“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
“Le Petit Prince,” or “The Little Prince,” is a children’s book written by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and first published in 1943. Although its author is French, and the original version is in the French language, The Little Prince museum is located in Hakone, Japan.
Though ostensibly a children’s book, The Little Prince makes several profound and idealistic observations about life and human nature. For example, Saint-Exupéry tells of a fox meeting the young prince during his travels on Earth. The story’s essence is contained in the lines uttered by the fox to the little prince: On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. (“One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”)
And his friends in Japan have given Saint-Exupery a truly splendid gift. This gift is the museum in Hakone. Moreover, this museum will be a wonderful gift for those who visit it. The museum is a place where the serenity, poetry, and passion of The Little Prince and its author are communicated to the visitors.
The exhibition hall shows pictures and snapshots of Saint-Exupéry’s life leading to the little prince. Although knowing Japanese would be a plus, you don’t have to be able to read to appreciate the exhibits. A concise explanation of everything is in the English brochure. Photos not allowed in the exhibition hall though.
After visiting the main exhibition one can proceed along cobbled streets to the small cinema, which has an Art Nouveau foyer and a space-age auditorium. The film shown is an animated version of “The Little Prince” and lasts about 20 minutes. Sitting on comfortable stools one can follow the story (in Japanese) and see the faithful copies of Saint-Exupery’s illustrations.
The ground floor of the museum is given over to large reproductions of the main characters in “The Little Prince,” including the rose which the Little Prince loved. This part of the exhibition may be a little too kitschy for some, but it seemed to enthrall and delight the children and teenage girls the day I visited.