Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Hakone – Japan’s Amazing Open Air Museum


Close to both Tokyo and Mount Fuji the small town of Hakone holds something of a revelation.  However, unless you are from Japan, you may well not have heard of it.  The town plays host to a large open air museum where the works of many famous artists are held - outdoors.  It is an attempt (and a successful one) to balance art and nature in harmony.  The artworks, combined with the beautiful views of the surrounding mountains give the visitor an unforgettable experience.

There are surprises around every corner at this unique museum, sights which will provoke thought and sometimes even laughter.  This head on its side looks like some vast relic of a long vanished civilisation.

Perhaps before you start to explore the massive grounds you should visit the extravagant stained glass tower which in the light of summer is like something from a fairy tale.  You can climb to the top and check out the rest of the museum from here, so you can plan which pieces to visit next (but the choice can be bewildering).

From the top of the staircase you can take a look at what else is on offer - below is just one of the angles to be surveyed from its dizzy heights. The breathtaking beauty of the surrounding countryside is a marvellous environment for these fluid sculptures.  A far cry from a stuffy museum.

The Japanese have a unique and sometimes impenetrable sense of humour (from the perspective of a Westerner).  However, they do have a sense of fun which is easy to understand, even when it comes to art.  The above is Shaun of the Dead, based on the famous zombie movie and created by its writer and star Simon Pegg and its director, Edgar Wright.  The movie has cult status in Japan probably everywhere to tell the truth).

Among the more thought provoking pieces is Man and Pagasus by Carl Milles. Milles was perhaps better known for his fountains but the Swedish sculptor excelled himself with this hugely powerful piece showing man's desire to tame nature.
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