About Us

About The Hakone Open-Air Museum

Hakone is located in Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. It was in these natural surroundings that Fujisankei Communications Group opened the Hakone Open-Air Museum in 1969. Nobutaka Shikanai, the museum's founder and first director, set out to help bring sculpture to more people in Japan, where there has never been a museum dedicated to sculpture.

This was a time when sculpture was beginning to move outdoors, both in and outside of Japan. Sculpture with an open feel was being made from a variety of different materials, replacing traditional sculpture focusing on weighty solidity. Sculpture expanded spatially as it became larger and larger in size, and the term “environmental sculpture” emerged.

The use of a specific outdoor site as an exhibition space for sculpture was also in keeping with the times. This spot in Hakone offers hills, streams, and ponds, with views of the mountains on both sides and the sea in the distance at the horizon. From the outset, the site met several of the prerequisites for a Japanese garden.

Sculptor Bukichi Inoue was commissioned to design the museum and its grounds. Inoue aspired to create a place for parents and children alike. He also conceived of Earth itself as a sculpture. His vision was to present visitors with a hilly space almost like a physical contour, where it feels like walking over the human body — a space where sculpture and nature blend together and where intellectual stimulations lingers in the mind. And so was born a place for people and art to interact surrounded by nature.

While the museum foundation’s art collection focuses on modern and contemporary sculpture, it also includes paintings principally from the 1970s on, currently encompassing over 2,000 works. One way in which the museum has expanded its collection is through international sculpture competitions, of which the foundation has held 21 in total. The museum’s curators also have their own unique method of selecting pieces, primarily focusing on building a collection that traces the history of sculpture from the modern period to 1969, when the museum opened.

Much of the collection is limited to durable, permanent types of sculpture. This is because the museum views viable outdoor sculptures as those that can withstand the elements and the passage of time to endure for ages. It therefore takes a long time for a piece to have an impact and achieve public recognition. Each sculpture in the museum is displayed in a way that works with the space it occupies. The natural setting is transformed through the seasons, much to the delight of the viewer.

A piece of art is the language of an artist. Artists live in the times to which they were born. They speak to the age and, on occasion, attempt to speak timeless truths to future generations. We invite you to listen to their messages and converse with the artists. These interactions will deepen your understanding of the world. We welcome you to a special performance featuring 20th century sculpture and Nature.