*115* postcards from Japan, Naoshima and Teshima Islands

I’ve just said goodbye to the boys for the their first day of school, Lilli – the ferocious beast – is snoring on the sofa already, the builders coming to take down the terrace with their pneumatic hammer have not arrived yet so all it’s calm and quiet in the house. Today it all begins again: the early rides to the bus, the rugby matches, the night training, the homework… my lessons won’t begin for another couple of weeks and whilst I’m really looking forward to going back to college, I know I’m going to relish these last few ‘slow’ days.

A short train ride from Hiroshima took us to Okayama – famous for its peaches apparently – where we took the ferry to Naoshima Island, famous for its art museum. If you like contemporary art this place (and the other Island Teshima) are a must.

… art everywhere, this giant fish at Uno Port, was made by all the rubbish collected in the harbour
And the ferry that took us across had the famous spots used in all her artwork by the artist Yayoi Kusama
who also make this famous giant red pumpkin on Taoshima Harbour

We were staying in Benesse House, a hotel/museum place right on Seto Inland Sea (Sea of Japan for the Japanese, China Sea for the Chinese… you pick), designed by the amazing architect Tadao Ando.

For some bizarre reason I have no photos of the outside of the place… and only a few of the inside…

the husband walking to breakfast… you literally walk through the museum part to get to the restaurant… which is a fabulous and slightly spooky experience at night time when very few lights are on
me, in the corridor. Everything is an installation around you.

It was a very serene place to stay. The rooms weren’t smartly designed full of clever use of space, great views and comfortable beds.

That afternoon we visited the Chichu Art Museum (designed by Tadao Ando too) which shot up to the top five of the best buildings I’ve ever saw; entirely underground and yet entirely illuminated by natural light…(which means that the light and feel change throughout the days and with the seasons…), it’s just breathtaking. Unfortunately they don’t allow you to take photos but please check the website because it’s worth seen. I once watched a ted talk by a museum curator explaining the battles he went through with the board of his museum about putting their collection on line; he said something that really stuck with me and I whole heartedly agree with him. He asked ‘which is the most famous painting in the world? The Mona lisa, right? everybody knows what the Mona Lisa looks like and yet… it’s the most visited painting in the world. Why?

I strongly believe that people taking photos and showing them to friends doesn’t stop people from wanting to visit… quite the opposite. The Chichu museum is hard to explain in words. The feeling of the place, the light, the sounds… these don’t come out in a photo but people know that which is why they visit in person…

Anyway, check it out. And go visit. There’s a giant room containing 4 of Monet’s waterlilies huge paintings that is spectacular.

After that back on the courtesy bus (in all these places you can hire electric bikes, but we were too late for it) to another small but perfectly form concrete masterpiece, the Lee Ufan Museum. (Another Tadao Ando masterpiece)

The Benesse Museum – not to be confused, with the confusingly Benesse House Museum, is also filled with interesting pieces.

The next day, after a visit to the Yellow Pumpkin – never queued to photograph a pumpkin before, quite an interesting cultural experience let me tell you, hordes of Japanese girls going totally nuts over it…

Another ferry ride took us to Teshima Island, where we had lunch in a local joint and had our first ‘shaven ice’

we had fried chicken and rice, delish
local strawberries

The main reason for this trip was visiting the Teshima Art Museum, the most amazing and bonkers idea ever. Basically the building IS the installation…a joint effort between the artist Rei Naito and architect Ryue Nishizawa a soft, cavernous building dedicated to water drops. Yes, drops. You take off your shoes, enter the space, no talking and just feel the air swirling around you from too large circle cut out in the ceiling and focus you attention of little water drops emerging from the ground, joining each other, sinking back down… Absolutely compelling. You take off your shoes, enter the space, no talking, and just feel the air swirling around you from too large circle cut out in the ceiling and focus you attention of little water drops emerging from the ground, joining each other, sinking back down… Absolutely compelling.

Again no pictures allowed but I managed to sneak a few for your benefit

… Even the boys were quite taken by this… it was the most peaceful of places.

Enough art for now, you can stay in the islands for many days as there are many more installations/studios/museums to see… they deserve a trip all of their own but sadly this is all we have time for… tomorrow Kyoto!

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