By Grant Casey
Kanazawa is well known for its handicrafts and historic sights including Kenroku-en Garden, the Chayamachi geisha districts, and Kanazawa Castle, but amidst the traditional lies the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, a spectacular collection of international and Japanese modern art.
Open since 2004, this is one of Japan’s most popular contemporary art museums. The museum building is innovatively designed by the famed architectural firm SANAA, also responsible for international works including the Dior Omotesando and Issey Miyake stores in Tokyo, the Louvre-Lens in France and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. The low set circular building, surrounded by glass on all sides, was designed to have no specific entrance or exit. Exhibitions on the outside and the inside of the museum seem to flow seamlessly into one another given the transparency of the walls. For a contemporary art museum, the space is remarkably child friendly, with many of the exhibits interactive and playful in theme.
There is a permanent collection of art by a variety of international contemporary artists. Notable permanent exhibitions include the Swimming Pool, a unique visual experience by Argentinian Artist Leandro Erlich and Olafur Eliasson’s Colour Activity House, an outdoor exhibit consisting of colored panels that allow for viewing the world in different shades of color. The permanent exhibitions are located in the outer perimeter of the circular building. There are also temporary exhibitions that rotate periodically and are situated in the interior of the building. In addition, there is a children’s art workshop, a gift shop, a library, and a café on site with an English menu.
The museum is located near Kenroku-en Garden and is easily accessible through the Kanazawa Loop Bus. The closest stop is Hirosaka, Stop 10 on the Loop bus route. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and open until 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The public spaces including the restaurant are open until 10 p.m. The museum is closed on Mondays. Admission is 1000 yen for the temporary exhibitions, whereas the permanent exhibitions located in the public spaces are free of charge.
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I first visited Japan in 2001 and since then have returned many times. With the efficiency and reliability of its transportation, the graciousness of the people, and the dedication to quality in food and service, Japan has been my standard for modern travel convenience. Every return has reminded me of the remarkable depth and diversity of the country with no two trips being alike, despite retracing steps through familiar neighborhoods. The constant dynamism of the urban centers combined with the emphasis on tradition, sense of aesthetics, and attention to detail make it one of the most exciting places to visit and an inexhaustible land for novel experiences, modern and ancient.