ultramarinus – beyond the sea

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DAY 4 (2/5): ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.27

Below the Golden Fort of Jaisalmer, the town flourished in the Medieval times as merchants and desert caravans brought considerable amount of activities and wealth into this remote city at the heart of the Thar Desert.  Nowhere else is more convincing than Patwon Ki Haveli to see the legacy of these wealthy merchants.  Built in the first half of the 19th century, Patwon Ki Haveli was the oldest and largest haveli (grand mansion) in Jaisalmer.  Guman Chand Patwa, a renowned trader of his time, commissioned the construction of five multi-storey townhouses for his five sons.  Splendid wall paintings, mirror mosaic, and most ostentatious of all, the amazing sandstone carving on the building facade, have made the haveli an icon for the city comparable to the Golden Fort.  One operated by the government and the other privately owned, two out of five havelis are open for the public today.  The first haveli we visited was the privately owned mansion located at the right side of the row.

DSC_1235The Patwon Ki Haveli occupies a narrow lane which can be entered at either end.  We entered the lane through a beautiful archway.

IMG_9686Upon entering the archway, we were in awe of the intriguing stone carving on the haveli facade over our heads.

DSC_1246Above the archway, the Patwon Ki Haveli extends over to the opposite side of the pedestrian lane.

IMG_2039Along the lane, there were two open spaces across from the Patwon Ki Haveli for us to stand back and admire the beautiful sandstone facade.

IMG_9671Moving closer to the haveli, the balconies and facade details looked stunning.

IMG_9703If we looked closer, we could see the slight differences between each house.

DSC_1275We walked by a house with its doors opened for visitors.  It turned out that this was the privately owned haveli opened to the public.

DSC_1354Once stepped into the entrance vestibule, we were immediately overwhelmed by the richly decorated interiors.

DSC_1284At the core, we could look up the lightwell to appreciate the height of the building.

DSC_1281Walking up the haveli, one of the first rooms we encountered was the fascinating private Hindu temple.  Though small, the intriguing details of the temple interiors revealed the beautiful craftsmanship of the old Rajasthan.

DSC_1285Across from the small temple facing the street, another small chamber was ornately decorated with paintings and carvings.

IMG_9718Singing from a child musician mingled with laughter from tourists could be heard through the balcony windows.

DSC_1301Another level up were a series of vacant rooms.  Small windows for communication and tiny wall niches for candles allowed us to imagine what the space would be like a century ago.  Despite there were no furniture and paint restoration, we highly appreciated the vintage and authentic feel of the interiors.

IMG_9729Occasional wall paintings gave a touch of vivid colours to the generally yellowish sandstone building.

DSC_1331At the top level we reached what looked like to be the master bedroom with large windows facing the Jaisalmer Fort on one side.

DSC_1328And balconies looking down to the lightwell on the other side.

IMG_9771A door from the master bedroom led us to a small chamber with an attic and another small room.

IMG_9748We reached the roof terrace near the end of the visit.  The view of Jaisalmer Fort was quite amazing.

DSC_1363After a fruitful tour of the old mansion, we walked downstairs and returned to the entrance vestibule, where a beautiful peacock feature guarded the house for decades, welcoming and bidding farewell to visitors.

 

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DAY 1 (3/5): SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.24

Standing on a rock hill 120m above the old city of Jodhpur, many consider Mehrangarh Fort the most impressive fortress in India.  Director Christopher Nolan must have the same feeling when he chose to shoot a scene of The Dark Knight Rises here back in 2011.  Built in the 15th century by Rao Jodha, the king of Mandore who found the city of Jodhpur, Mehrangarh has impressed spectators for centuries with its massive defense walls and exquisite palaces.  Since 1971, maharajas and princes in India were deprived of their privileges and remuneration.  Maharaja Gaj Singhji of Jodhpur has since then became a politician in the parliament.  In 1972, he found the Mehrangarh Museum Trust to restore and maintain his famous fort.  Throughout the years, they have done a decent job in restoring the fort and establishing a museum to showcase the artifacts of former royal family.  The Mehrangarh was the first place to visit during our stay in Rajasthan.  We spent the rest of the day at the fort.  We took our time to wander around the fort and listen to the informative audio guide, which was included in the admission of foreign visitors.

