When travelling on the Izukyūkō Line over the last few years there have often been a lot of advertisements in the train featuring a treasure of old Buddha statues. Admittedly I didn’t look too close at first and presumed it was just promoting some kind of buddha temple. When I did eventually investigate the posters further I noticed that it was for a museum.
Having not heard of Uehara Museum of Art I had to check where it was on Google Maps and was quite surprised by it’s location in the middle of nowhere. I saved it into my Want to Go section without further research and didn’t think about it again until the recent holiday season in Japan (early May).
This museum was one of a few places I’d bookmarked and though I didn’t have a real strong interest in the place I decided to go as I wanted to get out of my parents-in-law’s house for a break of sorts whilst in Izu. Subsequently, I headed down to the unstaffed station of Inazusa where I then took a short bus journey (200 yen).
I had been planning to do the 45 minute walk from the station to the museum but when I noticed that it connected quite nicely with a bus I thought I’d speed up my day a bit and maybe allow for another sight later on. It was still a ten minute walk or so once I’d got off the bus which was driven by a very kind guy who offered advice about the return journey and the direction for the museum. It was all well sign-posted anyway so I couldn’t miss it!
After entering and coughing up the ¥1000 (£6.50/$9.20) entrance fee I began to explore the first building which really didn’t take long at all. It was a bit smaller than I’d imagined and was basically a couple of dark rooms with some paintings (and a few sculptures) in them from both Japanese and western artists. Where were all those buddhas though? At this stage I wasn’t really aware of the other building so returned to the reception. I was informed that they were in the other building. I had actually been told this on entry but obviously hadn’t been listening properly!
The Uehara Museum of Art only opened in November 2017 but that’s basically just when the modern art and buddhist art museums were blended having been open since 2000 and 1983 respectively. Sliding doors opened and I entered a sizeable hall displaying 120+ wooden carved Buddha statues. It was a little overwhelming to see them all in one place to be honest as I’m used to just seeing them sparingly dotted around various temple grounds.
The museum is home to masterpieces in various poses from different periods of Japanese history (Heian, Kamakura, Nara etc) which I recognised from my many, many trips to temples over the years. Being able to name them is a different matter entirely!
It did feel slightly reassuring and comforting to recognise the Seven Lucky Gods (shichifukujin in Japanese) who have featured on Tokyo Fox a few times, and are believed to grant good luck.
The collection of statues was donated by the Uehara family (Shoji Uehara is the Chairman of a famous pharmaceutical company), hence the name of the place! These aren’t ancient relics though for they were all made by modern sculptors. As impressive as they were, I just wasn’t feeling it as I think I prefer them to be outside and slightly weathered. Bigger too!
There were a couple of other smaller rooms (as well as toilets) off to the side which displayed a few paintings and smaller buddha statues.
The adjacent Koyoji Temple is actually quite interesting and worth a look too. It has a load of stone statues but I was statued-out by this point and, on checking for buses, was surprised to see that there was one in about 20 minutes so I didn’t hang about and headed off to catch that.
Surrounded by the mountains of Izu, the Uehara Museum of Art is in a wonderful setting amidst the lush greenery but the location just isn’t convenient for many. The museum has a calm and relaxing atmosphere and so if you have a fairly deep interest in the subject matter then it’s a good place to stop by if driving around the area.
- Uehara Museum of Art is located at 341 Udogane, Shimoda, Shizuoka.
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