Leisure & Culture #45

Respect Mountain Before Climbs

TAKAO 599 MUSEUM

Written by Kit Chan
Translated by Derek Leung
Photos by Kit Chan

Is climbing a mountain a challenge on one's own constitution or a conquest of Nature? While the recent climbing spree has been arousing controversy, TAKAO 599 MUSEUM in Tokyo, Japan can probably provide you with a solution to the hot topic.

Being the reason the aforesaid museum so designed and thus named after, the 599-metre Mount Takao located in Hachioji City is one of the closest peaks from central Tokyo, with an annual visitor count of 3 million. Most towering in Japan, it is even 0.16 million kilometre far higher than the most famous Mount Fuji.

Credit: Tako 599 Museum

Japanese love Mount Takao because of its accessibility and its priceless ecology. The multitude of 1,600 plant species so far recorded in the mountain provides a wide range of biological habitats to a vast majority of living creatures including Japanese rhesus monkeys, red foxes and flying squirrels. With 5,000 and 150 species of insects and wild birds respectively in proximity, Mount Takao is an unmatched parcel of greenery in the Tokyo suburb.

Conservation of Mount Takao is more than necessary due to the plentitude of hikers. More than a decade ago, the Japanese government intended to set up a tourist centre in the mountain, yet this was immediately strongly opposed by the local people for fear that more tourists would go to destroy the ecology. The proposal was turned down at last.

Five years ago, Daigo Daikoku's Daikoku Design Institute was assigned with the project and talked to the local residents in details before making another design. The green light was finally given and the museum in completion was eventually awarded the "Integrated Design" in the JAGDA 2006 award.

It is crystal clear the museum will not simply be another ecological one. Instead, identical to Mount Takao, it is the link that leads to the convergence of human beings, the mountain and Nature.

With the mountain as the backdrop, TAKAO 599 MUSEUM is mainly made of conventionally elegant tile roof structures so subtle and low-profile that they are never over-eye-catching. The front gateway is led by a meandering roundabout with a waterway going along, where visitors can stroll along and settle down their minds.

In its pure germ-free whitewash, the exhibition area of the museum features sixteen transparent glass cabinets inlaying with resin the specimens of flowers and plants.

As well as the specimens of insects in the most refinedly vivid angle which all look like real props on the desk.

The extremely orderly display inside the cabinets draws the focus and the set-up of footsteps shows the detail-mindedness for children. Other than the indoor exhibition area, visitors are even encouraged to hand-pick fruits and seeds outdoors in the mountain to experience the authenticity of Nature.

Another attention-drawing is the NATURE WALL with regular image projection of wild beast specimen ocassionally found in Mount Takao. The inherent change among seasons and between reality and virtuality reflects the virtuosity of vitality.

The final part of Study Area gives all visitors a picture of hiking routes and knowledge so as to minimize potential risks.

While the mascot of a Japanese moss and all the not-overly-blunt font types well selected for the museum show a touch of affinity and calmness.

Credit: Tako 599 Museum

In general, this is a place for delivery of curiosity without uptight preaching. Every visitor officially climbing Mount Takao will be attracted to explore and to pay more heed to the mountain scenery including the special lives hidden among trees and flowers.

Daigo Daikoku is very grateful about his engagement in this project. For instance, he finds the best leaf growing angle to the sun is 137.5°C, implying Nature is the very first sector to demonstrate refined exquisiteness and aesthetics.

From the mountain and of the mountain, this simple elegant museum opens its door to remind you all visitors to merely open up your senses to experience. Instead of going an aggressive hiking or taking a subversive conquest, you had better get well prepared for all the serendipities possibly found along your climbing route and the resulting great surprises and unexpected pleasure.