May 01, 2007

Hakone - Day 2 - The Museum of Saint Exupéry and The Little Prince

I mentioned in earlier post that every thought has gone in to how provide as much entertainment or things to do other than the hot springs or hiking in the Hakone area. Probably one of the more unusual examples of this is the Museum of Saint Exupéry and The Little Prince. The reason I say it's unusual is that I can think of no special reason why there should be a museum for his work in Japan, let alone in the mountains in hot spring country. Can you imagine a museum for, say, Natsume Soseki in the Lake District?

As with British pubs, and country-themed amusement parks elsewhere in the country (Huis Ten Bosch, New Zealand Village, etc), a lot of effort has gone into creating a mock authentic look ~ in this case 1930s France. The grounds of the museum lead you on a pleasant walk among imitation shop fronts with signs in French and street names such as Rue De Géographie, and later you see models of the characters from Saint Exupéry's best known book.

The you step inside to see some exhibits that tell the life story of the aviator/pioneer/writer, and then later the characters of the Little Prince. Near the end of the tour you reach a staircase to go back downstairs, the lights dim, and stirring string music starts as you read about his ill-fated last flight from which he never returned. The ceiling above the staircase shows his plane, the lighting changes and it disappears, to be replaced by some stars. You can't get more sentimental than that.

Just before you leave you can visit the souvenir shop which offers a myriad of different goods licensed by the writer's estate. I wonder what the great man would have made of that.

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