Hakone Must-See: The Little Prince Museum


“All grown-ups were once children... but only few of them remember it.” Antoine de St. Exupery, The Little Prince
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Perhaps some of you are familiar with Antoine de St. Exupery's The Little Prince.  I was among those unfamiliar with the world-renowned children's book when my wife and I stumbled upon the Little Prince Museum.  It was one of my father's favorite books when he was a child, and although we always had a copy of it on the shelf, I never actually cracked the cover.  When hearing that I was planning to go to Hakone, my father recommended that we stop at the museum that pays homage to that book, and so we took a short drive from our hotel to the Little Prince Museum.
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Admittedly, I was skeptical of a museum about a French children's book nestled in the Japanese countryside, but that faded as soon as we pulled into the parking lot.  As you approach the museum, it feels like you're leaving the Japanese mountainside and being transported to a small French town.  A French flag and sign that says, "Le Petit Prince" greets you as you approach the entrance, and the style for the architecture and gardens faithfully adhere to the European style. 
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When you enter the museum itself, it is one part garden, one part homage to The Little Prince, one part museum about St. Exupery, each of which are worthwhile by themselves.  Add them all up, and it makes for a satisfying experience for the average tourist. 
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For me, the trip proved to be something more because it opened me up to the story of The Little Prince, and all of the important life lessons it offers for both adults and children alike.  I learned about the Businessman who claims he "owns all the stars" but does nothing but count them all day...

And the King, who rules over all but does not have any subjects or actual authority...
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And the Cartographer who makes maps but has never traveled anywhere beyond his little desk...
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And all of the others that make The Little Prince such an important story.
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I was able to purchase a Japanese language version of the book at the small but charming gift shop on our way out.  Of course, before we left, we stopped at the Le Petit Prince Restaurant, which offers gourmet French cuisine (the head chef once appeared on Iron Chef in Japan) at reasonable prices.  It is a definite must-visit while in Hakone.
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Details on the museum can be found here: http://www.tbs.co.jp/l-prince/en/.  Admission information is below.
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Mike B