Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on April 2014

Onsen resort towns seem to have realized that it takes more than scenic views and hot baths to maintain the steady stream of tourists their local economies rely on. Many are upping their cultural profiles with well-appointed art museums. Metropolis look at a trio of stops to put on the agenda for your next weekend getaway.

The Okada Museum of Art (www.okada-museum.com/en) opened last October and is a little bit out of the way, but definitely worth the trek. The venue is nestled in the hills of Kowadakuni, home to around two dozen onsen including the Yunessan spa and a tranquil relaxation spot for the soul as well as the body. Museum facilities include a foot bath “café”, where visitors can rest their weary feet after browsing the exhibits.  There is also a garden that might best be described as a forest, with ponds and waterfalls stimulating the senses.

The Hakone Kuramachi complex is scheduled to open soon, bringing an array of restaurants to the area. Though relatively new, the Okada Museum has already presented some exceptional pieces, and its next exhibition is no exception. “Rediscovery of Kitagawa Utamaro: Fukagawa in the Snow” presents one of the artist’s most impressive masterpieces—a painting featuring 27 vivid figures and striking details across  a massive panel nearly two meters high. The recently rediscovered work is being shown for the first time in 66 years, and who knows when your next chance will be?

Lying just off the cable car route to Gora, the Hakone Museum of Photography (www.hmop.com) is a small, but homey, location. The small café garden is the perfect spot to take a rest after a vigorous walk around the area. There is a permanent exhibition representing the four seasons at Mount Fuji, but the real highlights are the rotating ones. These feature the work of world-class photographers from all of the world, creating a balance of local and international artists, as well as the modern and the traditional. The upcoming exhibition, “Oyako” by Bruce Osborne, features portraits of Japanese parents and their children from all walks of life.

Another must-see destination is the Hakone Open Air Museum (www.hakone-oam.or.jp/english), with large scale sculptures that quickly grab attention in contrast to the surrounding forests of Gora. More than 120 pieces by some of the best artists in the world—including plenty by Henry Moore—are scattered around a large park. You can also view Picasso ceramics and other special exhibitions in its indoor gallery spaces. And after exploring the expansive grounds, tired feet will appreciate the hot-spring footbath seasoned with oranges and yuzu.

“Rediscovery of Kitagawa Utamaro: Fukagawa in the Snow.” Apr 4-Jun 30, Okada Museum of Art, Hakone.

“Oyako.” Apr 24-June 2, Hakone Museum of Photo-graphy, Gora.