Gem in the Hidden Mountain of Shigaraki

Miho Museum (美秀美術館) is a private museum managed by the religious group Shinji Shumeikai (神慈秀明会). It is named after the founder of the group, Mrs. Mihoko Koyama and initially housed the vast collection of tea ceremony utensils and Asian antiquities collected by her. The collection was subsequently grew into a vision of an art museum, aligning with Koyama’s vision of promoting beauty, peace and joy through art.

The museum is a place that I have been longing for a visit.

Yes, for a very long time.

In fact, I had been there before but not exactly visited the museum. Why?

Miho Museum (美秀美術館) is a private museum managed by the religious group Shinji Shumeikai (神慈秀明会). It is named after the founder of the group, Mrs. Mihoko Koyama and initially housed the vast collection of tea ceremony utensils and Asian antiquities collected by her. The collection was subsequently grew into a vision of an art museum, aligning with Koyama’s vision of promoting beauty, peace and joy through art.

The museum is a place that I have been longing for a visit.

Yes, for a very long time.

In fact, I had been there before but not exactly visited the museum. Why?

 

web-page-separator

 

Back in 2006 while I was touring with my wife in Kyoto, we had no specific place to go on one rainy day. I looked up the GPS searching for places to go around the area. All of a sudden, a very familiar name came to sight, Miho Museum – one that I learnt from a documentary years ago.

Without any further checking, I drove up to Miho Museum. That trip was a little scary. The rain was quite heavy and it was terribly foggy. It took me more than an hour to climb along those narrow and hilly roads. By the time I arrived, Oh My God, I found that the museum was closed few days ago for change of exhibit.

So if you want to visit Miho Museum, make sure to check their website for the museum schedule.

 

During my recent holiday tour to the Biwako area, I finally have the chance to visit the Miho Museum.

 

web-page-separator

 

Why so Special?

The story began with the Joy of Angels Bell Tower, designed by the famous Chinese American architect I. M. Pei, at Shinji Shumeikai International in Misono. I. M. Pei, born in 1917 in China and went to US for studying architecture. Major design works included the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Massachusetts, the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, Bank of China Building in Hong Kong, Bank of China Head Office in Beijing and Grand Louvre in Paris.

In 1991, thrilled by the success of the Bell Tower, Miss Koyama commissioned Pei to build the Miho Museum, located on the mountain of Shigaraki, Shiga Prefecture.

Pei’s design was inspired by the famous Chinese tale of “Peach Blossom Valley” by Tao Yum Ming.

There once lived a fisherman in Eastern China. One day, as he was rowing up a mountain stream, he came across a peach orchard in full bloom

Your exploration starts with a slow climb along the Approach to the Museum

Your exploration starts with a slow climb along the Approach to the Museum

At the end of the orchard, he noticed a ray of light coming from a small cave at the foot of a mountain.

Tunnel at the end of the climb with cherry blossom trees along the sides (sorry I was not not in the right season!)

Tunnel at the end of the climb with cherry blossom trees along the sides (sorry I was not in the right season!)

Once inside, he found himself on a narrow road,

The Metallic tunnel

The Metallic tunnel

but traveling deeper, a splendid view suddenly opened before him.

Strolling along the metallic tunnel and prepare for the scenery ahead

Strolling along the metallic tunnel and prepare for the scenery ahead

The wonderful Miho Museum on the other side of the tunnel

The wonderful Miho Museum on the other side of the tunnel

There was the Shangri-La.

Electric Cart Stop in front of the Miho Museum main building

Electric Cart Stop in front of the Miho Museum main building

 

As the piece of land was within a nature reserve, there were a number of restrictions that must be followed:

  1. Any building structure here must be opened to public – Despite the museum is privately owned, it is designed for public visit
  2. Height of building must not exceed 10 meters – To meet the restriction without downsizing, 80% of the museum is built deep inside the mountain with only just 20% is exposed. Trees and earth were removed to make place for the building site and then relocated back once the construction was completed.
  3. All building structures must be sloped and not affecting the natural environment of the area – This is how Mr. I. M. Pei making use of basic geometric shapes to design the silhouette to be in-lined with the mountains here – An architectural masterpiece.

 

Miho Museum - A traditional Japanese style building that harmonised with the surrounding

Miho Museum – A traditional Japanese style building that harmonised with the surrounding

 

web-page-separator

 

How to Get There?

