journey to the stars & beyond open air and space art in hakone


Journey to the Stars and Beyond

Weekend Excursions to Hakone Open Air Museum & the Kazuaki Iwasaki Space Art Museum

Looking for something to do during your upcoming vacation?  Exhausted all of your possibilities for leisure and play in the Big Mikan?  TJ has performed the tedious task of testing the waters of various hot spring baths and carried out grueling, backbreaking research into leisure activities that can be done in one easy weekend.  Under the strict orders of our Editor-in-Chief, TJ’s Education Guru Dr. Anthony Al-Jamie left the confines of his classroom to explore the beauty of Hakone and the Izu Peninsula.  

The following are two optional weekend travel plans guaranteed to satisfy the needs of any Tokyoite seeking a pleasurable weekend filled with leisure activities, good food, friendly people and affordable accommodations. Both trips begin with a Saturday morning departure from Tokyo and have you snuggled back in your bed at home Sunday evening.

Hakone Open Air Museum Excursion (Chokokunomori)

Leave Tokyo Saturday morning for the Hakone Open Air Museum. Arrive at the museum before noon and spend a leisurely afternoon following the paved pathways through the vast outdoor museum.  A wide range of unique 20th century sculptures are exhibited on lawns and in the woods covering a 20,000 square meter area.  Paintings by world-renowned 20th century European and Japanese artists including Renoir and Chagall as well as approximately 230 works by Picasso are also on display indoors. 

While en route to your hotel, visit Owakudani which is a volcano that supplies all of the hotels in the area with natural hot spring water.  On clear days, Owakudani offers a beautiful view of Mount Fuji and the entire Hakone valley.  Owakudani’s claim to fame is their black eggs which are boiled in small pools of volcanic water that have seeped out through crevices in the volcano.  It is the belief of the local people that each black egg you eat adds seven years to your life.  However, be careful not to eat too many as too much cholesterol intake may have the opposite effect.

For accommodations, I highly recommend the Fuji-Hakone Guest House. The proprietors, Dr. Takahashi and his lovely wife, are well-versed in English, extremely friendly and hospitable and are more than happy to provide you with a plethora of information about things to do while in Hakone. This international guest house has a family onsen which is a hot spring bath that accommodates approximately four people at a time. The unique aspect of a family onsen is that you enter either alone or with your spouse or family and lock the door behind you – giving you the pleasure of bathing in your own private hot spring bath. The guest house rooms are extremely clean and are traditional tatami rooms with futons. A number of the rooms have a view of the bamboo forest with a stream running down below. Breakfast is served in the living room of the guest house and is quite simple – usually consisting of a hard-boiled egg, a couple of rolls of bread, a small container of yogurt, fresh fruit and coffee or Japanese tea. If you plan to eat dinner in the area, be sure to do so early as many of the local restaurants close around 8:00 p.m.

On day two of your excursion, head out early for Lake Ashi (about ten minutes by bus from the guest house), where there are a number of activities that you can partake in including fishing, boat cruises, and touring the Hakone Shrine or the detached Palace Garden.  Also, just a one-minute walk from Lake Hakone, is the Sekisho Immigration Checkpoint which was the entrance to the old Edo (Tokyo) area. At Sekisho, there is a small museum with drawings depicting the practices of the visa patrol.  Be sure to take a stroll down the cedar-tree lined trail that was used during the Edo period for journeys between Kyoto and Tokyo. Enjoy lunch at the Boathouse restaurant.  On a clear day, you will be able to see the magnificent splendor of the lake with Mount Fuji larger than life in the background.  Late Sunday afternoon, begin your journey back to Tokyo.


To get to the museum by car, take the Tomei Highway to Atsugi Interchange.  Follow the Odawara Atsugi Road to Hakone-Yumoto.  From there, take Route 1 towards Gora and turn right at the Gora Entrance.  The museum is about 500 meters from the Gora entrance. To get there by train, take the Odakyu line from Shinjuku Station to Hakone-Yumoto Station.  From Hakone-Yumoto Station, take a 45-minute train ride which climbs through the mountains to Chokokunomori Station which is just near the museum.

From Chokokunomori Station to the hotel, there are two options with the latter being the more direct but less scenic route.  The first option is to take the train to Gora Station.  At Gora, change to the cable car and go to Souzan Station where you change to the rope way headed toward Togendai which is just near Lake Ashi.  Along the way from Souzan Station to Togendai, you can get off at Owakudani.  When you have had your fill of black eggs, continue down the rope way to Togendai station located just near Lake Ashi where you can board a bus bound for Odawara.  Get off at Senkyoromae which is approximately a five or ten minute bus ride and walk to the Fuji-Hakone Guest House. The more direct way to get from the Hakone Open Air Museum to the Fuji-Hakone Guest House is to take the train through the mountains to the second stop which is Miyanoshita Station.  At Miyanoshita Station, change to the bus headed towards Togendai.  Prior to reaching Togendai get off at Senkyoromae bus stop and it’s a few minutes on foot to the Fuji-Hakone Guest House –all together a 30-minute jaunt.

