Okayama has been famous for Kairaku-en Garden for a long time. Now there is a new attraction - Naoshima. However getting to it is not so easy, after all, its an island in the Inland Sea.
But it is a good example of how wide spread English has become. Sign boards in train stations, and platforms, are bi-lingual, toggling between Japanese and English the next trains, and on the board itself train line and destination names. We are waiting for the "Local one man", departing at 8:40 for Uno.
Naoshima has became very popular with foreign travelers, so it does get a special English sign to help one understand how to get to Uno, or back to Okayama.
"One man" first was seen on buses. In the '60's buses always had a conductor, to sell tickets, call out stops, open-close doors and assist the driver. But to control costs, the conductors were eliminated. Now that is happening in on trains in rural Japan. Indeed, this was the first time for me to see it. At some stations there is no longer a ticket booth…there is a vending machine for tickets. And the driver, at a temporary ticket booth on the train, checks tickets, or passes, or, if needed, sells tickets. Then he drives down to the next station, where, if it too is small with no longer a station agent, he again plays that role as well.
At Uno, finding the M/S Naoshima ferry was pretty easy….we just followed the crowd from the train to the port. Interesting "roll-on, roll-off" ship, vehicles enter the front….
….and exit the rear, or visa-versa…no need for double headed wheel houses.
Naoshima is not far off shore…15 minutes or so…but enough time to get some classic Inland Sea views.
On the north end of the island, Mitsubishi has a copper ore processing facility: ships bring raw materials from other parts of Asia, they are off-loaded, then processed on Naoshima, and then re-shipped to domestic customers.
Further down the island is the port of Minoura…looking pretty spiffy, complete with an outdoor art sculpture.
This is were Benesse Art Site Naoshima, in one of its many micro-buses, meets its guests and takes them to its complex on the south end of the island.
The "Art Site" has grown so much since its 1990's start, it requires a map to its various components: four hotels, a restaurant, a shop, a spa, and, of course, three art museums.
The first hotel, called Museum, is on the hill to the right. A later, more exclusive Hotel, Ovel, is on the ridge top to the left. All the structures, hospitality, and museum, were designed by Tadao ANDO, one of Japan's current "starchitects", renowned for his use of concrete and windows.
Ovel is so exclusive, if you are not staying there, you may not visit it.
Its connected to Museum by a small monorail through the woods, accessed only with the right hotel card it.
Down on the seashore, two hotesl have been built: Beach, and ….
…Park, whose main restaurant looks to a reflecting pool and the Inland sea beyond.
Park is connected to Terrace, the restaurant, with a corridor lined with dripping mirror frosting.
In these later buildings, although not totally abandoning concrete, ANDO brings in the use of wood and other materials...
….with pleasing results in the restaurant.
Not only does Benesse have lodging facilities, it also has places to see contemporary international art. This museum is dedicated to the work of LEE Ufan, a Korean artist, who has long made Japan his home.
The entry courtyard reflects his minimalist style...which ANDO's minimalist concrete structure complements. The three walls are an articulated corridor, through...
…which one winds to get to….
….the entry, beyond which photography is not permited.
Well, how will they prohibit it in the toilets??
Even top-drawer architects do not have control over concrete's basic characteristic: it cracks!
The latest museum is Chichu (Art Museum in the Earth), which houses a number of renown artists works in very elegant settings, earth sheltered and, if illuminated with natural light, from skylights. It too prohibits photographs, so "That's all Folks"!
The original building, however, is unique.
If you arrived on your own yacht, as ANDO hopes you will, you would walk this dock, with Museum on the skyline to the left, and Oval, peeking out on the right.
Very grand and expansive stairway starts the ascent of the hill. If you explored as you went up, you would find a room on the right...
...with a black marble ball inside.The room was closed, so a photo of the ball also captured reflections of the exterior pavers and people peering in.
At the top of the stairway, the building is revealed above, but a wall blocks the way. One needs to walk away and...
…go around the wall, where this ramp leads to the entry.
Which is quite restrained, indeed, almost no signage at all, allowing the reflection of the sea and islands be the main attraction.
As well as setting up the interior corridors and galleries to be the main show.
What is unique about this building is that during the day the galleries are open to the public, and at night...
…they are open to the hotel guests! So tho nominally "no photos allowed" is the policy, at night the attendants have gone home, an a guest may pad about in slippers and p.j.'s and take pictures, inside and out. That IS unique!
The art pieces, and their galleries, are small and ...
….large, or, as here, the art piece is small, but the space is large.
Some pieces have an interior component (of wood) and ...
…and an exterior component (of stone).
There are exterior galleries, and ...
… spaces for arts pieces as well.
The hotel rooms are located in a wing above galleries and restaurant.
All rooms are off a single loaded corridor, and ...
…each room has wall art from the museum's collection, ...
...very modern appointments, ...
…even holes in concrete sized and spaced just so for hanging shirts.
But it's not the room, stupid, it's the view!
And the balcony on which to sit and ...
...watch the sunset.
Or the ships passing at night.
Or the moon set.
Which is a good time to make a cup of coffee...
…while waiting for the sun rise.
Not only in and around the buildings, but scattered along the shoreline between them, various pieces beckon one to leave the balcony and go exploring.
Benesse's art activities have spurred more and more projects, especially in the fishing village of Honmura.
Houses, or spaces between them, have been re-done as art installations.
And these art attractions have brought and increasing number of visitors, which appears to have spurred efforts to maintain some artifacts of village life from years gone by, such as this sign (for "Joyful Heart" sake) and window at a small store.
The traditional noren, which often have had quite contemporary designs, marks the entry to a ...
…courtyard garden in front of a gallery for special exhibits.
At a much larger residence, the main courtyard has been made into a minimalist garden, as has...
…the space between the stucco storehouse and wooden stables.
Meanwhile, a western style house of the early 20th Century seems to be a "clothesline" onto which any manner of items has been hung to remind and remember the village life of that time.
One of the many Shinto Shrines has been re-worked, visitors no longer can approach it to pray, but can squeeze thru a tunnel to see the solid glass block steps go up to the front of the building.
This house had its tatami mat floor removed, and a shallow pool, with led lights, installed.
I can only imagine, with the rusting of industrialization and the curtailing of fishing, this boom in tourism has been a economic life saver for the island. One enterprising family has turned their home into a shop, where customers sit in the dining and living area off the kitchen for a cup of coffee and piece of home made pie. A perfect place for a break from all this "art".