|Arte Piazza Bibai||Open-air sculpture gallery by Kan Yasuda, around 70,000㎡|
|Moerenuma Park||Designed by Isamu Noguchi, 1,041,179㎡ in area, 3.7km in circumference|
|Hollow clay figure from the Jomon Period (National Treasure)||Excavated in Minami-Kayabe Town (now a district of Hakodate). From the late Jomon Period (around 3500 years ago). 41.5cm tall, 20.1cm wide, 1,745g|
|Statue of Buddha||13.5m high, 1,500t. Corridor to the Buddha statue: 439.77㎡ in area, 27m in diameter, 11m in height (a truncated cone)|
Bringing Art to the Great Outdoors of Hokkaido
Some of the most popular relaxation spots among Hokkaido locals are the plentiful art parks and open-air art galleries, where beautiful works blend with the nature of each season. The combination of art and nature is a work of art in itself, expressing the beauty of Hokkaido’s unique nature and climate and creating the perfect space for some rest and self-reflection. No matter when you visit, these spots are a feast for the senses, with the colorful autumn leaves, the softly falling snow, the song of birds and the sweet-smelling flowers.
Moerenuma Park in Sapporo, a sculpture in park form created by sculptor Isamu Noguchi, is a great place to start your artistic journey. Formerly a garbage treatment area, the site was transformed into Sapporo's best art park over a period of 23 years. It is known as a "sculpture of the land" - with around 15 structures such as the Glass Pyramid and Play Mountain.
Another famous work by Noguchi is Black Slide Mantra, a sculpture that can also be enjoyed as a slide in Odori Park in downtown Sapporo. Designed as a place for children to play and have fun, Black Slide Mantra was placed in a temporary location in 1988 before being moved to its current spot in 1993. Noguchi wanted to create a visual and tactile experience for children, and the excited shouts that echo through the park make it clear that he succeeded.
In Bibai, around 1 hour by car from Sapporo, is Arte Piazza, an open-air art gallery by Kan Yasuda where sculptures exist harmoniously with nature. The gallery has given new life to an abandoned elementary school building from Bibai's days as a flourishing coal-mining city and has around 40 sculptures in the 70,000m2 grounds. Tensei, Tenmoku and other works are carefully placed among the trees to emphasize the connection with the surrounding nature and between the works themselves.
The connection between Noguchi and Yasuda is an interesting one. Noguchi's Black Slide Mantra is a sister sculpture of Slide Mantra, a work that Yasuda created alongside Italian stone sculptor Giorgio Angeli in Yasuda's studio in Italy. Although both were trained in Italy, the work that resulted from their exchange found its home in the outdoors of Hokkaido.
The influence of the indigenous Ainu culture
Hokkaido's indigenous Ainu people have a unique culture that has captivated many people. Cherished traditions that have been passed down include the skillful carving of trays and spoons with a single blade and weaving clothing using thread made from the bark of the Manchurian elm. Wood sculptor Toru Kaizawa has dedicated himself to creating a new style of Ainu art, carrying on the traditions passed down to him from his master craftsman great-grandfather while adding his own unique esthetic and techniques. His contemporary Ainu art is even exhibited in the British Museum.
Akan-based wood sculptor Takeki Fujito began learning his craft at the age of 12 under the tutelage of his father, who sculpted bears for a living. Fujito sculpted bears like his father, but his pieces also depicted other northern animals such as wolves and sea otters, carrying on the traditions of those who came before him. One of his works, Ureshipamoshiri Hokkaido Irankarapute-zo (Statue of an Ainu Elder), stands in the West Gate Concourse of Sapporo Station, welcoming visitors to Hokkaido and giving them a glimpse of the area's indigenous culture.
Ainu culture also has a rich tradition of folklore including kamui-yukara (songs of the gods), yukara (heroic epics) and uwepekere (folk tales). With the Ainu language at risk of dying out, the young generation is fighting to keep these traditions alive.
Various artists have been influenced by Ainu culture, including world-famous shadow picture artist Seiji Fujishiro. The Seiji Fujishiro Koropokkuru Shadow Art Museum in Engaru houses the world's largest shadow picture, standing 9m high and 18m wide. The work centers on koropokkuru, a race of small people from Ainu folklore, with seasonal Hokkaido scenery and lively animals in the background.
In recent years, the manga Golden Kamuy by Satoru Noda has sparked interest in Ainu culture among young people all over Japan. Set in Hokkaido during the late Meiji era, the manga stars a former soldier and a young Ainu girl who search for gold to survive. Golden Kamuy explores many aspects of Ainu culture, which has inspired many young people to come to Hokkaido and visit the places from the manga.
The dawn of art in Hokkaido: Jomon culture and the forerunners of everyday items
Hokkaido's history of art dates back to the Jomon period (14,000–300 BC). Jomon culture developed in Japan after the Ice Age ended and temperatures began to rise. Jomon pottery was made by laying ropes on the surface of the clay to create patterns. Hokkaido adopted the culture slightly later than the mainland of Japan, in around 12,000 BC, but the culture nonetheless lasted for a little over 10,000 years. Stone tools used for hunting and gathering, and clay containers and ceremonial figures all vary greatly depending on the period and region in which they were used. In recent times such objects have also come to be appreciated for their artistic merit.
