Murou Art Forest (室生山上公園芸術の森 Murō Yamagami kōen Geijutsunomori) is an open-air museum in Uda City, Nara Prefecture that is based on a concept of local sculptor Inoue Fukichi (井上武吉, 1930-1997) who designed other open-air installations in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, and at the Ikeda Museum of 20th Century Art. Inoue hailed from Murou and conceived the art project in a bid to support Nara Prefecture in a campaign against rural depopulation.

In 2006, the Art Forest was completed by Dani Karavan, a renowned Israeli sculptor who also designed the Kirishima Art Forest in Kagoshima. The park is surrounded by pine forests and displays several installations of sculptures, monuments, and artistic landscaping. The visitor centre, also designed by Karavan, is a popular picnic location. The Murou Art Forest is not exactly easy to reach by public transportation (see below). Luckily, I was given a lift by a friendly local.

The Spiral Canal is a shallow canal that was inspired by a coiled snake. Note sundial in the middle of the canal (see also the photo below).

The Sun Tower and gate visualise the "Sun Road", a legendary line associated with ancient sun worship that runs from Nara to Ise Shrine. The tower is made of weathering steel. The gate runs along the east-west axis and follows the path of the sun.

The visitor centre was also designed by Dani Karavan.



By train: from Muroguchi-Ono Station by bus (No.43, 440 JPY, children 220 JPY one way), get off at Murou-ji (室生寺). It is a 1.2-km hike from the temple (15-20 minutes of walking).
Address: 181 Murou, Uda, Nara 633-0421; phone: 0745-934730.
Admission: open daily from 10:00 to 17:00 (April-October); 10:00-16:00 (November, December, March). Closed on Tuesdays (if Tuesday is a national holiday, the following Wednesday will be closed) and from 29 December to the end of February: 400 JPY, 200 JPY for high-school students, children free.


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