Japanese artist Ikeda Masuo was evidently something of a renaissance man. Raised in China and Nagano, he moved to Tokyo to become a painter, but also made movies, wrote an award-winning novel, and shone as a sculptor, engraver and ceramic artist, becoming the first Japanese artist to hold a solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The gallery he built next to his former studio in the hills of Izu is now open as a museum, showcasing the range of his artistry in an attractive setting.
It's a little way inland, and the road up gets fairly steep in places, so I was a bit out of breath when I got there. This was despite my having taken my time to enjoy the scenery; I followed a stream some of the way, and stopped off at Kotoku-ji temple on the way up (and I'd also then visit Kaifuku-ji temple on the way back down).
The building is easy to spot: it's painted in strident black and yellow diagonals, like a police line marker or the pillars at my old haunt of the Hacienda nightclub in Manchester. This contrasts pretty sharply with the pleasant garden around it; here you can listen to the gently flowing stream nearby, enjoy the view out over the hills towards the bay, admire some large examples of Ikeda's sculpture, or sit and rest on seats shaped like welcoming hands or cubic monkeys.
Once you get inside the museum, it's not that big a place, but there's a pleasant feeling of light and space, thanks to the open ceiling, large windows, and light colours used throughout. (It's also a shoes-off place, and the feeling of the cool floor under my bare feet added to the relaxed atmosphere, along with my being the only visitor.)
As well as Ikeda's art, the museum is decorated with antique wooden furnishings - cabinets, a grandfather clock, a piano - and pictures of Ikeda and his violinist wife. There's also a little lounge area where you can catch your breath after the climb, while watching a video (in Japanese) about his life and work, and there's a small selection of gifts for sale at the ticket counter.
It looks like they periodically rotate what's on display, but I imagine I saw a good representative sample of Ikeda's art. There were cheery, brightly coloured paintings, a welcoming committee of smaller, roughly-formed abstract sculptures, some equally roughly-formed plates, ceramics and tiles glazed with designs of Mount Fuji. Upstairs there was a huge patchwork fabric collage on one wall, and some entertaining playing cards, with topless queens and lecherous kings and jacks. I enjoyed strolling around slowly, taking in the quiet - the only sound was the noise of the stream from outside - admiring the breadth of Ikeda's talent.
The museum is in Izu-Taga, on the JR Ito train line south of Atami. The closest you can get by public transport is Shimotaga bus stop on the route between Atami and Ajiro stations, but it's still then a 20-30 minute walk up the hill. If you're driving, the museum is five minutes from Shimotaga intersection on Route 135, or ten minutes from Yamabushi Pass on Izu Skyline and Atami Ohito line.
It's open from 9:00am to 4:30pm on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays only. Admission costs ¥510 for adults, ¥300 for students at high school or junior high school, with a ¥100 discount per head for groups of 20 or more.