Yogyakarta is a place of history. As Java Island’s center of arts, culture and history, Yogyakarta regularly receives both local and international tourists for its many ancient structures, temples, and museums. Two of the most popular landmarks are Borobudur Temple and Prambanan Temple. Yogyakarta museums also attract a number of visitors since the museums effectively represent what Yogyakarta is all about. One of the more important museums is Museum Kekayon.
Museum Kekayon was built under special circumstances. Doctor Soedjono Prawirohadikusumo was famous in all of Yogyakarta for treating mentally challenged individuals. The doctor believes that one of the reasons why he is able to successfully reach out to his patients is the use of leather puppets. Puppetry is a traditional Javanese form of entertainment. He observed that his patients develop some kind of understanding and exhibit behavioral improvement after engaging with the puppets. Based on this observation, Prawirohadikusumo founded the museum on July 23, 1990 for the primary purpose of describing the history of puppets, as well as the entire history of Indonesia.
Some of the museum’s highlights are the following: the Borobudur lion statue that represents the advent of Hindu Buddhism in Indonesia during the first and 7th century. Borobudur is the largest Buddhist temple in Indonesia; a water tower that represents the Majapahit victory, which resulted in the successful unification of different Indonesian regions, including Malaysia and Thailand; the Kudus Tower that symbolize the arrival of Islam (today, Indonesia is more than 80% Muslim); and Pancuran Bidadari complex that represents the Dutch rule over Indonesia for 350 long years. The Dutch left when the Japanese came during World War II, and Indonesia finally gained its independence when the Japanese retreated after the world war.
There are also special sections that show prehistoric Java, the history of Austronesia, early developments in Indonesian trading and agriculture, and the coming of the Chinese. Yogyakarta is located in Central Java, and Java of course is the home of the Java Man, one of the earliest human fossils ever discovered.
Alongside this museum are equally interesting museums that are scattered all over the city. Many locals and foreign tourists agree that the most important museum is Museum Sonobudoyo, which features ancient artifacts and archeological relics. The most intriguing displays are the traditional leather puppets (wayang kulit), masks (topeng), and intricately designed batik clothing, just to name a few. The displays clearly represent the rich history and culture of the Indonesian people.
Another top museum, perhaps the second most frequently visited is Museum Kareta Kraton or the Sultan’s Carriage Museum. This museum focuses entirely on the extravagant carriages and chariots of Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono VII, which were used in warfare and personal travels. The expensive chariots were imported from Amsterdam and other regions in the Netherlands sometime between the beginning of the Sultan’s rule in 1877 until his death in 1921. A total of 23 different carriages are on display, the most attractive of which is the Kareta Garudo Yeksa, also known as the Golden Carriage for its tiny 18-carat golden statue of Garuda. The museum is located within the Sultan’s Palace (Kraton Jogja).
Other museums are the Museum Dirgantara or Aircraft Museum, Museum Affandi, Museum Sasana Wiratama and Benteng Vredeburg Museum. All are unique and notable in their own rights, but none of their displays can be compared with the puppets of Museum Kekayon. Kekayon is located on Raya Yogya Street and is open on Tuesdays through Sundays from 08:00 AM to 3:00 PM.