Contemporary art & timeless hospitality

06 Jun 2019 in So Design

Combine a stay at a luxury ryokan with some of the best art museums in Japan.


Japan has a rich contemporary art and design scene. Famous names include architects Tadao Ando and Kengo Kuma, and artists such as Yayoi Kusama and the manga-inspired Takashi Murakami.

The country’s offering of art museums is world-class – and not just in Tokyo. Some of the most spectacular architecture and collections are situated in smaller towns against a backdrop of forests and mountains.

What better way to explore Japan’s dynamic art scene than by staying in a designer ryokan?


Take your pick from 3 luxury ryokans, all featuring contemporary aesthetics and all close-by to world-class museums.

Cutting-edge Tokyo

HOSHINOYA Tokyo is a striking 18-storey luxury ryokan designed by Azuma Architect & Associates. Inside, ryokan tradition fuses seamlessly with state-of-the-art design.



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The sliding entrance doors are made from 300-year old hiba wood; tatami mats extend to the floor of the elevator; and the top-floor features open-air hot spring baths, sourced from 1,500 metres underground.



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From HOSHINOYA Tokyo, it’s a 25-minute subway ride to Roppongi Hills, Tokyo’s prime destination for art and architecture.

At the Mori Art Museum, two principles guide the exhibitions: ‘contemporary’ and ‘international’. Blockbuster shows have included Yayoi Kusama, Ai Weiwei, and a showcase for young Japanese talent.



Beyond the art, the venue offers spectacular city views thanks to its location on the 52nd and 53rd floor of the Mori Tower.



Opposite, the smaller Mori Arts Center Gallery explores contemporary culture, with recent exhibitions covering everything from manga art to the science behind Pixar.

Also in Roppongi, is 21_21 Design Sight, a Tadao Ando building featuring his trademark exposed concrete and a ‘folded-over’ steel roof. With every new exhibition, the furniture changes to match the theme of the art.


Also nearby, the National Art Center is housed in a striking undulating structure designed by Kisho Kurokawa.


It is one of the country’s biggest showcases for contemporary art.

Outdoor in Hakone

At Hoshino Resorts KAI Sengokuhara, art is omnipresent. Opened in 2018, this elegant ryokan is just 90 minutes from Tokyo by train, and sits alongside some of the country’s best art museums.


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The ryokan itself features mesmerizing abstract canvases in the entrance. Many of the rooms have original works on the walls, created by artists who stayed in that very room. And in the evenings, art workshops are organized for guests.




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A 10-minute drive away, the Hakone Open-Air Museum is a sprawling park dotted with 120 large-scale sculptures by the likes of Rodin, Miro, Henry Moore and Niki de Saint Phalle, as well as Japanese talent.



Many more works are housed in 5 exhibition halls, and the park includes a giant play area for kids.


The Pola Museum of Art is even closer. Designed to blend harmoniously with the surrounding 300-year-old beech forest, the building is largely underground, with a glass-heavy top level letting in plenty of natural light.

It houses temporary exhibitions organized around its large collection of Japanese and Western paintings, ceramics and glass works.


Karuizawa: inviting nature in

Around an hour from Tokyo by train, HOSHINOYA Karuizawa is a hot spring resort made up of individual villas in a vast park. The design concept by architect Rie Azuma focuses on connecting interior and exterior spaces, inviting nature into the villas.



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Given Karuizawa’s location in the foothills of the Japanese Alps, it is no surprise that man’s relationship with nature is a recurrent theme in local architecture. The Karuizawa New Art Museum is a glass-fronted structure supported inside and outside by white pillars representing the local forests.



The museum’s collection focuses on Japanese art from post-war to the modern day.

Pritzker Prize-winner Ryue Nishizawa is the architect behind the Hiroshi Senju museum. The building is set in a garden featuring 150 types of coloured leaf plants, and its floor space follows the contours of the land outside.



Plants from the garden creep into the interior space through a series of interior courtyards surrounded by large, curvaceous windows. The museum showcases the work of local artist Senju, known for his immersive waterfall paintings.

Finally, check out the Sezon Museum of Modern Art, which boasts a breath-taking setting near the Sengataki Falls and a collection including big names like Kandinsky, Miro, Pollock and Kiefer.



Photo credits:

pedrosimoes7 / CC BY

y_phog / CC BY-NC-ND

Philip Bussmann / CC BY-NC-ND

skidsk / CC BY-NC-ND

Karuizawa New Art Museum

Karuizawa New Art Museum

Iwan Baan

Sezon Museum of Modern Art

Sezon Museum of Modern Art


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