01Built in the 19th century by Maharaja Man Singh, a chattri (umbrella dome on pillars) was a memorial of feudal lord Thakur Shyam Singh Chauhan welcome most visitors in front of the massive fort.

02The impressive Mehrangarh is one of the largest forts in India.

03After entering the first gate Jai Pol, we soon arrived at the gates of Dodh Kangra Pol (left) and Imritia Pol (middle) on our way up to the fort.

04Through the Imritia Pol, we followed other visitors and walked up to the next gate Loha Pol.

05At the Loha Pol Gate, music performers rested in a niche along with their traditional drums and instruments.

06At Loha Pol Gate, we walked by a series of small hand prints on the wall.  Those small hand prints or the sati marks were left by the wives and concubines before their sati ritual.  In the sati custom, these women would dressed in wedding finery and joined their husband in death on his funeral pyre.

07Beyond Loha Pol Gate, we entered a long courtyard where we had our first glimpse of the beautiful facades of Jhanki Mahal (Palace of Glimpses) and Phool Mahal (Palace of Flowers).

08Through the Suraj Pol or Sun Gate beyond a set of steps, we entered the Shringar Chowk Courtyard, the first part of the admission zone.

09The Shringar Chowk Courtyard was the site of coronation for the maharajas.

10At Shringar Chowk Courtyard, a staff was performing the act of opium smoking.

11From Shringar Chowk, we entered the second courtyard known as Daulat Khana Chowk (Treasury Square).  Constructed by Maharaja Ajit Singh in 1718, the second courtyard was the perfect spot to admire the splendid palaces of Mehrangarh: Daulat Khana Mahal (centre), Phool Mahal (right) and Jhanki Mahal (left).

12The Daulat Khana Mahal (Treasury) showcases some fascinating artifacts of the royal family, including a collection of elephant’s howdahs, the wooden seat covered with gold and silver sheets fastened on the elephant backs for riding.

13The display at the museum was full of wonderful display of paintings, artifacts and furniture of the royal family.

14The Phul Mahal or Palace of Flowers was a private reception hall constructed in the 18th century.  It was used for private receptions or cozy music performances.

15From Phul Mahal, we walked over to the roof of Daulat Khana Mahal, where we could look back down to the Daulat Khana Chowk (Treasury Square).

16Takhat Vilas was the private chamber of Takhat Singh in the 19th century.  All surfaces were painted or decorated with colours.  The Christmas balls were interesting additions to the interiors, at a time when Western influences came as trendy articulations in lives of the wealthy.

17At Jhanki Mahal, a hallway was converted into the Cradle Gallery to display the facy cradles of the royal family, many of which were used for ceremonies during festivals.

18From the upper floors in the palaces, we occasionally encountered great spots to look down to the blue city of old Jodhpur.

19The Holi chowk courtyard was where the Maharaja and his wives and concubines celebrated important festivals.

20With more than 250 stone latticework designs, the impressive building facades at Zenana Deorhi Chowk (Women’s Square) provided the perfect finale for the fortress visit.


DAY 8 (2/6): ARCHITECTURE OF THE 21st CENTURY, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.06.01

For architects and designers, the single most important reason coming to Kanazawa is perhaps to visit the contemporary art museum just across the street from Kenroku-en Garden.  Designed by Pritzker Prize awarded firm SANAA under Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa and opened in 2004, the unique 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館) is one of the most widely published contemporary architecture in Japan during the 2000’s.  Staying low as a single storey building, the circular building aims to minimize its impact to the surrounding landscape.  Exhibition galleries, library, lecture hall, workshops, offices, lobbies, and courtyards are housed in a huge circular building fully cladded with glass at its circumference.  Given we have seen the architecture in design magazines and Internet websites throughout the years, SANAA’s famous museum in Kanazawa is like a friend that we have never met.  Since the museum would get crowded with its popularity not just for tourists but also local visitors coming for workshops and cultural events, we made the effort to arrive before the facility’s opening time.

