About a month ago (wow, time flies) while in Hakone, I left the grown-ups for a day so I could visit The Museum of The Little Prince.
Le Petit Prince has been my favourite book since I first read it when I was 17. My A-Level French teacher lent me a copy and once I had read that I bought my own copy the next time I went to France. I then bought a second copy (also in French) when I was in America last year because I missed reading it. Then, a couple of months ago I bought a third copy but this time in Japanese (星の王子さま) which I have been reading (very slowly and with a lot of help from a kanji dictionary) since then. I’m still only about 40 pages in but learning some good words! So, 3 copies of the book but I have yet to read it in English. To be honest I’m not sure I want to.
Anyway, my Mum sent me a link to the museum, and I obviously couldn’t pass up the opportunity. And one ferry, one cable car, one funicular railway and one bus ride later, I found my way there.
I loved this museum for a lot of the same reasons I loved the Ghibli Museum. For a start, look at the guide map! That’s the English version, and the lady kindly gave me a Japanese one as well (they also had French) which contains completely different information but is also in that lovely rose shape. The effort that has been made to make the museum not feel like a museum, but more like you are actually entering into the world of Antoine de Saint Exupery and Le Petit Prince is amazing. The outside area is landscaped as a Provençal town, including (fake) shops, a well, a church and gardens.
The inside of the museum has been just as well thought through – after an optional introductory film in the entrance hall, you are taken on a chronological journey through St Exupery’s life from childhood to disappearance, each area fitted out in the style of an office in the Saharan desert, a Parisian cafe, a New York apartment or wherever else in the world he happened to be at that time.
I knew a little about Antoine de St Exupery before visiting the museum, but learnt so much about his absolutely fascinating life story. All the museum’s explanations are in Japanese, but they offer numerically-coded guidebooks in other languages (I think only English and Chinese) that follow the story. It was also useful for me knowing a bit of French as obviously a lot of the mementos and artefacts from St Exupery’s life are written in French, and these were some of the most interesting bits with no translations.
Throughout the museum there are suggestions on how St Exupery’s own life ties in with characters or settings from his novels, most apparent in Le Petit Prince. There is also a whole section on Le Petit Prince, its characters and suggestions of the meanings behind certain phrases.
Definitely worth a visit for anyone who is a fan of Antoine de St Exupery and his works, or of Le Petit Prince. It’s now on my to-do list to read some more of St Exupery’s novels, once I’ve eventually made my way through 星の王子さま!
Antoine de St Exupery Wikipedia
Antoine de St Exupery Official Site (in French)
The Museum of The Little Prince, Hakone
Buy The Little Prince (English), Amazon.co.uk
Buy Le Petit Prince (French), Amazon.co.uk
Buy 星の王子さま(Japanese), Amazon.co.jp