ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “church

HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, June 15-25, 2019

Tsuyu (梅雨), the rain season, begins to hit Okinawa in May and gradually makes its way north to the rest of Japan until the end of June.  During the wet season, rainy and cloudy weather affects the entire country except Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest island north of the main Honshu Island.  The seismic active island is 3.6% smaller than Ireland, with a climate significantly cooler than the rest of Japan.  Seeking for a pleasant getaway from Hong Kong’s humid and hot summer, we picked Hokkaido as the destination for our 11-day vacation from 15th to 25th of June.  Traveling in the remote national parks and rural countryside of Hokkaido, hiring a car was a necessity.  The Hokkaido journey was our first road trip in Japan.

Known as Japan’s last true wilderness, Shiretoko National Park (知床国立公園) is the natural haven where Brown Bears and Blakiston Fish Owls ruled the primeval forests and Orcas, Minke and Sperm Whales roamed the waters of Nemuro Strait.  With fantastic natural scenery, wildlife and seafood to offer, this easternmost part of Hokkaido topped our priority list in the travel itinerary.  Next in the journey took us to the spectacular volcanoes of Akan Mashu National Park (阿寒摩周国立公園), where we came close to Japan’s clearest water at caldera Lake Mashu (摩周湖) and the fantastic onsen and fly fishing hot spot of Lake Akan (阿寒湖).  While the lavender fields of Furano (富良野) and Biei (美瑛) had yet reached the peak bloom moment, the ultra fertile soil below the Tokachi Volcanic Group (十勝火山群) treated us with some of the best bread, corn, potatoes, asparagus, melons and milk that we ever had in our lives.  Despite far away from Tokyo and Osaka, the architectural magic of Tadao Ando (安藤忠雄) in Hokkaido satisfied our thirst of contemporary design and aesthetics.  Back in Obihiro (帯広), Otaru (小樽) and Sapporo (札幌), historic traces of early pioneers and contemporary dessert shops and local eateries brought us back to delightful charm of urban Japan.  What’s more?  Day after day of mouthwatering seafood, fresh produces, good coffee, and lovely patisseries reminded us how wonderful our world could be, when the water is clean, soil is rich, forests are healthy and people are friendly.  Thank you Hokkaido.  You have truly touched our hearts.

maps 2Located north of Honshu Island, Hokkaido is the second largest island in Japan.

maps 1Flying in from Tokyo Haneda, our Hokkaido journey began from Memanbetsu (女満別空港) near the Shiretoko Peninsula.  After more than 1,181km of driving, we arrived at Otaru and Sapporo at the western side of the island.

DSC_4258This black hatchback hybrid Toyota Prius c (Toyota Aqua in Japan) provided us the means of transport from east to west across Hokkaido.

DSC_4490After 2 days of rain and wind, we finally had a glimpse of the active volcano of Mount Rausu (羅臼岳), the tallest peak in Shiretoko Peninsula.

DSC_5154The greatest experience we took away from Shiretoko was the close encounter with a pod of orcas in the Nemuro Strait.

DSC_5307The Mashu Lake (摩周湖) offered us a peaceful sunrise at 3:30am.

DSC_5666Under the shadow of Mount Oakan (雄阿寒岳), dozens of fly fishermen stepped into the crystal water of Lake Akan (阿寒湖) to test their luck.

DSC_5751Farms and greenhouses were washed with heavy rain as we entered into Furano (富良野).

DSC_5893Still at least half a month to go before the peak season of lavender blossom, visitors were enjoying themselves at a relatively less crowded Farm Tomita in Nakafurano.

DSC_6040Compared with rainbow flower fields, we loved the wheat fields at Biei the most.

DSC_6183Tadao Ando’s Chapel on the Water has been famous in the designer’s world since the 1980s.

DSC_6282The Hill of Buddha is the latest addition in Hokkaido by Tadao Ando.

DSC_6466At Yoichi Distillery (余市蒸溜所), whiskey has been produced since 1934.

DSC_6538Saturdays Chocolate in Sapporo is one of the many excellent local eateries and cafes that we visited in the journey.

IMG_9267Last but not least, Hokkaido offered us the best seafood and dessert that we ever had as far as we could remember.  Let’s begin to tell the story of our journey!

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DAY 1 (5/6): ST MARY’S CATHEDRAL (東京カテドラル聖マリア大聖堂), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.14

After Ueno Park, we still have time to visit another place before our 18:30 dinner reservation back in Shibuya.  West from Ueno, we took the metro to the residential neighborhood of Sekiguchi in Bunkyo District.  We stepped into the peaceful residential streets of Sekiguchi, and used Google Map to find our way to St. Mary’s Cathedral, the seat of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tokyo.  Apart from its religious significance, the cathedral building is also a masterpiece of modernist architecture designed by renowned Japanese architect Kenzo Tange (丹下健三).  The cathedral was completed in 1964, about the same time as Kenzo Tange’s Yoyogi National Gymnasium for the 1964 Olympics.

