Art appreciation begins as soon as you catch sight of the stylish building itself.

Hiroshima Prefecture’s got a lot to offer, from the retro-meets-modern to hidden gems on an island, so we were excited to check out a new spot that opened in Otake City this March: Simose Art Museum.  It’s located a bit to the southwest of Hiroshima City, where the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum is located, and right on the edge of the Seto Inland Sea.

The museum houses a mix of traditional Japanese handicrafts such as hina dolls (displayed during the annual Girls’ Day festival on March 3), glass art by French artist Émile Gallé, and works by Danish-French painter Camille Pissarro and French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

When we finally arrived, one of the first things that stood out was some dried-out vegetation as a result of the non-stop heat wave happening in Japan. Beyond the slightly droopy plants, however, glimmered the glass exterior of the building. From a distance it looked like a mirror, but it was ultimately just glass.

▼ “Simose” would typically be romanized as “Shimose,” in line with how it’s pronounced in Japanese, so this spelling appears to be an intentional stylistic choice.

The reflective quality of the glass against the greenery, mountains, and blue sky also made for some wonderful optical camouflage.

A large sign displayed the current special exhibition, running until September 24, which is centered on Gallé’s works.

As we drew closer to the entrance, we saw that the museum’s opening hours were also clearly marked by the door.

Stepping inside, we couldn’t help but catch our breath at the spacious, elegantly designed lobby. You could even see the mountains and some surrounding islands from the windows.

That feeling of amazement extended into the hallway, too. This place definitely seems to be on the brink of becoming a must-visit spot in Hiroshima.

While those spaces were awash in natural light, the special exhibition gallery that was located in the same building didn’t have any windows. Rather, individual works of art were illuminated by a soft light.

Gallé’s works of art were everywhere, but what really caught our attention was a corner of the exhibition displaying his handcrafted wooden furniture. It was easy to forget that he didn’t just work with glass as a medium.

After that exhibit, we moved on to the moveable galleries, circled in red in the photo below. They looked fairly simplistic from the outside (just like giant shipping containers, in fact) and each one was decorated in a different pastel color.

True to their name, they were also movable within the museum premises. This was a new concept for us to wrap our heads around, so we were thankful to find an illustrated guide that gives insight into various possible configurations of the rooms.

So what’s the trick to making them move around easily? Normally, the boxes are fixed in place by pins and have small bridges connecting them to each other. However, using a water pump, staff can actually make the rooms float over a shallow pond and easily change their positioning. Part of the fun is looking forward to which arrangement they’ll be in when you visit.

By the way, the main museum building also includes a rooftop terrace from which you can view the moveable rooms over the backdrop of the Seto Inland Sea. At night they’re even illuminated for an especially magical effect.

All in all, while the outside of the Simose Art Museum and the lobby area are full of unique visuals, the actual gallery rooms themselves are fairly typical museum rooms.

The goods for sale in the museum shop were also gorgeous–especially these glass ones that were unfortunately on backorder at the time of our visit.

Finally, check out “Émile Gallé’s Garden,” which looks entirely like an Impressionist painting materialized in the real world.

Admission to Simose Art Museum is 1,800 yen (US$12.36) for adults, 900 yen for high school and university students, and free for anyone younger. There are also discounts available for groups and residents of Otake.

If you’ve got an appetite for even more art, luckily you can go art island-hopping in many other places very close to Hiroshima as well.

Museum information
Simose Art Museum / 下瀬美術館
Address: Hiroshima-ken, Otake-shi, Harumi 2-10-50
Open: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Closed: Monday

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