Art & Design
Utsukushigahara Open-Air Museum 美ヶ原高原美術館
City meets country, bubble-era style
On the Utsukushigahara Highland above Matsumoto , looking out across the central Nagano plains to the Northern Japan Alps lies this larger-than-life sculpture garden. Visit for a one-of-a-kind juxtaposition of nature and modern art.
How to Get There
Utsukushigahara Open-Air Museum is accessible by bus or by car.
Daily buses run through the summer from the Matsumoto Bus Terminal in front of Matsumoto Station, taking about one hour and 40 minutes.
In spring and fall, you'll need a car. The museum is closed mid-November to late April. Driving is the most convenient way to get there, regardless of the season.
Take in the beauty of the highlands
Utsukushigahara means beautiful fields. Rising 2,000 meters above central Nagano , this highland has long captured the imaginations of the people below. In summer, over 200 varieties of wildflowers come into bloom. From its highest point at Ogato, there's a panoramic view of the Japan Alps , Mt. Asama , Yatsugatake , and the iconic Mt. Fuji to the south. Easy hiking trails link the different parts of the highland, all with stunning views.
Walk through the gates, and you'll be greeted by a four-meter bronze thumb rising from the lawn. Nearby, a decapitated angel spreads her wings. Legless, headless zebra torsos bound up a hill. Colossal abstracts of twisting metal. A vermillion helicopter and dragonfly hybrid. See these and more on this beautiful mountainside.
A conversation with contemporary art
350 of these outdoor sculptures occupy 40,000 meters of one of Utsukushigahara Highlands' most scenic spots. This museum without walls wants you to "enjoy the conversation with contemporary art amid the great beauty" of nature. Established in 1981 at the height of Japanese economic dominance during the Bubble Era, it remains a fascinating testament to the heady spaces Japan found itself in at the time. Wander the grounds, admire the stunning view of the Alps and the summer profusion of flowers, and wonder what hyperreality you've stepped into.
The museum's scarlet roofed main building has gallery and event spaces, a restaurant, a shopping area, and a kids' sculpture playroom.