01The peaceful residential streets of Sekiguchi led us toward’s St. Mary’s Cathedral.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACladded with stainless steel, Kenzo Tange’s St. Mary’s Cathedral replaces its Gothic and wooden predecessor that was destroyed during the Second World War.

03Kenzo Tange’s version of the cathedral was much simpler than a traditional Gothic church.  The essence of the building is expressed through the combination of geometry, lines, shades, and reflections.

04On a plan in the form of a cross, Kenzo Tange extruded eight hyperbolic parabolas upwards to form this unique piece of architecture.

05When seen from above, the cathedral and its skylights would appear exactly in the shape of the cross.

06Reaching 61.68m, the bell tower is separated from the main church building.

07The interior of St. Mary’s Cathedral should be a huge surprise for any first time visitors.  The concrete structural shell is fully exposed, providing a minimalist interior where light and shades play the role to create a spiritual atmosphere.

08Benches inside St. Mary’s Cathedral face toward the main altar, behind which stands the tall window extending all the way to the ceiling, then runs across the ceiling to the opposite end of the building.

09The spiral stair behind the seating is a neat feature that goes up the largest organ in Japan.

11The large organ was manufactured by Italian company Mascioni.  We were lucky to experience its beautiful sound when staff were practicing the organ when we were there.

12After a fantastic architectural treat at St. Mary’s Cathedral, we made a short walk in the neighborhood to Zoshigaya Metro Station (雑司が谷駅) for the Fukutoshin Metro back to Shibuya.

13On our way, we passed through the peaceful residential neighborhood of Mejirodai (目白台).

14The afternoon sunlight of the early summer day was brilliant.  The half-hour walk was pleasant and we hardly saw other tourists along the way.


Day 9 – CHURCH OF LIGHT, Osaka (大阪市), Japan

If there was one architect that redefined Japanese architecture during the 1990s it would be Tadao Ando. And if there was one project that best exemplified the essence of Ando’s architecture it would be Ibaraki Kasugaoka Church, or the Church of Light. Located 25km northeast of Osaka, Ando’s Church of Light is a pilgrim destination in the world of architects and designers. The precise use of natural light, minimalist layout, smooth pour in-situ concrete walls, modular spatial proportions, and zenist interplay of void and solid converges into an architectural masterpiece with a volume no bigger than a small house.

The Church of Light opens only on specific days of the week, usually on Sunday but sometimes also Wednesday and Saturday.  Visiting the church requires advanced reservation online. It was about 20 minutes of train ride from Osaka Station to Ibaraki, a residential neighborhood in the outskirt of Osaka. From Ibaraki station, it was another short local bus ride to reach the closest bus stop to the Church of Light.  It was a peaceful Sunday when we visited, we found our way to the main entrance of the church complex, which was consisted of the Church of Light and the Sunday School, a latter addition to the complex also designed by Ando. We registered with the staff at the reception of the Sunday School, and was then led into the famous Church of Light. Once inside, we had all the time we needed to examine the architecture, take photos, and take in the spiritual atmosphere.

We stayed at the church for over an hour, until it was time for us to return to Osaka Tennoji Station, where we would take the Haruka Express for the Kansai Airport. Nine days of Osaka, Kobe, and the spiritual Kumano Kodo gave us a refreshing spring break, with joyful memories from the splendid cherry blossoms, spiritual scenery, fantastic seafood, to poetic architecture.

DSC_1137Osaka Station, with its recently added canopy.

01We got off the local bus at the community park at Ibaraki, where the Church of Light was just around the corner.

02The church complex with the Sunday School on the left and Church of Light on the right, both designed by Tadao Ando.

03Entrance pathway to the church.

04Slit windows and architectural concrete are the common design language in Ando’s works.

05Interior of the Sunday School.

06Overall interior view of the Church of Light.

07The iconic slit opening of cruciform in the Church of Light.

08The large pipe organ at the back of the church.

09Indirect natural light is introduced into the space through an opening that is created by a slant wall at a 15 degree angle.

10Side view of the cruciform opening at the altar.

11Glazed wall meeting concrete wall at the church entrance.

12The curved vestibule connecting the Sunday School and Church of Light.

13A small outdoor gathering space between the school and the church, occupied by a man in suit playing badminton with a young lady. It was lovely to see how people making use of the space and we were both touched by this scene, for some reasons.

