Miho, a museum worth a visit for the architecture and the location alone, apart from the collection. Maybe not so strange considering one of the world most famous architects designed it, namely I.M. Pei. The same Pei who designed the glass pyramid of the Louvre in Paris for instance.
With respect for the beautiful nature of the mountains surrounding Shigaraki, the Miho museum is designed so 80% of it is built below ground. Which, strangely enough, isn't really noticeable when walking around. It rather feels light and airy with it's wide spaces, glass roof and big windows. M.I Pei incorporated the Japanese thinking, culture and traditions into the design of the museum and took the old 'Tale of the Peach Blossom' as an inspiration.
The museum building is separated from the parking lot and ticket office by a long tunnel and a bridge. For people less able to walk a 'golf cart-like' shuttle service runs continuously between the two buildings. But walking is preferable, so you can savour the beauty of the tunnel and the cleverness of the bridge, and take in the splendid view on the museum itself. The views from inside the museum to the other side of the mountains will increase your excitement. As a great addition to your visit, take lunch at the Pine View Tea Room with a gorgeous view on a 'private' pine garden. The lunch, however limited the choice is, will give your taste buds a surprise.
The location of Miho musuem is absolutely amazing, but be sure to enjoy the 50 minutes drive from Ishiyma station through rural Shiga also. The road runs along a stream in the mountains and the surroundings are gorgeous (take a seat on the right side of the bus!).
To be able to enjoy the landscape to it's maximum beauty, I would advise to visit Miho museum late April or even later in the year. That's also the time the cherry trees will be at their most beautiful. In early spring, many trees on these mountains, and on the premises of Miho won't have their foliage yet. This takes away some of the beauty, although the sights will still be stunning even so.
I visited Miho museum three times. The first time it was already one of the most memorable experiences I had in Japan and it still is today. The first time it was autumn, which was absolutely amazing with all it's vivid colours. The second time was April 15th this year, and a little too early for the cherry blossoms. Consulting Miho's online sakura report I decided to just go again today. I might never have had another chance to see this amazing spectacle... And it was well worth it!
So be sure to call ahead if you don't want to miss the sakura at it's peak. Mind you, the cherry blossom trees bloom much later here than in Kyoto, because the temperature in the mountains is somewhat lower.
About the collection, the object's displayed range from Japanese tea ceremonial art, Buddhist art, ceramics and other ancient art works from Asia and Western cultures like Greece, Rome and Egypt. More information can be found on the website of Miho Museum (English).
Which of the treasures appeals to you most, the architecture, the landscape or the collection, Miho Museum is sure worth the trip!