Moon-shelled snails and optimistic flowers:
Welcome to the Art in Karuizawa
Hidden amongst the beautiful architecture of this elegant, alpine resort town hides the kind of modest art that deserves to be shouted about. And, while the usual tourist spots of Old Ginza street and of course those countless outlet stores are things you’ll probably want to check out, you’ll be missing out on some truly hearty soul nourishment if you don’t check out some of these art museums. So prepare to add some extra depth to your emotions, question things and be absurdly perplexed as we journey through the best art Karuizawa has to offer.
Sezon Museum of Modern Art
Formerly of Tokyo, Sezon Museum of Modern Art houses some enormously significant pieces in the history of modern art. For me, it’s one of the most thought provoking and surprisingly emotional art museums I have ever been to. With art hailing from all around the world, the vastness of creativity, array of different mediums and creative stand points are wildly diverse, bringing you a rollercoaster experience of sorrow, relief, happiness, curiosity and simply beauty with every step.
Like nothing you’ve ever seen before
This is no ordinary, framed painting lined corridor stroll. Now, we have installations taking up entire rooms, large sculptures of curious creatures, smaller objects, 3D paintings and even sculptures involving peculiar sounds. It’s difficult to think of any medium, canvas or creative method that isn’t featured in this art museum. From the wacky Japanese art sculpture of a large moon-shelled snail, to the simple, yet powerful positioning of canvassed numbers, to the banging and clanging of pans, old bicycle parts and recycled scraps that made up the French art installation. Some art will leave you baffled, while others will open your eyes to some new and exciting. Some are even powerful enough to leave you mournful, but one this is for sure, you will not forget you experience here.
Entry to this art museum will cost you ￥1,500, but it is well worth it. I actually only planned to spend about an hour there but I ended up spending an hour and a half, and could have easily stayed in the café after that and talked for a further hour about what I’d just seen over some coffee. With that in mind, and considering that it’s quite difficult to instill that many feelings within someone in just a few hours, I think the price is well worth the experience. There is also a small gift shop at the entrance, lockers and a beautiful forested walk from the rather secluded entrance to the door, passing random splatterings of nature inspired art along the way. Take a friend, discuss the art, have some coffee, and relax among some of the greatest pieces of modern art this world has to offer.
Karuizawa Museum of Contemporary Art:
If you a solely Japanese modern art experience, this is the place to go. With professional artists such as Yayoi Kusama, Yoshitomo Nara, Isamu Noguchi, and live art demonstrations, you can experience the world of Japanese contemporary art in its entirety.
The Japanese Edge
While this art museum tended to have more pictures than installations or sculptures, there were a few pieces that stuck out to me as having that spectacularly strange Japanese edge, the likes of which you wouldn’t find elsewhere. Takashi Murakami is one of those artists; using bright colours and simplistic designs to create something familiar in the scenes of Tokyo, but distorting it in such a way as to make it almost demonic. Seemingly happy on the outside, his art portrays an almost sickly version of pop culture that speaks volumes to anyone. Just spend a few minutes staring at his overly happy flowers, and you’ll know what I mean.
If you’re after something a little more relaxed, you can peer at Yoshitomo Nara’s art; the kind of art that is so cool and original, it should be affiliated with a group or band and smothered on the t-shirts on young fans.
Entry to this particular art museum will cost just ￥1,000, but includes a free drink and a homemade cookie at the end of your visit. While you’re enjoying your refreshment, you can discuss the art in front of their delightful fireplace or take one of their many public sketchbooks and draw something to leave behind for other visitors to see.
Drifting between these two art destinations or simply choosing your favourite is a perfect way to spend a morning. You’ll leave feeling enriched, inspired and relaxed. Nourish your soul in Karuizawa today.