01With multiple functions configured within a circular plan with a diameter of 112.5m, the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館) is a unique piece of architecture accessible from all four directions.

02The outer facade is entirely covered with full height glazing to express a sense of welcome and transparency for visitors.

03Outside the circular building, there are a number of outdoor art installations erected around the museum.

04Perhaps inspired by the building form, the outdoor art installations are also organic or circular in form.

05Before entering the museum, we walked around the building once to check out the art installations as well as the building itself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWorkshops and other common areas lined along the circumference of the museum building.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust like many tourist attractions in Japan, the famous museum is also popular with school kids.

08We managed to get our admission tickets without much queuing minutes after the museum opened its doors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first thing we did was to find a locker to store our bags so that we could enjoy a carefree visit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlong the curved glazed facade, there were a number of gathering spaces of different sizes available, perhaps catered for different programme.

11Everything in the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art is clean, minimal and neutral in colour.

13Photography was prohibited at indoor exhibitions.  At the centre of the building, a glazed walkway passed through a courtyard dominated by a beautiful archway made of green wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the glazed walkway, we could have a glimpse of the interesting art installation on the roof.

14The Swimming Pool by Leandro Erlich is the most famous art installation in the museum.

15The piece is accessible from both the Ground and Basement levels.  From the Ground level, spectators can look down and see the visitors in the basement level through a shallow level of water, as if looking looking into a real swimming pool.

16From the basement level, spectators find themselves in a pool like environment as if walking at the bottom of a swimming pool.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe water effect appears in the most spectacular fashion when the sun is out from above.

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CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 7 (5/7): LIGHTHOUSE, CHOCOLATE & SAMURAI HOMES, Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.05.31

Branded as Little Kyoto, Kanazawa is famed for its century old neighborhoods and buildings.  With only a fraction of Kyoto’s tourists, Kanazawa is a great place to appreciate the machiya, or the old Japanese timber townhouses from the Edo Period, and neighborhoods of geisha and samurai.  Close to the castle hill, Nagamachi (長町) is the most famous samurai neighborhood in the city with well preserved samurai residences.  From Kenroku-en and Kanazawa castle park, It is about 15-20 minutes of walk to Nagamachi.  On our way, we made a detour to Oyama Shrine (尾山神社).  Moved to its present location in 1872, the shrine is the most prominent shrine complex in Kanazawa, especially the iconic west facing gate structure standing proudly with a mixed style of Japanese, European and Chinese influences.  As soon as we stepped in the shrine complex, we saw groups of people setting up art installations in the temple garden.  Perhaps the artworks were set up for the upcoming Hyakumangoku Matsuri (百万石まつり).  We strolled around the complex and finally came to the unique front gate.  Designed by a Dutch architect, the gate is consisted of three levels. The first level presents design features from Japanese and Chinese influences, and the upper levels are inspired by European styles, including the famous stained glass window at the top tier which was once served as a lighthouse.

Exited Oyama Shrine from its front gate, we continued to walk west into the Nagamachi (長町), the tranquil neighborhood famous for its samurai residences.  Sitting just a stone throw away from Kanazawa Castle, Nagamachi had a high concentration of samurai residences in the Edo Period.  Today, the water canals, narrow lanes, earthen walls, old trees, and traditional gateways still exist.  Some houses are still occupied by families of former samurai.  Before visiting one of the former samurai residence, the Nomura Clan Samurai Home (武家屋敷跡 野村家), we couldn’t resist the temptation and stopped by a chocolate patisserie shop called Saint Nicolas.

4The Oyama Shrine is dedicated to Maeda Toshiie, the first lord of the Kaga Domain.

5While we were there, local communities were busy setting up art installations in the temple ground.

6Some of the art installations were made of materials that we could hardly imagine.  This piece set up laser disks (LD) in an arrangement that resembled a lily pond.

7A glassy pavilion seemed like a brand new addition to the shrine complex.  It might well become an information centre soon.

2We exited the Oyama Shrine through its main gate.  Once served as a lighthouse, the top level of the gate features a colourful stained glass window.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring daytime, it is difficult to see the real colours of the stained glass window.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOutside of the gate, a small procession route led us west towards Nagamachi, the neighborhood famous for its samurai residences.

