The Remote and Extravagant Murou Art Forest
Muro Art Forest is a wide stretch of land in Muro Village filled with giant sculptures that provide wonderful eye candy and a walk through a beautiful part of Nara that few tourists actually know about.
Muro Art Forest lies deep within Nara prefecture’s northern countryside with extraordinary pieces designed by the Israeli sculptor Dani Karavan in 2006. As you walk off the station Muroguchiono, take a bus or walk 20 minutes to the top of the hill above Muro Temple. The theme of the designs is to bring nature and art together.
The designer, Karavan, is known for his amazing and monumental landscapes. He has gained recognition throughout the world for placing extraordinary pieces in public places. Therefore, he was chosen to turn this area, which was cut down and smoothed out to protect the townspeople from landslides, into an alluring art trail.
Your tour begins in the visitor’s center, also designed by Karavan that is a large right triangle shaped building. This is the northern entrance, which is closer to the station. The first sculpture you will find is the Spiral Bamboo Forest. This piece of work has an entrance surrounded by bamboo trees with metal spiral stairs leading deep into the ground. Then you walk out down a dark hall through a separate doorway.
Then the path leads to the concrete and undulating Spiral Canal. Spiral Canal is a channel to protect from rain. The design, up close and in a photo, looks like a child’s drawing and the grass field surrounding it livens it out even more.
Next on the trail you can see Sun Island. This structure is a circular staircase tower where the sunlight creates a thin line of bright light. It is in the middle of a lake yet you can walk to the top of this exquisitely designed craftsmanship.
The next scenic architecture is Stage Island. There, you can see Karavan taking some inspiration from the Greek theatre Epidaurus. There is a circular wooden stage in the middle of another lake and semicircle concrete seats on both sides of it. If you are a performer, this could be a great spot for your work or to bring your friends to improvise. This round spot surrounded by a lake can also be great for a picnic (which are permitted here).
Then there is the Pyramid Island, which is a large metal triangle on in the lake across from Stage Island. It is split right down the center making it two separate triangles. On a clear sunny day, you can see the reflection of the pyramid on the lake like a mirror.
The last man-made island of the park is the simple Island for the Birds. This small circle in the lake is little more than trees and grass. It is inaccessible for park-goers, which highlights the theme of harmony with nature. After you pass this island, you can walk around the entire forest again from the back through true Japanese nature.
Last on the tour is the visitor’s center, which also has a south entrance. You may exit through here or walk through the forest a second time and ingest everything you have just experienced.
Murou Art Forest is a beautiful and bewitching feast for the eyes in a remote location of Japan. For all of its attractiveness, the price for admission is only 400 yen for adults and 200 yen for children. The best times to come are between spring and autumn seasons. Japan is a country with not much space, but they have taken much care into this outdoor museum that you may not have heard of.
Official website (in Japanese): http://www.city.uda.nara.jp/sanzyoukouen/parkguide/index.html