a weekend in hakone: the hakone open-air museum   11 comments

Saturday, May 27:  Today, I embark on my first overnight trip since I arrived in Japan.  My destination is Hakone National Park, a district of mountain spas and thermal activity contained within an extinct volcano some 40km wide. The volcano became extinct some 400,000 years ago, but hot springs and spas, along with bubbling hot mud emitting sulfurous gas, can be found in the still-active crater.  The main attractions of Hakone are its many onsen — hot springs with bathing facilities — and the variety of unique transportation modes available to get around.

Many people make a day trip here from Tokyo, but I think a day trip would be too much of a rush.  I don’t like to travel to a place and then have to hurry and scurry to see everything; if possible, I prefer a more leisurely experience. I reserved a hotel room earlier in the week when I saw the weather forecast was good, and I’m glad I opted to stay the night.

To get to Hakone, I can simply take the Odakyu line from Machida, two stops from Fuchinobe, but I’ve heard that for a small increase in price, I can buy a reserved seat on the convenient Romancecar.  The Romancecar is Odakyu Electric Railway’s name for its limited express luxury tourist services south-west of Tokyo, to mountain resorts such as Hakone and Gotemba (Mt. Fuji), as well as beaches such as Enoshima. The name comes from romance seats, two-person seats without separating armrests.

I asked several of my co-workers about whether I needed to reserve seats in advance for the Romancecar, but they told me they’ve always just bought the tickets at the station right before traveling.  I don’t know why, but I decide to check online early this morning, and I find, much to my surprise, that the two departures closest to 9:00 are already sold out.  I book my ticket for the 10:17 departure, which is later than I hoped to get started.  I guess next time, I’ll book in advance.

At the Machida station, I buy the recommended Hakone Free Pass, which provides unlimited use of Odakyu-affiliated buses, trains, boats, cablecars and ropeways in the Hakone area, as well as discounted admission to selected tourist attractions on two or three consecutive days.  As I only have the weekend, I buy the two-day pass from Machida, which is about 4,800 yen or around $44.

The train ride to Hakone on the Romancecar is very pleasant, and I decide that if I have to travel in this direction again, I will certainly use the Romancecar.

Transportation in Hakone runs in a circuit, with most people beginning on the Hakone Tozan Railway, the only mountain railway in Japan. Halfway up the line are switchbacks, where the driver and the conductor change shifts and the train reverses to switch direction.

Because my hotel is about halfway around the circuit, I avail myself of the fabulous Hakone Baggage Service, which delivers my bag directly to my hotel for about 800 yen, or $7.25.  This is super convenient as it allows me to travel hands-free until I reach my hotel.

Then I head to the Romancecar Ticket Window and buy a ticket on the Romancecar for Sunday at 3:20.

After taking care of all this minutiae, it’s nearly 12:10 and I’m on the Hakone Tozan Railway heading for the Chokoku-no-mori station, the stop nearest the Hakone Open-Air Museum.  Although I might not have picked this destination myself, one of my coworkers expressed a desire to travel all the way to Hakone just to see this museum; since she seemed so enthusiastic, I figure while I’m here I may as well see it.

This railway, which travels up the mountain in switchbacks, takes about 20 minutes.  It’s standing room only when I get on, but I can see two lively Japanese couples drinking beer at a small table and laughing up a storm (see the man in the hat below).  They are having a grand time.  It’s not so much fun for those of us standing and not having a drink!

Hakone Tozan Railway

Hakone Tozan Railway

As soon as I get off the train, it’s time to eat!  I’m starved.  I walk down the street and see this funky Cafe Bar Woody.

Cafe Bar Woody

The server is laid-back and friendly and speaks a bit of English.  After he takes my order for a margarita pizza, he stops to adjust the legs of Sheriff Woody, who is sitting on a shelf over my table.  Then I notice the other Toy Story characters sitting around the restaurant.  At first I think the Woody name is just about all the wood throughout the restaurant, but then I realize that it’s all about Toy Story and Sheriff Woody.  How quirky and cute. 🙂

After lunch, I head to the Hakone Open-Air Museum; it was founded in 1969 to serve as an outdoor art museum that would give people the opportunity to encounter great sculpture in a natural setting. The museum’s mission is “to promote sculpture as an environmental art and to bring new energy to Japan’s culture of art” (Hakone Open-Air Museum).

