July 28, 2023

Sophie’s recommended Japanese art museums




Why not turn your weekends into delightful immersions in the world of art? To guide you on these journeys, here are Sophie’s top five favorite museums for art lovers.

First on the list is the Japan Folk Crafts Museum in Tokyo, which is home to an extensive collection of folk crafts used in people’s daily lives. Enoura Observatory in Odawara is close to Tokyo. The museum stands on land that was once a tangerine orchard and overlooks the magnificent ocean. The design and structure of the museum reflect traditional Japanese architectural techniques. On a picturesque island in the Seto Inland Sea, you will find the Inujima Seirensho Art Museum. It ingeniously integrates the industrial heritage of the site into its architectural design, operating solely on natural energy without electricity. The Kan Yasuda Sculpture Museum, located within a repurposed closed elementary school in Hokkaido, offers a beautiful setting for appreciating the works of Kan Yasuda. And lastly, we have the Byodoin Museum, situated within the grounds of the Byodoin Temple, which holds a legacy that spans almost 1,000 years. This museum showcases a remarkable collection of national treasures and cultural assets in an environment that employs advanced restoration techniques.

Embark on a journey of inspiration and enlightenment as you discover the beauty of Japanese art. Unveil the hidden gems, appreciate the masterpieces and embrace the beauty that awaits at every turn.

Enoura Observatory, Odawara Art Foundation

The museum is a spectacular complex designed by Hiroshi Sugimoto, a world-renowned contemporary artist and architect.
● 362-1 Enoura Odawara-shi, Kanagawa Prefecture Tel: 0465-42-9170 Open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (reservations required on website) Closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays Admission: ¥3,300

Sophie’s comment
The brainchild of Hiroshi Sugimoto, this is a singular and inspiring destination that embodies all the artist’s passions and creative ambitions. Not far from Tokyo, in an idyllic site by the sea, there is a gallery with his seascape photographs, sculptures and gardens designed by him, a tea room, a cave with his collection of fossils, ancient stones and traditional architectural elements he carefully gathered, a breathtaking noh stage made of translucent glass, and many other wonders to admire.

The Japan Folk Crafts Museum

The museum, also known as Mingeikan, houses about 17,000 objects that showcase the beauty of everyday objects.
● 4-3-33 Komaba, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Tel: 03-3467-4527 Open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on Mondays) Admission: ¥1,200

Sophie’s comment
Soetsu Yanagi designed the museum, which was established in 1936 and is incredibly atmospheric. The vast collection is a wonderful illustration of the significance of the Japanese folk craft movement and the creative role of the “unknown craftsmen” celebrated by Yanagi. The presentation is elegant and uncluttered, with extensive use of wood. Curators rearrange the displays four times a year, and for me each visit is always a delight.

Inujima Seirensho Art Museum

A boat trip away, on the island of Inujima, the museum blends architecture, art, environment and industrial heritage.
● 327-4 Inujima, Higashi-ku, Okayama-shi, Okayama Prefecture Tel: 086-947-1112
Open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (closed on Tuesdays to Thursdays from March 1 to Nov. 30 and all days from Dec. 1 to the last day of February. Admission: ¥2,100

Sophie’s comment
Forming part of Benesse Art Site Naoshima, the Inujima Seirensho Art Museum is located on the island of Inujima and blends architecture, art, environment and industrial heritage. An abandoned copper refinery has been ingeniously reconfigured and works by Yukinori Yanagi inhabit the space, which is run with minimal impact on the environment. Dismantled elements from the remains of Yukio Mishima’s house form a striking art installation in galleries that are illuminated solely by natural light.

Byodoin Museum

A short train ride from central Kyoto, the museum is nestled on the grounds of Byodoin, a World Heritage site.
● 116 Ujirenge, Uji-shi, Kyoto Tel: 0774-21-2861 Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (open all year around) Admission: ¥600

Sophie’s comment
This museum, located within the grounds of the celebrated 11th-century temple, is a stylish modern structure built inside a natural hill so as not to impact the famous site. Founded to preserve the temple’s treasures and also to better display them to the public, the museum houses numerous National Treasures. Precious Buddhist sculptures and other works of art can now be admired at close range thanks to the excellent presentation and fine lighting.

Kan Yasuda Sculpture Museum Arte Piazza Bibai

Located about 60 km from Sapporo, the museum provides a wonderful opportunity to appreciate both nature and art.
● Ochiai-cho, Sakae-Machi, Bibai, Hokkaido
Tel: 0126-63-3137 Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (closed on Tuesdays. Weekdays during winter the closing time changes to 4 p.m.) Admission: Free

Sophie’s comment
This enchanting open-air sculpture museum on the island of Hokkaido features the work of contemporary artist Kan Yasuda, who shares his time between Italy and Japan. Born in Bibai, he remains attached to the area and created this venue to help revitalize it. The 7-hectare site contains over 40 works by Yasuda. Their attractive abstract forms, made of either Carrara marble or bronze, can be found indoors or outside dotted within the beautiful mountainous landscape.





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