Besides relaxing hot springs and breathtaking scenery in Hakone, our other favorite pastime is visiting the many museums in Hakone.
We visit Hakone each year when we go to Japan. It’s a short drive or train ride from the Tokyo area and a great way to escape the hectic modern life. The main perks of visiting the area is the ryokan stay, exquisite kaiseki meals, and of course the relaxing hot springs.
Another interesting part about Hakone is the number of world-class museums in this sparsely populated area (just 12,000 residents). Here are two of our favorite museums below and we hope this guide will help you decide which museums in Hakone you might want to visit.
The Hakone Open-Air Museum
Located in the center of Hakone near Gora is the spacious and inspirational Hakone Open-Air Museum. Opened in 1969, Hakone Open-Air Museum is Japan’s first outdoor open-air museum of art. The museum ground is over 15 acres (70,000 sq meter) and surrounded by beautiful green mountain scenery in Hakone.
As you visit during different seasons, you get to experience distinct sceneries. You might see sakura blooming in the spring, leaves changing colors in the fall, or snow-covered ground in the winter.
There are over 120 pieces of outdoor art on permanent display that visitors can observe up close. We don’t really know much about sculptors but most works on display are done by famed artists such as Henry Moore (known for his mother-and-child and reclining figures).
The first area you will enter after the entrance is the round plaza. There are a number of large sculptures here including interesting pieces by Takao Tsuchida.
Continue on the path to the east side of the museum and you’ll see a very interesting play structure. It’s Curved Space-Diamond Structure by Peter Pearce. You might wonder what it represents and it’s actually the diamond crystal enlarged 8 billion times.
The path continues with a large lawn on the right side with sculptures including the recognizable Sphere Within Sphere.
Not all the art pieces are always attached to the ground, such as My Sky Hole by Bukichi Inoue.
The next area had a star-shaped maze. It was closed off to visitors when we visited but perhaps open from time to time for people to explore?
Woods of Net
On the other side of the maze is the Woods of Net structure. Our curiosity took us inside and our kids absolutely had a blast.
Inside the wooden structure is a knitted playground where kids can hang, climb, and bounce around. Make sure to make a stop especially if you are visiting with children.
Normally, visitors would go to Picasso’s Pavillion after Woods of Net but it was closed during our visit. The good part is there were still plenty to see on the east side of the park including many sculptures by Henry Moore.
The largest sculpture at the museum if you can call it that is the Symphonic Sculpture. Visitors can climb up the circular steps and capture the view of the Hakone Open-Air museum from the top.
Continue on the path and head towards the pedestrian bridge. Once you’re off the bridge you’ll see one of our favorite sculptures, Intersecting Space Construction by Ryoji Goto. Isn’t it cool?
The Picasso Pavillion was closed during our visit and the collection was moved to the main gallery. There are over 300 pieces of art from Picasso in the museum’s permanent collection (no photos allowed).
We had a fun time exploring Hakone Open-Air Museum, plan on spending at least 2-3 hours there.
Hakone Venetian Glass Museum
The second museum we highly recommend in the area is the Hakone Venetian Glass Museum. Sometimes, it is also called the Glass Forest.
As the name suggests, the museum’s collection focuses on modern and antique Venetian Glass. Besides the Venetian Glass exhibits, It’s situated in a grand garden with a large pond and cute medieval-themed structures.
As you walk around the museum garden, you notice there are quite a few trees with glass flowers glittering in the sun.
It’s unnatural but simply breathtaking to see the glass shining on the trees as if it’s frozen with ice.
After exploring the garden, we crossed the Corridor of Light and enter the Venetian Glass Museum.
Venetian Glass Museum
There are two main galleries and they are divided into traditional Venetian Glass Museum and Venetian Glass Modern Museum. The traditional Venetian Glass on display range from 15th to 18th centuries. The collection includes goblet, vases, and sculptures.
Several times a day, performers play instruments or sings inside the Venetian Glass Museum so make sure to check schedule during your visit.
Venetian Modern Glass Museum
The Modern Glass Museum carries a collection dating from late 19th century through today. There are a number of Cups Swaying in the Wind by Giuseppe Barovier, as well as pieces by Livio Seguso and a room featuring Dale Chihuly’s work.
What fascinated our children the most was the special event featuring Japanese glass insects. There was a glassmaker creating glass insects and it was so interesting to watch him create the art work in front of our eyes.
Livio Seguso Garden
In the back of the museum, it borders the Haya River which runs all the way to Hakone Yumoto. There are sitting areas under the trees to stay out of the sun on summer days.
One of the featured art pieces of the museum is hidden here in the back, Vegetazione 95 by Livio Seguso. The glass structures symbolize trees flying in the wind.
Lastly, visitors who are interested in glass craft can sign up for making glass accessories or sandblasting for a fee.
Our family really enjoyed the Venetian Glass Museum so do check it out if you have some time during your visit. Plan on spending 2 hours here.
Other Museums in Hakone
There are many other museums in Hakone you can visit besides the two we introduced above.
Little Prince Museum
The museum is based on the story The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry) and features a French town and garden along with information about the book’s author.
Pola Museum of Art
A fine arts museum founded by the beauty brand Pola. The museum features Western and Japanese art from Monet, Chagall, Renior, Takahashi Yuichi, and Koyama Shotaro. An interesting fact about the museum is that it’s mostly underground so it blends into Hakone’s natural beauty.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our travel through Hakone. We can’t recommend this area enough as it’s a great place to rejuvenate your body and soul. Let us know if you have any feedback in the comments below.