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New visions of Japan: traveling from museum to museum

Starting from Tokyo, going south, to Kyūshū, a peculiar path through three brand new museums, still little known to the general audience and which are only waiting to be discovered.

by Giacomo Donati

They sprout like mushrooms, emerging from that incessant construction site that has always been Japan, a country that, alongside the vestiges that nourish the somewhat romantic ideas we can have about it, is continuously and silently renewed, with buildings increasingly innovative and resistant to the stresses that shake the country almost daily, with swinging force.

The journey to discover some of the new museums inaugurated in recent years starts from Tokyo, more precisely from Harajuku station, on the Yamanote Line: leaving, a few minutes away, next to Yoyogi park and immersed in turn in a small centenary forest , the Meiji Jingu Museum, the museum of the Meiji Shrine, has been inaugurated a few months ago.

© Kawasumi

The museum, designed by renowned architect Kengo Kuma, deserves a visit in itself for its architectural beauty and its clean lines and exhibits important cultural heritage from the Shitoist shrine dedicated to the souls of Emperor Mutsuhito and his wife, Empress Shōken, as well as interesting objects reminiscent of key moments in Japan's recent history, including the carriage that Meiji Emperor used on the day he signed the Japanese Constitution one hundred and thirty years ago.

© Kawasumi

Leaving Tokyo behind, about 150km away, on the slopes of the legendary Mount Fuji, is the town of Fujinomiya, in the prefecture of Shizuoka: here, as one can imagine, the genius of the Pritzker Prize, Shigeru Ban, has been called to draw a museum entirely dedicated to Mount Fuji, the Mount Fuji World Heritage Center Shizuoka.

The building, impressive in itself, is an upside-down representation of the Fuji-san assembled with a spectacular wooden grid, which, mirroring itself in the picturesque body of water it overlooks, doubles its effect, further shuffling the cards on the table in a continuous reminder of Japan's most famous profile.

Inside, through six thematic areas, a permanent exhibition simulates the ascent to the volcano and immerses the viewer in all that Mount Fuji, one of the three sacred mountains, represents for Japan, ending in a breathtaking panoramic room, which frames Mount Fuji as in a giant postcard.

The last stop takes us back to the work of Kengo Kuma, and precisely in Yufuin, in the prefecture of Ōita: here, almost a thousand kilometers further south, we can admire a small but precious museum of contemporary art, the Comico Art Museum Yufuin.

A museum built on a curious combination, namely the one between the minimalist and contemplative works of the photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto - and in particular on his series of black and white shots depicting the marine horizons of different parts of the world - and the eclectic and explosive work of Takashi Murakami. A contrast that sums up two of the many extremes that can be found by exploring Japan.