There are plenty of reasons for the Towada Art Centre not to be there. A little town in Aomori Prefecture, Honshu's most northerly, Towada is functional rather than fancy. To even have a reliable, year-round water supply here took a lot of engineering. For a long time after that the town was used by imperial forces to breed warhorses and the weather in Aomori is so harsh in winter, it provided excellent training for battle in Siberia.
But, when the deep snow melts, a spectacular array of flowers appears in full bloom - appropriately on a giant horse. Korean artist Jeonghwa Choi's stunning equine sculpture, simply called Flower Horse, is a permanent work at the Towada Art Centre, where an extraordinary collection of modern art is part of a very ordinary town. The works are so large and numerous that some, such as the Flower Horse, form part of the gallery's outdoor spaces.
Joining the horse is Erwin Wurm's Fat House and Fat Car: plump, life-size marshmallowish objects that look like an outlandish health warning on the perils of collagen injections. Also exhibited are and garish works by Yayoi Kusama, one of the world's best-selling female artists and an iconic Japanese celebrity. Her works, along with half a dozen others, are hard-wearing plastic pieces designed to survive the changing seasons. More delicate pieces are exhibited inside the gallery, including Do-Ho Suh's elaborate hanging piece Cause & Effect; works by Yoko Ono and Australia's Ron Mueck; and Hans Op de Beeck's immersing work Location (5): a strange, dark experience that gives visitors the feeling that they're sitting in a gloomy cafe overlooking an eerie highway.
Towada Arts Centre, Nishiniban-cho, Towada, Aomori, is open 9am-5pm daily, except Mondays, from March 31. Admission ¥500. See city.towada.lg.jp.
Japan Airlines flies daily from Tokyo's Haneda Airport to Misawa and Aomori airports. See jal.com. The gallery is a 40-minute drive from Misawa.
This series of articles sponsored by the Japan National Tourism Organisation.