The Hakone Open-Air Museum

14 Jul

My trip to Japan at the end of May was completely by the seat of my pants.  I had no travel material and did no research prior to landing at Tokyo’s Narita airport.

Why?

My best friend was there for work and I knew that whatever we did was secondary to having the opportunity to spend a few days together.  Of course, we had a wonderful time and the first full day I spent in Japan we decided to go to Hakone, a city outside of Tokyo to see if we would be lucky enough to view Mt. Fuji.

According to our internet research the night before, there were museums and mountain views, fresh air, boat rides and all kinds of good things to see.  It seemed like the perfect antidote to Shanghai’s traffic and pollution.  We were off.

We hopped a train and after sitting in the very front car, landed at the Hakone railway station about an hour later.  We took a type of gondola/sky train to the top of the mountain and decided to work our way down.  After a quick lunch of ramen at a small restaurant our first stop was the Hakone Open-Air Museum.

It was more than I could have hoped for.  The weather was perfect, not hot and not cold – the blue skies contrasted with the green of the forested mountains and the sculptures appeared as if they had been placed by a helicopter – such that each was in a spot that was enhanced by the natural beauty surrounding it.

Tumbling through the sky

Tumbling through the sky

And why is the face crying?

And why is the face crying?

We wandered up and down the mountain viewing each piece.  Some were surreal, others more classical.

The muses - protecting and inspiring thought

The muses – protecting and inspiring thought

Another muse

Another muse

A classic beauty - is she doing yoga?

A classic beauty – is she doing yoga?

Sculpture can be multidimensional.  Do you see me?

Sculpture can be multidimensional. Do you see me?

We saw installations intended for children to crawl through, which tempted me, but I thought I may get stuck inside the glass pyramid.

Who says children don't appreciate art?  This one seemed like a tribute to the IM Pei entrance to the Louvre in Paris.

Who says children don’t appreciate art? This one seemed like a tribute to the IM Pei entrance to the Louvre in Paris.

Ready, set, crawl!

Ready, set, crawl!

There was also a Picasso exhibition space where they focused on his later work.  Seeing Picasso half a world away from Spain/France was surreal, but obviously many people had come just to focus on him because that part of the museum was most crowded.

IMG_20130523_140644

Picasso-esque sculpture

Picasso-esque sculpture

After walking for more than an hour we soaked our feet in the hot spring that ran through the corner of the property.  Hakone also has many onsen (hot springs) perched in the mountains so while we didn’t spend the night, we did get to sample a touch of the specialty.

The last exhibit we entered was my favorite.  It was called “Symphonic Sculpture” by Gabriel Loire.  It was a tall tube which was completely covered in stained glass.  However, you viewed it from within and could also then climb to the top – surrounded by the colors and images from the walls.  Within the panels were classic symbols and new things like cars and airplanes that shouldn’t be in such a traditional medium, but they fit and they made me smile.

Viewing "Symphonic Sculpture" from the inside

Viewing “Symphonic Sculpture” from the inside

The staircase allowed you to view each part individually

The staircase allowed you to view each part individually

What modern images do you see?

What modern images do you see?

Any surprises?

Any surprises?

IMG_20130523_143151

I would highly recommend visiting this museum if you are in the Tokyo area with space for a day trip, even though Mt. Fuji remained elusive, it was worth it.  The museum was unexpected and alive and if we had a specific travel plan, we probably would have missed it.

Sometimes it is the things that you accidentally wander into that are the most memorable.  Please share any “unexpected” travel memories that you’ve had.

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6 Responses to “The Hakone Open-Air Museum”

  1. thirdeyemom July 14, 2013 at 9:49 am #

    This looks beautiful!

    • gkm2011 July 14, 2013 at 10:08 am #

      It was – some elements felt very western, like you would see in a museum in Europe, but other elements were very Japanese. I really enjoyed it.

  2. ladyofthecakes July 14, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    Pretty pictures 🙂 Love the stained glass thing.

    • gkm2011 July 14, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

      Thanks, it was pretty incredible!

  3. expatlingo July 18, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    I love the “Symphonic Sculpture”!

    • gkm2011 July 18, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

      Me too, really a strong piece. Stained glass brought into the future.

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