Garden in the Sky – A Visit to Miho Museum in Shigaraki, Shiga Prefecture, Japan

Visiting Japan is a special experience for any one who lives outside of the country, but with a limit on time people tend to stick to the tourist routes and heavily populated cities. This time I ventured out to some rural locations to explore art, design and craft in more detail, first up was Miho Museum about 2 hours from Kyoto that involves a few trains and a fairly lengthy bus journey.

The museum was designed by Chinese American architect I. M. Pei and is a building housing historic artefacts from Egypt and other countries, as well as pottery, lacquerware and crafts from within Japan and other parts of Asia. Situated in the mountains of Shigaraki in Shiga Prefecture, this museum is known for its unusual setting that’s full of nature and beautiful scenery, as well as the detailed and modernist architecture of I. M. Pei.

The contrasting structure of the architecture with the surrounding nature is what attracted me to the build. This architecture, although visually different, didn’t distract and instead enhanced it with beautiful wide expanses of glass. The web like structure on the roof filtered the light through and scattered it across the surfaces, leaving intriguing shadows in the open spaces of the gallery.

The concept of the architecture is based around the story of an ancient Chinese tale titled “Peach Blossom Spring”. In the story a fisherman loses his way, and as his boat carries him upstream he enters a place where blossoming peach trees line the sides of the stream. He then sees a cavern and walks through it to find a peaceful setting like an ideal village. Following the path up to the museum evokes similar feelings to the story and was a really nice way for the architect to incorporate this in to the design of the build.

Pie is said to have been so detailed with the building that he changed the design numerous times and completely altered the building after seeing it. This becomes evident as you walk around the building as the detail is very fastidious and makes for a very unique experience. I think it has to be enjoyed in person but I tried to document and introduce some of the architecture and open spaces here in my photography. I hope you enjoy them and will take the trip from Kyoto or Osaka and explore for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.

“Nature is very important. To be a good designer you have to be blessed. There are people like Le Corbusier, like Frank Lloyd Wright, blessed in other ways, you know. You cannot just say you’re born to be a great architect. How did they become what they were? I think there is something about pushing the limit. Some people may be capable of more, but stop before hitting their limit. I would like to think that I push myself to the limit” – I. M. Pei