IMG_2407After a thorough visit to the Church of Light and a relaxing stroll in the laid back neighbourhood of Ibaraki, we returned to the Osaka Station. The station was busy and filled with people but somehow everything remained in good order.

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Read other posts on 2015 Kansai…
Day 1.0 – Kansai Japan 2015
Day 1.1 – Hanami, Mount Yoshino 
Day 1.2 – Feast under the Shades of Sakura, Mount Yoshiko
Day 2 – A Day in Kobe
Day 3 – A Day in Central Osaka
Day 4 – Tanabe – Prelude of the Kumano Kodo
Day 5.1 – Takijiri to Takahara, Kumano Kodo
Day 5.2 – Takahara to Tsugizakura , Kumano Kodo
Day 5.3 – Minshuku Tsugizakura, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.1 – Tsugizakura to Mikoshi-Toge Pass, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.2 – Mikoshi-Toge Pass to Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 6.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha to Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.1 – Ryokan Adumaya, Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.2 – Yunomine Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.3 – Kumano Hongu Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 7.4 – Wataze Onsen, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.1 – Kumano Nachi Taisha, Kumano Kodo
Day 8.2 – Kii Katsuura, Kumano Kodo
Day 9 – Church of Light, Osaka


TEMPLE, CHURCH, MOSQUE – Houses of God on the Mid Levels, Hong Kong

Since the completion of the Central-Mid-Levels Escalators and Walkway System in 1993, the Mid Levels in Central and Sheung Wan have undergone series of urban redevelopment. Several architectural gems dated back to the era of Victoria City survive to the present days. The co-existence of these religious buildings reflects a diverse demography that once resided in the neighborhoods on the Mid Levels over a century ago.

Man Mo Temple
Among all religious buildings on Mid Levels, the most well known is Man Mo Temple in Sheung Wan. Just like any other man mo temples in a Chinese city, Man Mo Temple is dedicated for the God of Literature and Martial, to whom people pray for success in their academic studies. Built in 1847, Sheung Wan’s Man Mo Temple is still popular with worshipers, especially among parents who pray for their kids to thrive in the competitive environment of Hong Kong.
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Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Opened in 1888, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is the main Roman Catholic Church in the city. It replaced the first catholic cathedral of Hong Kong that once stood at Wellington Street and Pottinger Street. In the embrace of residential towers and the Caritas Compound (a community centre operated by the Catholics), the cathedral and its surrounding grounds are always shielded off from traffic and daily business, like a spiritual oasis welcoming anyone who thirsts for a moment of serenity.
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Jamia Masjid Mosque
Known as the first mosque in Hong Kong, the original Jamia Masjid Mosque was built at around 1849 to serve the Indian Muslims who worked for the colonial government and other British establishments in Central.  The current building was built in 1890.  Embraced by tall apartment buildings, the mosque maintains its modest presence with its entrance right by the Mid Levels Escalator. Although not opened to the public, the building occasionally hosts open day events for visitors who are interested in the mosque’s history and Islamic beliefs.
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DAY 58 (1 OF 3) – ISLA AUCAR, COLO, TENAUN, SAN JUAN, CHILOE, CHILE

On our last day at Chiloe, we hired a local guide to take us to visit three more UNESCO churches along the east coast of the island.  Before the churches, we stopped by Isla Aucar, a small island off the coast of a fishing village.  On Isla Aucar, we found a small botanical garden, a wooden church and a cemetery.  To us, the footbridge leading to Isla Aucar was a beautiful structure.  At low tide, many clams and mussels are exposed on the beach, revealing a healthy coastal ecosystem.  The only drawback of the otherwise perfectly serene seaside scenery was the mussel factory at the other end of the bridge, where we could see smoke rising in the air.
The three UNESCO churches that we visited subsequently at Colo, Tenaun and San Juan present a number of architectural features unique to Chiloe.  Similar to other aspects of the Chilote culture, Chilote churches combine European influences with local materials and craftsmanship.  Mastered in wooden boat construction, the Chilote people built many of their churches with a wooden barrel vault ceiling, just like a boat placed upside down.  Vivid and contrasting colours were often used, sometimes for the interior like the Colo Church, and sometimes for both the exterior and the interior like the Tenaun Church.  Blue was often used, which to us might present a strong tie with the local maritime culture.  Our guide suggested that perhaps the use of vivid colours was intended to counter the dark and grey winters of Chiloe, providing a sense of delight in the cold and wet days.  Unfortunately we couldn’t find the person who held the keys for San Juan Church.  We could only appreciate it from outside.
ImageImageWooden bridge, Isla Aucar, Chiloe (2 pictures above)DSC_3685Exposed mussels at low tide, Isla Aucar, Chiloe (1 picture above)
ImageImageImageImageChurch of Colo, Chiloe (4 pictures above)ImageImageImageChurch of Tenaun, Chiloe (3 pictures above)ImageChurch of San Juan (1 picture above)

