The train journey from Tokyo to Hakone was a tranquil and scenic prelude to a day that would leave an indelible mark on my heart. In the company of two Japanese colleagues, Taydoshi Goto and Sherrie Fujinama, we embarked on this trip one crisp October moirning. The countryside unfurled before our eyes, a tapestry of vibrant green and the promise of autumn's splendor. It was a day meant for reflection, as my trip throughout Asia was drawing to a close.
Upon arriving at Hakone station, we decided to pause for a leisurely lunch before immersing ourselves in the cultural wonders that awaited us at the Chokoku-no-mori art museum, a sprawling 17-acre complex where the genius of great artists comes to life. What makes this museum truly extraordinary is the way it weaves art into the fabric of nature.
Art and Nature Coexisting in Harmony
At the heart of our visit was the question that has intrigued artists and thinkers for centuries: Is art a mere representation of nature, or does it hold the power to become one with it? The Chokoku-no-mori museum, with its remarkable outdoor exhibition featuring sculptures by luminaries like Rodin and Henry Moore, offers a compelling response. It effortlessly shows that art and nature can coexist in harmony, each enriching the other.
Founded in 1969, this museum's setting immediately casts a spell on its visitors. Nestled amidst picturesque green hills, valleys, and breathtaking mountain vistas, it feels like the landscape itself is a masterpiece waiting to be uncovered. The decision to infuse this pristine natural setting with artistic creations was nothing short of inspired.
As we explored the museum, we encountered about 120 sculptures, spanning the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries, hailing from Japan and beyond. It's a treasure trove that proudly holds one of the largest collections of Henry Moore's sculptures, a testament to his belief that sculpture thrives in the open air. Auguste Rodin, Aristide Maillol, and Niki de Saint Phalle with her powerful "Miss Black Power" are just a few of the eminent artists gracing the museum's collection.
While the central square showcased some of the most renowned works, the true enchantment lay in wandering the grounds, where art and nature melded seamlessly. Gabriel Loire's Symphonique sculpture, a mesmerizing multicolored tower, felt like a symphony of colors and lights dancing in harmony.
Picasso's Genius Unfolds Before Us
Yet, the true lesson of this museum became apparent when we entered its interior. Alberto Giacometti's works found their place here, but the pinnacle was the pavilion dedicated to Pablo Picasso, the Spanish Cubist painter and sculptor. Inaugurated in 1984 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Fujisankei Communications Group, it houses an astonishing 700 of Picasso's works, including sculptures, paintings, drawings, and even pottery. Picasso's genius unfolded before us, from his youth to his later years, immortalized through the lens of the American photojournalist David Douglas Duncan.
What struck me profoundly that day was the interplay between the setting, the artworks, and the natural landscape. It's a rare occurrence to find such harmonious coexistence between art and nature, and it transformed this museum into a place not merely to visit but to inhabit, if only for a fleeting afternoon. Play areas for children and vast green spaces for relaxation enriched the experience. A tea pavilion, several restaurants, and even a foot bath provided a perfect way to unwind after immersing ourselves in the world of art and nature.
Picasso once famously said, "Art is not the application of a canon of beauty, but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any canon." His philosophy about art was deeply intertwined with his political and social beliefs, which are evident in many of his paintings. He viewed art as a powerful tool for societal reform and used his works to confront and challenge prevailing political and social conditions.
The Lesson of Finding True Beauty
As I departed Hakone that day, I carried with me not just memories of breathtaking sculptures and natural beauty but also a profound lesson from Picasso that transcends the world of art: that beauty is not confined by rigid rules or expectations. It can be found in the harmony between the man-made and the natural, in the interplay of creativity and the environment.
In a world increasingly defined by boundaries and divisions, Picasso's lesson from the heart of Hakone reminds us that true beauty emerges when we embrace the interconnection between different elements, whether it's art and nature, cultures and traditions, or people from diverse backgrounds. It's a lesson that invites us to see the world through a different lens – one that celebrates the boundless possibilities of human creativity and the profound beauty that emerges when we let art and nature become one.
Periodically, I look at a postcard purchased from the gift shop at Chokoku-no-mori. It features a photo of Picasso at work in his studio and a quote, "Lo que uno hace es lo que cuenta. No es lo que uno tenía la intención de hacer.” Translated, it reads, “What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing.”
It’s time to do more with our lives – to listen to the heart, to step forward and serve the needs of others, and to be a witness to the continuous interplay of internal and external events that influence our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.