Japan // Central Honshu //

21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art

Highlighting a forward-thinking attitude that had previously been obscured by the city’s love of the traditional arts is the excellent 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (金沢21世紀美術館), opposite Kenroku-en’s southwest entrance.

The hyper-modern design by the architectural practice SANAA – a circle of glass embracing a series of galleries, a library and a free crèche – is like a giant geometry puzzle and perfectly suited to the multiple uses of the facility. Exhibitions frequently change, although there are some specially commissioned works on permanent display. James Turrell’s Blue Planet Sky is a great place to relax and watch the clouds float by, while Leandro Elrich’s Swimming Pool encourages fun interaction between viewers around the pool’s edge and those walking beneath. The twelve tuba-shaped tubes that sprout out of the lawns surrounding the gallery are by the German artist Florian Claar; speak into one and the sound comes out of another.

Nearby is Kanazawa Nō Museum, shining light on the most refined of Japan’s dramatic arts. On the ground floor is a virtual nō stage around which you can walk as if you were in a play. Upstairs are prime examples of nō’s ornate costumes and inscrutable masks.