Traveling with Family in Japan: The Hakone Glass Forest 箱根ガラスの森美術館
Joanne G. Yoshida
Another museum in Hakone that highlights the creativity and innovation in Japan's museums is the Hakone Glass Forest Museum. This museum, like the Hakone Open-Air Museum, is a feast for the senses; the experience begins before you even enter the door.
It was a rainy day when we visited the Hakone Glass Forest Museum and we had to do a double take to see if the "leaves" on the trees were dripping with raindrops or if they were ephemeral cherry blossoms glistening in rain. It turned out that they were neither, and on closer look we saw they were made of glass. The tree 'trunks' were a sculpture to support them.
We would later have the chance to taste real cherry blossoms in the salad at the museum's caf but first we walked through galleries that transported us into a Venetian state of mind.
We were warmed by the sight of a Venetian fireplace above which sat two lions with the insignia of Venice on the mantle. A Murano chandelier was the centerpiece of this room, which led to galleries exhibiting Venetian glass from the 15th to the 18th centuries, old Murano glass, and then on to modern glass creations by well known international artists, including Dale Chihuly whose works I recognized after first having seen them over 20 years ago in the Brooklyn Museum in New York.
From the second floor we could see out to spectacular crystal bridges and glass leafed trees glistening in the rain, surrounded by fresh spring green. I imagine on a clear day it is also magnificent to see the glass sparkling in the sunshine. There is a chance to take part in hands-on crafts where you can try a glass-making experience as well.
Lunch in the Caffe Terrazza added to the feeling of being in Italian surroundings. A singer from Naples serenaded in the dining room, singing Italian songs and moving from room to room.
Dishes incorporated seasonal Japanese ingredients into an Italian-based menu. The cherry blossom dressing was perfect on a fresh plate of greens, and complemented a pasta with tomato sauce, spring cabbage, and iwashi (sardines).
When we got out it was pouring so we caught a cab that took us back through the winding wooded roads of Hakone. The raindrops on the window of the taxi were like crystals. The sparkling natural scenery was an extension of what we'd just seen.
Unlike traditional museums, where you enter a building and leave the outside world behind, both of the Hakone open-Air Museum and Glass Forest blurred the boundaries of place and transported us through their unique visions and fine collections--and opened our senses to what museum-going could be.
Access - Getting to Hakone
Hakone Glass Forest Museum
940-48 Sengokuhara, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun, Kanagawa-ken 250-0631
Tel: 0460 86 3111
Admission: Adults 1,300 yen
There are direct buses to the museum from Odawara Shinkansen Station, the west exit of Shinjuku Station in Tokyo and Hakone Yumoto.
Text + images by Joanne G. Yoshida
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