Hakone is a region of mountainous scenery whose beauty remains constant in every season of the year. It is perhaps most famous for its onsens, natural views, and the summit of volcanic activity which produces black-coated hardboiled eggs. Each year, it attracts a nearly incalculable number of visitors, both international and Japanese.
Signs and advertisements for Hakone also boast a year-round commitment to art. The claim is no exaggeration. A small sampling of the art museums in the area includes the Pola Museum of Art, the Hakone Venetian Glass Museum, and the Narukawa Art Museum, all of which boast their own specialties.
The Hakone Open-Air Museum is a destination that combines the quintessential Hakone characteristics—an interaction with natural scenery and a sustained relationship with art.
The museum is composed of a variety of indoor and outdoor features on a large plot of land tucked high in the mountains. While the museum’s experience is weather dependent (it is certainly a lot more fun to stroll through the grounds in sunshine rather than a mid-rainy season torrential downpour), the unrestricted display of the art pieces is worth viewing in any conditions.
While the emphasis of the museum is on sculpture, most of which are displayed in a sprawling outdoor park area, the limited indoor exhibitions do not disappoint. The most notable of the indoor exhibits is a haphazard collection of Pablo Picasso creations. The exhibit features works speaking on a wide variety of themes, such as sexuality, life, death, and his passion for bullfighting, among others, all composed at various points in Picasso’s life. Taking pictures and sketching are not allowed in the building, but the memory alone is enough to satisfy.
Another one-of-a-kind display is the Symphonic Sculpture, which allows visitors to interact directly with the art. Two intertwining spiral staircases lead visitors into a tower decorated entirely with stained glass. At first glance from the base of the structure, the design appears to be more arbitrary than premeditated, a vibrant splattering of fractured color and light. However, with height comes clarity. A change in perspective by climbing higher up the stairs reveals the carefully orchestrated pictures hidden in the glass: eyes, figures riding along the backs of large birds, automobiles all emerge from the initial cacophony.
Access to the Hakone Open-Air Museum is simple and made even simpler with the purchase of an Odakyu Hakone Free Pass. Visitors considering the Free Pass should carefully consider the length of their stay as well as the activities they wish to complete, especially if using a JRPASS to explore the regions outside of the Tokyo city limits.
The Hakone transportation systems are run by a different company than JR, and therefore are not included in the JRPASS. Utilizing all of the benefits of the Hakone Free Pass—unlimited transportation to the summit, use of a rope car, a sight-seeing cruise along Lake Ashi; plus, a variety of discounts at restaurants and museums—pays off quickly.
However, those coming for a day trip, or making a trip solely for the Open-Air Museum, should calculate carefully. The Hakone Free Pass can be purchased from either Shinjuku Station or Odawara Station for JPY5,140 (for children, only JPY1,500) and includes roundtrip transportation back to the stations.
The museum itself is located in Chokoku-no-Mori. If you are taking the Hakone Tozan Train, the museum is a mere three-minute walk to the left from the exit of the Chokoku-no-Mori Station. The area is also accessible by bus.
A small selection of cafes and restaurants line the road leading towards the museum entrance, for those arriving around lunchtime. There are dining options available on the grounds of the museum as well, in addition to a gift shop.
It is a perfect destination for families, lovers of art, and people who have previously traveled to Hakone and are seeking new adventures. For a truly unique way to experience both the natural scenery of Hakone and a well-curated collection of art, the Hakone Open-Air Museum is a must-see addition to a trip to Hakone.
Other Museums in Hakone
1285 Kozukayama, Sengokuhara, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa, 250-0631
940-48 Sengokuhara, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa, 250-0631
570 Motohakone, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa, 250-0522