8Before going into the lanes of samurai residences, we reached a small street flanked by a small water channel and stopped by Saint Nicolas, a delightful patisserie and chocolate shop.

9Saint Nicolas offers a wide range of chocolate, ice-cream and patisserie.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe decided to sit down for a tea break before ending our day with a visit of the Nomura Clan Samurai Home (武家屋敷跡 野村家).

11Finding our way to Nomura Clan Samurai Home (武家屋敷跡 野村家), we wandered around the small lanes of Nagamachi.

12Unlike the historical districts in Kyoto, Nagamachi of Kanazawa to us was much more peaceful and saw far less tourists.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor 280 years, many top and middle class samurais lived in Nagamachi near the Kanazawa Castle.  Although most mud walls were reconstructed in modern days, the charm of the old samurai era remained.

14The Onosho Canal is the oldest waterway in Kanazawa.  In the old days, it was a means to carry goods from the harbour to the castle town.

 

* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 2 (2/5): “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本), Japan, 2018.05.26

First appeared in 1966, the stainless steel balls floating in the natural flow of pond water of Yayoi Kusama (草間彌生)’s “Narcissus Garden” was a remarkable landscape art piece that we saw in 2013 at Inhotim, an outdoor art museum and botanical garden near Belo Horizonte of Brazil.  During the same trip, we went on to see her retrospective show “Obsesión infinita [Infinite Obsession]” at Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil in Rio de Janeiro.  It was an mind-blowing experience to enter Yayoi Kusama’s world of polka dots for the first time.  Four and a half years has passed.  This time, we were fortunate to swing by Matsumoto, Yayoi Kusama’s birthplace, on our way to the Japanese Alps and got a chance to see her latest show at the city’s art museum.  Since its grand opening in 2003, Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館) has held three Yayoi Kusama’s shows.  With 180 pieces in display, “All About My Love (私の愛のすべて) has become the fourth show for the famous daughter of Matsumoto.

Born in 1929 and raised in Matsumoto, Yayoi Kusama is a prolific artist with a career spanning many decades.  Since the age of 10, Yayoi Kusama experienced hallucinations of light flashes, auras, or dense fields of dots.  These vivid imagery has since become a powerful source of inspirations for many of her works.  In her childhood, she was also inspired by the smooth and fluid forms of white river stones near her home, which has led to another major influence in her works.  Yayoi Kusama began exhibiting her works in Japan in 1950s.  In 1957 at the age of 27, she moved to the United States to pursue greater freedom and respect for an avant-garde woman artist.  She stayed in the US from 1957 to 1972, based mainly in New York City.  In New York, she soon became an active member in the circle of avant-garde artists, befriended many artists and activists of her era, produced paintings, art installations, performance art, photography, and films, involved in a number of social movements including anti-war protests and opened a naked painting studio and a gay social club.  She stood at the forefront of the avant-garde art scene and held exhibitions/ performances in established venues such as MoMA and the Venice Biennale.  In 1973, she fell ill and returned to Japan.  She checked into Tokyo’s Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill in 1977, and has stayed there since then.  After leaving New York, she was soon forgotten in the international art scene until the early 1990s, when retrospective shows and large outdoor installations revived international interest in her works.  Some notable pieces included the 1993 Japanese pavilion at the Venice Biennale, where she created a mirrored room filled with small pumpkin sculptures, and soon later, huge yellow pumpkin sculptures covered with black dots (representing a kind of her alter-ego) emerged around the world, and so as various reiterations of “Narcissus Garden” around the world.  In recent years, collaborations with commercial labels such as Louis Vuitton and Lancome have further brought the veteran avant-garde back in the limelight.

DSC_6129It was just a  20-minute walk from Matsumoto Castle to Matsumoto City Museum of Art.  The museum building was covered with the trademark of Yayoi Kusama, the Queen of Polka Dots.

DSC_6127_01We were greeted by Yayoi Kusama’s “The Visionary Flowers”, an eye-catching installation of three wacky-looking tulips that have stood at the museum forecourt since 2002.

DSC_6077After presenting our online-purchased tickets, we followed the coloured footprints and headed upstairs to the show.

DSC_6104Photography was not allowed for most of the show, except the common atrium and one of the painting galleries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASomehow the red polka dots fitted in very well with the minimalist museum interior.

DSC_6082Another Yayoi Kusama’s flower installation inside the museum.

DSC_6083A paper cut of Yayoi Kusama was offered as a photo spot for visitors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe room filled with paintings from the “My Eternal Soul” series was the only gallery that photography was allowed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVisitors enjoyed themselves by making selfies in front of the colourful paintings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnder the power of the Polka Dot Queen, even the food at the museum cafe provided an Yayoi Kusama experience.

DSC_6102Through a polka dot on the window, we could see a version of Yayoi Kusama’s most recognizable yellow pumpkin in the museum courtyard.

DSC_6108Polka dots were everywhere.

DSC_6120We couldn’t leave the museum without a closer look at the yellow pumpkin.

DSC_6119While most visitors went to make selfies at the yellow pumpkin, kids were having fun at the water feature in the courtyard.

 


DAY 1 (3/3): MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE, Tokyo, Japan, 2018.05.25

A short metro ride took us to Roppongi (六本木), a business and entertainment district dominated by the high-rise complexes of Roppongi Hills (2003) and Tokyo Midtown (2006).  Before the completion of these mixed-use developments, Roppongi was well known for its disco scene since the late 1960’s.  In 2014, we visited the area for the first time to explore these complexes and the nearby National Art Center (国立新美術館) in a stormy day.  This time, we came specifically to check out the exhibitions at Mori Art Museum and 21_21 Design Sight.

DSC_5889 At Roku Roku Plaza of Roppongi Hills, Louise Bourgeois’ famous sculpture “Maman” was given a temporary makeover by Magda Sayeg, the textile artist who was responsible for a wide range of yarn installations in cities around the world.

DSC_5893On the observation deck of Mori Tower, we had a good view of the surrounding area.  The wavy facade of Kisho Kurokawa’s National Art Center stood out at the forefront.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo mark its 15th anniversary, the Mori Art Museum was hosting an exhibition on Japanese architecture on the 53rd floor of Mori Tower.

IMG_5906“Japan in Architecture: Genealogies of Its Transformation” presented the essence of modern Japanese architecture in 9 sections: 1) Possibilities of Wood, 2) Transcendent Aesthetics, 3) Roofs of Tranquility, 4) Crafts as Architecture, 5) Linked Spaces, 6) Hybrid Architecture, 7) Forms of Living Together, 8) Japan Discovered, and 9) Living with Nature.

DSC_5900In each section, the topics were presented with physical models, design installations, architectural drawings, project photos, hand sketches, etc.  Photography was not allowed for most displays.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA causal seating area offered further reading on Japanese architecture.

DSC_5904A one-to-one model of a Japanese tea house offered visitors a chance to see the essence of traditional minimalist architecture.

DSC_5905This large wooden model of what looked like a traditional Japanese home was in fact the Tange House designed by architectural maestro Kenzo Tange (丹下健三).  Built in 1953, the Tange House presented a fusion of traditional style and customs of modern living.

IMG_5941Towards the end of the exhibition, there was an eye-catching multi-media show made with 3D projections.

DSC_5913After a good taste of Japanese architecture at Mori, we walked a few blocks north to 21_21 Design Sight, a small design museum at Hinokicho Park (檜町公園) in Tokyo Midtown.

DSC_5914With the beautiful terracotta cladding, the 20-acre Tokyo Midtown is an elegant and highly recognizable high-rise complex.

DSC_5915With glass canopies and shade trees, the outdoor areas of Tokyo Midtown exemplify a role model of livable city.

DSC_5945Last time when we came to 21_21 Design Sight, the facility was closed for exhibition installation.  This time, a photography show “New Planet Photo City – William Klein and Photographers Living in the 22nd Century” was held, and we were able to see the show as well as the building designed by Tadao Ando.

DSC_5934Despite its small scale, Ando’s 21_21 Design Sight was an interesting attraction for design enthusiasts.

DSC_5937Curated by photographic critic and art historian Toshiharu Ito, the show began with a video presentation of William Klein’s photographs on the 20th century urbanity, and then contemporary photography on city and people by various Asian photographers.

DSC_5939Ando’s signature fair faced concrete provided a beautiful backdrop for light and shadow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOutside 21_21 Design Sight, the afternoon sun was soft and relaxing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe sat on a bench in Hinokicho Park (檜町公園) to take a brief rest, and decided to follow Google Map for a 25-minute walk to Aoyama (青山).  Time was getting a little late and we weren’t sure if we could still make it to see Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum (岡本太郎記念館), the former home of renounced artist Taro Okamoto.  We left Tokyo Midtown and walked west from Nogizaka Station (乃木坂駅), passed by the peaceful Aoyama Cemetery (青山霊園), and reached the fabulous Nezu Museum (根津美術館) in Aoyama at around 4:15pm.  From Nezu, it was only a block from Taro Okamoto’s former residence, and we had about 1.5 hour to visit the house, its exhibitions and cafe.  Time was a little tight and we were quite tired due to the midnight flight.  We decided to leave the museum until next time in town.

DSC_5951Instead, we opted for Cafe Kitsuné at a side street off the fashionable Omotesando (表参道), where the creative talents of world famous fashion designers and architects converged into high-end fashion boutiques.  Associated with Kitsuné, a French electronic music record and fashion label (Kitsuné Maison) created by Gildas Loaec, Masaya Kuroki and company Abake, Cafe Kitsuné is a little gem in Aoyama for anyone who loves coffee and design.

IMG_5949The nice coffee from Japan’s first Slayer coffee machine and the stylish interior made the visit worthwhile.

 
* * *

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03
Introduction

Day 1: Tokyo (東京)
1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
1.2 TSUKIJI INNER MARKET (築地中央卸売市場)
1.3 MORI ART MUSEUM (森美術館), 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT & CAFE KITSUNE

Day 2: Matsumoto (松本)& Kamikochi (上高地)
2.1 MATSUMOTO CASTLE (松本城), Matsumoto (松本)
2.2 “ALL ABOUT MY LOVE”, Yayoi Kusama’s Exhibition at Matsumoto City Museum of Art (松本市美術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.3 MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本)
2.4 FROM MATSUMOTO (松本) TO KAMIKOCHI (上高地)
2.5 ARRIVAL IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Chūbu-Sangaku National Park (中部山岳国立公園)

Day 3: Kamikochi (上高地)
3.1 MORNING WALK IN KAMIKOCHI (上高地), Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
3.2 DAKESAWA HIKE (岳沢), Kamikochi (上高地)

Day 4: Kamikochi (上高地) & Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.1 TAISHO POND (大正池), Kamikochi (上高地)
4.2 RETREAT IN THE JAPANESE ALPS, Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)
4.3 MOMENTS OF ESCAPE, Tsuruya Ryokan (つるや旅館), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉)

Day 5: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.1 CITY IN THE MOUNTAINS, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.2 HIDA BEEF (飛騨牛), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.3 SAKE (日本酒) BREWERIES, Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.4 YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)
5.5 HIGASHIYAMA WALKING COURSE (東山遊歩道), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山)

Day 6: Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Shirakawa-go (白川郷) & Ainokura (相倉)
6.1 MIYAGAWA MORNING MARKET (宮川朝市), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.2 OGIMACHI IN THE RAIN, Shirakawa-go (白川郷), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
6.3 SOBA, TEMPLE & LOOKOUT, Shirakawa-go (白川郷)
6.4 RAINY AFTERNOON IN AINOKURA (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.5 GASSHO MINSHUKU, FLOWER BEDS & RICE PADDY FIELDS, Ainokura (相倉), Gokayama (五箇山)
6.6 CROAKING FROGS AND MOONLIGHT REFLECTIONS, Gokayama (五箇山)

Day 7: Kanazawa (金沢)
7.1 DEPARTURE IN THE RAIN, Ainokura (相倉) to Kanazawa (金沢)
7.2 A SEAFOOD PARADISE – OMICHO MARKET (近江町市場)
7.3 D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館)
7.4 Kenroku-en Garden (兼六園)
7.5 Oyama Shrine (尾山神社) and Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.6 Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町)
7.7 Sushi Ippei (一平鮨), Katamachi (片町)

Day 8: Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture (金沢, 石川県)
8.1 Iki Iki Tei (いきいき亭) and Higashide Coffee (東出珈琲店), Omicho Market (近江町市場)
8.2 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art (21世紀美術館)
8.3 Kazuemachi District (主計町茶屋街)
8.4 Higashi Chaya District (東山ひがし茶屋街)
8.5 Kaga Yuzen Toro Nagashi (加賀友禅燈ろう流し), Asano River (浅野川)
8.6 AFTERMATH OF KAGA YUZEN TORO NAGASHI (加賀友禅燈ろう流し)

Day 9 & 10: Tokyo (東京)
9.1 Marunouchi (丸の内) & Nihonbashi (日本橋)
10.1 OEDO ANTIQUE MARKET (大江戸骨董市), Tokyo Forum (東京国際フォーラム)
10.2 FARMER’S MARKET, United Nations University (東京国連大学), Aoyama (青山)


DAY 4 (1/3): SUMIDA HOKUSAI MUSEUM (すみだ北斎美術館), Sumida (墨田), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.17

After a full day excursion of historical temples and natural scenery in Nikko, we decided to spend the next day to explore another neighborhood in Tokyo.  We started the day at the southwest area of Sumida District (墨田区), near the metro station of Ryogoku (両国).  Many tourists come to Ryogoku (両国) for sumo (相撲): visit sumo stables to view professional practice, or checked out chanko nabe restaurants for a sumo meal, or even watch a game of sumo wrestling at Ryogoku Kokugikan (Ryogoku Sumo Hall).  We, however, came to the area for museum hopping.

Opened in 2016, the Sumida Hokusai Museum is being considered as a novel cultural icon of Sumida.  Designed by Kazuyo Sejima (妹島 和世), the sleek architecture houses exhibitions to showcase the life and works of the world famous ukiyo-e (浮世絵) artist Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎).  With his Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (富嶽三十六景), Hokusai is definitely the most iconic figure of ukiyo-e (浮世絵) in the Edo Period (1603 – 1868).  Kazuyo Sejima (妹島 和世), the founder of SANAA and a recipient of the Pritzker Prize in architecture with Ryue Nishizawa, is also a generation defining Japanese architect in her own right.  From the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, New Museum in New York, Rolex Learning Centre in Lausanne, to Louvre Lens Museum in France, Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA have inspired uncounted architects and designers around the world in the last two decades.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Midoricho Park (緑町公園) where Sumida Hokusai Museum is erected, is also the birthplace of Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASejima’s building immediately became a cultural icon in the rather low key residential neighborhood.  The building provides an interesting backdrop for the community play area of Midoricho Park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe building scale and the facade’s level of reflectiveness express a certain degree of novelty without creating an overwhelming impact to the surrounding context.

04The cave like slit at each of the four sides provides a prominent entrance gateway at each side.

05The reflectivity of the museum’s metal cladding is right on.

06Everything on the facade is clean and minimal.

07We walked to the main entrance via one of the triangular opening on the facade.

08The facets of the glass panes and the reflections of the outside offer a unique entrance experience.

09The detailing of the triangular opening is once again clean and minimal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe angular aspects of the architecture is carried through into the interior.

11The washroom on the ground floor is a cute little cube at the lobby.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeside Sejima’ architecture, the works of Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎) were well worth the admission.

13The exhibition space is not big.  Most of his paintings are hung along the wall.  Artifacts such as books and sketches.

14The most famous works by  Kazuyo Sejima is Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (富嶽三十六景 Fugaku Sanjūroku-kei).  A selection of the 36 prints had been put on display.

15The Great Wave off Kanagawa is perhaps the most well known image by Katsushika Hokusai.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome of the final works by Katsushika Hokusai are also on display.

17A wax display depicting the studio of Katsushika Hokusai (葛飾 北斎) and his daughter back in the Edo Period.

18Outside of the exhibition area, there is a seating area with great views towards the Sky Tree.