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Odawara Art Foundation Enoura Observatory: A Place to Fully Experience Nature and Art

Odawara Art Foundation Enoura Observatory 

(Header Image) Winter Solstice Light Worship Tunnel and Optical Glass Stage ©Odawara Art Foundation


Enoura Observatory is an art space run by Hiroshi Sugimoto, the multi-talented photographer, modern artist, antique collector, and founder of the Odawara Art Foundation. Located on a well-sunlit slope that was once a mandarin plantation, the grounds of the Observatory are dotted with features including a gallery building, an outdoor stage, a tea room, a garden, a traditional Japanese-style gate, and a reception building. This is a place where you can spend time immersed in the arts in whatever way strikes your fancy.

The first destination for any visitor is the reception building. In the center of the room is a table, the top of which is made of wood from a Yakushima cedar over 1,000 years of age. The legs of the table were once used as water pots at Daikanji Temple on Mount Koya in Wakayama Prefecture. These unique features give the table a fantastic sense of presence, and heighten anticipation for the world that visitors are about to enter.

The Summer Solstice Light Worship 100 Meter Gallery extends straight out toward the sea. Its 100 meters of free-standing glass windows are made from 37 panes of glass, making this a daring structure not only aesthetically, but also architecturally. Works of art from Mr. Sugimoto himself line the rugged Oya stone walls.

*Summer Solstice Light Worship 100 Meter Gallery ©Odawara Art Foundation

In keeping with its title, this gallery is designed to allow the sunlight to beam straight through it as the sun rises over the sea on the morning of the summer solstice. This mystical illumination is something that must be seen to be believed.

Alongside the gallery is a row of stones that were once used at temples and shrines, called the Temple Road.The Stone Stage is a stage with a design based on the dimensions of a Noh theater stage. Takine-ishi granite from Fukushima, weighing 23 tons in total, is used for the passageway between the stage and the backstage area. The cracks in the granite, which were there when the stone was first discovered, are incorporated into its placement. Each of the pieces of stone used for the stage itself has its own backstory, as well.

Covered with optical glass, the Optical Glass Stage is located along the winter solstice line. The horizon over the water forms the backdrop for the stage.

The optical glass is supported by hinoki cypress boards, the same kind of wood used for the stage at the Kiyomizu-dera temple in Kyoto. The wooden part of the stage is constructed without the use of nails and made by timber construction in the ‘Kake-zukuri’ suspension method.

To the side of the glass stage and further down is the Winter Solstice Light Worship Tunnel. On the morning of the winter solstice, the light of the sun as it rises over Sagami Bay is guided down this 70 meter tunnel. On the day of our visit, the horizon over the blue waters seemed to be expanding outward from the end of the tunnel.

At around the midpoint of the tunnel is a lightwell, which allows light to enter the tunnel. The tunnel is designed in such a way that the sunlight on the morning of the winter solstice shines through the lightwell and illuminates the large stone on the opposite side.

*Winter Solstice Light Worship Tunnel ©Odawara Art Foundation

A moment of radiance on the morning of the winter solstice, as seen from one end of the tunnel.
At the other end of the tunnel is the Round Stone Stage. Paving stones from lanes of the old Kyoto Streetcar are arranged in a radial pattern around ancient temple stone that once served as the foundation for the lantern post at a feudal lord's mansion. This spot, too, is lined with stones that all have their own stories to tell.

Objects such as iron hanging lanterns from the Momoyama period (circa 1583–1600) and Asuka-ishi carved stone water basins are arranged in this space, which is set up in the style of a Japanese garden. Made at various points in time and used in a wide range of places, these objects have somehow settled into a state of harmony with one another here, and the result is an understated miracle.

Uchoten is a tea house designed around the essence of Tai-an, the tea room that was reputedly built by the legendary tea master Sen no Rikyu. Tai-an is regarded as the perfect embodiment of Sen no Rikyu's simple, rustic approach to tea. The interior of Uchoten is tiny, made up of just two tatami mat rooms.

The tea houses of Sen no Rikyu's day are believed to have been constructed with whatever wood was on hand, rather than top-grade woods. Adopting the mentality of that era, Mr. Sugimoto has reused the rusty galvanized sheet iron roof from the cabin that once sat on the mandarin plantation here, so that the memories of the land become part of the tea house. The name "Uchoten," which is written with the characters for "rain," "hearing," and "sky," refers to the sound that rings out when the rain falls from the sky onto the iron roof.

The grounds of the Observatory extend down beyond the slope. In the spring, as white flowers bloom on trellises of wisteria, Mr. Sugimoto's fossil collection is displayed at the Fossil Cave. A visit to the Enoura Observatory is a journey that begins at the origins of art, and extends into the future.

    This cultural complex was created by contemporary artist Hiroshi Sugimoto. It consists of a gallery building, a stone stage, an outdoor (optical glass) stage, a tea room, a garden, a traditional Japanese-style gate, and a reception building.
    * The number of visitors is limited so you can experience what less densely populated pre-modern times were like. Tours must be reserved for a specific date and time. Please book your visit at the web address below.

    • Address
      362 Enoura 1 Odawara City, Kanagawa Prefecture 1
    • TEL
    • Business Hour
      Morning class 10: 00-13: 00, afternoon class 13: 30-16: 30 / Admission fee 3,000 yen (excluding tax) <Each capacity system, advance reservations required> * Please refrain from visiting junior high school students.