The Hakone Open-Air Museum
The Hakone Open-Air Museum, established in 1969, is Japan’s first outdoor art museum. The museum displays large-scale works amid the great nature of Hakone, and visitors can interact with these works while strolling the grounds.
The grounds of the museum encompass 70,000 m2 and feature around 120 works by modern artists on permanent display.
Many of the works set between the beautifully tended lawns and the green trees are of such size that visitors must look up to view them. These impressive sculptures stand under the vast and unobstructed sky. It is also popular for visitors to take photos together with the sculptures while holding identical poses.
Without any fences, many of the works can be viewed up close. It is strictly forbidden to touch the art (although the Hakone Honbako staff themselves were mistaken about this before our visit). The prohibition is in place because human touch—even a fingertip—can result in deterioration of the works. In order to protect the works which are continuously exposed to the sun, wind, and rain, diligent maintenance is performed daily.
You might notice museum staff wiping down each of the large pieces if you visit after it has rained. If that is the case, please appreciate the art while respecting those staff and the works.
Incidentally, this winter for the first time the museum will be experimenting with holding a “Hakone Night Museum” event. At this event visitors will be able to walk through spaces illuminated by the hand of light artist Takahashi Kyota while carrying special lanterns that change color with each area. This event runs only from December 1, 2017 – January 8, 2018. You won’t want to miss it!
Enjoy indoor art for rainy days
The museum also offers five indoor exhibition spaces, the most popular of which is the Picasso Pavilion. In addition to ceramic works purchased from Picasso’s eldest daughter, Maya Picasso, the museum’s collection currently holds 319 items which are exhibited in turn, such as oil paintings, sketches, block prints, sculptures, gold objet d’art, and so on. To have so many of Picasso’s works collected in a single museum is quite rare for this world. With photos of Picasso’s studio also on display, visitors can experience Picasso’s world in a variety of ways.
Additionally, recently the “Symphonic Sculpture” has been receiving attention as a “Best on Instagram!” spot. The Symphonic Sculpture is a work of the French artist Gabriel Loire. It is a tower 18 meters in height with an interior diameter of 8 meters, and the surface of its walls is entirely made of stained glass. It is a masterpiece of beauty! A spiral staircase ascends the center of the tower, and visitors can climb to an observation platform up above.
Besides the exhibits, the museum also has two restaurants and a cafe where guests can enjoy either a buffet or a light meal. Also, next to the cafe there is a Foot Bath Corner that makes use of the natural hot springs bubbling up from the museum’s grounds. Visitors are freely welcome to enjoy this foot bath as well. Inside, visitors with children will discover the “Curved Space-Diamond Structure” and “Woods of Net” hands-on artwork (for children elementary school age and under).
While it is possible to go around the grounds in about an hour if you walk briskly, we recommend enjoying a relaxed ramble among the artwork and indulging in some ‘forest bathing’ nature therapy at the same time.
Address: 1121 Ninotaira, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa Prefecture
Open: 9:00 – 17:00 (last entry 30 minutes before closing)
Access: From Hakone-Yumoto Station, take the Hakone Tozan Railway and get off at Chokoku-no-Mori Station. The museum is a short walk from the station.
10-minute drive from Hakone Honbako.
Parking: ¥500 for up to 5 hours for museum visitors. For those visiting only the restaurants or shops, ¥500 per hour.
Official homepage: http://www.hakone-oam.or.jp