Hakone Open Air Museum 箱根彫刻の森美術館
This unusual museum is experienced by way of a walk through a hundred sculptures in a natural setting.
Chokoku No Mori Museum
Japan is famous for its temples, shrines and pachinko parlors. Perhaps equally distinctive, but not as well known are the innovative spaces of its museums.
Hakone Open-Air Museum and the Hakone Glass Forest
The Hakone Open-Air Museum and the Hakone Glass Forest are two art institutions that go beyond the bounds of traditional gallery walls and exemplify a creative and dynamic approach to museum-going in Japan.
At The Hakone Open-Air Museum, the sky and mountains are awesome and ever-changing backdrops to approximately 120 sculptural works.
These include pieces by Rodin, Calder, Caro, Dubuffet, Miro, Miyawaki, Niki de Saint Phalle, Vangi, and Rosso; as well as one of the world's largest collections of Henry Moore; and sculptures by other artists from Japan and around the world. The Hakone Open-Air Museum opened in 1969 as the first open air museum in Japan.
After paying admission you take the escalator 'into' the museum, the visitor enters the outdoors and is greeted by whatever conditions the sky is exhibiting that day.
One of the first areas you arrive at is the "Round Plaza". It was a kind of Alice-in-Wonderland-like experience to see the playful, larger-than-life medama yaki (fried eggs, sunny side up), which lay low to the plaza while a big bronze bull will stop you in your tracks.
From here a stairway down a few steps into the earth, into a small dark space, opens up to a tiny window to the sky. The sculptures are not simply statues to look at from a distance, but rather they are objects to interact with and help visitors understand their connections to the landscape.
"Net of Woods"
The next works' you arrive at is meant for play. A series of colorful frames to walk through leads you to a small building which housed a play area for children, and then into the Net of Woods, an intricate and elaborate rainbow-colored world of nets designed by Canada-based artist Toshiko Horiuchi.
Children play in this colorful several-tiered hammock set up within a rustic wooden structure. While the children play, the adults can stroll past perfectly placed sculptures down to the Picasso Pavilion.
Inside the pavilion are works by Pablo Picasso including a huge full-wall tapestry, and beautiful works in silver. Amidst these and some drawings and paintings, the main focus of the collection is centered around an acquisition of 188 ceramic art pieces inherited by his daughter Maya.
The collection, like the rest of the museum, is filled with play and expression. A refreshing surprise to find this group of work by Picasso in the storybook town of Hakone.
Address, timetable & access
Hakone Open Air Museum
Phone+81 (0)4 6082 1161
Timetable9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
PriceAdults 1,600 yen
AccessFrom JR Odawara Station or Odakyu Hakone Yumoto Station, take the Hakone Tozan Line train to Chokoku-no-Mori Station. Then a two minute walk.
From JR Odawara Station or Odakyu Hakone Yumoto Station, take the Hakone Tozan bus or Izu-Hakone bus to Ninotaira Iriguchi Station. Then a five minute walk. Alternatively, take the Hakone Tour Bus to Chokoku-no-Mori Station. There are trains and buses to Hakone from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo.