ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “design

KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館), Sapporo (札幌), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.24

Day 10 (3/6).

During our Hokkaido trip, we visited three works by Japanese architect Tadao Ando (安藤 忠雄): the Chapel on the Water in Tomamu, the Hill of the Buddha in Makomanai Takino Cemetery, and in Sapporo, the Kitakaro Sapporo Honkan (北菓楼札幌本館).  The Japanese confectionery store is housed in the two-storey brick masonry building that was once the first library (北海道庁立図書館) and the first ever art museum in Hokkaido.  Then, after being used as an archive of public records, the most recent renewal by Tadao Ando opened the building to the public once again.  Ando’s team has done a great job in preserving the masonry structure and interior features of the original building such as the elegant stair at the building corner.  They also created an airy atrium space with white cross vault ceiling and large bookcases on the upper level to remind visitors the building’s history as a library.  Today, the lower level serves as a flagship store selling Kitakaro’s confectionery while the upper level is a popular cafe.

IMG_0853The historical library building (北海道庁立図書館) is a beautiful piece of architecture dated to 1920’s.

IMG_0842The original masonry facades are well preserved.

IMG_0845Little contemporary touches give new life to the former library building.

IMG_0794The main entrance of the confectionery shop, a glazed box attached to the side of the history building, presents a visual contrast to the original structure and suggests a sense of respect to the heritage building by not mingling a “fake antique” with the old.

IMG_0810The original stone stair is well kept.  It leads visitors up to the cafe on the upper level.

IMG_0835This stone stair has become a popular photo shooting spot for visitors.

IMG_0837The ground level is occupied by the confectionery store.  Here visitors can appreciate the white vaulted ceiling overhead and the airy atrium.

IMG_0809The red brick walls are well preserved, while the new vaulted structure is completely detached from the old masonry facade.

IMG_0831From the upper level visitors can appreciate the variety of the colourful boxes of sweets available.

IMG_0808The interior design of the cafe is inspired by the building’s former use as a library.  Bookcases are used as feature walls that stand out from the white surroundings.

IMG_0830The cafe is popular with both locals and tourists .

IMG_0822It is pleasant to dine in such an airy environment with super high ceiling.

IMG_0824Spaghetti with scallop in cream sauce.  The cream sauce is surprisingly light but rich in scallop flavour.  The cream sauce has the subtle sweetness of the fresh scallops.

IMG_7943This is Kitakaro’s Special Omelet Rice. What lies underneath the layer of fresh and soft omelet is a combination of rice and Hokkaido beef.  It is served with a rich sweet sauce. This dish might look simple but the combined aromatic flavor from the fresh Hokkaido ingredients is really remarkable.

IMG_7944The famous cream puff with smooth and silky cream that melts in the mouth, leaving behind a milky aftertaste that lingers.

IMG_7968Hokkaido is famous for its lavender fields in the summer.  Just like Ando’s Hill of the Buddha, lavender is used at the Kitakaro Sapporo Honkan (北菓楼札幌本館) to give some pleasant colours to the historical structure.

* * *

Introduction
HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)

Day 1 – from Tokyo to Shiretoko Peninsula
Day 1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
Day 1.2 ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ)

Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.1 SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖)
Day 2.2 UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂)
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)

Day 3 – Rausu
Day 3.1 RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス)
Day 3.2 JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋)

Day 4 – Rausu
Day 4.1 MOUNT RAUSU (羅臼岳)
Day 4.2 FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡)

Day 5 – Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
Day 5.1 SUNRISE AT LAKE MASHU (摩周湖)
Day 5.2 MOUNT MASHU TRAIL (摩周岳) , Teshikaga (弟子屈)
Day 5.3 SILENT NIGHT AT LAKE AKAN (阿寒湖)

Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)
Day 6.3 ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野)

Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.4 PATCHWORK ROAD & PANORAMA ROAD, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)

Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)

Day 9 – Yochi & Sapporo
Day 9.1 NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市)
Day 9.2 SOUP CURRY NIGHT

Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.3 KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館)
10.4 SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE
10.5 GOTSUBO OYSTER BAR(五坪)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)

Day 11 – Sapporo
11.1 FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎)
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)

 


HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.22

Day 8 (2/4).

The fun part of being an architect is that one could never predict what the next project would be until the client knocks on the door.  For Tadao Ando, while he completed his iconic Chapel on the Water in the late 1980s, he might never imagine that over two decades later he would get a chance to realize a Buddhist shrine that houses a 13.5m statue of Buddha in Hokkaido.  Situated in Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園), Ando’s take this time on creating a spiritual encounter with the Buddha image is consisted of an artificial mount planted with 150000 lavender plants and a large oculus over the Buddha’s head.  From parking lot entry to the statue, the diversity of spatial experience allow visitors to cleanse their heart before reaching the Buddha, while the concrete finishes of the architecture offer a neutral environment for lights, shadows and rain to define a spiritual atmosphere for the shrine.

IMG_0202Before reaching Ando’s Buddha, we had a strange encounter with a row of what looked like to be replicas of the Moai statues in Easter island.

DSC_6328The forecourt is dominated by a water feature where visitors must walk around in order to enter the shrine.

DSC_6245.JPGit was windy and rainy and we quickly walked around the water feature.

IMG_0151Because of the wind and rain, we only had a quick look at the fine details of the water feature design.

DSC_6255An cool looking passageway then led us directly into the shrine.

DSC_6259At last, we arrived at the 13.5m Buddha statue.

DSC_6290We decided to walk around the circular shrine to check out all sides of the Buddha, as well as the smaller shrines at the circumference.

DSC_6292The statue is slightly higher than the egg like structure, and the head of the Buddha actually sticks out.

DSC_6300The surrounding wall panels are tilted inwards, allowing visitors to stay dry when walking around the statue even in the rain.

DSC_6301No matter at what angle, the Buddha and the concrete structure look in perfect harmony.  The rippled concrete structure also makes the shrine to appear in a solemn and contemporary ambience.

DSC_6304Everything is in gradients of grey, except the offering flowers.

DSC_6309Most people would walk to the front of the statue to pay their respect, say their prayers and leave some coins for offerings.

DSC_6311Looking back out towards the entrance, the passageway appeared like a tunnel out of a science fiction movie.

DSC_6323Similar to the concrete structure in the shrine, the ceiling structure of the passageway also has a series of ripped vaults.  Above the passageway is the mount planted with 150000 lavender plants.

IMG_0139In August, the Hill of the Buddha will be filled with the fragrance of lavender.

IMG_0138Before we left, we checked out a small display adjacent to the forecourt of water feature of Ando’s drawings, sketches and photos of the construction.  For architecture lovers, the detour to the Hill of Buddha is well worth the time and effort.

* * *

Introduction
HOKKAIDO ROAD TRIP, Hokkaido (北海道)

Day 1 – from Tokyo to Shiretoko Peninsula
Day 1.1 TSUKIJI OUTER MARKET (築地場外市場)
Day 1.2 ARRIVAL IN SHIRETOKO, Utoro (ウトロ)

Day 2 – Utoro
Day 2.1 SHIRETOKO FIVE LAKES (知床五湖)
Day 2.2 UTORO FISHERMAN’S WIVES CO-OPERATIVE DINER (ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂)
Day 2.3 FUREPE FALLS (フレペの滝)

Day 3 – Rausu
Day 3.1 RUSA FIELD HOUSE (ルサフィールドハウス)
Day 3.2 JUN NO BANYA (純の番屋)

Day 4 – Rausu
Day 4.1 MOUNT RAUSU (羅臼岳)
Day 4.2 FANTASTIC ORCAS, Nemuro Strait (根室海峡)

Day 5 – Lake Mashu & Lake Akan
Day 5.1 SUNRISE AT LAKE MASHU (摩周湖)
Day 5.2 MOUNT MASHU TRAIL (摩周岳) , Teshikaga (弟子屈)
Day 5.3 SILENT NIGHT AT LAKE AKAN (阿寒湖)

Day 6 – On the road from Lake Akan to Furano
Day 6.1 FISHERMEN BELOW MISTY OAKAN (雄阿寒岳), Lake Akan (阿寒湖)
Day 6.2 TREATS OF OBIHIRO (帯広), Tokachi (十勝)
Day 6.3 ARRIVING IN FURANO (富良野)

Day 7 Furano & Biei
Day 7.1 LAVENDER BUDS, Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.2 FARM TOMITA (ファーム富田), Nakafurano (中富良野)
Day 7.3 BI.BLE, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.4 PATCHWORK ROAD & PANORAMA ROAD, Biei (美瑛)
Day 7.5 NINGLE TERRACE (ニングルテラス)

Day 8 – from Furano to Otaru
Day 8.1 CHURCH ON THE WATER (水の教会), Hoshino Resorts Tomamu (星野リゾート トマム)
Day 8.2 HILL OF THE BUDDHA (頭大仏), Makomanai Takino Cemetery (真駒内滝野霊園)
Day 8.3 SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽)
Day 8.4 RAINY NIGHT IN OTARU, Otaru (小樽)

Day 9 – Yochi & Sapporo
Day 9.1 NIKKA YOICHI DISTILLERY (余市蒸溜所), Yoichi (余市)
Day 9.2 SOUP CURRY NIGHT

Day 10 – Sapporo
10.1 OKKAIDO SHRINE (北海道神宮 )
10.2 MORIHICO COFFEE (森彦珈琲本店)
10.3 KITAKARO SAPPORO HONKAN (北菓楼札幌本館)
10.4 SATURDAYS CHOCOLATE
10.5 GOTSUBO OYSTER BAR(五坪)
10.6 MOUNT MOIWA (藻岩山) & RAMEN HARUKA (ラーメン悠)

Day 11 – Sapporo
11.1 FORMER HOKKAIDO GOVERNMENT OFFICE (北海道庁旧本庁舎)
11.2 RED STAR & GENGKIS KHAN, Sapporo Beer Museum (サッポロビール株式会社)


DAY 7 (3/7): POETICS OF ARCHITECTURE, D T Suzuki Museum (鈴木大拙館), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.05.31

In counter to a globalized world where International Style architecture can be erected anywhere in the world without connections with the regional culture and landscape, architectural historian Kenneth Frampton suggests Critical Regionalism as an alternative approach that integrates Modernist design with regional essence.  From Kenzo Tange to Tadao Ando and Kengo Kuma, the beauty of traditional Japanese architecture have made a strong presence in modern architectural designs in Japan.  Located just a block southeast of SANAA’s 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, the D T Suzuki Museum is an elegant piece of modern architecture that contains deep roots in the beauty of Japanese Zen traditions.  Famous for designing a number of museums in Japan and, the most well known of all, the new wing of New York’s MOMA, architect Yoshio Taniguchi (谷口吉生) completed this small museum in 2011 to commemorate the life and works of Suzuki Daisetz Teitaro (1870-1966), an influential Zen Buddhist philosopher who was largely responsible for introducing Japanese Zen Buddhism to the West.

Famous for the spatial qualities and fine detailing, Yoshio Taniguchi’s D T Suzuki Museum goes much beyond a sleek building that houses a collection of artefacts.  From the humble entrance to a hallway guided by a slit of light, from a cozy exhibition hall that tells the story of the zen master to a small library of Suzuki’s works for visitor’s better understanding on the philosophy of Zen, and from a courtyard of a rugged stone wall and tranquil mirror pool for visitors’ self reflection to a spiritual pavilion surrounded by water for self contemplation, a visit to the D T Suzuki Museum offers an inspiring journey designated for the beauty of spiritual enlightenment, Zen Buddhism and life itself.  Though small in scale, the experience and beauty of D T Suzuki Museum provided us much more food for thought than many catchy and sleek designs that spark a few minutes of wow effect and then nothing more.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAReference to traditional Japanese houses and Modernist architecture, a band of vertical strips conceal the humble entrance and glazed reception lobby.

DSC_8154A square abstract pattern of lines and strokes define the logo of the D T Suzuki Museum.

DSC_8157After obtaining our tickets, we followed a hallway with skirting light into the exhibition space.

DSC_8164In the middle of the hallway, an angular glazed corner allowed us to have a peek into the modern zen garden outside.

DSC_8180No photography was allowed in the exhibition and library areas.  After the exhibit, the journey took us out to the courtyard of mirror pond and the contemplation pavilion with its paper-thin roof.

DSC_8247We sat on a wooden bench in front of a stone wall for quite some time to feel the breeze and take in the atmosphere and let the beauty of the courtyard to sink into our hearts.

DSC_8182Water ripples was generated automatically from time to time in the pool, serving as a visual massage to further calm down our mind.

DSC_8192Every elements in the complex are minimal, light and elegant, as if the world has been striped of every excessive and undesirable element with only the essence left behind.

DSC_8183Refined detailing of the pool railing showed us the architect’s careful attention to minimize excessive lines and connection hardware throughout the complex.

DSC_8225At four corners of the pavilion, rainwater chains were provided along with beautiful water feature of small water droplets forming tiny ripples in the pool.

DSC_8237The pavilion for contemplation can be reached from all four sides.  With indirect lighting from the overhead oculus and the four openings each framing a garden view, one can stay, meditate and make peace with him/herself in the pavilion for a long time.

DSC_8257The courtyard wasn’t very big, but it was full of interesting design details and magnificent spots to appreciate order of zen architecture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe edge of the pool is carefully treated with a perimeter band of pebble stones.

DSC_8265From the garden lookout, the pavilion and its reflection appear perfect in geometry under the shade of the willow tree.

DSC_8269The essence of minimalist architecture is evident from the limited number of lines and elements in the design.

DSC_8276.JPGLess doesn’t mean lacking: unique features in the museum garden offer touches of design sophistication to enhance user experience at different spots throughout the journey.

IMG_8572For many tourists, D T Suzuki Museum has provided one of the most pleasant surprises and inspiring moments in their Kanazawa experience.  We couldn’t agree more.

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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 5 (4/5): YOSHIJIMA HOUSE (吉島家住宅), Hida-Takayama (飛騨高山), Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県), Japan, 2018.05.29

Other than the Hida beef and sake, the other two places we planned to visit in Takayama were the Miyagawa Morning Market (宮川朝市) and Yoshijima House (吉島家住宅).  According to guidebooks, for anyone who are interested in architecture and design, Yoshijima House is a must-go in Takayama.  The Yoshijima House has been published in various design magazines and is considered an excellent example of machiya or traditional townhouse architecture of the Hida region.  Built in 1907 by master carpenter Nishida Isaburo (西田伊三郎), the student of the fourth Mizuma Sagami (水間相模), the timber house of Yoshijima exemplifies the supreme craftsmanship of the traditional Hida carpentry.  Today, the house is designated as a national important cultural property and a popular tourist attraction.  From Sanmachi Suji (三町筋) or the old town, Yoshijima House is just a few blocks to the north beyond a water channel.

 

DSC_7098The sugitama (杉玉) outside of Yoshijima House reveals its original identity as a well known sake breweries in Takayama.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom outside, a traditional outer wall conceals the inner garden of the Yoshijima House.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeyond the entrance vestibule, we entered into a large and airy hall.  The middle part of the hall with hard flooring indicated where the sake shop was once situated, whereas the raised tatami areas belonged to the living spaces of the Yoshijima family.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were told by the museum staff to take the wooden stair and visit the upper level first.

DSC_7106On the upper level, we walked through a series of tatami spaces.  These spaces were used by the children of the family back in the old days.

DSC_7109The simplicity of design details and building materials express a sense of minimalism that is still dominating Japanese architectural design.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOccasional design elaborations such as the painted cupboard panels provide a touch of artistic beauty and focus.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Level difference is being used as a means to define two separated spaces.

DSC_7117The wood stairs are beautiful but a little steep.

DSC_7125Small architectural details throughout the building  highlight the level of family status and quality of the carpentry.

DSC_7122The ground floor of Yoshijima House reveals the flexibility of partitioning in a traditional Japanese house.  All rooms are interconnected with sliding doors, allowing utmost freedom for space planning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is no specific function for each 6-tatami room.  When a table is set up in the tatami room then it will become a dining room.  And when bedding is arranged, the same room will be transformed into a bedroom.

DSC_7127When all sliding panels are removed, the ground floor will become one large space for special uses.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike many Japanese houses, a courtyard flanked with verandas provides pleasant semi-outdoor spaces for the house users.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring our visit, artworks and magazines about the Yoshijima House were on displayed at the former sake making and storage area, where beautiful jazz music was playing in the background.

DSC_7133The most famous feature of the Yoshijima House is the prominent posts and beams at the main hall.  The spaces with the charcoal brazier set were used as living and dining room for the family.

DSC_7150The high windows allow light to create a pleasant ambience at the main hall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe beauty of wood is essential to the interiors of the house.  The wood beams and posts are covered with thin layer of lacquer, and have been periodically polished with cloth by the family since completion.

DSC_7157The antique clock on the wall reminded us the Meiji Era at the turning of the 20th century when Japan opened its doors to welcome Western technologies and knowledge and went through a rapid process of modernization.

* * *

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 (3/5): MATSUMOTO PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (まつもと市民芸術館), Matsumoto (松本), Japan, 2018.05.26

Two years ago in April 2016, Pritzker Prize winner Toyo Ito (伊東豊雄) came to Hong Kong for a public lecture.  His recently completed Taichung Metropolitan Opera House was the main focus on that day, but Ito also introduced some of his earlier works, including the Matsumoto Performing Arts Centre (まつもと市民芸術館).  With its spatial fluidity and random windows on the curving outer walls, the Matsumoto project has strongly imprinted onto our memory.  Completed in 2004, the Matsumoto Performing Arts Center is consisted of two performance halls: the great hall (1800 seats) and the smaller hall (240 seats), rehearsal studios, supporting facilities, a cafe, and a reception lobby, all connected by a ribbon-like foyer and a splendid staircase, allowing visitors to freely flow through different spaces.  The performing arts centre was famous not only for its aesthetics, but also its quality as a community theatre, providing a great place for both the audience and performers.  This, to a great extent, was the fruitful result from close collaborations during the design process between architect Toyo Ito and stage director-actor Kazuyoshi Kushida.

Despite our limited time in the city, we just couldn’t leave Matsumoto without checking out Ito’s building.  We were eager to have a firsthand experience of the fluid spatial experience, check out the delicate construction detailing, and admire the lovely finish materials.  The performance halls were closed for the public, but we could still freely wander in the common areas, from the grand entrance staircase to the lovely roof garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Matsumoto Performing Arts Centre is just a few minutes walk from Matsumoto City Museum of Art.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom outside, the Matsumoto Performing Arts Centre bends along a side street to the dark grey fly tower.

DSC_6131The expression of fluidity seems to be the coherent design language of the building.  Patterns of flowing water appears on some metal panels near the building entrance.

DSC_6133The magical experience of the architecture begins right from the dramatic entry into the entrance lobby and grand staircase.

DSC_6138A moving walkway along the beautiful outer wall of random openings, where diffused natural light is allowed to enter the interior.

DSC_6140In a magazine interview, Toyo Ito describes the curved facade with windows of sparkling pattern can give the impression of being random and natural rather than geometrically based.

DSC_6155From a distance, the facade of random windows appears like a translucent screen of sparkling gemstones.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring daytime, the foyer serves as a indoor public space.  The public is free to enter and climb the stair to the upper foyer.

DSC_6143A screen of translucent glass serves as a balustrade for the upper foyer.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the upper foyer, there is a large glazed wall allowing visitors to take in the view of greenery outside.

DSC_6145The curvature of the outer walls extends all the way to the back foyer of the grand hall.  While the outer wall are defined by the random windows, the walls of the performance halls in the foyer are cladded by dark metal panels.

DSC_6149On the upper foyer, there are several two groups of organic shaped seating under spotlight.

DSC_6150Between the grand and smaller halls, the foyer offers a pleasant space for pre-function activities under the carefully designed ambient lighting.

DSC_6182There is a causal cafe at the end of the foyer next to the smaller hall.  The adjacent glass elevator provides a convenient way to access the above roof garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe flat roof is covered entirely by vegetation.  Both the lawn and the continuous bench along the railing offer pleasant seating to the public.

DSC_6173The roof garden ends at a dance rehearsal studio and the fly tower of the grand hall.

DSC_6167From the roof garden, visitors can enjoy the skyline of Matsumoto and the scenery of Hida Mountains (Northern Japanese Alps) beyond.

DSC_6195After touring the roof garden and upper foyer, we descended back to the ground floor.

DSC_6203We were delighted to have make it to see Ito’s great piece of architecture.  From the performing arts centre, it was a 15-minute walk back to Matsumoto Station for us to embark into the countryside of the Northern Japanese Alps.

* * *

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 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.


DAY 2 (3/4): A STROLL IN NAKAMEGURO (中目黒) AND DAIKANYAMA (代官山), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.15

Only 15 minutes of walk separates Nakameguro (中目黒) and Daikanyama (代官山), two pleasant residential neighborhoods close to Shibuya and Ebisu.  Last year in 2016, I made my first visit to Daikanyama, and was immediately captivated by its elegance as an upscale residential and shopping area.  This time, we ventured further south towards Meguro River into the neighborhood of Nakameguro.  While Nakameguro is not as established as Daikanyama, its charm as a hip and lovely residential and shopping area has become quite well known to both the locals and foreign visitors.  Our stroll in Nakameguro and Daikanyama began at Higashi-yama Restaurant, where we had a fine lunch.  Then we found our way to the Meguro River, a canal like waterway that used to be an awful stream filled with industrial waste before the 1980s.  The fate of Nakameguro changed its course after the government cleaned up the river in the late 1980s.  Since then the first group of hipsters moved in, and soon trendy cafes, boutiques and residential developments mushroomed along the Meguro River, and gradually transformed the area into one of the most desirable residential neighborhood in Tokyo.  We walked along the river and stopped by a number of shops, before heading over to Sarugakucho (猿楽町) of Daikanyama for a revisit of the magnificent T-Site and the nearby boutiques.  Literally means “monkey fun town”, Sarugakucho of Daikanyama is a popular spot in Tokyo simply to enjoy life: unique fashion boutiques, coffee shops, bookstores, hair salons, organic vendors, furniture and design shops, etc.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Meguro River seems like a canal with peaceful and clear water.

02As the government cleaned up Meguro River, the character of Nakameguro was completely transformed into a pleasant residential neighborhood and a concentration of interesting shops, cafes and restaurants.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMany shops along Meguro River are catered to serve the immediate community of local residents, such as hair salons.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOr local eateries…

05Considered as one of the star attractions in the area, COW Books in Nakameguro has a charming collection of rare and out-of-print books.

06Blue Blue, a unique clothing store owned by Seilin & Co. Hollywood Ranch Market selling a wide range of garments that combines traditional indigo dyeing and contemporary fashion.

07Over at Daikanyama, shops are more concentrated in a clusters of narrow streets of Sarugakucho near T-Site, the famous Tsutaya Bookstore and its garden of shops.   UES Jeans is a small boutique that sells high quality denim.  They believe a garment should be fully used till the end of the product’s life.  The name “UES” is derived from the word “waste”, with reference to the Japanese habit of reusing old clothes for dust cloths at the end of the garment’s life.

08Designed by architect Akihisa Hirata in 2007, Sarugaku is a cluster of six commercial blocks surrounding a valley-like courtyard in a narrow site.

09At Sarugakucho, we couldn’t resist to check out Okura (オクラ), one of the most popular boutiques in the area.  Under the same mother company as Nakameguro’s Blue Blue, Okura is renowned for their garments that perfectly combine traditional indigo dyeing and tailor techniques with contemporary fashion trends and functions.

10Maison Kitsune is another unique boutique in Sarugakucho.  Maison Kitsune represents a success story of international collaboration.  It is founded by French electornic musician Gildas Loaec and Japanese architect Masaya Kuroki, in an attempt to create a brand under the intertwining influences of music and fashion.  “Kitsune” is the Japanese word for “fox”, representing a character of versatility and the power of changing appearance.

11Our brief afternoon walk of Daikanyama ended at the T-Site, the garden retail complex behind Tsutaya Bookstore.

12Other than Tsutaya Bookstore, the stylish restaurant Ivy Place is the main focus in the T-Site.

13At the T-Site, the primary attraction is definitely the Tsutaya Bookstore.  It was our second time to visit this beautiful bookstore.  Similar to my first visit a year ago, we were delighted to find that every corner of the complex was enjoyed by customers of all sorts.

15To us, Tsutaya and the T-Site represents an ideal venue to spend a Sunday afternoon.

17It was getting dark as we left Daikanyama.  We leisurely walked back to our hotel in Shibuya to take a little break before dinner.

 


DAY 2 (2/4): HIGASHI-YAMA RESTAURANT, near Nakameguro (中目黒), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.15

After Ebisu, our next stop was Higashi-yama Restaurant in Nakameguro (中目黒).  In a quiet residential street in Higashi-yama 15 minutes walk from Nakameguro Station, Higashi-yama Restaurant was well hidden from the street.  We came across this restaurant from our online research.  We were attracted by the minimalist food presentation and the atmospheric interior setting.  We reserved a table for lunch through their website two weeks prior to our departure.  After the traditional Kaiseki experience at Ueno Park the day before, we were hoping that Higashi-yama would offer us a contemporary interpretation of Japanese cuisine.  “A detached house located in Higashi-yama, Meguro-ku, Tokyo, away from the clamor of the city, and be a place where people meet and discuss what matters most to them, a place where new communication is born.”  According to the description on their website, the story of this tranquil spot in Tokyo’s Higashi-yama where people come and chat and enjoy modern Japanese food all began in 1998.  Our experience of Higashi-yama began at a narrow stairway off the street.

01A flight of steps led us away from a residential street up to a hidden courtyard.

02Well hidden from the street, the entrance courtyard offers a serene buffer between the street and the restaurant.  The courtyard served well to decant our souls of hastiness and calm down our hearts (as we were almost late for the booking).

03The interior of the restaurant is simple and unpretentious, with traditional Japanese dark timber millwork in a bright and simple setting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA tall shelf displaying wine and sake anchors one corner of the interior.

05Wood is such an important material in Japanese culture, from table, chopsticks to chopstick holders.

06The appetizer consisted of eight ingredients fresh to the season.

07Both the taste and the beautiful presentation of the food matched with the overall ambience of the restaurant.

08One of the main dish we ordered was the grilled snapper.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe other main we chose was the tempura seasonal ingredients.

10After the tasty appetizers and main dishes, we were led by the staff downstairs via a beautiful and modern stair.

12The water feature by the stairwell seems like a contemporary interpretation of a chōzubachi water basin in front of a zen tea house.

13We were led to a comfortable sitting area for dessert.

14Mocha pudding and mango ice-cream came went well with hot Japanese tea.

15An interesting copper sculpture was mounted on the wall over our head.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOpposite to our sitting area, a staff was preparing tea and chatting with another customer by a high counter.

17 After dessert, we paid the bill and were led to exit the building through a copper door directly back to the street.  Overall, Higashi-yama Restaurant offered us a fine experience, with good food to satisfy our taste-buds and a zen and minimalist environment to sooth our souls.

 


DAY 2 (1/4): YEBISU GARDEN PLACE AND TOKYO PHOTOGRAPHIC ART MUSEUM, Ebisu (恵比寿), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.15

On the second day, we decided to stay close to the area around Shibuya.  We hopped on the Yamanote Line and went one stop over to Ebisu (恵比寿).  Known as the God of Fishermen and Luck, Ebisu is a popular divinity in Japanese mythology.  It was then used by Japan Beer Brewery Company to come up with the brand of Yebisu Beer back in 1890.  Established their production facilities near Meguro, Yebisu Beer is one of the oldest beer brand in Japan.  In the modern era, the train station and the surrounding community was named after the brewery as Ebisu.  In 1988, the beer brewery were moved to a new location.  The original brewery site at Ebisu was then transformed into a commercial complex consisted of office towers, retail, and museums known as the Yebisu Garden Place.  The Western architectural style create a unique atmosphere, attracting young couples and the local community to dine, shop and relax.

Many tourists go to Yebisu Garden Place to visit the Museum of Yebisu Beer.  We came specifically to visit Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (TOP Museum).  Opened in 1995, the museum is known as the only public museum in Japan dedicated to photography.  The museum has recently gone through two years of extensive renovations.  Three wall display of world famous photographs marked the museum entrance at the end of a  colonnade.  Three exhibitions were on and we opted to see them all.  The first one was “20 Year Anniversary TOP Collection: Scrolling Through Heisei Part 1”, a selection of works taken by Japanese photographers during the present Heisei era (平成).  The second was Museum Bhavan by Dayanita Singh, a renowned female photographer who captures the various faces and colours of the magnificently complicated Indian society.  The third was World Press Photo 17, the annual award event to compliment a selection of works by the world’s photojournalists in the past year.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Yebisu Garden Place offers a lot of pleasant public spaces for the community of Ebisu.

02Two traditional red brick buildings mark the entrance plaza of Yebisu Garden Place.

01Many people arrived at Yebisu Garden Place about the same time as we did, probably going to work.

05We arrived at Yebisu Garden Place in the morning at around 9am.  We had breakfast at one of the cafe near the entrance of Yebisu Garden Place.

5aThe interior of the cafe was causal and sleek.

03Across from the cafe, the Yebisu Beer Museum offers visitors a glimpse of the history of Japanese beer.  While a Mitsukoshi department store occupies the opposite side of the entrance square.

 

06A barrel vault atrium and a gentle ramp frame the central axis of Yebisu Garden Place, with the Chateau Restaurant Joël Robuchon at the terminus.

07We then walked under the canopy to the airy Central Square.

08The design of Yebisu Garden Place is dominated by classical layout and axial arrangement.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClassical architectural elements include the colonnades that appear in a number of locations in the complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the Central Square, there were benches painted with playful patterns that marked the 20th anniversary of the complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYebisu Garden Place is frequented with locals.  We saw a few who came dressed in traditional garments.

11The Chateau Restaurant Joël Robuchon is a famous luxurious venue in the area of Ebisu.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur main reason coming to Yebisu Garden Place was the TOP Museum (Tokyo Photographic Art Museum), formerly known as the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography.

14The entrance colonnade of the TOP Museum offers visitors a pleasant approach.

15Shōji Ueda (植田正治)’s Sand Dune and My Wife III (妻のいる砂丘風景III) , an iconic Robert Capa’s D-Day shots, and Robert Doisneau’s Le baiser de l’hotel de ville (Kiss by the Hotel de Ville) provide a dramatic setting for the museum entrance.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stayed at the museum for about two hours, seeing three exhibitions including “20 Year Anniversary TOP Collection: Scrolling Through Heisei Part 1”, Dayanita Singh’s Museum Bhavan, and World Press Photo 17.  The TOP Museum is a fantastic cultural institution for anyone who love photography.  It offers temporary exhibitions on four levels of museum spaces.

 


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 1 (4/6): NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WESTERN ART (国立西洋美術館), Ueno Park (上野公園), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.14

Completed in 1959, the National Museum of Western Art is the only building in the Far East designed by modernist architectural maestro Le Corbusier.  In 2016, the museum building has been inscribed in UNESCO’s World Heritage along with 16 other Le Corbusier’s works such as Villa Savoye, Unite d’habitation Marseille, Notre-Dame-Haut de Ronchamp, Chandigarh Capitol Complex, etc.  We came for the modernist architecture, although many paintings and sculptures on display by world renowned artists were quite interesting too.

01Precast concrete panels were used as the main cladding material for the museum.

02We were greeted at the front entrance by Émile-Antoine Bourdelle’s Hercules the archer.  Bourdelle was an influential French sculptor in late 19th and early 20th century.

03The Thinker at Tokyo National Museum of Western Art was made after the death of Auguste Rodin.

04The lobby atrium of the museum was a pleasant surprise.  The high volume of the space and the trunk-like columns drew our attention to the unique skylight above.

06A skylight consisted of multiple triangles provides an interesting design feature to the space, and also magnificent indirect lighting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn architectural model provides a sectional view of the atrium and shows the exterior form of the skylight feature.

05At one side of the atrium, a zigzag ramp led all visitors to the main exhibition on the upper level.

08On the upper deck, we could get a clear view of the lobby atrium with its statues.

09Again, the concept of bringing indirect sunlight into the interior was the clear intent from Le Corbusier.  The glazing bulkhead above the paintings provided the main source of ambient light.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe collection of the museum ranges from Renaissance to the modern ages.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe glazing feature brings in indirect sunlight, but it also creates a long bulkhead along one side of the exhibition hall.

12Some of the paintings and statues were interesting, but our focus was always on the architecture itself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the museum courtyard, we could see the various facade cladding materials used at different periods of expansion.

14At the forecourt, another zigzag ramp supposedly leads visitors to the lower courtyard.  Now the entire area, including the exterior ramp, is closed off.

15After the National Museum of Western Art, we thought we had enough dosage of art and history for the day.  We were quite tired due to the red-eye flight.  We decided to check out another piece of architectural gem in Tokyo, Kenzo Tange’s St. Mary’s Cathedral in Sekiguchi.


SENSOJI (浅草寺) & SKYTREE, Tokyo (東京), Japan

On the last day in Tokyo, we decided to pay a visit to Tokyo’s oldest and most popular Buddhist temple, the Sensoji (金龍山浅草寺) and Kengo Kuma (隈 研吾)’s Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center right across the street from the iconic Kaminarimon (雷門).  Sensoji was definitely the busiest attraction we visited in Tokyo.  Everywhere in the temple ground was filled with people, from the souvenir shop lined Nakamise Dori (仲見世通り) to the Kannondo Main Hall.

After the temple and Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center, we had a little bit of time left before heading to the airport.  We took the metro to check out the nearby Skytree, the tallest structure in Japan.  We didn’t go up to the observation deck of the tower, but instead wandered around at the shopping area and the outdoor terrace, where a group of tourists crowded in a small Calbee shop picking the colourful packs of special edition potato chips.

Soon enough, we returned to Shinjuku and boarded an Narita Express to the airport.

1Designed by Kengo Kuma (隈 研吾), the eight storey Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center is an architectural gem across the street from the Sensoji.  With exhibition and activity spaces stacked vertically, each floor of the building has a distinct function.

2The ground floor is dedicated to an introduction of the district of Asakusa.

3Glass railing and exposed timber joists wrap around a central atrium.

4On the roof terrace of Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center, there are information signage on the railing associated with the view.

5At two metro stops to the east, the 634m Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) stands out at the background, while the wavy golden feature of the Asahi Beer Hall dominates the foreground.  Designed by famous designer Philippe Starck, the golden feature is meant to represent the burning heart of Asahi beer.

6To the north, the view from Asakusa Culture and Tourism Center is dominated by the Nakamise Dori (仲見世通り), the procession route of Sensoji.

7Across the street, the iconic Kaminarimon (雷門) or “Thunder Gate” marks the start of Nakamise Dori (仲見世通り).

8Standing 11.7m tal, with its enormous lantern and statues at both sides, Kaminarimon (雷門) is very popular with tourists and locals.

9Lined with souvenir and snack stores at both sides, the 250m Nakamise Dori (仲見世通り) is always packed with visitors.

10The Hozōmon (宝蔵門) of Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺) features three large lanterns, with the 3.75m tall chochin (提灯) hang in the middle.

11A cute white akita dog rests at the courtyard in front of Hozōmon (宝蔵門).

12The prominent Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) can be seen from Sensoji.

13Many visitors would gather close to the big incense burner in the central courtyard and cover themselves with the smoke, due to a traditional belief that the smoke can improve their thinking and make them smarter.

DSC_3221The entrance of the Kannondo Main Hall is also decorated with a huge red lantern.

14With 30 million of visitors per year, the Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺) is one of the most visited religious site in the world.

15Traditional lanterns on the pavement waiting to be hung.

16The five-storey pagoda is also another main feature at Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺).

17At the main ground of Sensō-ji (金龍山浅草寺), there are a row of food vendors selling all kinds of Japanese snacks.

18Near Sensō-ji, the famous Azumabashi (吾妻橋) is a popular spot to photograph the Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) and Asahi Beer Hall.

19At the base of Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー), a series of outdoor terraces provide a pleasant approach to the tower.

20Designed by Nikken Sekkei, the 634m Tokyo Skytree (東京スカイツリー) is the second tallest structure in the world just behind Burj Khalifa (830m).


CRAFT MARKET UNDER THE VIADUCT, 2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan, Tokyo, Japan

When most people hear Akihabara (秋葉原) they would immediately think of electronic shops.  One railway stop to its north, Okachimachi (御徒町) is known for its wholesale stores selling jewelry and ornaments.  Since 2010, between the two stations emerged a new hotspot dedicated to everything that is made by the artisan hands.  Situated under the railway viaduct, this hidden gem offers an alternative shopping scene for anyone who admires the skillful hands of devoted Japanese craftsmen.  Merchandises range from umbrellas, shoes, housewares, jewelry, leather products, naturally dyed clothing, artworks, souvenirs, etc.  The name “2k540” is a reference in railway’s terms, which refers to the 2.54km distance from Tokyo Station.  “Aki-Oka” refers to Akihabara and Okachimachi, indicating the craft market is situated between the two stations.

9At the underside of a railway viaduct, the entrance to the “market street” 2k540 expresses a community friendly and low-key atmosphere.

1The logo of “2k540 Aki-Oka Artisan” is painted like a road mark on the asphalt floor.

2The pre-existing structure and the shop buildings on the market street of 2k540 are painted in white, revealing a coherent environment.

6One of the shops at 2k540 manufactures clothing with dyes from the natural world, such as sakura flowers.

3Natural light spills in from the gap above the stores and the artificial uplights at the column bases create a poetic atmosphere as if walking in the nave of a cathedral.

4While some shops are housed in minimal white boxes, some are actually set up in the main space in the colonnade.

5We stayed longer than what expected strolling around 2k540.

8At the end of the market street stands a larger store called Japan Department Store, a shop that sells household items and souvenirs from different areas across Japan.

10Like many big cities around the world, creative industries have given different urban spaces, such as old factory buildings and underside of railway viaducts, a second life to thrive.

 


ART, ARCHITECTURE + NATURE, Hiroshi Senju Museum (千住博美術館), Karuizawa (軽井沢) , Japan

In a November evening in 2012, we attended an architectural lecture at University of Toronto by Ryue Nishizawa (西沢立衛), one of the two principals of the world acclaimed architectural firm SANAA.  In that lecture, he talked about several of his projects, including his recent projects (back then), the minimal Louvre Gallery in Lens of France and the sculptural teardrop of Teshima Art Museum (豊島美術館).  At about the same time, he also finished an art gallery in Karuizawa, famous for the undulating gallery floor that resembles the natural terrain and the curvilinear glass enclosure of landscaped lightwells.  Hiroshi Senju Museum of Karuizawa (軽井沢千住博美術館) was the main reason for our Karuizawa day trip out of Tokyo.  Hiroshi Senju (千住博) is a Japanese painting known for his large scale waterfall paintings.  He was the first Asian artist to receive a Honorable Mention at the Venice Biennale in 1995.  Admiring Hiroshi Senju’s landscape paintings in Ryue Nishizawa’s landscape inspired architecture is like seeing art in a minimalist manmade forest in Karuizawa.

1The museum is located out of the tourist area of Karuizawa.  After getting off at the nearest bus stop, we walked a bit along a country road to reach the museum.  A unique white sign greeted us at the museum forecourt.

2Before seeing the white and minimalist main museum building, we passe by another interesting piece of architecture, the panel cladded visitor centre.

3From the parking lot, a winding pathway led us to the entrance of the main museum building.

6We entered the main exhibition space through the transparent entrance vestibule.  From outside, it was impossible to imagine what surprises lie ahead in front of us.

7Once inside, we were immediately captivated by the harmonious relationship between art, architecture and nature.

8Walking on the gently sloping floor of the museum as if strolling on the pre-existing natural terrain of the site.  Even the seating matches the curvilinear forested lightwells inside the exhibition space.

10 Curvilinear glass enclosure of various sizes create a number of naturalistic lightwells or miniature forests.

11Walking between two lightwells felt like wandering through two art installations in a forest.

12Other than the paintings by Hiroshi Senju, the lightwells of the building were definitely unique art pieces for me.

13Back at the main parking lot, the sleek and dark visitor centre expresses a totally different tone.

14While the main museum is all about its nature-inspired interior, the visitor centre contrastingly tells a form-driven design story.

 

 


URBAN OASIS, Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku (原宿), Tokyo (東京), Japan

Perched above the northeast intersection of Meiji Dori (明治道り) and Omotesando Dori (表参道), a charming little oasis is hidden atop the shopping centre Tokyu Plaza.  From street level, the gleaming mall entrance resembles a giant kaleidoscope with a myriad of mirrors wrapping a set of grand escalators and stair, like a glittering passageway heading up into the building.  Looking overhead, clusters of greenery stick out from the roof parapet, revealing the lovely rooftop terrace above the shopping levels.  What the local design firm Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP gives visitors is a pleasant surprise on the roof, a little roof garden of trees and plantings, seating and stepped platforms, overlooking the busy urban streets at the heart of Harajuku (原宿).

1The kaleidoscope-like mall entrance is a decent design to capture the attention of pedestrians.

2It’s fun to go through the kaleidoscope-like passageway.  Looking out of the entrance feels like standing inside a cave made of mirrors.

3The intersection of Meiji Dori (明治道り) and Omotesando Dori (表参道) is busy anytime throughout the day.

4After going through the shopping levels, a wooden stairway leads up to the top level of restaurants and cafe, and the lovely roof terrace.

5At the roof terrace, a hexagonal decking system provide great seating for shoppers and cafe customers.

DSC_3061After a long day of shopping and walking, many visitors choose to take a brief stop at this pleasant roof terrace at the top of Tokyu Plaza.

6

DSC_3087In the middle, a raised planter surrounded by a counter and high chairs is actually part of the skylight providing natural light for the level below.

7The decking and the roof terrace can also serve as a small performance venue.

8From the relaxing rooftop, the busy street scene below seems like a distant world.  While pedestrians rush across the streets, visitors of the roof terrace rest in harmony with a manmade nature several storeys above.

934 trees and 50+ different types of plants are planted on the terrace on what architect Hiroshi Nakamura describes as a “roof forest”.

DSC_3096At the lower levels, smaller balconies also provide spaces for relaxation with a close encounter with the zelkova trees that line the sidewalk of Omotesandō (表参道), the traditional procession route of Meiji Shrine (明治神宮).

IMG_5916From the street, the Tokyu Plaza Omotesandō look like an interesting piece of modern architecture with a light and transparent base and a solid upper part that supports the greenery at the top.


TOKYO’S TRIANGLE OF STYLE, Shibuya (渋谷), Harajuku (原宿) and Omotesando (表参道), Tokyo (東京), Japan

In Tokyo, it’s almost a ritual for every visitor to cross the iconic Shibuya(渋谷) Crossing on the way to a department store, or to search for cosplayers in the narrow Takeshita (竹下通) of Harajuku (原宿), or to admire the high fashion and sleek architecture along Omotesando (表参道).  Despite it is only the distance of one station apart from each other, the urban scenery and shopping culture around the station of Shibuya, Harajuku and Omotesando are actually quite different.  Geographically, Shibuya is a special ward in Tokyo that encompasses some of the most important commercial and shopping districts in the city, such as Daikanyama, Ebisu, Harajuku, Omotosando, and Sendagaya.  Spending an afternoon wandering in this vibrant area is a movable feast of style.

1Shibuya Hikarie (渋谷ヒカリエ), the iconic monument at the heart of Shibuya, is a mixed use high-rise tower with multiple functions, including office, theatre, auditorium, galleries and museum, dining facilities, and department store.

DSC_2811The railway station of Shibuya (渋谷) is the fourth busiest communter railway station in Japan (and the world).

2-4Pedestrians rush out the Shibuya Station, wait for the traffic lights to turn and then scramble to radiate in all directions.  The famous Shibuya Crossing has become an icon for Tokyo.  Uncounted promotional videos, TV shows and movies such as Lost in Translation have made the Shibuya Crossing immortal as part of Tokyo’s identity.

5A stop north of Shibuya (渋谷) along the Yamanote Line (山手線) brings us to Harajuku (原宿).  Built in 1906, the timber structure of Harajuku is the oldest wooden railway station in Tokyo.  Construction of a new station building is underway in time for 2020’s Tokyo Olympics.  The fate of the original timber building has yet been determined.

6Very popular with teenage shoppers, the pedestrian Takeshita Street (竹下通) is the destination to find cute merchandises aimed for the young generation.

7Takeshita Street (竹下通) is full of cafes, eateries, small shops, and of course young shoppers.

8

9The side streets in Harajuku (原宿) are lined with small shops and boutiques, each carries its own style of decorations and identity.

10Made in Okayama, the small and cozy Full Count denim is one of my favorite shop in the area.  They were the first Japanese denim company to use Zimbabwean cotton.

11It was impossible not to revisit Omotesando (表参道) when I was in the area.  Completed in 2004, SANAA’s Dior Omotesando (ディオール表参道店) looked as cool as ever.  Last time I came in 2014 the building was covered in scaffolding.

12Diagonally across Omotesando (表参道) from SANAA’s Dior, Tadao Ando’s Omotesando Hills, a long and narrow shopping centre, was flooded with a rainbow of LED lights.

13Controversially, Ando’s Omotesando Hills in Aoyama (青山) has replaced the former Bauhaus inspired Dojunkai Aoyama Apartments built in 1927.  A small section of the former apartment has been reconstructed as part of Omotesando Hills.

14Cladded with a weaving system of aluminium, Takenaka’s Stella McCartney on Omotesando (表参道) is a small architectural gem across the street from Herzog de Meuron’s Prada.

15Built in 2003, Herzog de Meuron’s Prada Aoyama (青山) is perhaps the most well known architecture on Omotesando (表参道) .

15aAfter over a decade, the glazing system of Herzog de Meuron’s Prada Aoyama (青山) still matches the essence of contemporary design.

16Further into Aoyama, we reached the Spiral Building on Aoyama Dori.  Completed in 1985, Fumihiko Maki’s building was named after its large spiral ramp.  The complex houses a design shop and cafe, as well as exhibitions.

17Sit against the window on the upper level of the Spiral Building and look at the urban scenery outside along Aoyama Dori is peaceful and relaxing.

18The new star at Softbank Omotesando (ソフトバンク表参道) near Harajuku Station was the humanoid robots called Pepper.

19In a sleek white appearance and the ability to interact with users, the Pepper humanoid robots were fun to play with.  As population aging emerges as a huge issue in Japan, humanoid robots may soon become a household necessity in the future.


LIBRARY IN THE WOODS, Tsutaya Bookstore, Daikanyama (代官山), Tokyo (東京), Japan

Named by some books and magazines as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, the T-Site by Tsutaya Books is the biggest attraction in the affluent neighborhood of Daikanyama (代官山).  Designed by Tokyo firm Klein Dytham Architecture in collaboration with communication and graphic designer Kenya Hara and designer Tomoko Ikegai, the T-Site is an architectural gem in Tokyo.  A web-like facade system resembles a layer of white lace wrapping the three box-like buildings.  Intended to create a “Library in the Woods”, the three bookstore buildings is connected by a 55m “Magazine Street” on the ground floor and surrounded by lush green vegetation.  A cafe is provided on the ground floor with views of the outdoor greenery.  A more upscale lounge is located on the upper level surrounded by bookshelves holding different series of architectural and design magazines.  Other than books, stationery merchandise are also impeccably displayed under atmospheric lighting.  While we were there, T-Site was full of shoppers.  Compared to many bookstores around the world struggling to survive in today’s digital era, T-Site is certainly a great success story.

1The approach to the entrance of the T-Site resembles a short walk to a garden pavilion.

2The web-like facade system resembles a layer of lace fabric made of uncounted “T”.

3Outdoor spaces between the three bookstore buildings serve as garden courtyards, offering pleasant green views for the interior.

4Covered with vertical strips of highly reflective stainless steel, the bridge linking the bookstore buildings appears like a sculptural feature of the architecture.

5

6The vertical strips of the bridge match perfectly well with the lace-like wall cladding.

7The shadows of the strips offer an interesting experience while crossing the bridge from one building to the other.

8The green view outside and the reflected scenery on the strips create a compelling imagery like an abstract painting.

9Seating in the bookstore offer various pleasant spots for visitors to enjoy a moment of peaceful reading.

10There is a garden behind the three bookstore buildings.  A cluster of interesting shops scatter in the garden, including a camera shop, organic eateries and lifestyle stores.

11The T-Site garden is full of planting.

12Outdoor sculpture can also be found in the garden as well.

13We couldn’t resist but get a bowl of organic vegetable soup from an vending truck.


DAY 2 (5/6): SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.04

Weather forecast predicted a rainy afternoon.  We planned to spend the rest of the day in Downtown Kyoto on the other side of Kamo River (鴨川).  Before crossing the river, we went to check out Sfera Building, a three storey modern architecture housing design, craft, art, and cuisine all under one roof.  Unlike the timber houses in much of Gion (祇園), Swedish architect Claesson Koivisto Rune used titanium panels with perforated leaf patterns as cladding for Sfera Building.  These perforated panels echo the sunscreens in traditional Japanese houses made of wood, bamboo and rice paper.  In Sfera, there were fine furniture and housewares on display, some were made by local craftsmen and artists.  We explored all floors of the building, and exited through its back door on Yamato Oji Dori.  Just a block south we came to the picturesque Shirakawa Minami Dori (白川南通) at Shirakawa Gion (祇園白川), where the clear Shirakawa Canal passed in front of a row of well-preserved machiya houses (町家).   Many of these old houses were accessible via bridges.  We entered Pass the Baton, a trendy lifestyle shop that transformed a 120 year timber machiya house into a hub for the young generation.  A number of the locals were dressed in traditional kimonos, matching perfectly well with the historical ambience of the machiya houses.

We crossed the Kamo River (鴨川) via Shijo Bridge, which continued as Shijo Dori into the heart of Downtown Kyoto.  In summer, the banks of Kamo River is packed with dining patios and music performers.  It was too cold in early December for these outdoor activities to take place.  Nevertheless, the pleasant riverbanks were occupied with all kinds of people.  A few waterbirds were walking in shallow water hunting for fish.  On the bank, a group of teenage girls in colourful kimonos were taking selfies.  An angler walked to the middle of the river and released his hook with his rod.  We watched him for a few minutes, and suddenly he pulled his rod and acted like caught something on his hook.  All eyes along the banks, including ours from the bridge, were on the angler.  He didn’t disappoint  us and managed to catch a fish that was at least two feet long.

As we walked west along the busy Shijo Dori (四条通) into the city, it soon began to rain.  We went into Fujii Daimaru (藤井大丸), one of the many department stores on Shijo Dori.  Despite smallest in size, with its latest fashion selections, Fujii Daimaru is popular with young shoppers.  We walked along Shijo Dori as far as the intersection of Karasuma Dori (烏丸通), reaching a shopping centre called Cocon Karasuma (古今烏丸), which was a renovation work designed by architect Kengo Kuma (隈研吾) back in 2004.  Kengo Kuma superimposes a 21st century glass facade laminated with a film of woodcut block patterns of clouds common in the Edo Period onto the original building elevation dated back to 1938.  The sky was getting dark and we decided to grab a quick bite.  Just before all vendor shutters were down, we entered Nishiki Market (錦市場), a famous covered market street selling all kinds of snacks from sushi to Japanese pickles.  We picked up some tofu doughnuts at Konnamonja, and some local jumbo chestnuts before heading back to our hotel for a brief break prior to our dinner reservation at Yakitori Hitomi (焼創彩鳥家人見).

01The titanium screen with leaf patterns of Sfera Building by Swedish architectural practice Claesson Koivisto Rune.

02The design display on the top floor of Sfera Building.

03The sleek bench at the back entrance at Sfera.

04Back facade of Sfera Building at Yamato Oji Don.

05The tranquil Shirakawa Canal at Gion (祇園白川)

06Young women in traditional kimonos at Shirakawa Gion (祇園白川)

07Couple in traditional clothings taking photos Shirakawa Gion (祇園白川)

08A touch of heritage in the interior design at Pass the Baton, Shirakawa Gion (祇園白川)

09Kamo River (鴨川) is a popular public space in Kyoto.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWomen in kimonos taking pictures of themselves at Kamo River (鴨川).

11The iconic Tohka-Saikan (東華菜館) Chinese restaurant building by the bank of Kamo River (鴨川).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAn angler struggling with his catch at Kamo River (鴨川).

13Our first encounter with Kamo River (鴨川) was simple and pleasant.

14A man playing a three-string Shamisen (三味線) with his bachi, a Japanese plectrum.

15Erizen Honten (ゑり善本店), a traditional clothing shop with a contemporary facade on Shijo.

16Cocon Karasuma, an urban shopping centre designed by architect Kengo Kuma.

17An atrium of Cocon Karasuma with a special pop up store of sake from Fushimi.

18Covered retail street in Downtown Kyoto.

19Soy vendor Konnamonja with their famous tofu doughnuts at Nishiki.

20Tofu doughnuts from Konnamonja at Nishiki Market.

21Local chestnut from Nishiki Market.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 1 (4/6): KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.03

The sun was low when we get off at Kinkakuji-mae bus stop, giving everything a bit of a yellow tone.  The path leading into the ground of Kinkakuji (金閣寺) was crowded with visitors from local and abroad.  After a few hectic minutes queuing in front of the ticket office, we finally got our admission tickets.  It wouldn’t be long before Kinkakuji closing its doors at sunset (around 4:30pm).  We wasted no time and walked into the temple ground, which was a large Zen Buddhist garden around a large reflective pool known as the Kyōko-chi (鏡湖池), or Mirror Pond.  All visitors entering the garden immediately gathered by the pond to take photos of the fascinating Kinkakuji building.  Covered with gold-leaf coating, the 3-storey Kinkakuji, which literally means the Golden Pavilion, stood proudly by the opposite shore and glittered under the western sun.  Since late 14th century the building was considered as an icon of architectural beauty in Japan.  Its beauty was so overwhelmingly powerful, prompting a mentally disordered novice monk to burn down the building in an early summer morning of 1950.  Built in 1955, the present Golden Pavilion building is a reconstruction of the 14th century original.  Author Yukio Mishima’s (三島 由紀夫) masterpiece “The Temple of the Golden Pavilion (金閣寺)” was loosely based on this tragic incident.  I first learnt about Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion from his famous novel.

After a few minutes taking photos by the pond, we followed the designated path to walk towards the Golden Pavilion.  The building was not open for the public and we could only admire the architecture from outside.  Behind the pavilion, the garden path continued up a hill over to another tranquil water pond, the Anmintaku Pond, where a mini stone pagoda was erected on a small island.  After another short walk we were almost at the garden exit.  Before reaching the souvenir shops, we passed by the Fudo Hall where visitors paid their respect to Fudo Myoo (不動明王), also known as Acala Dharmapala, one of the five wisdom kings and protectors of Buddhism.  Because of the crowds, touring Kinkakuji wasn’t the most pleasant experience we had in Kyoto, but the visual beauty of the Golden Pavilion was still overwhelming.  Unlike Ninnaji Temple where we spent a considerable amount of time delightfully exploring the verandas, courtyards and gardens, we didn’t stay long at Kinkakuji.  In fact, the biggest surprise of the visit was our first glance of the Golden Pavilion and its perfect reflection in the Mirror Pond near the garden entrance.  Nonetheless, the iconic beauty of Kinkakuji under the golden afternoon sun is an irresistible sight for any first time visitor to Kyoto, including us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom Ninnaji Temple, we decided to take the bus to Kinkakuji Temple in order to save time.  If we chose to walk it would probably take us about half an hour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATourists gathered in front of Mirror Pond to take pictures of the Golden Pavilion.

