If there was only one “must see” in Shimane prefecture, my vote would go to the Adachi Museum of Art. Set in the simple countryside of Yasugi, Adachi is tucked away between Shimane’s dramatic ranges in a long, flat valley. Fifteen minutes from the nearest train station, Adachi has brought guests from all over the world to this sleepy town. While the museum is well known for artifacts, ceramics and a collection of very ornate paper walls, it was the simple art of nature that first drew me in.
The founder, Adachi Zenko, created the museum and now famous integrated gardens, as a gesture of gratitude to his hometown. After becoming a well respected businessman, investor and land owner, he wanted others to see life in Shimane as he did. We should be thankful for this, because the surrounding beauty acts perfectly as a backdrop to the main stage.
The gardens are meticulously sculpted, no stone, branch or leaf out of place. It’s the ultimate marriage of earth’s natural beauty and man’s tender care. It’s a scene writers will forever struggle to paint with words, what can only be truly felt, through sight. Adachi is a place for reflection, for thought and meditation.
The only complaint I’ve heard has been that before visiting, guests imagine walking through the gardens, casually crossing the stone paths, traversing this iconic Japanese land. But once inside, you’ll find the gardens remain behind glass. Besides hindering flash photography, I’ll venture a guess that this detachment is a disappointment to some. I, on the other hand, see this as a preservation of earth’s beauty. That without such an act of display, this beauty could be trampled, overtaken by the world around us. It remains framed by walls, the floor and ceiling, preserved for generations to come. A reminder of what’s possible, when carefully looked after.
Other sections of the gardens do have walking paths, but an element of distance and separation still exists. There really must be, because Adachi will be one of the busier attractions in all of Shimane. Groups file in by the busload. Across the street, probably the largest parking lot in Japan not attached to an airport. Still, on my many occasions to visit, never was the crowd anything close to what is experienced at MoMa or The Met in New York.
Access is a snap if you have a car, but what about everyone else? Adachi offers shuttle service from a variety of locations, the closest and most frequent being from Yasugi Station (bus and rail). Admission to Adachi is half price for passport–holding foreigners, so be sure to bring it with you! (Normal cost 2,200 yen) There’s an amazing gift shop once inside, a great spot to pick up gifts and postcards. There are also two eateries, but are rather pricey, especially for rural Japan. Don’t go inside hungry if you’re on a budget! There is plenty of food located just outside the museum. Eat there.
For 500 yen, they offer taped tours, in English, providing highlights of the gardens and exhibits, however, I cannot speak from experience. All pieces have English information and upon entry, you will be given a very thorough guide, covering the entire museum and gardens. ave it, even ask for an extra. These can be great gifts, too! Photography is permitted throughout most of the property, except where clearly marked otherwise. Take your batteries and extra memory, because rarely will you find an angle here you won’t like.
Shimane and neighboring prefectures have lots of great attractions, but the Adachi Museum of Art and Gardens really do exist on another level. They will quite simply take your breath away. While I've never seen such a perfect setting out in the wild, I found myself compelled to return for multiple visits. I’ve stood for hours, simply absorbing this human display of nature. So if you’re in the area, it’s not to be missed.
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My Japan story starts from a rather young age. When I was nine years old, my Father was offered the opportunity of a lifetime, a transfer to Tokyo. I attended the American School in Japan (ASIJ) for three years before moving to Singapore for two. I absolutely LOVE traveling and experiencing different cultures. So, my love for Japan is routed deep in life experience. After studying Japanese and visiting a Fraternity Brother in Tottori prefecture in 2007, I applied to and was accepted into the JET Programme, which sent me back to the Chugoku region to Shimane prefecture for one year. I am now based in Atlanta, GA and spend summers on the island of Martha's Vineyard. Over the past few years I've traveled back and forth to Tokyo, even living there during the March 11 earthquake. It was a trying time, but it only bonded me tighter with this island nation and it's people. Please keep up with me on twitter and feel free to contact me however you see fit! Cheers, Adam Hacker