In 1975, a hollow earthen figure was discovered in the Minami-Kayabe district of Hakodate in Hokkaido. Its intricate, realistic style and the insight it provided into spiritual practices in the Jomon Period makes it a vitally important artifact, and it was designated as a National Treasure in 2007. These figures were used to pray for many things, including bountiful harvests and safe, plentiful births. According to some theories, these figures depict the spirits of people rather than the physical form of Jomon people themselves. The hollow figure discovered in Minami-Kayabe has been named Northern Jomon Venus due to its size - it is one of the biggest in Japan - and its peaceful expression, beautiful body lines and skillfully crafted geometric patterns. The accurately proportioned figure is an extremely intricate and realistic depiction of a person, with an upturned face, broad shoulders, hourglass figure and long legs, and the surface is polished well. It is highly likely to have been buried in a Jomon-era cemetery, used together with a ceremonial stone to commemorate a deceased person. This discovery provides an important clue about the spirituality and belief in the supernatural that shaped people's lives in that era.
Art and nature that engage all of your senses
Influenced by nature and telling stories of local history, these spots will engage your body and mind alike and leave you feeling inspired. Some of these attractions even have activity areas and workshops where you can try the artist's style of work for yourself. The physical and emotional experience of these spots will awaken feelings that you never knew were possible.
Arte Piazza Bibai: Learn to sculpt from the heart
Sculpting with materials like Italian white marble is a process that comes from the heart. As you patiently chip away at your marble, you'll learn more about who you are. Date and time: 10:00am-4:00pm on the first Saturday and Sunday of each month. Venue: Studio ARTE, Arte Piazza BibaiWebpage
Play Mountain, Moerenuma Park
Play Mountain began with a plan by Isamu Noguchi to create an amusement park in Central Park in New York in 1933. After years of incubation, Noguchi's idea finally became a reality in Moerenuma Park. The top of the mountain offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding area.Webpage
Buddha's head: Hill of the Buddha, water garden and cloister
This vast landscape design is the work of Tadao Ando. Centering on an eye-catching "Buddha's Head" rising from the hills, this prayer area guides you through a beautifully designed landscape before you come face to face with the Buddha.Webpage
Jomon Cultural Experience
The Hakodate Jomon Culture Center offers a range of activities to show you what life was like in the Jomon Period (around 14,000–300 BC). Make a miniature clay figure with Jomon patterns or make a coaster with the same weaving technique that people in the Jomon Period used to make clothing.Webpage
These spots stay open even when they're covered in winter snow, but the opening hours and the works that can be viewed differ depending on the season. It is recommend that you check first before visiting. The facilities also have a café or restaurant where you can sit and relax and think back over the incredible art you've seen. Don't forget to bring warm clothing when visiting outdoor art spots.
Best Season To See
It's difficult to say which season is best for admiring Hokkaido's art – each change in the foliage and sunlight hours highlights a different aspect of the outdoor works. The spring cherry blossoms, summer lavender and autumn leaves make for particularly stunning natural backdrops.
|Arte Piazza Bibai|||||||||||||||||||||||||
|Hakodate Jomon Culture Center|||||||||||||||||||||||||
Here are some places where you can admire Hokkaido's incredible blend of art and nature.
An art park in Sapporo designed by sculptor Isamu Noguchi. The park is designed to be a sculpture in itself.
Take the Toho Subway Line from JR Sapporo Station to Kanjō-dōri-higashi Station, then take a Chuo Bus to Moerenuma Kōen Higashi-guchi or Moerenuma Kōen Nishi-guchi. Direct buses run from Sapporo Beer Museum on weekends and public holidays from April to November.
Arte Piazza Bibai
An open-air art gallery by Kan Yasuda, where sculptures blend harmoniously with nature. Around 40 sculptures and counting have been arranged throughout the area.
Take any limited express train on the Hakodate Main Line from JR Sapporo Station to Bibai Station, then take the Shimin Bus Higashi Line to Arte Piazza Bibai.
Hill of the Buddha by Tadao Ando
This prayer area was built by architect Tadao Ando to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Takino Cemetery in Makomanai. The head of this stone Buddha rises above lavender-covered hills.
Take the Namboku Subway Line from JR Sapporo Station to Makomanai Station, then take Sapporo Chuo Bus No. 108 to Takino Reien.
Seiji Fujishiro Koropokkuru Shadow Art Museum
See 30 spectacular works by shadow artist Seiji Fujishiro, including Kosai Rikuri (Brilliance), the world's largest shadow mural.
Take the Sekihoku Main Line from JR Kitami Station or JR Abashiri Station to JR Ikutahara. The museum is 700m from the station.
Goto Sumio Museum
An art gallery dedicated to the works of Sumio Goto, one of Japan's most prominent painters. The gallery is located at the foot at Mt. Tokachi-dake, offering an up-close view of the Daisetsuzan mountains.
5 minutes by car from JR Kamifurano Station.
Hakodate Jomon Culture Center
This museum exhibits the first hollow clay figure to be excavated in Hokkaido (designated as a National Treasure) along with a variety of clay and stone tools. You can also try your hand at some Jomon crafts.
Take the Hakodate Bus bound for Shikabe via Kakkumi from JR Hakodate Station to Usujiri Shogakko-mae. Hakodate Jomon Culture Center is a 15-minute walk from this stop.
- Check the opening hours and the works that can be viewed before visiting, as they differ depending on the season.
- Long sleeves and long trousers are recommended when visiting outdoor art spots in summer, as you may need to walk between trees or other plants.
- Wear plenty of warm clothing when visiting in winter.
- Attractions may be closed in severe weather conditions such as heavy rain or a typhoon.