Public bus service operated by Teisan is available from the Ishiyama JR Station to the Miho Museum Bus Stop. Bus frequency is about once in every hour.

You can also go by car via Shiga Prefectural Route 12 towards Shigaraki. Free parking space is available in front of the museum. However, pay attention when driving along Route 12 as it is steep and narrow. There are many sections that only support single lane traffic. In fact, the museum will be closed during winter period from December to March of the following year due to snowing.

Since we lived in hotel next to the Seta JR Station and the bus stop, we took a slightly different route by boarding the Teisan bus at the station towards Ishiyama JR Station and changed to the Miho Bus at the Hashimoto Bus Stop.

Seta JR Station and the Teisan Bus Stop

Seta JR Station and the Teisan Bus Stop

Hand drawn instruction for changing bus to Miho Museum

Hand drawn instruction for changing bus to Miho Museum

Getting off at the Hashimoto Bus Stop

Getting off at the Hashimoto Bus Stop

Changing bus to Miho Museum at the Hashimoto Bus Stop in Sekisho-no-michi

Changing bus to Miho Museum at the Hashimoto Bus Stop in Sekisho-no-michi

Onboard the public bus towards Miho Museum

Onboard the public bus towards Miho Museum

Bus fares varied across location (bus stop) of boarding the bus

Bus fares varied across location (bus stop) of boarding the bus

Paying bus fare at the end of the bus journey

Paying bus fare at the end of the bus journey

 

web-page-separator

 

Our Visit to Miho Museum

Other than taking the public bus or by car, there are also bikers and cyclists who enjoyed riding up the steep roads to the museum.

Two types of bikes living in harmony @Miho Museum

Two types of bikes living in harmony @Miho Museum

After getting off the bus next to the parking area, the first place came to sight is the Reception Pavilion where the ticketing counter is located. It also housed one of the two restaurants, the Peach Valley, where we would have our lunch later on.

Reception pavilion looking from the museum carpark

Reception pavilion looking from the museum car park

Across the bus stop to the Miho Museum reception pavilion

Across the bus stop to the Miho Museum reception pavilion

Staircase to the Miho Museum reception pavilion

Staircase to the Miho Museum reception pavilion

Miho Museum reception pavilion

Miho Museum reception pavilion

Lobby of the reception pavilion

Lobby of the reception pavilion

Admission fee is ¥1,100 for adults and ¥300 for kids over age of six.

Paying the museum admission fees

Paying the museum admission fees

Before going into details, take a look at the aerial views of the Miho Museum.

Aerial View with Reception Pavilion at the bottom and Museum main building at the top

Aerial View with Reception Pavilion at the bottom and Museum main building at the top

Aerial View of the Museum main building and the suspension bridge

Aerial View of the Museum main building and the suspension bridge

Free electric cart is available to take you along the Approach to the main museum block on the other side of the mountain.

Electric Cart bring visitors to the Miho Museum

Electric Cart bring visitors to the Miho Museum

To better enjoy the scenery of the nature reserve, we deliberately walked along the Approach instead.

Boys posing in front of the tunnel

Boys posing in front of the tunnel

If you looked back from the tunnel and at the right season (of course I’m not!), you would have a view full of the cherry blossom trees, a vibrant pink color that looked really great.

Looking back from the metallic tunnel

Looking back from the metallic tunnel

A suspension bridge linking to the Museum at the end of the tunnel

A suspension bridge linking to the Museum at the end of the tunnel

Suspension bridge viewing from the main museum building

Suspension bridge viewing from the main museum building

Looking out from the suspension bridge linking the tunnel to the Museum

Looking out from the suspension bridge linking the tunnel to the Museum

 

web-page-separator

 

Architectural View of the Miho Museum

Going inside to the main hall of the Miho Museum

Going inside to the main hall of the Miho Museum

1F – Miho Museum

Here it comes the Entrance Hall.

The Entrance Hall at 1F of the Miho Museum

The Entrance Hall at 1F of the Miho Museum

It’s really hard to describe the scenery in words.

Mr. I. M. Pei cleverly making use of natural light as the key and utilised basic geometric shapes as the building blocks to the Museum.

