Yesterday, we took the ferry to the island of Naoshima. Naoshima is in the Inland Sea and is home to the Benesse Art Site, a series of art museums, sculptures, and pavilions. We stayed at the Benesse House Museum. It was beyond words. Designed by Tadao Ando, and overlooking the ocean, it was by far the most incredible place I have ever stayed at. The buildings were beautiful and modern. We visited the Chichu Art Museum this morning. It was also built by Ando specifically to house works by James Turell, Claude Monet, and Walter de Maria. Again, it was amazing. Unfortunately we were unable to take pictures, but I bought a souvenir book. :) It was, by far, the most amazing contemporary site we've visited and I can't wait to go back!!
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Today we went to the Korakuen Garden in Okayama. It is suppose to be one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. It was nice, but not the most beautiful one I've seen so far. I did some watercolors there...it was nice to have the time to sit and do that, and not feel rushed like we always are. Afterward, us girls stumbled upon this great little cafe. We ended up spending about 2 hours there just chatting and eating great food. Then we took the train to Kurashiki, a town with a cute historic district. I was seperated momentarily from my group and found a...TOTORO store!!!!! The movie "My Neighboor Totoro" is one of my all-time favorites and was one of the reasons I've been so curious about Japanese culture. I dropped a good chunk of change in that store, but now I can go back to the states feeling complete :)
Monday, April 27, 2009
Luckily, We moved on (quickly) from Hiroshima, and spent an afternoon and a full day on the beautiful island of Miyajima. Miyajima is famous for the Itsukushima Shrine and its submerged Torii gate. When we arrived it was low tide so people were digging for oysters around the Torii.
The hotel that we stayed at was awesome. We were four to a room and slept on tatami mats and drank tea.
And we all dressed up in our robes!! After dinner, the girls went downstairs to the public bath. In Japan, it is common to go to public baths, which is esentially a large bathtub that you share. I don't have any pics of that ;)
This morning, we visited the Itsukushima Shrine. Luckily, it was high tide and the Torii was semi-submerged.The shrine was amazing...floating above the water!
The first stop on our one week trip to Southern Japan was Hiroshima. It was exactly what you'd expect it to be: everything relatively new, gray, and sad. Luckily, we didn't spend that much time there. We saw Kenzo Tange's "Peace" Memorial and went into the museum. It was a pretty down day. I felt so disturbed after exiting the museum: sad about what we humans are capable of doing to each other, and apprehensive that something like what happened in Hiroshima could be repeated.
I'm now on an adventure thru southern Japan, but I wanted to comment on my stay in Kyoto. Kyoto was such an amazing experience. I feel so fortunate that it worked out that we were able to arrive and stay thru the cherry blossom season (only a couple weeks out of the whole year). By the end of our month stay in the city, I knew my way around pretty well. Japanese class with Sensei Wantanabe was definetly a love/hate relationship...it was difficult and time consuming, but Sensei was such a joy to be around. He would constantly be joking around and picking on us (lighthearted, of course!). I was sad to say goodbye to him, but we are off to experience other parts of this beautiful country.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Today, we went to Kobe to see Tadao Ando's Hyogo Prefecture Art Museum and then back to Osaka to see his Church of the Light. I was not familiar with the museum, but enjoyed it alot. And the Church of the Light was on my short list of must see's. It exceeded my expectations, and I was :).
On Tuesday, we went back to Osaka to visit Endo Shuhei's office. Before heading to his office, we went to the Osaka-Jo (fortress) to see three bathrooms he designed. It was very strange to go somewhere just to see the bathrooms. I guess they were nice...I couldn't get over the ick factor of them being public park restrooms (you can imagine what it was like inside). The fortress was pretty cool though. The castle walls had these massive stones. After that,we went to his office and he gave us a presentation of his work. He has a really good range of work (not just bathrooms!)
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
A couple of the places that we are visiting (Shugakuin and Katsura) require that you make an appointment before going (about a week before). They are very strict about who they let in to see these national treasures. We have to go in small groups of four and show our passports. Let's just say, a big production to see these places! Yesterday was one of those days that will stay with me forever. I wasn't in a very good mood when the day began...it was raining pretty hard, and the day was jam-packed with activities (ie. lots of walking!). My small group and I left for Shugakuin about an hour and 15 minutes before our tour began. Little did we know we would have to switch trains 3 times! By the time we got off of the train, we had 5 minutes to check in (they won't let you in if you are late). So there we are, running up the hill in the rain to the palace! I am sooooooooo happy that we made it on time though. Shugakuin Imperial Villa was probably the highlight of my trip so far. It is similar to Katsura, but about 10 times as large. The structure of the palace itself was unremarkable, but the grounds took my breath away. A gorgeous landscape nestled at the foot of the mountain. I think the fact that it was raining made this experience all the more magical. I found it interesting that there was agricultural production on the grounds. It was very inspirational for me because I am hoping to do my thesis next year on sustainable communities with organic agriculture implemented. It was a good case study to see how structures, ag land, and landscape work together. After the palace, we met up with the rest of our class to see Manshuin Temple and Shisendo Temple. Both had incredible zen garden for viewing.
These long days sight-seeing are exhausting. Not only are we on our feet all day, we get back to our apartments and have to stay up late working on our design projects, language homework, and write papers. But everytime I look back and reflect on my experiences thus far, I feel so incredibly fortunate to have had this incredible opportunity to study architecture and live in Japan.