Sketching is a pastime I have been reviving with the kids. Sometimes, they would even go on travels with their sketchpads and colored pens, so visiting the Hakone Open-Air Museum was really a jolt for creative juices for us, with its vast collection of art in various styles, shapes, sizes, and media.

A tower made of stained glass frames is one of the main attractions of the Hakone Open-Air Museum.
Interactive art always wins the family.
A sculpture of Van Gogh fronting a giant wooden dome, which is actually a netted play place for kids.

Pablo Picasso is probably the biggest name in this amazing gallery, and over 300 of the artist’s pieces are displayed at the Picasso Pavilion.

I think I prefer the naturalists and realists over the abstract artists, that’s why I wasn’t so much into Picasso, who is synonymous to cubism.

But upon seeing some conventional works, I told myself, “Oh, he’s not just a cubist.” And then, I was met by these words: “When I was the same age as those children, I was able to sketch like Raphael. However, it took me a lifetime to learn how to sketch like those children.” “I get that,” I thought again, and it was then that I realized that his art had begun to grow on me.

“When I was the same age as those children, I was able to sketch like Raphael. However, it took me a lifetime to learn how to sketch like those children.”

Pablo Picasso

One particular portrait, formed with shards of glass, and lit from the back, producing the effect of a stained glass art, caught my eye. I was so drawn into the work, that I wanted to capture the moment when the eyes departed from the portrait to zoom in on the individually assembled glass pieces. So, I got my camera phone and started recording. Then, a pavilion attendant called my attention and crossed her forearms in front of me – the Japanese sign for “dame desu” or No. I apologized, and then stopped.

Iva saw the incident, and then explained to me, “Daddy, those signs are saying that you’re not supposed to use your camera here.”

“Sorry, I didn’t read it (meaning, use a Google Translate for me)”, I told her.

But she had more to say. “You have to delete that.”


“Mommy (who was just a few meters from us),” Iva was quick to interrupt, “Daddy took a picture here and he wouldn’t delete it!”

I wanted to protest and say that it was just a personal keepsake of that magical moment with an artwork, as well as connecting with the master artist who I had never related to my entire life. But I was seeing another Picasso moment, and this was a much deeper and lovelier one with our little lady. This is the same girl who had adamantly told me once that if I see money lying around on the street, it’s either I leave it (or put it somewhere visible for the owner to find), or bring it to the nearest koban or police outpost, in case the owner comes looking for it. Yes, to the police. Japan is a place where the police is a trusted repository for lost valuables. They would even lend you money in case you lost your wallet, or just don’t have enough to get home.

How could I even argue? I deleted the video goodbye, and stayed with the glass art a little longer, before moving on with the rest of the collection.

I may not have a Picasso, not even a personal video of that glass art that I enjoyed so much, but I have these Picasso moments to cherish, in particular, one that told me that my kid’s heart is in a very beautiful place right now.

While we were resting at the museum grounds, Iva was sitting with her sketchbook in hand, thinking of what to draw. So, I told her, “Why not do an impression of Picasso?” She did, and she drew a portrait of me, à la Picasso.

“Dad” by Iva, in the tradition of Picasso

“True beauty after all consists in purity of heart.”

Mahatma Gandhi, The Story of my Experiments with Truth (1929) 
Our little art enthusiasts