February 13, 2014

On the Road: JAPAN, part 3

Well, you may be tired of my Japanese pictures by now, but this is my last installment and hopefully I have saved the best for last.

In between our two stays in Kyoto we went off on a bit of a road trip, or a train trip I should say. Our first stop was Naoshima, an old fishing island now devoted to contemporary painting, sculpture and site-specific installation that many fashion and art friends highly recommended. Also, in my experience kids tend to react very enthusiastically to contemporary art, especially when its thoughtful, clever and visually stimulating. In face the kids got excited before we even descended from the ferry when they caught sight of on of Yayoi Kusama’s pumpkins in the rainy park next to the ferry terminal!
Do you know SANAA? They are a duo of Japanese architects who designed the New Museum in New York, the Christian Dior building in Tokyo and the Serpentine Gallery pavilion in London, among others. They also designed the ferry terminal in Naoshima. It was stunning in its simplicity, and I also liked how it announced how serious the seemingly sleepy fishing island island was about art the moment you arrived.

 

 

I had read about an
American diner on Naoshima, and we made a beeline to it from the ferry. We
loved all the Japanese food we’d had, but 10 days in we were ready for some
more familiar food. Zach was in heaven with his hot dog, root beer and popcorn.

 

 

The entrance to the Benesse
House Museum, where we stayed. Yes, you can stay in the museum. You walk
through the galleries, passing all the beautiful contemporary art, and at the back of the
building you take a private monorail up to your room. As a guest of the museum,
you are given access to view the art at any hour of the day or night. Pretty
cool.
 

A classic Donald Judd on
the way to our room at Benesse House.

 

 

The view from our private
monorail. It was great fun to have this quirky experience, but it certainly
required patience – the trip from the room to our lobby could take 20 minutes if
the monorail was at the wrong end of the line.  Having had this great
experience, I may stay at the Benesse Beach hotel on my next visit, which is
less unique but more user-friendly.

 

 

The Tadao Ando-designed
“Oval” of rooms gathered around a reflecting pool in the centre. We spoiled ourselves and had a suite at the end with sweeping views over the Inland Sea.
Our beautifully hand-painted room in the Oval at
Benesse House.
 

“100 Live and
Die,” by Bruce Nauman at Benesse House. Our kids especially liked
this one, as it lit up in different configurations and patterns. And, being
kids, they were delightfully scandalized by the curse words.

 

 

Zach and I felt compelled
to walk down to the beach to see Yayoi Kusama’s yellow pumpkin up close. This
piece is clearly the art star of the whole island, with people lined up to
see have their picture taken with it.

 

 

There were constant
reminders around the island that Naoshima is still very much a fishing
community, as most obviously evidenced by the octopuses hanging from flagpoles
and laundry lines around the villages.
 

A classic Cy Twombly at
Benesse. Always my favourite.
 

This is what I most loved
about Naoshima: amongst all this super cool art are rather mundane
Japanese fixtures like the American diner, a kitschy but deliciously soothing
bathing house, and this funny little cat café where you have a meal prepared
for you and then you can pay an additional five dollars to spend thirty minutes
in the cat room, surrounded by hilariously adorable and friendly cats. This may
have been Coco’s highlight of Japan.
 

Coco and I both agreed that
James Turrell was the standout artist of Naoshima. We saw three completely different
installations by him around the island, each blowing us away in their
originality, and in the human interaction required to enjoy them.

 

 

Christopher and I were
resistant to seeing Monet’s Water Lillies at the Chi Chu Art Museum, but they
turned out to be a highlight. In another incredible Tadao Ando building, this
one built underground, the five giant Water Lilly canvases were installed in a tile
room with rounded edges and only illuminated with natural light. The result was
subtle, but entirely unique and unlike any other painting viewing experience I
have had. Chi Chu is a must see in Naoshima.
 

The view of the Inland Sea
from Naoshima.

 

 

Next we headed to Miyajima
Island, with this incredible Torii shrine in the water just off the shore. We
would use Miyajima as a two-night base to go see Hiroshima by water taxi.

 

 

As soon as we exited the
ferry in Miyajima we were surrounded by tame deer, which we all enjoyed so
much. The kids were a bit nervous about visiting Hiroshima, having seen a
rather violent documentary about it preceding our trip, and it was as if the
deer were there to provide comfort.
 

The main street of Miyajima
early in the morning. Feeling rather broke from many nights in expensive
hotels, we stayed at a very simple but charming guesthouse run by an elegant 84 year old
Japanese lady. She made us home-cooked meals and gave us directions in English.
It was the most authentic part of our stay in Japan, and we loved it. Off the
main shopping street, there were lovely coffee shops, tea rooms and tiny
little restaurants, and once the sun set at 5pm, driving the tourists back to
the mainland, we felt we had the whole island to ourselves. We loved this place.

 

 

Zach made a friend that
followed him all around town one morning. No matter what Zach did the deer
followed. It was too cute.

 

 

The Atomic Bomb Dome at
Hiroshima. It is the only original building still standing in the city. It
survived because it was directly under the epicentre of the blast and the
radiation waves spread from up in the sky missing what was right beneath it.
 

A tricycle devastated by
the Hiroshima blast.

 

 

The peace flame burns at
the centre of the Peace Park. It will not be extinguished until all the nuclear
weapons in the world are destroyed.

 

 

 Our last meal at Miyajma,
cooked by our lovely hostess.
 

All the deer gathered, as
if to to say goodbye as we left Miyajima, a wonderful adventure.

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A Manolescu
Guest
3 years 2 months ago

I so enjoyed experiencing your Japan adventure through these gorgeous photos. Thank you for sharing.

Alissa

tinroofrusted
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

What beautiful photos. Thank you so much for sharing your trip to Japan. I especially enjoyed thinking about the tourists departing from Miyajima in the afternoon, leaving you to roam on your own. When I was a boy back in the 1960s I visited Japan and I recall the tame deer very fondly. Here is a photo of me with them:
http://tinyurl.com/deerInJapan

stephmullen
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

Hi Amanda. Since this is a "style" blog…would you be willing to share where you got your shearling boots in your pic with the beach pumpkin? I love love love them.

Anonymous
Guest
Anonymous
3 years 3 months ago

Love these posts:)

Amy
Guest
3 years 3 months ago

I told my children about the deer; they were entranced. Your posts are a bright spot–thanks for sharing through your beautiful photos and writing. What memories you made with your family! 🙂

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