A tunnel through time and space  日本美秀美術館

A tunnel through time and space 日本美秀美術館

31st January 2019 0 By livinguktaiwan

Have you ever had the feeling that you’re walking in a tunnel through time and space?  I first experience this when I visited the Miho Museum in Japan. I first heard about Miho Museum when a blogger friend wrote about it the week before I was due to be around the area.  It wasn’t actually the best place to visit as it was located a bit off beat from my intended route.  However, I was so fascinated by what I read that I decided it was worth the detour.

美秀美術館位於日本京都附近的滋賀縣。它隱藏山上,其中八成的建築物建於地下,與周圍的大自然環境融為一體。 這個獨特的設計由建築大師貝聿銘操刀, 讓美術館本身也成為一件藝術作品。


Miho Museum is nestled up in the mountains,  about 38km east of Kyoto in Shiga, central Japan . There are three main parts to the museum, the reception, the tunnel and the main museum building.  The whole site is 247 acres and 80% of the museum is built underground.  The design not only minimises disruption to the tranquility of the area, but also ensures the buildings blends in harmony with the natural surroundings.

Such an impressive design was created by the world renowned architect I. M. Pei.  His other iconic designs includes the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, France (albeit a controversial project), the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, USA to name but a few.

美秀美術館有三個主要部分。 在大門口停車場旁是接待所, 美術館大樓的售票處就在這裡,而美術館大樓在山的另一邊,中間由一條約500米長的隧道連貫着。 我認為這條隧道是整個美術館的亮點。

隧道是弧線形, 裏面柔和的燈光配上鋪了米白色石灰岩的牆壁,感覺有如走進入一條時光隧道。 走到另一邊出口是美術館的展覽大樓。 從接待館的枝垂櫻步道開始,經隧道走到盡頭,望見美術館大樓, 有如步進世外桃源。其實貝聿銘是從陶淵明的”桃花源記” 啟發而設計哩。



It was early November when I visited,  just before the resplendent red maple leaves were in full bloom.  There were speckles of them on the trees in the car park.  Normally during the rest of my Japan trip I would have been mesmerised with their beauty.  But not today, because I know there was something much more remarkable here.


The reception building is next to the car park at the front of the site.  You have get your entrance ticket to the museum here first.    The restaurant and the museum shop is inside.  I didn’t linger around the reception building long as it was quite late in the afternoon when I arrived .  I had driven over from Ise after having lunch with the Ama divers.  If you missed my post on that, you can read about it here.

Once I got my ticket, I was ready to go through the tunnel.   The path leading towards it is opposite the reception.  The tunnel is only about 500m long and takes less than 10 minutes to walk.  If you don’t feel like walking, you can take the electrical cart ride.  It’s free and leaves every 10 to 15 minutes from outside the reception.  In my opinion, the tunnel is the gem of the whole museum.  Coming here just for that, is a trip worthy of its own and is one walk that you definitely must do here.


There’s a short path from the reception leading to the tunnel entrance.  Trees lined both sides of the path, but they looked a bit bleak at this time of the year as all the leaves had fallen off.  I hear that the path turns pink in spring when the sakura trees are in full blossom.  That would be for another visit, or maybe you can bear it in mind if you decide to visit.

After the short stroll, I was approaching the tunnel entrance ahead.  It looked mysterious.  The fact that I arrived late in the afternoon on a weekday meant there were not many visitors, and made the tunnel even more enchanting.


I walked slowly towards the entrance and it looked so surreal.  It felt like I was embracing myself to walk into a tunnel through time and space.  The lights on both sides of the tunnel were positioned behind two semi circles emitting a gentle glow.  The tunnel was probably purposely designed with no markings on the ground so your eyes follow the curves of the tunnel.   It was elegance at its simplest form and I was absolutely mesmerised by it.

Here’s another view of the tunnel with a few visitors so you can get a feel of its size.  It’s a bit out of focused as it’s one of the first few photos I took as soon as I stepped inside the tunnel.  I couldn’t wait to capture this beauty and kept on clicking away till I realised I haven’t truly looked at it with my own eyes yet.  Once I had composed myself and absorbed the reality that I was walking through such a stunning piece of architecture, most of the other visitors had moved on.


There’s a slight bend to the tunnel, but you hardly notice it from the map above.  Once inside, it’s very noticeable from the concave ceiling and shiny walls.  The tunnel walls are lined with silver coated sheets and not concrete.  During construction, each sheet was painstakingly positioned at a specific angle.  This ensured that it doesn’t create a wave when the light reflects onto it .  The colour of the sheets changes colour during different times of the day and seasons depending on the surroundings outside.  That’s why in some of my photos you can see some blue, that’s from the sky.


My trip down the tunnel finally ended and I had arrived at the other end.  If the tunnel at Miho Museum is travel through time and space, then the destination is surely shangri la.

And this was exactly what the architect I. M. Pei.  had in mind when designing the museum.  He was inspired by an ancient poem called The Peach Blossom Spring written by the famous Chinese poet Tao Yuanming.  In the poem, a fisherman was sailing down the river and somehow drifted and got lost in a blossom forest.  There was a narrow gap in the mountain at the end of the river.  He abandoned his boat and squeezed through the narrow gap.  When he got through to the other end, he saw a peaceful and quaint village, a shangri la.

Next time I will take you to this shangri la – the main museum building.  I’ll show you the amazing architecture and share the controversy around it.  I’ll be waiting for you here, please do join me.