Miho Museum, Shiga (滋賀県)

A museum design inspired by an ethereal utopia in writings from ancient China. The owner's strong belief in beauty, peace and joy through art is achieved in this mountain top masterpiece by architect I.M. Pei.

Miho Museum, Shiga (滋賀県)

A 40 minute bus ride from Ishiyama station (just outside Kyoto) takes you through an area in Shiga-Ken called Shigaraki (信楽) to the Miho Museum, which sits on a mountain peak.

It was designed in the 90s by I.M.Pei, the same architect behind the Louvre’s Glass pyramid, The Bank Of China Tower in Hong Kong and The Raffles in Singapore.

The museum was built by first removing all the trees, vegetation and soil from the top of a mountain; where they then proceeded to start the build. Once the structure was complete, the soil, vegetation and trees were meticulously placed back over the top of the structure. This put three quarters of the building underground and the remaining quarter, primarily glass ceilings. Upon completion, a final golden pin was placed into one of the metal support beams of the Louvre-esque glass ceiling in front of a crowd of supporters.

To get to the main building you must first pass through an exceptionally clean and beautifully lit tunnel, and then over a suspension bridge. Exiting the tunnel and seeing the bridge in the foreground, with the museum in the background, creates an ‘I just stumbled upon’ effect; something I.M. Pei was intentionally aiming to achieve.

Japanese summers are notoriously hot and humid, so we opted to take a chauffeured electric golf caddy from the museum’s reception, through the tunnel and over the bridge, to the museum proper.

The supporters mentioned earlier were primarily from the museum owner’s religion called Shinji Shumeikai. Shinji Shumeikai is focused on the belief that things should be at one with nature and look nice. Food should be organic (which they sell in the museum’s café and restaurant) and building’s should be functional and environmental.

Inside the museum itself there are about 250 historical objects on display at any one time. Approximately 1750 objects remain in storage. The estimated total worth of the artifacts is 300 million – 1 billion USD.

Omiodori Bridge (近江大鳥橋) as seen from the bus on the way to the Miho Museum. Designed by US landscape architect Tanja Wilcox in collaboration with the Japan Highway Public Corporation, J.A. Brennan Associates, BERGER/ABAM and the Louis Berger Group Inc. Find out more here (en, pdf) or here (日本語).