NOT MUCH of interest happens in Tokorozawa these days. Back in the economic heydays of the 1980’s, the city decided to become a bedroom community for Tokyo commuters and plowed over many areas of historical interest for the sake of building high-rise condominiums. Today, Tokorozawa is more of a nuisance to me than anything else, a difficult to navigate maze of congested streets standing between my house and Costco.
Finally, however, Tokorozawa got something right. The Kadokawa Musashino Museum had a soft opening on August 1st, 2020 and by the looks of things, it’s going to be quite the destination for Saitama and Tokyo residents alike.
The building was designed by superstar architect Kengo Kuma, also responsible for the more down-to-earth redesign of the new National Stadium that may or may not make the world stage during the Olympics next summer. Kuma is known for his work using natural materials, especially wood, so this granite covered behemoth of a building is a bit of a curveball in his formidable arsenal.
The design was said to represent a rock floating on water, as it can be viewed from a large reflecting pond at the east end of the building. If you are a fan of Star Trek, you might fear that the Borg have landed, as one of my friends noted. Whether you love or don’t love the design of the building, one thing that can easily be agreed upon is that this building is enormous. Given the weight of the granite slabs covering the building, one wonders how it doesn’t fall through the earth to China…er, Europe.
Lynda Hogan at InSaitama has a nicely written review of the site known as Tokorozawa Sakura Town, which includes the museum, connected structures and a brand new teamLabs Acorn Forest exhibit in the park across the street. When completed later this year, the building will function as a museum, library and art gallery.
Much of the excitement is bubbling over the Bookshelf Theater, an 8-meter high browsable bookshelf with the capacity for 50,000 books. Because the building’s owner, Kadokawa, is a publishing company that built its fortunes largely on manga 漫画 (Japanese comics), manga will be a running theme in exhibits and design.
When the Japan summer weather is a bit less sweltering, I’ll spend some time exploring the site more closely, as it is reachable from my home by bicycle.