Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture is famous for being a “city of nature, flowers, and sculptures”. Tokiwa Park lies at its center and is the location of the art exhibition UBE Biennale, which takes place every other year. The precursor for the recent boom in art exhibitions in Japan, it has been going on for more than half a century.
The Tokiwa Museum Exhibition
The UBE Biennale specializes in modern art sculptures. The next exhibition is not until 2017, but already visitors can see the collection of competition entry works on display in its entirety in the Tokiwa Museum annex. This time, 277 works from 29 different countries all over the world are registered for the competition.
In the photo above, you can see 1:10 scale models of the works that have been entered, and each one includes a message from the artist. It is easy to see that the artists put a lot of energy into making their pieces! From the entire line-up, 40 will be selected as winners and go on display. Furthermore, 18 of those 40 will be selected to have their real-life, full-scale versions placed outside in the park.
This one is my favorite – Mega Ptera! If you turn the knob, the sperm whale starts swimming! The little girl and boy are there to show the scale of the finished sculpture! During the exhibition, visitors will be able to stand next to each piece and experience it close-up. I’m really excited to come back here next year!
The Huge Sculptures of Tokiwa Park
After taking a look at the scale models, you can have a stroll around the park and go on a sculpture hunt! There are currently 91 works on display around the park. Some are between plants, others are in the fountains, and some even change according to the temperature or the wind direction!
In the photo above, you can see the sculpture named “ant hill”, which has been here since the very first UBE Biennale in 1962. There are also 18 sculptures from the 2015 exhibition here as well.
The seats in the sculpture in the photo above bend backwards, so when you sit down you face the sky. Sitting here allows you to forget all your stress and hardships and stare dreamily into the sky. The name of the sculpture actually means “let’s gaze at the sky together” in English.
Other Ways To Enjoy The Park
The park also has an amusement park and a zoo, and is a great day out for the entire family! I saw many kids who were here on excursions. As admission is free-of-charge, it is also loved by the many locals who come here for a run or to go shopping.
The symbol of the park is the coal museum. Ube is known for being a former coal mining city and the mining industry helped the city develop into the great place it is today. The museum not only teaches visitors about Ube and its relationship to coal mining, but old mining shaft scaffolding has been repurposed as an observation platform for everyone to enjoy!
Visitors can take elevators all the way to the rooftop, and from there, there’s an unobstructed, 360-degree panoramic view of Lake Tokiwa and the surrounding area including Yamaguchi Ube Airport, the Seto Inland Sea, and Shikoku island. On clear days, you can even see all the way to Kyushu! This might be a good place to start your Tokiwa Park sculpture hunt!
Tokiwa Park is a large area that completely surrounds Lake Tokiwa, Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture. Famous for the art exhibition UBE Biennale, it currently has 91 sculptures on display. The entire family can enjoy the park and its museum, zoo, and amusement park, among other facilities. Works submitted for next year’s exhibition competition were on display from October 3rd to November 11, 2016.
Address: 3-4-1 Norisada, Ube City, Yamaguchi Prefecture
Tokiwa Park, Tokiwa Amusement Park, and Tokiwa Museum: Free-of-charge.
Tokiwa Zoo: General admission 500 yen, from 3 years to junior high school 200 yen, 70 years and older 250 yen.
Tokiwa Zoo, Tokiwa Amusement Park, and Tokiwa Museum: Every Tuesday, except for public holidays.
Tokiwa Park: Open throughout the year.
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Nana Takei
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