Last August my family of 4 visited the Hakone Venetian Glass Museum. My husband found this place on Google maps and knew I was missing Europe’s charms during a particularly wet August here and wanted to give me a piece of Tuscany! We escaped the rains of Yokota one Saturday and enjoyed beautiful sunshine in Hakone where we visited several museums and the infamous ropeway. I am writing just about this museum, lesser known among Americans, though the entire Hakone area is beautiful and definitely deserves much exploring! This complex consists of a garden, Venetian glass museum, modern glass museum, cafe, gallery shop, and glass experience studio.
The beautiful spring through fall blooming garden features paved walks lined with many statues and sculptural elements – both glass and other elements. When we visited mid August, some late blooming blue hydrangeas were still hanging on to life. There are also rose features, a Christmas feature, a mountain of glass leaves and Autumn foliage feature as well as a permanent light corridor and outdoor gigantic hanging crystal glass twinkling and glittering in the sunlight. I loved the glass sculptural elements playing off the sun, combined with the natural flowers and water features to create fantastic photos! We spent our time walking through every inch of the gardens looking for hidden surprises in each nook and cranny.
The museum buildings housed Japan’s only collection of Venetian glass – both from ancient times, through the Renaissance period, up until modern times. The exhibition was very nice and somewhat extensive but I felt just a bit underwhelmed having toured Venice, Murano and Burano, Italy glass factories just 4 years ago. In the small rotunda of one of the museum buildings there was an area roped off where, several scheduled times a day, 3-4 talented Italian men would play the filled water glasses in a 30 minute concert – featuring a famous Japanese song, a classical music repertoire, and even a Disney favorite! It’s much more than Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde”! The glass concert alone made the visit to the museum worth the trip!
The cafe was gorgeously situated on the manmade link with outdoor covered seating overlooking a panoramic view of the lovely gardens. There was also an Italian music show featuring piano and singers. Unfortunately, this is where the similarities to Italy ended as the small menu only offered one Italian dish!! I have to tell you the quality was bellisimo, though the portion size was rather small! The rest were Japanese curry and beef stew and, I believe hamburger. However, looking at the website as I write this, they seem to have amended their menu and now offer only 1 seasonally changing Italian selection along with a variety of teas, coffee and pastries!
The glass experience studio we walked by and didn’t partake as we have done glass blowing before in Europe and didn’t want to spend the money and wait in line for a turn. They have a special Venetian mask creation studio right now for those visiting in the winter of 2018! The price for creating your own work of art is on the webpage as varies based on what you create but is not included in the museum visitation price but an additional charge. – Julie O’Leary, March 2018