If you fancy a day out of Kyoto and a bit of fresh country air, a trip into Shiga to visit the Miho Museum might be a nice little adventure for you. This is a most extraordinary private art collection, held in a most extraordinary building, and in an extraordinary location! The building itself is remarkable, designed by I. M. Pei (he’s the guy that designed the glass pyramid at the Louvre – you know the one Mary Magdalen is buried under), 80% of it lies below ground but what lies above somehow balances respect for Japanese tradition and surrounding nature, with a clean modernist line. Inside natural light from the glass roof illuminates beautiful art and treasures from all over the ancient world. I heard about this place years ago but for some reason I always had the idea it was in some remote inaccesible part of deepest darkest inaka. Actually, though it is in the middle of nowhere, it is fairly easy to get to. Here’s how:
Take the JR line from Kyoto Station to Ishiyama. The ticket costs 230 yen and will get you there in 13 minutes. You can check the train times here: Jorudan Train Route Finder.
At Ishiyama station, take a number 150 bus from stop 3. The bus ride lasts 50 minutes and will set you back 800 yen. There’s a timetable to and from the museum here.
You will arrive at the reception area which looks like this:
If you are wise, you left early enough in the morning to give yourself plenty of time to look around. Stop off and have an organic lunch at the Peach Valley Restaurant. At this time of year you might want something light. Here is the ぶっかけうどん or cold udon noodles with a cold dipping sauce (950 yen).
And here are the 夏野菜の冷やしそば or summer vegetables with chilled soba noodles (1,200 yen).
Now it’s time to hand over your 1000 yen for a ticket to the museum. You get these at the reception desk between the restaurant and the museum shop. Then go outside and turn right through the woods. A sign tells you the museum is only 500 meters away. You can take a little trolley car but why not walk? Soon you will come to a tunnel that leads through the mountain.
Do not be alarmed! It’s a very nice tunnel!
The view behind you is pretty nice too.
Lazy people in trolley cars will pass you on the way to visit the lair of Dr. Evil the Miho Museum.
Keep walking, round the bend and beautifully framed by the tunnel your destination appears before you!
You still have to cross a bridge before you get there though.
Stop and look around you. You are suspended above a forest in the Shigaraki Mountains!
This is the view behind you.
Now you can enjoy the views from the museum of Misono (the headquarters of the Shumei sect)…
And the beautiful art and ancient artifacts that lie within.
The Miho Museum was founded to house Mihoko Koyama’s private collection of antiques. She also founded the Shumei spiritual sect of the neighboring Misono complex. Some people might find that a little off-putting, but actually I didn’t see a single reference to the sect or its beliefs while I was at the museum so they obviously aren’t proselytizers. Besides, whether you are Catholic or not you can still appreciate a great cathedral, can’t you? The same rule applies.
One thing I really liked about this museum: all the information about every exhibit has been translated into English! This is really unusual in Japan and a real treat. The current special exhibition “Tales of Buddhas” continues until August 16th, 2009 and is worth catching. I think I might be back again to catch the Jakuchu exhibition that begins on September 1st. Check the museum schedule for further details.
The Miho Museum is open from 10:00 to 17:00 (Admission until 16:00). It is closed most Mondays and periodically for extended periods. Please check the opening schedule before you hike all the way out there! (This month it will be closed from the 17th until September 1st.) For more information, please contact the Miho Museum.