15 Mar 2013

Japan by Dorothy

2/5

Star 10

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Woke up to find that the space heater ran out of gas in the middle of the night. Washed up, checked out of Tsutsuji-so and headed over to our next destination: Benesse Art Site.

On our way, we passed by our first of many art installations — a large yellow pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama. The bright, blobby form creates an interesting contrast with the serene waterscape.

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Passed a few art installations before reaching Benesse Museum. At the center of the museum is a round, three-story-high, concrete room that holds a single art piece: ‘One Hundred Live and Die’ by Bruce Nauman.

Other works in the museum include a large Hockney painting, Warhol’s flower prints, and minimalist photographs taken by Hiroshi Sugimoto of different seas and oceans around the world.

Sadly, photography is not allowed in any of the museums (though I snuck in a couple).

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Another museum designed by Tadao Ando. In order to minimize impact on the natural scenery, this museum was built underground. The structure is muted in color and blends into the surrounding landscape.

Jon and I were more impressed with the architecture of Lee Ufan than the art it housed — we failed to be moved by random rock and teacup-shaped formations protruding from a wall.

Star 2

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The Chichu Museum was by far my favorite of the day. Before entering the first room, we had to remove our shoes and wear slippers. We walked through a large, dark hall into a bright, sunlit room containing five of Monet’s water lily paintings. The floor was lined with small, immaculately white tiles (thus the need for slippers). Wearing those slippers, I felt like I was taking in those giant paintings in a private, enormous bathroom.

Then we moved onto James Turrell’s works. Every one of his pieces tested how I perceived things and had me asking myself what was light and space versus three-dimensional form. It was a completely disorienting, yet novel and engaging, experience.

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We had dinner at Issen, the Japanese restaurant located in the Benesse Museum. It was fun being inside a museum after hours, and feeling like we had the whole place to ourselves. Our traditional kaiseki meal included fresh sashimi, chawanmushi, crunchy grilled bamboo shoots, grilled beef, miso soup, rice and pickles. Each dish was presented on elegant stoneware. Everything was fresh and delicious. Best chawanmushi ever!

Star 1

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Not sure whether it’s off-peak season, or Naoshima isn’t a popular destination, but the island is surprisingly uncrowded. I like how the stillness of the island gives us the opportunity to fully appreciate its art installations and museums. We also noticed that we were one of the few non-Japanese visitors, probably since the island is a bit off the beaten path. I’m glad we made the effort to come out here, as it’s truly a special place.