I admit, it took a lot to convince me to go to the Takao Trick Art Museum, but in the end I was very glad I gave in.
Climbing Mt. Takao has become a summer tradition among some friends and I, and each year when we arrived in the tiny mountain town at its base we got a good chuckle out of seeing what looks like the biggest tourist trap in Japan. Mixed in with the mom-and-pop noodle shops, hot springs, and vegetable stands is the Trick Art Museum, a large, gaudy building decorated in an ancient Egyptian motif, complete with a large pharaoh's head mounted on the side of the building. And every year, we rolled our eyes and moaned about how this tacky monstrosity sticks out like a sore thumb in this quaint little village filled mostly with hikers, trekkers and nature photographers.
But then, mostly for laughs and the sake of being able to say that we tried it, we finally went in.
And we had a blast.
The Takao Trick Art Museum is a big maze of optical illusions, 3-D artwork and clever angles for photo taking to create the impression of fun, dangerous and impossible feats. Stand on the "X" on the floor with a pained look on your face, have your friend holding the camera stand in the designated spot over there, and suddenly it looks like a real whale is leaping out of the picture frame and onto your back. Stand on the glass floor that looks as if it covers a bottomless pit and try to figure out how the mirrors create that effect from a drop of only a few centimeters. The Trick Art Museum is as much about puzzling over the illusions as it is creating funny photos to share on Facebook.
By no means is this a place for a sophisticated afternoon. The Trick Art Museum is ideal for some silly fun, and given that Mt. Takao is on the quick and easy side as far as mountain climbing goes, why not take advantage of the museum and make a full day out of it?
The trip through the museum starts with a brief tour and explanation from a staff member (an English speaking staff member was available, as well). The tour included a brief overview of what was to come, and a quick tutorial regarding how to position our camera for the maximum effect of the illusions, and then we were free to explore the museum at our own pace. Just how good are some of the effects? Just moments after we left our friendly tour guide and began walking down the hallway to the first main room, my friend perked up and raced ahead to pick up what appeared to be a folded ¥1,000 bill lying on the floor. That's right: the 3-D floor painting looked good enough to make him forget the 10-minute spiel he had just heard about how things here aren't as they appear.
The museum is decorated in an "Ancient World" theme, filled with pillars and pharaohs and dungeons. While some of the illusions are simple mirrors or angles creating a false image for photos, others are more thoughtful creations constructed for you to puzzle over and appreciate. Friendly museum staff members are available throughout the museum to take photos for you.
After years of ridiculing its very existence, the Trick Art Museum turned out to be a lot of fun and an entertaining diversion on the way to Mt. Takao. It's still an eyesore in a beautiful mountain town, but knowing that I'll be back there again makes me cringe a little less about it.
The Takao Trick Art Museum is located across the street from Takaosanguchi Station on the Keio Line. A coupon on the museum's website will give a 200 yen discount to all members in your group.