Set in a hot spring town near the coastal city of Oita in Kyushu is the stunning yet little known Comico Art Museum Yufuin. Established in October 2017, this contemporary art space is relatively new and yet it houses works by some of Japan’s most celebrated artists by the likes of Takashi Murakami, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Kohei Nawa. In fact, even the site itself is a work of art, as the museum was designed by starchitect Kengo Kuma.
Recently, Kuma also oversaw the expansion of the museum, with the new building set to open on July 1. The new gallery has a charcoal black facade to match the other buildings on the site, though its striking geometric structure sets it apart. The first floor will feature three new spaces, while the second floor will be home to two outdoor exhibits. Among the artists to showcase their works in the new building's opening exhibition are Yayoi Kusama, Tatsuo Miyajima, Mariko Mori and Kohei Nawa.
Many of the installations here, like Miyajima’s ‘Time Waterfall’ and Mori's 'Eternal I' sculpture, are heightened by the dynamic backdrop of the surrounding valley. Their strategic placements encourage viewers to take their time moving between the spaces as they reflect on the artworks. While the museum is a stone’s throw from several popular onsen resorts, the site also has its own guest house for those who want to immerse themselves in everything Yufuin has to offer.
Completed just last year in 2021, Comico Art House Yufuin is a luxury accommodation designed by – you guessed it – Kengo Kuma. It comprises the Tsuchi house and the Take house. Inspired by Satoyama culture, where nature and community are deeply intertwined, both houses boast private onsens, traditional Japanese gardens and spacious rooms with tatami mat floors. The only slight snag is that bookings can only be made via direct inquiry on the website rather than an automated system – and there’s no telling how much a single night’s stay will cost in the busy season.
Thankfully, admission to the museum itself is affordable, with general admission set at ¥1,700 (¥1,200 for university students, ¥1,000 for middle and high school students, ¥700 for elementary school students). Currently, there's a special discount available online, where adults can buy tickets for ¥1,200 and all students can enter for ¥700.
Comico Art Museum Yufuin is open from 9.30am to 5.30pm every day except Wednesday. For more information, see the museum website.
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