Adachi Museum

I’m sitting here in my home office, looking out the window at bare trees, neighborhood houses, and a drab winter landscape, but I know of a museum in Japan that has picture-perfect views from its windows every season of the year. The Adachi Museum, in a small town called Yasugi in Shimane Prefecture, blows me away every time I lay eyes on its masterpieces.

To be sure, its collection of 1,300 contemporary Japanese paintings from the Meiji, Taisho and Showa eras is top class, with approximately 200 works on display at any given time, shown on a rotating basis in four annual exhibitions that change with the seasons. The museum boasts the world’s largest collection of works by Taikan Yokoyama, credited with harmonizing European and traditional Japanese painting styles, with at least 20 of his works forming the backbone of every exhibition. I especially like his landscapes, with “Autumn Leaves” and paintings of Mt. Fuji among my favorites.

But what sets the Adachi Museum apart are its gardens, which perfectly complement the seasonal exhibitions and are visible throughout the museum through cleverly crafted windows. The effect is surreal, as though the framed landscapes were a picture, a scroll, a Taikan Yokoyama painting.

There are several different types of gardens, many with outdoor viewing platforms, including a tranquil moss garden, a white gravel and pine garden (which recreates Yokoyama’s “Beautiful Pine Beach” painting), and the museum’s main garden, the magnificent dry landscape garden, which incorporates distant mountains into its scheme of meticulously pruned pines, boulders, cropped bushes, and gravel designed to resemble a flowing river. Like the museum’s paintings, the gardens change also with the seasons, with azaleas lending their fuchsia colors in spring, the sun’s rays reflecting different shades of green in summer, maples blazing red in autumn, and snow providing a delicate blanket of white in winter.

It all makes my own backyard seem pretty pitiful, but just now, for an instant, I was transported right back to the Adachi Museum as I closed my eyes, conjured up my memories of its gardens, and composed this post.