Opened in September 2002, the Pola Museum of Art houses a collection of art surrounded by lush forest. When the museum was first designed by architects Nikken Sekkei, the priority was to minimize human disturbance and damage to the natural ecology of the natural park. So, the museum’s design concept is one of a "symbiosis between Hakone's natural beauty and the works of art." The majority of the museum's structures are located underground, to both harmonize with the surrounding natural environment and to appear as if embedded in the depths of the forest scenery. Large glass windows allow natural light to brighten the museum interiors while providing a closeness to the surrounding environment. Visitors can feel the connection between the museum and nature.
The museum features over 9,500 pieces from the private collection of Tsuneshi Suzuki, the son of the founder of the Pola Orbis Group, a Japanese cosmetics company. For over 40 years, Suzuki collected masterpieces including works of art by Renoir, Picasso, and other Impressionist masters, and namely one of the largest collection of Monet’s works in Japan. The museum also houses a collection of Asian ceramics, Western paintings, glasswork, and cosmetic utensils from the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods.
Elegance and Style in a Space of Light and Shadow
The Museum's Design is Marked by an Expanse of Glass — Photo by Freya Fang
The building itself is also a well-designed work of art. After entering from a glass walkway in the main entrance and slowly descending the escalator into the underground galleries' hall, you feel you are crossing into another world. Due to the significant use of glass, the museum has plenty of natural light, reducing the need for artificial lighting. This helps to soften the building’s concrete structures. Plenty of warm sunlight streams into every corner of the hall, creating a calming and inviting space.
The museum’s latest exhibition, "Modern Beauty: Art and Fashion in France," running from 3/19 to 9/4, features a collection of French fashion works from the 19th to 20th centuries including paintings, sculptures, prints, jewelry, makeup items, decorative items, dresses, and more. During the mid-1800s, the industrial revolution brought about rapid growth in spinning and weaving textiles. Dramatic improvements were made in sewing techniques, and a tremendous amount of new materials were produced. Media such as Vogue and Elle fashion magazines publicized these developments and their impact on fashion. Around the same time, the Impressionist painting movement began to receive international acclaim.
The Modern Beauty Exhibition — Photo by Freya Fang
The 18th-century French aristocratic ladies using these luxury fashion items, in tight corsets with their cinched waistlines and exaggerated towering hair, were the epitome of style.
Fans were the Ultimate Accessories in the 1800s — Photo by Freya Fang
At the time, fans were considered essential accessories. In addition to highlighting one’s social status, fans were also used to attract the opposite sex. The most distinguished ladies used fans made of precious and rare materials, such as ivory, tortoiseshell, and bird feathers.
Impressionist Paintings and Costumes Feature Widely in the Exhibition — Photo by Freya Fang
In the latter part of the 19th century, as fashion trends evolved, so did the Impressionists – Monet, Renoir and others, the artists most representative of the era. Their depicted themes and scenes were quite diverse, ranging from aristocratic court ladies to peasant women. They captured the ever-changing contemporary society and female fashion through their innovative and rich painting techniques.
Accessories from the 1900s — Photo by Freya Fang
Fashions gradually simplified from the luxurious and sophisticated to more ready-to-wear. Accessories, such as mirrors and compacts, changed too. After World War I, women’s clothing evolved to be more lightweight.
Buy Museum Souvenirs
Specially Branded Souvenirs — Photo by Freya Fang
After touring the Modern Beauty exhibition, be sure to visit the museum gift shop to pick up some exclusive limited edition gifts. Boxed sets of sweets, with packaging featuring the museum’s collection of paintings, make great presents for friends and family.
Kawaii Culture- Young Girl in a Hat by Pierre Auguste Renoir — Photo by Freya Fang
Other souvenirs exclusive to the museum are the Kewpie dolls. These kawaii (cute) items reference both Japan pop-culture and fashion history. One styled after Renoir’s “Girl in a Lace Hat” and the other with a lily cap, based on Monet’s “Water Lilies" are sure to be appreciated as an only-in-Japan style gift.
Beautiful art is not limited to inside the museum. Along the Pola Museum of Art Nature Trail (about 670 meters long), one can enjoy a number of sculptures, amidst a lush forest of trees. A stroll in this beautiful spot offers an instant getaway from the commotion of daily life.
The Pola Museum can be accessed From Tokyo Station. Take the JR Tokaido Shinkansen Line to Odawara Station, then take the Odakyu line to Hakone Yumoto Station. Take the Hakone Tozan Railway to Gora Station, where you can take the Sightseeing Shuttle Bus to Shissei-kaen (13 minutes) or a taxi (10 minutes). For more access routes, click here.