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05/10/2016

A Landscape of Sculpture: Sapporo's Moerenuma Park

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  There is nothing like the feeling of being made small. Hokkaido’s vast natural landscape and huge mountains can surely make you feel tiny, but there is also a human-made place right outside Sapporo that instills that same sense of awe. Moerenuma Park, open all-year round, is a massive expanse on the outskirts of Sapporo. Famous sculptor Isamu Noguchi designed the park, which started being built in 1982. It wasn’t until 2005 that the park had its grand opening, but is easy to see why it took so long to create. Everything about the park is huge. The park is a great exhibition of Noguchi, a hugely influential artist and landscape architect. This park was his final project, as he finished designing it shortly before he died. It is quite the legacy.

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              Noguchi’s installations run from the size of small buildings to as big as the landscape itself, with geometric pyramids and hills scattered through the grounds. The whole place is wonderfully odd and impressive all at once. The geometric shapes seem completely inorganic, yet were designed to be completely environmentally friendly. Apparently the area was converted from a waste treatment plant into the beautiful place it is today. Even the air-conditioning system of the onsite Glass Pyramid museum uses green energy to run. And the Glass Pyramid is beautiful. Inside are several rotating exhibition galleries, a gift shop, a café, and a viewing platform high up. The area is cleverly designed to be a great place for people to gather and relax. Sometimes they even hold small concerts inside, often featuring local artists. Besides the sculptures and the museum, the park also contains a track and a full-sized baseball triangle for the public to enjoy.

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              The park is open for the whole year, but each season is quite different. I visited this spring and it was beautiful and, even though it wasn’t very warm yet, there were many people outside taking walks, having picnics, practicing sports, walking their dogs, and more (even someone having a wedding photoshoot!). During the summer the giant fountain in the center has wading pools for everyone to enjoy and winter is especially known for cross-country skiing and sledding. The park is full of many paths through small, cultivated forests where you can see the cherry blossoms in the spring, which is quite beautiful. Everything is placed with a geometric vision in mind, and even just walking through the open areas gives your eyes a lot to take in.

              If you want to visit the park, it’s open every day from 7 AM to 10 PM, and admission is completely free. Even admission to the galleries inside are free, which is quite nice. Parking is also free, and since the park is right on the edge of Sapporo, it does not take long at all to get to. The park is well worth going to, and having the entire experience for free makes it a real treat. For more information you can visit the official site (http://moerenumapark.jp/english/), and you can also see how the park drastically changes with the seasons. It’s a wonderful place, and if you’re in Sapporo, it warrants at least a few hours of your time.

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