Sacred Beauty at Japan's Miho Museum

Courtesy Miho Museum

Why this museum, an hour outside Kyoto, is worth the detour.

The most spectacular aspect of the Miho Museum, nestled in a nature preserve outside Shigaraki, an hour southeast of Kyoto, is the approach. One must take a long, winding cab ride from town, walk through a sleek tunnel, and cross a suspension bridge over a vertiginous ravine. Only then does I. M. Pei’s templelike glass-and-steel building reveal itself. The Chinese architect modeled it after Shangri-La, the mythical Himalayan utopia one can discover only by chance and never revisit. The museum, which opened in 1997, is dedicated to ancient artifacts from around the world and holds superb exhibitions. It’s also something of a place of worship: Its benefactor, the late textile heiress Mihoko Koyama, founded the spiritual movement known as Shinji Shumeikai, whose thousands of followers believe that beauty and art offer the truest path to inner fulfillment. 300 Tashiro Momodani, Shigaraki-cho, Shiga Pref.;