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                    Caption: Tokonoma alcoves traditionally feature a hanging scroll of calligraphy or fine art;
                    the alcove in this room is a "living" hanging scroll, offering visitors a constantly changing view of the
                    White Gravel and Pine Garden.
                    Credit: ROBERT GILHOOLY

The Adachi Museum of Art


All art museums change their exhibitions from time to time. Not many are able to redefine their entire environment in tune with the changing seasons. Julian Ryall visits the Adachi Museum of Art.

Many views from the museum demonstrate the shakkei principle of incorporating background landscape into the garden composition, such as this view of the Dry Landscape Garden.
The Adachi Museum of Art has combined an impressive collection of works by some of the greatest Japanese artists with a garden that surrounds the building where they are displayed that is little short of magnificent.

Founded in 1980 by the late Zenko Adachi, the garden has been meticulously constructed to take visitors through its seasonal expressions of natural beauty, which complement the paintings that hang on the interior walls.

Entering the museum, I am greeted by the first of six distinct yet connected traditional gardens. The reception garden seems designed to calm and enchant me with its flowers, bird life, breezes and neat gravel. I pause for several minutes to let my mind and body adjust.

The toritsugi no ma entranceway (a four-mat tatami room), which is one of four rooms in the Juryu-An Tea House. On the right, a hanging scroll which spells out the name of the tea house.
Before reaching the Moss Garden—replete with pine trees and carefully positioned rocks where the mosses can thrive—a short detour takes in the Juryu-An Tea House, where I am encouraged to sample the green tea as I admire a garden that has been subject to the most painstaking attention.Like the rest of the gardens, not a leaf, rock or pine needle is out of place. The gravel has been raked to perfection. The only sounds I can hear are of the wind and waterfalls designed to spill delicately into lower pools. Of all the gardens that I pass through at the museum, this is the most enchanting. It is quintessentially Japanese.

Yokoyama Taikan "Mt. Fuji" (1942)
The Adachi Museum of Art holds the largest single collection of paintings by Yokoyama Taikan. Pictured, one of many paintings by the artist depicting Mt. Fuji.
The Dry Landscape Garden derives its beauty from its harmony with nature and the art of shakkei, or "borrowed landscape." Here, the central rock formation evokes a mountain. The "water" which flows into the ocean from the mountain is described by white sand, without the use of water. In contrast, the Pond Garden has koi carp in its waters, flitting beneath stone bridges and up close to the rocks that line its sides.

Interestingly, there is a house near the Pond Garden in which Zenko used to live, wherein I found an unusual tokonoma alcove. This alcove does not feature the conventional scroll, but instead has an open window onto the garden beyond. I find myself entranced by the living, moving artwork that it frames.

The final outdoors exhibit is the White Gravel and Pine Garden, which expresses an image painted by Yokoyama Taikan and is the perfect way to make the transition from the gardens—which have been recognized in the Michelin Travel Guide to Japan with three stars—into the interior displays.

Here, the works of Yokoyama Taikan feature large in the museum's highly prized collection. Adachi had echoed other critics' assessments that a painter such as Yokoyama only emerges every 300 years or so. And as I admire his paintings, I find it hard to disagree.

Access and Admission
Address:The Adachi Museum of Art, 320 Furukawa-cho, Yasugi City, Shimane Prefecture, 692-0064
Tel/Fax:+81 854-28-7111/+81 854-28-6733
Opening Hours:From 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily from April to September and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. between October and March.
Admission:Adults ¥2,200; University students, ¥1,700; High school students, ¥900; children, ¥400.