The Hakone Open-Air Museum

It takes me quite a long while to walk the grounds of this expansive museum.

Chimera con Ali (1963) – Marcello Mascherini (Italy)

I’m happy to find one of Taro Okamoto’s sculptures here, as I was unable to photograph any of his artwork when I visited the Taro Okamoto Museum of Art in Kawasaki.

L’Home Vegetal – Taro Okamoto (Japan)

I love this sculpture of a foliage-covered head in a pool; it is called La Pleureuse, which means mourner.

La Pleureuse (1986) – Francois-Xavier & Claude Lalanne (France)

Sound of Wind (1988) – Takao Tsuchida (Japan)

tall figures

an imposing character

entangled couple

Manteau (1968) – Churyo Sato (Japan)

field of dreams


Always a fan of Japanese ponds, I love this floating red sculpture.

floating water sculptures

floating in the pond

colorful carp

water sculpture

One part of the Hakone Open-Air Museum is the Picasso Collection.  As in most Japanese museums, no photography is allowed.

Picasso Collection

EGrande Figura Seduta N.2 (1969) – Emilio Greco (Italy)

sculpture in front of the Picasso collection

Le Grand Prophete – Pablo Gargallo (Spain)

PIcasso Collection

Fairy Chapel – Japan

Sphere-Trames (1962-63) – Francois Morellet (France)

Utsurohi – A Moment of Movement (1981/2015) – Aiko Miyawaki (Japan)

lounging in the grass

I climb the steps inside the Symphonic Sculpture, with its walls of stained glass.  At the top, I have a great view of the museum and the mountains of Hakone.

Symphonic Sculpture – Produced by Nobutaka Skikanai

inside the Symphonic Sculpture – Sculptured glass by Gabriel Loire

inside the Symphonic Sculpture – Sculptured glass by Gabriel Loire

inside the Symphonic Sculpture – Sculptured glass by Gabriel Loire

inside the Symphonic Sculpture – Sculptured glass by Gabriel Loire

View from the Symphonic Sculpture

View from the Symphonic Sculpture

View from the Symphonic Sculpture

walking down the Symphonic Sculpture

Reclining Figure (1969-70) – Henry Moore (UK)

The Symphonic Sculpture provides an interesting anchor to the leisurely sculptures scattered across the green lawn.

Symphonic Sculpture

Family Group (1948-49) – Henry Moore (UK)

Symphonic Sculpture

all dressed up and no place to go

Ferns in the garden

La Victoire de Villetaneuse – Cesar (French)

Garden of Stars

stone sculpture

It’s fun to watch Spatiodynamique No. 22 whirl about in the breeze.

Spatiodynamique No. 22 (1954-80) – Nicolas Schoffer (Hungarian-French)

green fields

iron sculpture

more reclining figures?

hooded stone figure

Balzac (1891-98) – Auguste Rodin (French)

After wandering for an hour and half through this outdoor museum, a rather quirky place, I leave, heading for the Hakone Museum of Art. At this museum, I’m most interested in seeing the moss garden and the Sekiraku-en Garden.  By this time it’s nearly 3:00, and I’m in search of the Sounzan Cable Car.

Time sure flies when traveling!



11 responses to “a weekend in hakone: the hakone open-air museum

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  1. Lots of sculptures here Cathy, you must have taken a lot of photos!

  2. These sculptures are wonderful! I love the Symphonic Sculpture in particular.

  3. Sculptures can be anything these days, Cathy, can’t they? Love the symphonic tower. I’ve never seen anything like that. 🙂 🙂

  4. Lucky you thought to check the train tickets before you left. And thanks for passing on the information so we all know now. What an interesting place to visit.

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