. 44
The Sugihara Auditorium in Vytautas Magnus University Faculty of Political Science and Diplomacy was officially opened in 2008. This is the hall where Japanese guests read their lectures or seminars related to Asian studies are held. Of course, next to the Sugihara auditorium, there is one named after the Dutch diplomat Jan Zwartendijk who worked together with Chiune Sugihara to save thousands of lives of those escaping the Holocaust.
KAUNAS PICTURE GALLERY
K. Donelaičio g. 16
Jurgis Mačiūnas, the founder of FLUXUS movement, was born in Kaunas. Not far away from his childhood house, in the Kaunas Picture Gallery, you can explore a dark, minimal and pretty intense installation called 'The Black Hole’ by his Japanese colleague Ay-O. The gallery is also home to 'Mano Mano Theatre', an installation by another Japanese artist Takako Sato, and, hidden between numerous Lithuanian and Asian art treasures, the FLUXUS cabinet itself is worth a separate visit.
Laisvės al. 54
Built right before the Soviet Occupation, this is one of the oldest remaining cinemas in Lithuania, standing strong against the pop culture with a repertoire full of art-house cinema and classical movies. As it’s almost 500 seats big, it sometimes serves as an event hall for concerts or cosplay shows. The cinema had the honor to host the world premiere of Persona Non Grata, a film about Chiune Sugihara by Cellin Gluck, in October of 2015.
The enormous island popular with joggers and dog walkers used to be called Carmelites island and even functioned as a winter port before 1970s. It is now home to the multifunctional Žalgiris arena and will soon witness the building of a science center. The small yet mesmerizing sakura garden was planted here in 2003 as a symbol the important relationship between Lithuania and Japan.
V. Putvinskio g. 64
What started off as a tongue-in-cheek private collection is now world’s only devil museum. It boasts a collection larger than 3000 exhibits and the majority of them joined the museum long after the death of its establisher painter Antanas Žmuidzinavičius. A few Japanese devils are a part of the exhibition – they, same as devils from Cuba, Korea, Ukraine and other countries, have been sent to the museum by inspired guests.
M. K. ČIURLIONIS NATIONAL MUSEUM OF ART
V. Putvinskio g. 55
The museum will fully reopen after a massive renovation in the very end of 2016. The vast exhibition halls are home to the tremendous amount of work by Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, the world-class Lithuanian painter and composer of the early 20th century. You have probably heard his name and music as the latter was the soundtrack in the FLUXUS movie of Jonas Mekas popular in Japan in the 70s. When in the museum, you can listen to sounds of Čiurlionis in a designated hall or even attend a concert if you’re lucky.
Photos from archimap.lt
HISTORICAL PRESIDENTIAL PALACE
Vilniaus g. 33
Built in mid-19th century, it was first a residential house. Soon after Kaunas became the temporary capital (as Vilnius was occupied by Poland), the building became the Presidential Palace. It was the residence and office of our first Presidents. In the face of imminent Soviet occupation, the Last Meeting of the government of Lithuania took place here on the night from June 14 to 15 of 1940; in September the Japanese Consulate was closed together with numerous other institutions. The palace is now a fully functioning modern museum able to briefly yet effectively present you the history of Lithuanian independence; both in political and peoples levels.
AURA DANCE THEATRE
M. Daukšos g. 30
For more than 25 years AURA theatre has been among the most important hubs of contemporary dance in the region. Dancers of AURA have also been known to be involved in various interdisciplinary projects. Last year, they presented a dance dedicated to sakura bloom near the Sugihara House.
ALEKSOTAS OBSERVATION POINT AND FUNICULAR
Amerikos lietuvių g.
Right after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011, the students of Aleksotas Jurgis Dobkevicius Progymnasium started making gifts for kids in Japan. As a symbol of support, a pine tree was planted near the school and it has been growing with the warm support of the community ever since. The pine tree is located near the Aleksotas panorama, conveniently reachable by funicular, the vintage and very trendy means of transportation in Kaunas. Make sure to charge your camera...
Žemaičių pl. 73
The gloomy space north of Šilainiai district is part of the Kaunas Fortress that, according to Russian Empire, was meant to surround the city. The Fortress ring was never finished but most of the fortifications were used for various purposes. In the Ninth Fort, a prison and a way-station was established during the first Soviet occupation; the space was used as a place of execution for Jewish people and other prisoners during the Nazi occupation. It is now a Holocaust memorial and a museum. One of the halls is dedicated to the memory of Chiune Sugihara.
Photo from 9fortomuziejus.lt.
VMU CENTRE FOR ASIAN STUDIES
V. Putvinskio g. 23
The history of The Centre for Asian Studies (asc.vdu.lt), the oldest of its kind in Lithuania, dates back to 1993, when dr. Ryo Kojima became the first Japanese - and Asian - lecturer to teach at Vytautas Magnus University. The centre itself was established in 2000 and is the most important hub for Japan-related events (including academic research projects) in Kaunas.
VMU JAPANESE CLUB HASHI
V. Putvinskio g. 23
The beginning of Hashi dates back to 1998; up until 2016 the base of the Japanese club was in Sugihara house and it’s now relocated to the main building of Vytautas Magnus University. From Zen to ikebana, from manga to Japanese tea ceremonies – everything is interesting to the members of the club; and everyone else is invited to join them every Friday. For almost 20 years, it has been one of the most active institutions responsible for promoting Japanese culture in Lithuania.
‘JAUKŪS NAMAI’ LINEN MANUFACTURE
A. Juozapavičiaus pr. 21
Located in a former tank factory in the trending neighborhood of Šančiai (we recommend taking a bike trip there and stopping at the Šančių Kioskas info hub), the high quality and original design linen manufacture mainly focuses on Japanese market. Coincidentally the first name of the company was ‘Kimono’ and that was long before the first relations with Japan were established. You can even purchase linen goods with a Sugihara stamp here!