Off to Nagano Prefecture
During a three day holiday in July 2018, my partner and I rented a car and trundled off to mountainous Nagano Prefecture on the west coast of Japan.
We stopped at the beautifully preserved Matsumoto Castle, and climbed all the way to the top by the steep stairs inside. After sitting in the car all day, the exercise was a welcome break. The castle dates from the late sixteenth century and is constructed of wood. It was surprisingly cool, even in midsummer. The views over Matsumoto City to the mountains were refreshingly different from the scenery I’m used to in Tokyo.
After our brief pause in Matsumoto City, we set off to Sanjō Ikoi Hiroba Campsite. We pitched our tent at dusk and enjoyed a BBQ supper. The campsite was far into the mountains, about an hour from Matsumoto City by winding roads, giving it a peaceful, secluded atmosphere. The stars were beautiful, too.
The next day, we got up at 5am and drove to our next destination, Utsukushigahara Highlands. This grassy plateau is higher than most of the surrounding land, offering stunning views across the picturesque landscape to blue mountain ranges in the distance. The altitude also helped us escape the midsummer heat. We were surprised to find the bustling Ōgatō Hotel on the highest point of the highlands.
We enjoyed a rich ice cream made of cow’s milk from the herds which we could see grazing all over the highlands.
Koumi-machi Kougen Museum of Art
From there, we set off to visit the Koumi-machi Kougen Museum of Art. The winding route over the mountings following the picturesque Venus Line route took about an hour and a half, but it was worth it for the views.
The museum was built by the famed Japanese architect Tadao Andō (b. 1941), who is renowned for his creative use of natural light. The Koumi-machi Kougen Museum of Art was a great example of his work, and the minimalist concrete structure was lit beautifully by large windows.
Richard Hoare – The Song of Koumi
I was especially happy to see the museum because, from September 8th to November 4th 2018, it will host a solo show of the works of British artist Richard Hoare (b. 1967). Richard is currently undertaking a residency in Koumi-machi to produce work for his exhibition, The Song of Koumi. He uses his background in Fine Art to great effect, capturing the light and landscape around him with expressive brushwork.
The challenges presented by his residency have encouraged Richard to develop new ways of working; he explained to me how he had devised a portable system for working on his large oil paintings outside.
The scale of the Koumi-machi Kougen Museum of Art has also caused a change in the size of his work; several pictures I saw were around two meters in height, and one will be up to four meters, specially produced for a specific wall in the Museum.
Richard’s paintings capture the natural world around him in innovative ways. The use of light struck me at once. His energetic brushstrokes bring movement to his work and beautifully recall the atmosphere of the places he has painted. His work embraces light and colour in all their forms. While one painting may focus on bright sunlight through leaves, the next might recall mist over water.
I’m sure The Song of Koumi will be a fantastic exhibition, especially for art lovers who also appreciate nature. This exhibition is a great reason to get over to Nagano Prefecture and explore the path less travelled.
About the Exhibition:
Where: Koumi-machi Kougen Museum of Art, Nagano Prefecture
When: September 8th (Sat) – November 4th (Sun), 2018. Cosed Tuesdays.
Opening Hours: 9:00 – 17:00 (last entry – 16:30)
Entry: 6-14 years: ¥150, 15 and up: ¥500
Tel: (+81) 0267-93-2133
With thanks to Richard Hoare and Nakajima Minoru, Curator of Koumi-machi Kougen Museum of Art