By Sandra Isaka
Hakone is a town with a large number of very good museums. Some of the more well known are the Hakone Open-air Museum, the Venetian Glass Museum (Hakone Garasu-no-mori), the Pola Museum, the Narikawa Museum, and the Hakone Museum of Art. I won’t say that the Hakone Venetian Glass Museum is the best among them but it’s pretty darn good. Not only do they feature a collection of antique glass but also modern glass objects as well. And you can enjoy seeing a variety of glass art both inside and outdoors. It also houses a café, bakery and all kinds of other surprises. As you can see, it’s quite an experience!
500 pieces of antique Venetian glass
The museum keeps up to 500 pieces and always exhibits at least 100 of them. These are from the private collection of Sadao Ukai who was the owner of a high-ranking restaurant group, Ukai. He had a passion for antique Venetian glassworks mainly from the 15th-18th century. Among the breathtaking beauties in his collection these are particularly splendid: tableware from famous noble families such as a set of graceful and colorful wine glasses of the Visconti Family, elegant and delicate compote of the Vangelisti Family, and complicated Millefioli floral design glass lamps.
Modern art using Venetian glass
When you walk into the museum building from the entrance, you will pass a brilliant glass walled corridor. 160,000 drops of crystal glass hang on a 9-meter arched flame and reflect the sunlight luminously.
Modern glass art has adapted flexible ideas and has expanded its field from tableware and interior to outdoor sculpture. Dale Chihuly is one of its most aggressive. You can see his glasswork in the modern art area and in the garden. His colorful glass series of Macchia and Seaform are exhibited in his own exclusive exhibition room. They are so interesting and exciting. One of his sculptures is in the middle of a pond. It is a piece made of countless curled white glass tubes. They are entangled and twisted around each other and form a big cluster in the middle.
Glass art making classes
The museum also offers classes on how to do glass art. There are two classes held on a regular base: Sandblasting Class (30-40 minutes, from 1200 yen) and Fusing Class (15-20 minutes, 1600-2000 yen). Sandblasting is a technique used to scrape the surface of glass. You can make your own original glass using sandblasting. Fusing is a technique used to join different pieces of glass together using heat. The class has kits for making key holders or necklaces. You choose a motif and put them on a glass plate. The instructor then puts it into kiln. It takes about 60 minutes to fire and fuse.
Facing the large, busy garden, the café here also has a nice view of the quiet mountains. Sipping seasonal fruit tea, people watching and listening to live Italian music will have you feeling relaxed and contented after enjoying the glass art. Talented Italian singers perform a canzone show six times a day.
Let’s put on a mask and cloak!
When I visited the museum, they had a service where visitors could borrow and dress up in masks and cloaks for the Venetian carnival. Lots of people put them on and enjoyed walking around the exhibition space in them. Since we can take pictures anywhere in the museum, I saw many people taking photos of one another in front of the Italian interiors. Looking around the exhibition room, I suddenly felt as if I was in the Middle Age of Venice because of the people in cloaks and masks chatting and enjoying their time quite naturally.
If you are unlucky enough to have bad weather when you visit Hakone, this museum is a highly recommended place to visit. It is nice to take your time looking around at the valuable collection of antique glass, having some tea and cakes at the comfortable museum café, and participating in a glass art class.
About this series
Hakone has a lot of nice museums, set in the middle of beautiful nature. Seven of them are of a very high level and are truly recommendable. Please breathe fresh air and sharpen your artistic sense in Hakone!
1 Hakone Open-air Museum: Enjoy magnificent art in the great outdoors (by Larry Knipfing)
2 Hakone Museum of Art, Garden: A stunning autumn contrast of red, yellow and green
3 Hakone Venetian Glass Museum: From antique glass treasure to modern fine art
4 Museum of the Little Prince: The world of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
5 Lalique Museum, Hakone: From brilliant jewelry to gorgeous glass art
6 POLA Museum of Art: Tsuneshi Suzuki and his passion for art
7 Narukawa Art Museum: The best view point of Ashino-ko Lake and Mt. Fuji
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Japan is a small island nation, but we have a huge number of surprising things to discover here. Many of these delights can be found when you step off the main street onto small side paths. I really enjoy studying about and researching various aspects of traditional Japanese culture, and then sharing this information with visitors to Japan. I hope you will enjoy it, too! ARTICLE INDEX & PHOTOS: An index of most of my Japan Travel articles can be found at the entry page of my blog, and my photos are shown here. 日本はとても小さな国ですが、大通りから一本小道に入ればたくさんの発見があります。日本人が積み重ねてきた歴史を学びながら、古い建物や庭を訪ね、物語の舞台となった景色を眺めて、皆様といっしょに日本文化の奥深さを探求していきたいと思います。