Autumn in Japan is associated with art and culture, sports, good food and a good book. Aside from sports, the others conjure up more passive, leisurely activities best enjoyed in calm, quiet settings. A visit to a museum or gallery, for example, is a pastime that I like to think of as quality “down time” before the hustle of the year-end busyness and the harshness of winter comes around. One such place that provides both the art and the ambience is μ Museum of Natural Art in Jibuzaka Kogen. From Iida City, it’s about a 30 minute drive along Route 153. At this time of year the foliage along the winding mountain pass is beautiful, and the local cuisine of gohei mochi or soba can be found in any of the small roadside restaurants. Jibuzaka Kogen is the highland farthest south in Nagano-ken. At an altitude of more than 1200 meters, it is high enough for skiing from late December to early March. Just a short walk from the parking lot of the grounds, the museum sits in a little wooded area.
On this particular day, the rain made the air a little more crystal, a little more pure, and the red, yellow and orange leaves deeper and more vivid. The path leading to the entrance felt so inviting, I felt like I was visiting someone’s home for the first time. My feelings only intensified when I saw the slippers set out for visitors.
The rain had made the day a little chilly so once inside I was glad to find the heater on. Perhaps because of the rain, I was the only person there. I took my time admiring the works of local artists, known and unknown. This picture doesn’t do it justice, but I especially liked the wood carvings of Tomio Matsuzawa.
The 700 yen entrance fee includes your choice of coffee, tea, or juice. I indulged in savoring the coffee AND the view from the large window.
After the museum I went to the onsen, Yadorigino Yu, also next to the ski parking area. I couldn’t have asked for more — I had the bath all to myself! In spite of the rain, or maybe because of it, it was a perfect—almost enchanted– autumn afternoon.