NOTE:  For those of you who wish to make adjustments to the tour schedule, it may be useful to know that there is a bus leaving Shinjuku every hour that goes directly to the Senkyoromae bus stop located near the Fuji-Hakone Guest House.

The Hakone Open-Air Museum Contact Information

Ninotaira Hakone-machi
Kanagawa-ken 250-04
Tel:   0460-2-1161

For lodging reservations

Fuji-Hakone Guest House

912 Sengokuhara
Hakone Kanagawa-ken 250-06
Tel:                   0460-4-6577
Fax:                 0460-4-6578
Owners:           Dr. & Mrs. Takahashi

Kazuaki Iwasaki Space Art Museum Excursion

Depart Tokyo Saturday morning and head to Atami. It is recommended that you check into the Tsuruya Hotel prior to heading for Ito to see the Kazuaki Iwasaki Space Art Museum. 

From Atami Station take the train to Ito.  While in Ito, make sure you check out Omuro Yama which is an inactive volcano just near the museum where you can take a chair lift up before 4:30 p.m. and look into the mouth of the volcano.

The Space Art Museum is run by Kazuaki Iwasaki, a well known graphic art/packaging designer and space artist and an amateur astronomer and musician.  Iwasaki, who was a personal friend of Carl Sagan is highly praised for his precise and intricate space art drawings and paintings.  In fact, members of NASA have commented that many of Iwasaki’s drawings contained images that were discovered and documented many years after Iwasaki depicted them in his drawings.  There is a 3 million dollar telescope in the dome-shaped observatory where you have the opportunity to see various planets, stars and asteroids.  On the particular weekend I visited I was able to see Mercury, Jupiter, Saturn and the moon.  The museum’s curator, Iwasaki is a truly unique individual who is willing to go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that your visit is a memorable one.  Iwasaki San has created various added activities for visitors to the museum including seasonal parties, a guided tour of the observatory, space art drawing lessons, contests and much more. Refreshments such as Coffee and Belgian beer are available on the first floor in the “Saloon de Kazu”.

After becoming intimate with the stars in Ito, head back to Atami for a sashimi dinner at Kito Kito – a restaurant located along the river banks in Atami which is owned by the fish market guaranteeing it to have the freshest fish in town. At night you can relax in the hotel’s glamorous hot spring bath that has beautiful romanesque columns and architecture. If the Tsuruya Hotel is full, the New Fujiya Hotel, although its interior is beginning to show its age, has two great hot spring baths including a Rotenburo (outdoor hot spring) which is absolutely gorgeous. Unfortunately, they no longer have the Las Vegas-style performances that they once had in Atami’s Heyday.

On Sunday, spend the afternoon walking around the beach, strolling through the Atami-Ginza shopping street and visiting the hilltop castle overlooking the ocean.  When you have had your fill of fun in the sun, begin your journey back to Tokyo. 


To get to Atami by train, take either the JR Tokaido line (kakutei), the Shinkansen, or the Express Odoriko Gou.  To get there by car, take the Tomei Expressway to Atsugi Interchange.  From Atsugi Interchange, take Odawara Atsugi Doro to Manazuru doro which leads you to Atami’s Beachline street.  The Tsuruya Hotel is on the right side of the road overlooking the ocean.   

To get from Atami to Ito, take the Ito train line and get off at Izukougen Station. 

From Izukougen Station to Omuro Yama and the Kazuaki Iwasaki Space Art Museum, take the Saboten Kouen Yuki bus which leaves every twenty minutes from the station.  Get off at Saboten Kouen, the last stop. After you have enjoyed the view from Omuro Yama, take the bus back towards the station and get off at the Risoukyou stop.  The Space Art Museum is a two-minute walk up the hill across from the Glass Museum. 

Getting back to Atami:  As the last bus going to the station leaves the museum at 7:22 p.m. the museum staff often assist visitors by driving them to the train station.  In the event there is no one available to drive you on the particular day you visit, they will assist you in calling a taxi which takes about ten minutes to the local train station.  The last train bound for Atami departs Ito at 10:20 p.m.

NOTE:  As Ito is quite rural, train and bus times are subject to change and I would suggest consulting with the museum staff for the most up to date information.

Kazuaki Iwasaki Space Art Gallery Contact Information

9-638 Omurokogen
Ito-shi, Shizuoka-ken 413-0235
Tel:  0557-51-9600
Fax:  0557-51-9601


For lodging reservations, contact:
Tsuruya Hotel
6-45 Higashi Kaigan-cho
Atami-Shi, Shizuoka 413-0012
Tel:      0557-82-1212
Fax:     0557-92-1219

New Fujiya Hotel
1-16 Ginza-cho
Atami-shi, Shizuoka-ken
Tel:      0557-81-0111
Fax:     0557-81-8052


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