SYNOPSIS:  About a unique and powerful way to experience sculpture and nature.  About  the first open-air art museum of Japan.  


Did I really need to see Picasso, Moore, Rodin and other contemporary Western art in Japan?  I was not sure and honestly came with very low motivation.  Once before in Takamatsu, I had opted out of visiting an island full of modern art galleries.  And without the urging of my daughter-in-law Vanessa, I would have never swung out on this detour to Hakone either.  But I could not let her down, could I?  Thanks, Vanessa, for this wonderful day today — this was a great suggestion!

Hakone and this area is visited by thousands of tourists for its proximity to Tokyo.  There are many outdoor activities here that people come for: a cable car ride and a rope car take the adventurous up to Lake Ashi where cruise ships will take you around a scenic lake. If you are lucky and you come on a clear day, you can catch glimpses of Mount Fuji from there.  There are hot spring areas and hiking opportunities.  There is a highly recommended glass museum and various other small ones.  And there is the OAM — the Open-Air Museum near Gora, the last stop of the Hakone-Tozan Rail.  I only had to walk 10 minutes from my neat little guest house in Gora to get there.

I will let the images speak for themselves today.  There is not much I can add about famous artists such as the ones you see here that you could not look up on line.  But I realized how different it is to experience large-size sculptures in this outdoor setting than in an enclosed museum space.

“Sculpture is something you bump into when you are looking at paintings” is a quote I remember (but I forgot its author).  So true.  Here, at the OAM, sculpture it is what you come for and the interaction of sculpture and landscape, sky, mountain, water and gravel is affecting in unique and wonderful ways.

How a Niki de Saint Phalle sculpture can walk almost as tall as the trees she is surrounded by is simply cool!  And when a huge hand balancing a figure floats above the tree line you feel transported into a surreal world.  Seated figures are actually sitting at a slope in the grass as if watching the sun set, and a fallen figure has his face buried into the ground, adding an eerie quality to the scene.  All of this simply is not possible to achieve in an indoor space.  Anyone who thinks they don’t care much about sculpture should be introduced to it in a way like this.

What I loved, too, is the fact that three sculptures are not even perceived as such:  A glass mosaic tower acts as an observation platform.  And two sculptures — a suspended net surrounded by a wooden teepee and a molecular plastic sectional — are playgrounds for children.  What a way to give kids their first art experience.

Three more conventional indoor museums spaces display small-scale work by Henry Moore, Umberto Boccioni, Medardo Rosso and a few others and a pavilion dedicated to Pablo Picasso displays some of his ceramics and prints.   But those would not be worth coming for by themselves.

Beautifully maintained garden areas, a star-shaped maze, a pond and a stream complement the grassy areas.  And what tops the fun and makes this a truly Japanese experience is the Onsen (hot spring) which cleverly has been converted into a public foot bath allowing tired visitors a nice way of relaxation.

Two thumbs up for the OAM!

Good night.


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  1. Sounds fantastic, three cheers to Vanessa for encouraging you to do this. Sort of like walking in another dimension or world populated with strange and wonderful things; such as that Xavier-Lalanne face. The only thing I have seen that is even remotely like the OAM is the Meijer Gardens.