It still surprises me that Japan has so many things that are either the only official versions outside the country of origin or are “only in Japan”. Remember, a couple of years ago I have discovered the only official Monet’s Garden outside Giverny (read more here), and recently visited the only museum dedicated to the Little Prince (more here). Today I want to talk about yet another similar discovery.
I learned about René Lalique in Japan, and have to confess that have not heard his name while living in Paris. He was a very talented jeweller and glass master, who is quite well known in Japan, yet has never been here during his lifetime. Even so, he must have had a sufficient number of fans in Japan who collected his works that can now be enjoyed in museums and various ad hoc exhibitions. While Lalique’s works can be found in numerous museums around the world, Lalique Museum in Hakone is the only dedicated museum outside France, at least based on my small research on the topic.
If you have never heard of Lalique, I am happy to make the first introduction. Born in 1860 in Champagne, France, he got interested in drawing and then jewellery at an early age, starting to work as a jeweller’s apprentice at the age of sixteen. His creativity and talent did not go unnoticed and developed in a range of areas, from jewellery to perfume bottle creation, then on to a wide variety of glass objects, including vases, car mascots, lamps, art pieces and various interior decoration elements, all with an incredible spectrum of design motives.
If Lalique name rings the bell, perhaps you have read my post about a visit to the former residence of Prince Asaka (currently Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum) where I have shared several photos of its beautiful interiors (see here).
One of his works included designing glass panels for the famous Orient Express train. Wealthy travellers on the Côte d’Azur Pullman Express linking Paris, Nice and Ventimiglia could enjoy beautifully designed glass panels in the Lounge Car No. 4158.
Later on the same wagon was used as a salon car on the Nostalgie Istanbul Orient Express service.
Currently, retired from active service, this car lives yet another life in the Lalique’s Museum in Hakone, Japan, where any interested visitor can experience a tea or coffee break in the famous train wagon.
It is funny, as one of my of my very first dining out experiences in Tokyo was also in a similar setting, just that time it was a carriage from the Asian Orient Express version on the Singapore to Bangkok route (more here). Now, five years later I got to see and experience a bit of the European one as well, all while not leaving Japan…