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Read more on Chiloe and Puerto Varas  in 2013 South America
Day 55.1 – Water Finally, Chiloe
Day 55.2 – Chacao Channel, Chiloe
Day 55.3 – Tide, Castro, Chiloe
Day 55.4 – Iglesia San Francisco, Castro, Chiloe
Day 56.1 – Palfitos, Castro, Chiloe
Day 56.2 – Wooden Tequilas Houses, Chiloe
Day 56.3 – Achao, Isla Quinchao
Day 57.1 – Parque Nacional Chiloe
Day 57.2 – Chanquin and Playa Cucao, Chiloe
Day 58.1 – Isla Aucar, Colo, Tenaun San Juan, Chiloe
Day 58.2 – Boat Building, San Juan, Chiloe
Day 58.3 – Seafood, Chiloe
Day 59.1 – Palafito 1326, Castro, Chiloe
Day 59.2 – Chacao Channel Again, Chiloe
Day 59.3 – City, Lago Llanquihue & Volcan Osorno, Puerto Varas
Day 60 – Parque Nacional Vicente Perez Rosales, Petrohue
Day 61.1 – Latitude 51-41’28”, Puerto Natales
Day 61.2 – Afrigonia, Puerto Natales

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 55 (4 OF 4) – IGLESIA SAN FRANCISCO, CASTRO, CHILOE ISLAND, CHILE

Completed in 1912, Iglesia San Francisco de Castro was the first UNESCO church we visited on Chiloe Island. The dramatic colours of the exterior and the varnished-wood interior were both spectacular.
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Read more on Chiloe and Puerto Varas  in 2013 South America
Day 55.1 – Water Finally, Chiloe
Day 55.2 – Chacao Channel, Chiloe
Day 55.3 – Tide, Castro, Chiloe
Day 55.4 – Iglesia San Francisco, Castro, Chiloe
Day 56.1 – Palfitos, Castro, Chiloe
Day 56.2 – Wooden Tequilas Houses, Chiloe
Day 56.3 – Achao, Isla Quinchao
Day 57.1 – Parque Nacional Chiloe
Day 57.2 – Chanquin and Playa Cucao, Chiloe
Day 58.1 – Isla Aucar, Colo, Tenaun San Juan, Chiloe
Day 58.2 – Boat Building, San Juan, Chiloe
Day 58.3 – Seafood, Chiloe
Day 59.1 – Palafito 1326, Castro, Chiloe
Day 59.2 – Chacao Channel Again, Chiloe
Day 59.3 – City, Lago Llanquihue & Volcan Osorno, Puerto Varas
Day 60 – Parque Nacional Vicente Perez Rosales, Petrohue
Day 61.1 – Latitude 51-41’28”, Puerto Natales
Day 61.2 – Afrigonia, Puerto Natales

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 21 (3 OF 5) – CENTRO CULTURAL DO BANCO DO BRASIL, RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

We wandered through busy narrow streets off Avenue Rio Branco, stopped by Rubro Café for a sip of Brazilian espresso, and arrived at Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Candelaria at noon when a mass was about to start.  We then headed east to Centro Cultural do Banco do Brazil (CCBB), an cultural centre housed in a restored bank building dated 1906.  The CCBB is currently hosting a retrospective exhibition of Yayoi Kusama called Obsessao Infinita.  We decided to spend some time to learn more about the work and life of this Japanese artist (nicknamed the Polka-Dot Princess), who was, during the 1960s and 1970s, one of the forerunners of New York’s visual art scene, and anti-war and feminist movements.  We saw many of her paintings, video art, photomontages, and some installation works that allowed visitors to enter an art space to interact with the lighting and take photos.  Through the use of mirrors, fluorescent lighting, and the ever-present polka-dots, the art spaces, although physically small in size, felt infinite in dimensions as we entered into the world of Yayoi Kusama.
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Read other posts on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Day 20.1 – Ipanema
Day 20.2 – Urca
Day 20.3 – Pao de Acucar
Day 21.1 – Ipanema Beach
Day 21.2 – Real Gabinete Portugues de Leitura (Portuguese Reading Room)
Day 21.3 – Centro Cultural do Banco do Brasil
Day 21.4 – Lapa and Santa Teresa
Day 21.5 – Botafogo and Leblon
Day 22.1 – Museu de Arte do Rio
Day 22.2 – Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer)

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought