Japan is a nation of incomparable beauty - from its lush, subtropical forests in the Ryukyu and Bonin Islands, to the alpine-like vistas in the northern part of the nation. This might explain why so many Japanese citizens feel compelled to flex their artistic muscles and draw inspiration from the land of the Rising Sun. If you consider yourself a lover of art and feel a passion for modern, classic, or alternative art forms, you'll find an incredibly wide variety of things to see in this inspirational travel destination. Here are some of the best places to visit in the nation if you're looking for amazing Japanese art.
KURASHIKI - OHARA ART MUSEUM
The classical facade of the historical Ohara Art Museum
The Ohara Art Museum is quite important when viewed from a historical perspective, as it displayed the first collection of Western art on permanent exhibition in Japan. The museum opened in 1930 and was originally home to French classic sculptures and paintings, but has now expanded across three buildings that house a wide range of contemporary and classic pieces.
NAOSHIMA CONTEMPORARY ART MUSEUM
Exterior of the art museum on Naoshima Island (YingHui Liu / Shutterstock.com)
The setting alone for this contemporary art museum immediately alludes to the wonders hidden within. Situated on the Southernmost edge of Naoshima Island and uniquely designed in harmony with the surrounding topography, the Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum is a must for contemporary art aficionados. Arrive by sea, then ascend an intentionally long and dramatic staircase leading up to contemporary building. Natural light sources throughout the building add a sense of levity, while the collection of works is bound to impress those with an eye for modern stylings. The adjacent Benesse House Hotel elegantly blends guest accommodations with displays of contemporary art.
TESHIMA ART MUSEUM
The exterior of Teshima Art Museum (rayints / Shutterstock.com)
A visit to Teshima, in the Kegawa Prefecture in Japan, wouldn't be complete without a stop at the Teshima Art Museum. Here's the unique piece - you'll only find one thing on display when you get there. That's right - a single piece of art. The architect and artist pairing of Ryue Nishizawa and Rei Naito created a massive concrete structure that is, in essence, the art on display. You can walk right through the middle of the open gallery space, which is constructed of 10" thick concrete with two large elliptical openings on the roof that create an open-air feel and a sense of oneness with the elements.
NATURAL FEATURES OF THE IYA VALLEY
The vine Kazurabashi Bridge sits over a river in Tokushima
Step outside, way outside - and visit the Iya Valley, located in the Tokushima Prefecture in a more rural area of Japan. You won't find contemporary art museums here, but what will fill your soul is breathtaking views, stunning natural wonders, and the warm, inviting people of this ancient river valley. Some parts of the river can only be crossed by vine bridge, which keeps tourists on their toes. Visit and feel yourself transported back to a slower time, when customs were important and traditions kept alive. Tour by rental car if possible - it's the best way to see the valley.
Art lovers and naturalists will find common ground and plenty to see in the wondrous nation of Japan. And with such a diversity in art available - from edgy scrawling on Tokyo's side streets to contemporary art installations in surreal locations, there is truly something for every art lover when Japan is on the travel itinerary. For more information on exploring art in Japan, contact one of our Asia Destination Experts to help plan your journey.