Muneyoshi Yanagi graduated from Tokyo University with a degree in philosophy.
After graduating the university Muneyoshi Yanagi joined the editorial staff of Shirakaba magazine, and wrote series of articles on philosophy and arts for it. Later was invited to Harvard University to lecture on Eastern fine arts. Returning home was appointed as a professor of Doshisha College.
In 1916, Yanagi made his first trip to Korea out of curiosity about Korean crafts. The trip led to the establishment of the Korean Folk Crafts Museum in 1924 and the coining of the term mingei by Yanagi, potters Hamada Shoji (1894-1978) and Kawai Kanjiro (1890-1966).
In 1926, the Folk Art Movement was formally declared by Yanagi Sōetsu. Yanagi rescued lowly pots used by commoners in the Edo and Meiji periods that were disappearing in rapidly urbanizing Japan. In 1936, the Japanese Folk Crafts Museum (Nihon Mingeikan) was established.