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Provincial Museums Go in Search of Tourists (March 10, 2006)

The garden of the Adachi Museum of Art. (Adachi Museum of Art)
The Adachi Museum of Art is not easy to get to. Located in Yasugi City, Shimane Prefecture, the museum cannot be reached quickly from any airport or train station. Even so, it manages to attract around 450,000 visitors a year. What is its secret? The answer lies in its impressive collection of contemporary Japanese paintings along with the stunning beauty of its Japanese garden.

Art Scenery
But the Adachi Museum, opened in 1970, also owes much of its recent success to the growth of what is known as "art tourism." This is a type of traveling in which museums and art exhibitions serve as sightseeing destinations for out-of-town tourists. Unlike many other recent trends in tourism, such as adventure or experience-based travel, almost anyone can take part in art tourism, regardless of their age or physical condition. The idea is to view artworks while at the same time enjoying the distinctive features of the museums and their locations.

The Adachi Museum's collection includes 130 works by Yokoyama Taikan (1868-1958), an artist representative of Japanese art in the prewar years. The garden covers 43,000 square meters laid out in six themes, and the landscapes can be enjoyed throughout the four seasons of the year. For three consecutive years, The Journal of Japanese Gardening, a US magazine that specializes in Japanese gardening, has selected the Adachi Museum garden as Japan's best.

Building Appeal
Several recently opened museums are attracting visitors not just with their collections of art and artifacts but also with the architecture of the buildings that house their art collections.

This is the case with the Nagasaki Prefectural Art Museum. The buildings, opened to the public in April 2005, were designed by Kuma Kengo. The museum consists of two buildings that straddle a canal, and the site also serves as part of an adjoining public park. The overall impression is one of light, wind, water, and vegetation.

In the same prefecture, architect Kurokawa Kishou was involved in the design of the Nagasaki Museum of History and Culture, which opened in November 2005. The facility strikes a harmonious balance between the old and the new, with its accurately restored magistrate's office and the ancient folding screen Arrival of the Southern Barbarians, designated as an important national artwork, displayed in the main building.

The Chichu Art Museum, built on a small island in Naoshima, Kagawa Prefecture, opened its doors to the public in July 2004. The facility is the work of the distinguished architect Ando Tadao. Designed to blend into its natural surroundings, the entire three-story building lies underground. The Monet Room, which is flooded by natural light thanks to some clever architecture, displays four of Claude Monet's Water Lilies works.

The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa opened in October 2004, and its building was designed by Sejima Kazuyo and Nishizawa Ryue. Fronted by wraparound glass, the museum building's design is so striking that it won a Gold Lion award for the most remarkable work in the exhibition Metamorph at the Venice Biennale. The building conveys a sense of brightness rather than pomp, and its four separate entrances give the feeling of openness.

The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa)

Grabbing Attention
All these museums are located in provincial areas, with the Adachi Museum of Art and the Chichu Art Museum located far from any major city. These two facilities are thus actively engaged in efforts to attract visitors from around Japan. The Adachi Museum, with offices in Tokyo and Osaka, has heightened its name recognition through such efforts as organizing traveling exhibitions at various locations in other prefectures. It also produces pamphlets in five languages and operates shuttle buses that take visitors from major train stations to the museum and back.

Three other museums - the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, the Chichu Art Museum, and the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo - have banded together to issue the Museum Link Pass, a service in which visitors who visit all three museums within a one-year period are presented with original merchandise. In the past seven months, over 200 people have managed to take in the three museums. Some of them were art fans from overseas.

This successful PR effort underscores the existence of a growing market for art tourism, as more and more travelers add museums and art shows to their sightseeing itinerary.

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Copyright (c) 2006 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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