Right in front of the windows are old pine trees that were removed during building of the Museum and relocated back afterward. Their original locations and postures were carefully maintained. A respect to the environment and the mastery work of the Japanese engineers and builders.

The long wooden bench on the lower left of the above photo was craved out from one tall pine tree. The way it was cut was to preserve the original shape of the trunk.

At the far end, you would also see the Bell Tower at Misono and the Shrine of Shumei located at the headquarters of the Shinji Shumeikai.

Looking out from the main hall - Bell tower at Misono (left) and the Shrine of Shumei (right)

Looking out from the main hall – Bell tower at Misono (left) and the Shrine of Shumei (right)

Towards the North Wing

Towards the North Wing

2F – Miho Museum

Geometric structure at the North Wing of the Miho Museum

Geometric structure at the North Wing of the Miho Museum

Exhibition on the Holy colors of Blue and Red

Exhibition on the Holy colors of Blue and Red

The Courtyard (Japanese Garden) located in 2F of the North Wing

The Courtyard (Japanese Garden) located in 2F of the North Wing

Another view of the Courtyard (Japanese Garden)

Another view of the Courtyard (Japanese Garden)

Small exhibition showing the interaction between red and blue

Small exhibition showing the interaction between red and blue

Small exhibition showing the interaction between red and blue

Small exhibition showing the interaction between red and blue

B1F – Miho Museum

Floor Mosaic depicting Dionysos's Discovery of Ariadne on Naxos at B1F

Floor Mosaic depicting Dionysos’s Discovery of Ariadne on Naxos at B1F

Use of natural lighting in the Museum Shop at B1F

Use of natural lighting in the Museum Shop at B1F

Another example of natural lighting in the B1F lobby

Another example of natural lighting in the B1F lobby

The Rotary of the Museum at B1F - Used for Electric Cart Stop in summer and rainy days

The Rotary of the Museum at B1F – Used for Electric Cart Stop in summer and rainy days

 

web-page-separator

Lunch at the Miho Museum

Our visit to the Miho Museum couldn’t be completed without having the wonderful lunch there.

At the South Wing of the Museum, there is the Pine View Tea Room serving drinks, sandwiches and desserts. A good place for a break during your visit to the museum collection. As we all felt hungry after the visit, we preferred to have full lunch at the Peach Valley Restaurant at the Reception Pavilion.

In fact, both the Pine View Tea Room and Peach Valley used ingredients produced by the Shumei Natural Agricultural approach which is free from any additives including fertilisers and agrochemicals.

Peach Valley Restaurant, Reception Pavilion, Miho Museum

Peach Valley Restaurant, Reception Pavilion, Miho Museum

Menu of the Peach Valley Restaurant, Miho Museum

Menu of the Peach Valley Restaurant, Miho Museum

Udon menu

Udon menu

After a short wait, we finally had a table and ordered our foods.

Enjoyed the delicious lunch at the Peach Valley Restaurant

Enjoyed the delicious lunch at the Peach Valley Restaurant

Hot Udon set meal

Hot Udon set meal

Chilled Udon set meal

Chilled Udon set meal

Chilled spaghetti with summer vegetables and handmade bread

Chilled spaghetti with summer vegetables and handmade bread

Reginette pasta (emmer & durum) with seasonal vegetables and handmade bread

Reginette pasta (emmer & durum) with seasonal vegetables and handmade bread

Being a baker myself, it was hard to resist buying handmade breads from the bakery of the museum.

Bakery at the reception pavilion

Bakery at the reception pavilion

End of my visit to the Miho Museum with bag of handmade breads

End of my visit to the Miho Museum with bag of handmade breads

Finally, my dream to visit the Miho Museum was fulfilled. Magnificent architectural masterpiece of Mr. I. M. Pei, delicious foods and having wonderful time with my family, I really couldn’t ask for more!

Public Bus Stop at the Miho Museum

Public Bus Stop at the Miho Museum

 

web-page-separator

 

Additional Information

This is a Youtube video containing two documentaries related to the Miho Museum. The first one is “First Person Singular  I. M. Pei“. Discussion on Miho is located at 40:38.

The second one started at 1:25:30 is “Miho Museum 1991-1997” that I have referred to in the beginning of this post.

  1. It looks great. I’m going to be in Kyoto next week, gonna see if I can fit in in my schedule!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: