Discover the eclectic museums and galleries of Japan’s mountainous Hakone region, from the country’s first outdoor sculpture park to a Venetian glass forest.
A lucent glass tunnel leads visitors into Hakone Glass no Mori, a unique museum in Sengokuhara. Also known as the Hakone Venetian Glass Museum or the Hakone Glass Forest, this museum brings a slice of Italy to the Hakone mountains, showcasing spectacular Murano glasswork. The Italian-style buildings that make up the museum are framed by mountains and hugged by landscape gardens, which feature a winding canal, outdoor glass sculptures and trees dripping in delicate raindrops made from glass.
The Okada Museum is a modern, glass-fronted building nestled in the hills of Kowakudani. Its permanent collection spans five floors, exhibiting Japanese painting from the Edo era to today, as well as Asian ceramics and lacquerware, Chinese metalwork and Buddhist art. A natural hot spring foot bath faces one of the museum’s largest murals, while tranquil gardens of carp ponds, waterfalls and colourful blooms can be accessed at the back of the museum. An on-site restaurant, housed in a renovated Japanese house, offers bento boxes and udon noodles.
Sharing space with the Hakone Museum of Art on the hills of Gora, this quaint museum is owned by Hakone-born photographer Katsura Endo. A collection of Endo’s photos of Mt Fuji and Hakone throughout the seasons are on permanent display alongside rotating exhibitions from both Japanese and international photographers. A small café is attached to the museum, where the photographer and his wife Eiko are known to join guests for a chat and a cup of tea.
Surrounded by beautiful Japanese gardens is the Hakone Museum of Art, a small space exhibiting a fascinating collection of Japanese ceramics from the prehistoric period to the Edo era. The Sekirakuen landscape garden is particularly spectacular in autumn, when red and orange momiji leaves are at their most vivid, while the rain of the summer season turns the museum’s moss garden bright green.
This elegant museum in the leafy surrounds of Sengokuhara houses over 1,500 pieces from French designer René Lalique. A must for Art Nouveau enthusiasts, the collection includes intricately designed glassware, perfume bottles and jewellery. Alongside the permanent exhibition, guests can enjoy French food at the on-site restaurant, stroll through a manicured Japanese garden and even take afternoon tea on an Orient Express wagon, which features interior glass panels designed by Lalique.
On the south shore of Lake Ashi, the Narukawa Museum of Art houses over 4,000 works of nihonga style art, which translates literally to ‘Japanese-style painting’. Complementing the museum’s collection of Japanese fans, gemstones and watercolour paintings is a breathtaking panorama over Lake Ashi from a 50-metre-(164-foot-)wide window, encompassing the lake’s famous floating gate and the snowy peak of Mt Fuji.
Step into old-world Japan at Hakone Mononofu-no-Sato Art Museum, a small museum in Sengokuhara displaying a collection of artefacts from the Edo and Muromachi periods. The main draw here is the impressive collection of samurai armour, which guests are permitted to try on. There are also weapons, ukiyo-e woodblock prints, Noh masks, lacquerware and tea ceremony utensils.
Nestled in the forest of Sengokuhara, this vast, glassy structure houses an extensive private art collection from the former owner of Pola Cosmetics. Underground galleries and rotating exhibits include works by the greats of French Impressionism, such as Renoir, Cézanne and Monet, as well as Surrealist painting, Japanese Western-style painting and more. In 2013, the museum opened a nature trail through the surrounding beech forest, enabling visitors to enjoy the region’s lush scenery and wildlife as well as a collection of outdoor sculptures planted along the trail.
At this small museum in Hakone-Yumoto, the gateway to the wider Hakone region, visitors are invited to learn about the traditional craft of yosegi-zaiku, a form of traditional Japanese marquetry. The upstairs museum displays intricately crafted items dating as far back as the Edo period, including boxes, dressers and cabinets. On the ground floor, a small gift shop sells wooden mosaics, while daily workshops offer guests the opportunity to create their own souvenirs.
A novel addition to Hakone’s increasingly eclectic museum landscape, Dollhouse Museum Hakone is a miniature enthusiast’s delight. Throughout the bright space are various displays of antique and modern dollhouses, as well as an extensive collection of miniature items, dolls and furniture. The museum, a renovated greenhouse, can be found in Hakone’s remote Ashinoyu district.
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