[2018 Edition] 30 Things to Do in Hakone (Part 5 of 6)

Hakone is one of the most visited destinations in Japan. Its close proximity to Tokyo makes it ideal for a day trip, and its rich nature offers a respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. This article is part of a series introducing 30 things to include in your Hakone travel itineraries, and this time we will introduce some of the best museums in the area!

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1. Pola Museum of Art, a Gallery with a View

Pola Museum of Art (Pola Bijutsu-kan) was founded in 2002 by the Pola Art Foundation to showcase the private art collection of the second generation owner, Tsuneshi Suzuki, who spent 40 years accumulating a total of 10,000 pieces. The collection includes paintings by notable artists like Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Léonard Foujita, and Sugiyama Yasushi, in addition to other paintings, sculptures, glassworks, ceramics, and cosmetic utensils from all over the globe.

Visitors can also appreciate the architectural beauty of the museum encased in glass, from which the wonderful view of Hakone's nature can be observed, while at the same time, allowing an abundance of sunlight into the building and bringing the masterpieces to life. 

2. Travel Back in Time at Hakone Museum of Art

At Hakone Museum of Art (Hakone Bijutsu-kan), you can immerse yourself in the traditional Japanese atmosphere amongst its collection of ancient earthenware and Japanese-style gardens. The museum mainly displays Japanese pottery and ceramics which were created sometime between the prehistoric Jomon Period (approx. 14,000 BCE - 300 BCE) and the Edo Period (1603 - 1868). You'll get to see the evolution of art through the ages. 

Make sure to allow enough time to walk through the various gardens on the premises. The moss garden is designed with around 130 species of moss that cover the ground, and in the fall, the 200 maple trees create a magnificent contrast of red against the green of the moss. Don't forget to enjoy a cup of matcha (powdered green tea) in the teahouse that overlooks this garden.

There is also a special garden, Sekiraku-en, which is only open to the general public on Saturdays, Sundays, national holidays, and through the month of November. The garden features a series of decorative boulders that have been intricately placed to harmonize with the greenery, creating a magical and picturesque landscape. Imagine how splendid the view would be with the autumn foliage!

Can't wait to get going? Check out the article below for a handy one-day tour of Mt. Fuji and Hakone!

3. Immerse Yourself in Japanese Art at Narukawa Art Museum

Located just near Lake Ashino is the Narukawa Art Museum (Narukawa Bijutsu-kan) dedicated specifically to modern nihonga (Japanese-style painting) with a collection of over 4,000 works and counting.

The museum boasts an extensive collection of paintings by Japan's most accomplished artists, and the highlights include over 150 masterpieces by Kyujin Yamamoto, recipient of the Order of Cultural Merit, and 40 works by Ikuo Hirayama. You can appreciate the unique beauty of the nihonga pieces that are clearly distinct from Western-style art.

While you're there, do visit the panorama lounge on the ground floor to enjoy the breathtaking vista of the lake from the large window, or take a casual stroll through the garden out front for some phenomenal views. 

4. A Lesson in Asian Culture at Okada Museum of Art

If you're into Asian antiquities, the Okada Museum of Art might be well worth the visit! The museum sits on a vast property, and features works of art from Japan, China, and Korea that date back as far as the ancient past to the present.

The art pieces and cultural treasures which include nihonga, ceramics, lacquerware, and religious artwork are displayed in spacious galleries where visitors can observe them with more than enough elbow room. Available in multiple languages, the informative descriptions are educational and culturally inspiring. 

Pictured above is Fukui Kotaro's paneled mural, “Wind/Time (Kaze/Toki),” depicting the gods of wind and thunder. This masterpiece can be viewed while soaking your feet in the natural onsen (hot spring) as you enjoy a refreshing beverage at the Footbath.

Please note that visitors are requested to store any and all recording devices in the free lockers provided, as photography and other audio/visual recordings are strictly prohibited in the museum. 

5. It's All About Glass at Lalique Museum Hakone

René Lalique was a French jeweler and master glassmaker, most famous for his signature style that influenced the Art Nouveau and Art Deco scenes. His exquisite works range from fine jewelry and perfume bottles to interior decorations and decorative ornamental pieces. 

The Lalique Museum Hakone boasts a collection of more than 1,500 pieces, of which around 230 are exhibited in rotation. At the lovely cafe, Le Train, you can enjoy a leisurely teatime in the Orient Express passenger car, whose glass panels were designed by Lalique. 

Are you ready to experience some of the art and culture of Hakone? This was just a taste of things to do in Hakone, and there are tons of other ways to enjoy this beautiful area! Make sure to check out the previous articles in the series for more ideas on what to do in Hakone, and stay tuned for the final edition!

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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