Hakone Open Air Museum : Hakone Japan

A short walk from Gora Kadan is the Hakone Open Air Museum (Sculpture Park is the literal translation from the Japanese). Established in 1969 and with over 70,000 square metres of beautifully landscaped grounds against a backdrop of the Hakone mountains, this museum has one of the world’s largest collections – over 26 – of Henry Moore sculptures…and significant representations of everyone who is anyone in the world of sculpture! Visited to rave reviews by many of our clients in the past, this is also something that should have been on my ‘must do’ list long ago.

Low mist and heavy rain might have prevented us from enjoying the surrounding mountains, but it did little to detract from the brilliantly curated outdoor collection of international works. The Secretary General of the Museum Mr Nagai Taizan took us on a tour of the Museum. Nagai-san has been at the Museum for over 32 years and his breadth of knowledge on both curatorial and managerial aspects of the Museum was enlightening. The Museum is a legal foundation supported by a number of Japanese corporations who lend works, more or less on a permanent basis. In the centre of a popular tourist area, the Museum was founded on the basis of a personal collection whose owner wished to create an entertaining space for the general public in which international fine art could be introduced and enjoyed. The Museum maintains a perfect balance of the academic and the generally enjoyable, providing interactive play for children and recreational spaces for all.

In keeping with Japanese garden design which creates vistas that belie limitations of space, the garden takes one on a meandering journey over multiple levels. Sculpture is expertly placed to ‘discover’. One of my favourites is the Carl Milles ‘Hand of God’ rising from the foliage. The positioning of the sculpture forces one to look up-almost in reverence. Vast expanses of endless sky form the backdrop to the work immediately creating a sense humility before the power of god/nature.

If Moore, Rodin, Modigliani and co are not enough, there is the Picasso Pavilion, a two storey gallery housing the Museum’s collection of works by Picasso, with a focus on his ceramics. Nagai-san explains with a smile that the nearby Pola Museum has a monopoly on the (very expensive) paintings, so the Museum decided to concentrate on lesser known works by this world renowned artist.

Japanese sculpture is carefully represented but South-East Asian works, Chinese or Australian sculpture are yet to find a place here.