Kyoto is a beautiful city because of its temples and traditions, and attracts many visitors every year both from Japan and overseas. However, regarding art, there are not a lot of museums where you can enjoy a day of cultural understanding and really spend a whole day admiring the art of Japan.
The Miho Museum is located in the mountainous area of Shiga and is approximately 1 hour 20 minutes from Kyoto Station. It is a magical experience if you are looking for something to do around Kyoto, and well worth a visit!
The museum was constructed to honor the wish of the former leader of the cult group ‘Shinji Shumeikai’, Mihoko Koyama. The House of Koyama, the family of the founder of the sect, have acquired a personal 50 billion yen fortune from the donations of her believers (which is called “self-abnegation”).
The museum, inaugurated in 1996, is a work from Ieoh Ming Pei. This Chinese architect is known for huge artwork such as the pyramid of the Louvre in Paris.
One amazing aspect of this museum is its location and how it fits perfectly into the mountain landscape. We arrive through a silvery tunnel, illuminated by the daylight, and it leads us in front of the beautiful facade of the museum. The building is simple and reminds us of a modern shintô sanctuary. It is surrounded by trees and has a small square.
A staircase lined with lamps allows visitors to reach it. A glass door, in which was drawn a silver circle, opens up to a hall covered with stone from its walls to the ground and bathed in a beautiful light. The mixture between the Louvre museum’s atmosphere and a very Japanese ambiance is puzzling.
By penetrating into this hall, our eyes are attracted by an immense plate glass window giving a wonderful view of the mountain and the forest, which is very dense and very green. In the foreground, a pine stands out like an oriental painting. We are really in another world: an idealized East.
The north wing presents temporary exhibitions dedicated to the Japanese esthetics: tea ceremonies, calligraphy, ceramics, lacquers, masks, and Buddhist statues. The south wing gathers hundreds of works from different civilizations such as Persian, Egyptian, Roman, and Chinese.
Rooms dedicated to China and South-East Asia are also an excellent way to discover the numerous influences of the Persian culture on Chinese art, and to discover the spread of the Buddhist religion.
With regards to price, admission is 1100 yen for adults, 800 yen for students, and 300 yen for children.
People can visit the museum from 10 am till 5 pm, and the last entry is at 4 pm. It is closed on Mondays. However, I would recommend that you inquire before going there because the periods of opening vary during the year. The museum is closed from December 18th, 2017 until March 9th, 2018, but will open with brand new exhibitions on March 10th 2018.
Access from Kyoto
You can take the JR Tokaido Line from Kyoto station to Ishiyama Station. It takes approximately 15 minutes and costs 240 yen. Then, you have to take the Teisan bus which will bring you directly to the Miho Museum. It takes 50 minutes and it costs 820 yen. Be careful because the last bus leaves at 2:10 pm to the museum. You can click here for a bus timetable to the museum.
When you arrive at the museum, you will purchase your tickets in the reception building, where you can also find a gift shop, a restaurant and some lockers for your luggage. Then you can either walk to the museum, which takes ten minutes, or you can take a free shuttle bus which leads you to the entrance.
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