HAKONE SCULPTURE PARADISE

PUT ON YOUR WALKING SHOES! And come with me to an amazing museum in Japan where you can get plenty of exercise while being infused with a sense of great art in a spectacular nature setting!

Japan, you see, is not all about sushi and kimonos! It’s a country where you can expect the unexpected! And that’s what I love about it.

The Hakone Open-Air Museum is just under 100 kilometres from Tokyo, and fairly easy to reach. However, I’m not sure the Japanese got it quite right by calling it a Museum. It is actually an open air Arts gallery set in an expansive parkland. A stunning showcase of around 120 masterpieces by famous modern and contemporary sculptors – both Japanese and International. The park covers 70,000 square metres of splendid gardens. Could it get better than that? It can, as the nearby Hakone mountains provide a beautiful backdrop.

The Hakone Open-Air Museum opened back in 1969 as Japan’s first outdoor museum, and the sculptures you see there today are amongst around 2,000 works of art in its collection. There are several traditional enclosed galleries, including a recently completed Picasso Pavilion with displays from the Museum’s collection of 300 Picasso paintings, sculptures and ceramics. I never expected to see a major Picasso permanent exhibition in Japan! Nor did I expect to be gazing at work by the French sculptor Rodin here! The Museum also has one of the world’s largest collections of work by the Master English sculptor Henry Moore.

My selfie! Can you see us?

For me, the most interesting exhibits were the sculptures outside. This is where your walking shoes come in! There’s a lot to see. Ensure you allow plenty of time to get the best from your visit. Probably no less than three hours.

I accessed the Museum via the Hakone Tozan Railway while staying in the Hakone region. It’s an easy walk from the railway stations at both Chokoku-no-Mori and Gora. I was a little confused by that, but found that both are close, though Chokoko-no-Mori is the nearest with the Museum only a few minutes walk away.

From Tokyo, you can go by JR (Japan Railways) to Odawara Railway Station and link up to the Tozan railway via the Odakyu Line. Or take buses from Odawara Station. Other access options are detailed on the Museum website.

As I was spending several days in the area, I bought an ‘HAKONE FREE PASS’ at Odawara Station which gave me a discount on the entry fee of around $A19 for an adult (1,600 yen). The pass also gave me free travel on the Tozan railway line, local buses and other transport attractions (more on that in another article I have yet to write!).

The Museum is close to railway stations

I hope you don’t baulk at the Museum’s admission price because I think it’s well worth it! If you don’t have a Hakone Pass, there are online entry discounts available on the Museum website.

Some exhibits are interactive, like the one above called the Woods of Net. The Museum wanted a ‘part-sculpture, part-artwork, part-play space’ for children. It’s been put together with nearly 600 wooden logs , and inside are brightly coloured woven nets for children to play with. As I had no children with me, I didn’t go in. But the big child in me did want a peak. I should have! Next time!

Others you can take a rest on – like the fried egg sculpture below!

Rising high in the park is the towering ‘Symphonic Sculpture’. Museum blurb told me it’s “18 meters tall and 8 meters in inner diameter and features stained glass formed from 2 to 3-cm thick glass fragments that were broken with a mallet.” The outside light coming through these fragments creates a wonderful world of colour. If you are able, climb up the spiral staircase and out onto the balcony for a great view over the Hakone Open-Air Museum and the Hakone mountains. Sorry, there is no elevator!

If your feet become weary, there is a foot bath fed by a natural hot spring close by! As you can see by the photo below, it was well used on the day I was there! Don’t forget to take a hat if it’s a sunny day.

I accessed the Museum via the Hakone Tozan Railway while staying in the Hakone region. It’s an easy walk from the railway stations at both Chokoku-no-Mori and Gora. I was a little confused by that, but found that both are close, though Chokoko-no-Mori is the nearest with the Museum only a few minutes walk away.

From Tokyo, you can go by JR (Japan Railways) to Odawara Railway Station and link up to the Tozan railway via the Odakyu Line. Or take buses from Odawara Station. Other access options are detailed on the Museum website.

As I was spending several days in the area, I bought an ‘HAKONE FREE PASS’ at Odawara Station which gave me a discount on the entry fee of around $A19 for an adult (1,600 yen). The pass also gave me free travel on the Tozan railway line, local buses and other transport attractions (more on that in another article I have yet to write!).

The Museum is open throughout the year from 9am to 4.30pm. It has three dining cafes/restaurants. l didn’t try them, preferring to find somewhere for a meal outside of the Museum. But I could not resist the Museum shop – they call it a shopping mall and it’s packed with interesting things to buy – many with an eye to innovative design. Some items you cannot buy elsewhere.

There is a sister museum in Nagano prefecture near Matsumoto – the  Utsukushi-ga-Hara Open-Air Museum. I haven’t visited this one yet – it’s on my bucket list post Covid.

It’s been set out on a 2,000 metre high plateau which give great views of the surrounding snow capped Japanese Alps. Buses to the Museum run from the Matsumoto bus station, which is just across from Matsumoto Railway Station. You will need to check their website for opening times. Currently (2021) it says open from July to November, but this may be Covid times as other sites say it opens from early April. I was there in May 2019.

https://www.utsukushi-oam.jp/mp/english

The Hakone Outdoor Museum website is at

https://www.hakone-oam.or.jp/en/

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