Clematis No Oka (Art Complex)
Modern art, flowers and good ol’ slow food.
Many visitors to Japan have probably never heard of Nagaizumi in Shizuoka Prefecture but there are more than a few good reasons to go there. This small town has great views of Mount Fuji but also something outstanding: Clematis no Oka art complex.
Clematis no Oka is a sprawling art and garden complex located at the foothills of Mount Fuji. There are three art museums, a literary museum, gardens, restaurants, a teahouse and a cafe. Any art connoisseurs, day-trippers, and off-the-beaten-path travelers should head here to complete their Japan trip itinerary.
The highlight of the complex is the Vangi Sculpture Garden Museum. It features a sizeable and permanent collection of sculptures, drawings and prints by the critically acclaimed Italian artist Giuliano Vangi.
Even if you’re unfamiliar with the sculptor’s aesthetic, ponder the disjointed eyes, uneven teeth, open mouths, and dormant penises of his statues. In short, his work models real human bodies instead of idealizing them.
Some of the pieces also dot the landscaped gardens. The contrast between the natural surroundings and the sculptures is particularly sharp on sunny days with blue skies. Also, if you get tired of staring at the art all day, feast your eyes on about 200 varieties of clematis (hence the name!) that bloom at different times during the year.
If you’re more of a word nerd, be sure to visit the Yasushi Inoue Literary Museum in the complex. Inoue was raised in Shizuoka and was one of Japan’s most prolific authors during the 20th century.
Another feature of the site is the Bernard Buffet Museum. It has the world’s largest Buffet collection, featuring about 2,000 pieces from the French modernist. These include watercolors, oil paintings, sculptures and more that span the artist’s lifetime. There is also an adjoining Bernard Buffet Children’s Museum.
The latest addition to the compound is the Izu Photo Museum (opened in 2009). It regularly exhibits vintage and modern photography that explores historical events and the human condition. The museum’s tomb-like structure, designed by Hiroshi Sugimoto, is also well worth the experience.