The mingling of nature and art is a key feature within Japanese culture. Many art galleries and museums — in major metropolises and more rural sites alike — rely on striking gardens or impressive natural landscape to complement their collections, and intensify the experience of their visitors. Read on for our pick of 6 of the best museums in Japan where art and nature collide.
1. Hakone Open Air Museum
Take in fantastic sculpture, a little exercise, and a stunning 17-acre setting with mountain views at Hakone Open-Air Museum, Japan’s first. With work by artists such as Miro, Rodin and Picasso, as well as modern masters and contemporary work, this wonderful sculpture park is the perfect way to view the verdant greenery of Hakone, whilst enjoying some culture too. Not to be missed — and there’s even a hot spring foot bath to enjoy once you’ve soaked up some culture.
2. Chichu Art Museum
The incredible Chichu Art Museum - featuring the works of Monet, James Turrell and Walter De Maria, and designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando – is not only blessed with gorgeous views of the Seto Inland Sea; it’s also home to a beautiful garden. The garden is inspired by Claude Monet’s in Giverny, France, which proved a source of pleasure and delight to the artist. Here, you can enjoy the bewitching blooms, including the water lillies that Monet is famous for. A fitting introduction to the man’s actual works on display inside.
3. Miho Museum
The stunning Miho Museum ( should definitely be one to add to your bucket list if you’re looking for slice of nature with your art. This beautifully designed, light-filled space is inspired by Kyoto’s temples, with a collection of Asian, African and European artworks on display. Small but perfectly formed, the museum is nestled within the mountains of Shigaraki, Shiga prefecture. This is one of the best museums in Japan for enlightening architecture in an exhilarating setting.
4. Nezu Museum
Tokyo’s Nezu Museum may be located in the cosmopolitan hub of Omotesando, but it will transport you away from the city through its beautiful combination of glass, nature and meticulously curated exhibition spaces. Housing the private collection of Nezu Kachiro, the gallery’s garden proves a highlight for any visit — a charming complement to the new, modern building, finished in 2006. Stone lanterns, shady walkways, thought-provoking sculptures and ornate tea houses make up the garden’s serene ambiance. A must for any art or nature lover in Tokyo.
5. Kubota Itchiku Art Museum
Set against the spectacular backdrop of Five Likes at the foot of Mount Fuji, the Kubota Itchiku Art Museum stands in the hills along the northern coast of Lake Kawaguchiko, exhibiting varied art works, objects and textiles affiliated with the artists Kubota Itchiku. The mingling of kimonos and textiles are a beautiful juxtaposition with the museum’s natural surroundings. Don’t miss the incredible Symphony of Light, a huge work made up of 80 kimono, which together forms a stunning picture of Fuji San itself.
6. Omiya Bonsai Village
Finally, for a more literal cohesion of art and nature, check out the brilliant Omiya Bonsai Museum in Saitama. The superb art museum, dedicated exclusively to bonsai trees, teaches visitors about the fascinating history of the plant and its different styles, with informative English descriptions and audio guides to help its visitors appreciate the subtle art of the bonsai.