25 April 2016

The Land of the Rising Sun

My time in Japan has reached its inevitable end. It's a country that I'll make every effort to revisit as often as I can in the future with its humble people and unassuming beauty (and glorious shopping) shaping the holiday of a lifetime. Starting in Tokyo, we stayed for 3 nights before travelling down to Kyoto on the Shinkansen. We stayed there for 3 nights, one day being a trip to the Shiga Prefecture, before making our way to island of Naoshima, known as "the art island". Our plan was to go to Takayama from here to experience old-Japan and the traditional way of living but having covered aspects of this already in both Naoshima and day trips outwith Kyoto, we defied the rigidity of plans and headed back to Tokyo for 4 more days.

The floating city of Tokyo can now boast the title of my new favourite city. I loved the diversity of the place, from Ebisu's vintage treasures and cool cafes, to the tree-lined Omotesando and the glistening lights of Shinjuku. It's a city of such size and substance that I could only unearth a fraction of it during my time there. A highlight was the Issey Miyake exhibition at the National Art Centre, a review for which can be read here.

Look at my full Tokyo gallery here with a separate Issey Miyake gallery here.

Kyoto too was a completely different experience, catching the lively cherry blossoms in the Imperial Palace and visiting Inari as well as an absolute highlight - Miho Museum. Swallowed by mountains, the museum is only accessible at certain times of the year and can only be reached by a local bus that crawled its way up central Koka's hills for 50 minutes after an hour's train ride our of Kyoto. It was designed by the renowned architect, I. M. Pei, and is named after Koyama Mihoko, one of the richest women in Japan and the founder of the museum.

Look at my Miho gallery here and our trip to Fushimi Inari Shrine here.

After zooming down from Kyoto on the Shinkansen and navigating a few local trains, we were on a ferry from Uno port to the Island of Naoshima. I was under the scotching sunshine and unsure of what to expect as I felt like a character in the old-school Nintendo DS game, Lost in Blue. I'd seen images of the island in NY Times articles and write-ups about the best galleries in the world but it had a feeling of exclusivity and a general unknowing of its presence in the wider world. First stop was Mr. Ando’s Chichu Art Museum, Chichu meaning “in the ground,” and indeed, the museum, built into a hilltop, is entirely underground. Yet, its concrete construction feels completely open as you gaze up at the skylights to see the clear blue skies, appreciating the structure and use of geometrics in the architecture. 

I've dedicated separate galleries to the island itself, Chichu Art Museum and Benesse House.

The lowest level houses an installation by Walter De Maria, the American conceptual and minimal artist. The centre of De Maria’s installation is a polished granite sphere of 2.2 meters in diameter, surrounded by 27 golden geometric sculptures strategically positioned around the room. It's awe-inspiring nature cannot be summed up in words.The jewel in Chichu's crown is perhaps one of Claude Monet’s famous large-scale water lily paintings, accompanied by 4 smaller works. You have to take off your shoes before stepping into the space's inlaid floor of die-sized cubes of white Carrara marble and rounded walls that sparkle with natural light from above. Another completely immersive experience is Turrell's installation which connects two rooms, one of which – through the expert use of light and perspective – appears to be a solid canvas. The illusion reveals itself as you walk through the apparent canvas and into a light trip of sorts, marveling over the mirage and breaking of sensory boundaries.

My full gallery from Japan, inclusive of all of the above and more, is available here or under the photography tab at the top of the page.