The Hakone Open-Air Museum

Sep 9, 2010 by Hiromi Ogawa

I just returned from Japan, where it has been unusually hot this summer.  To escape the heat, my family and I stayed in Hakone for a few days.  (It is higher in altitude than Tokyo but we found that it was equally hot in Hakone, too.)  The area is known for its beautiful countryside and historic hot spring, but during this visit we also fell in love with the Hakone Open-Air Museum.

Most of the work is installed outdoors, where the sun and foliage play against the art.  Many of the pieces were interactive, like the garden maze above.

Even though the art never seemed overcrowded, there were things to see at every turn.  It felt like an outdoor version of Charles and Ray Eames' living room: things weren't on display, they were placed as a backdrop for living.

We could also make our own sculpture, using colorful foam pieces imagined by architect Mikiko Endo. (I love the fact that architects in Japan work on such a wide range of artistic projects.)

Almost everything in the museum was enjoyable for children.  They seemed to understand what the art wanted them to do - to touch, to inquire, and to enjoy.  The child in me really liked the woven sculpture by Toshiko Horiuchi, housed in a heavy timber pavilion by Tezuka Architects.

I feel refreshed and inspired after seeing art and architecture working together to create an environment that everyone can enjoy.  I recommend you visit the museum next time you're in Japan.

Topics: Art, Inspiration, Life

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