03Kinkakuji, or the Golden Pavilion, shimmered under the late afternoon sun.

04The reflection of the Golden Pavilion in peaceful Mirror Pond was near perfect.

05Close up of the reflection of the Golden Pavilion.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApproaching the Golden Pavilion from the waterfront path.

07The Golden Pavilion is topped with a bronze phoenix.

08The small stone pavilion at Anmintaku Pond.

09Even the Fudo Hall near the exit was packed with visitors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was almost sunset when we left Kinkakuji.  Because of the fine weather, we decided to continue with our Kyoto tour with temple night visits despite we were both tired from the red-eye flight.  Our next destination was Kitano Tenmangu (北野天滿宮), one of the few temples in Kyoto where the fall colour was still at its peak.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan

 


DAY 1 (2/6): RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.03

We first learnt about Ryoanji Temple and its world renowned garden of zen dry landscape or Japanese rock garden, karesansui (枯山水), back in our university years from the lectures in our class ARCH 249 – The Art and Architecture of the East.  Since then, we had longed for visiting this legendary zen garden.  Our chance had come at midday in a fine late autumn day.  The Rinzai Zen Buddhist temple is situated within a garden compound, consisting of a water pond, woodlands, gardens, pavilions, and the main building complex where the Abbot’s Chamber, Tearoom, Buddhist Hall, and the famous zen garden can be found.

It was a short walk from the San-mon (山門), or the main entrance, to the main building complex.  We took our time to admire the magnificent autumn foliage along the way.  Once inside the main building, we took off our shoes and purchased admission tickets.  First came a dim exhibition hall showcasing artefacts, calligraphy, and artworks related to the temple.  Beyond the exhibition hall was the bright wooden veranda where most visitors gathered.  On one side of the veranda was the Hojo (方丈), or Abbot’s Chamber, while on the other side lay the famous zen garden: 15 rocks of various sizes abstractly arranged in a 248 s.m area of dry pebbles.  Since the 15th century, there were various interpretations regarding the design and meaning behind the rocks, from symbolism of ancient Chinese mythologies to representation of traditional character.  It is open for everyone’s imagination and interpretation.  We sat down at the veranda to contemplate the rocks and pebbles.  The garden was too crowded with visitors for any decent meditation or tranquil moment in heart.  Against the centuries-old oil-earthen wall and the autumn foliage beyond, the garden still captured our eyes visually despite the undesirable midday sun.

After putting back on our shoes, we followed another path that meandered through a small woodland of amazing autumn foliage, passed by Yudofu (西源院) – a traditional restaurant serving tofu meals, and strolled along Kyoyochi (鏡容池), or Mirror Pond, where we enjoyed a picturesque scene of reflections, water plants and autumn foliage.  Before setting off for our next destination, we had a quick skewer of sweet rice balls near the entrance of Ryoanji.

01A sense of autumn immediately beyond the San-mon (山門) or the main gate of Ryoanji.

02An illustration of the Ryoanji Temple compound with the famous rock garden at the centre back location in front of the orange roof Abbot’s Chamber.

03We were just in time to see the last bit of amazing autumn foliage of Kyoto.

04Tree-lined path leading to the Chokushi-Mon Gate (勅使門).

05Steps leading to Chokushi-Mon Gate (勅使門).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALike many temples in Kyoto, we had to take off our shoes before entering the temple building of Ryoanji.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATraditional illustration of the rock garden, which is believed to be constructed in the 15th century.  Who was the original designer remains unknown.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first view of Ryoanji rock garden under the unforgiving midday sun.  It would be much better off if it was overcast and gone with the shadows.

10Rock clusters, moss, pebble patterns, earthen walls and red foliage coincided to form a harmonious imagery.

11Patterns of the pebbles are carefully maintained by temple staff,  a daily duty for Zen Buddhist monks in the past.

12The timber floor decking and supporting members were soft and warm to walk on and appealing for touch.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATimber details of the eaves and column.

14Interior of Hojo (方丈), Abbot’s Chamber, in which the centre point should be the ideal viewing spot of the entire rock garden.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe timber veranda continued to wrap around the courtyards into the temple sections not open to public.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA wonderful pine tree against autumn foliage in front of the main temple building.

17A side door of the rock garden remained closed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way out we walked through a small woodland of magnificent colours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe autumn foliage in Kyoto is quite different than the ones we used to see in North America, in terms of leaf sizes and colour ranges.

dsc_1000Yudofu (西源院) – a traditional restaurant serving tofu meals.

dsc_1014Duck and autumn foliage at Kyoyochi (鏡容池), Mirror Pond.

dsc_1027Despite the amount of visitors alongside, it was a nice walk along the Mirror Pond.

dsc_1032After a pleasant visit of Ryoanji, we were ready to see the other temples in the area.

***

Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China

After we finished with the Terracotta Army, we exited the site via a designated route through lanes after lanes of souvenir shops, restaurants and theme-park like tourist traps.  Prominent national treasures have once again fallen victims to mass tourism and consumerism in today’s highly commercialized China.  At the parking lot, we took one of the many buses returning to Xian Railway Station.  At the station, we had a late noodle lunch at one of the basic eateries right next to the station plaza.  After a forgettable bowl of noodles, we flagged down a taxi and headed south to our next place to visit, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (大雁塔).

Xian, formerly known as Changan (長安), was the national capital during the Qin and Han Dynasties, as well as the Tang Dynasty during China’s golden age.  Other than artefacts in the museums, not many traces of Tang Dynasty remained in the city, except two well-known pagodas that had dominated the city’s skyline for over a millennium, namely the Big Wild Goose and Small Wild Goose Pagoda.  The original Big Goose Pagoda and the entire Ci En Buddhist Temple complex (慈恩寺) were built in the Tang Dynasty at AD 652.  The complex was built to store the relics and Buddhist texts that Buddhist monk Xuanzang (玄奘) brought back from India.  Xuanzang, the famous traveler, translator and Buddhist master who inspired Ming author Wu Cheng En (吳承恩) on writing the epic novel Journey to the West (西遊記), left Tang China for India in AD 629 and returned to Changan in AD 645.  Not only did Xuanzang enhanced his Buddhist studies from a number of famous Indian masters, he also wrote a magnificent travelogue that depicted his 16-year journey throughout Central Asia, brought back hundreds of Sanskrit texts on Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism, and returned with many sarira relics.  At the original Ci En Temple, Xuanzang spent the remaining 19 years of his life translating the Sanskrit Buddhist texts into Chinese.  His translation efforts helped to spread and consolidate Buddhism in East Asia.

The original rammed earth pagoda built in Xuanzang’s time collapsed a few decades after it was built.  The Tang Dynasty rebuilt a taller pagoda in AD 704.  The top three levels couldn’t withstand an earthquake in 1556 and reduced to the present height of 64m.  It was a little crowded up the wooden stair inside the pagoda.  Scaffolding was up at the lower two levels, reminding us that the Big Wild Goose Pagoda had gone through a series of extensive repair works, one during the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644) and one in 1964.  Apart from the pagoda, other buildings in the complex of Da Ci En Temple (大慈恩寺) couldn’t survive.  The buildings that we visited nowadays dated back to the Qing Dyansty (AD 1644-1912), and occupied roughly one seventh the area of the original Tang complex.

After seeing the pagoda, we walked across the street to the nearby Westin Hotel.  Designed by the emerging architectural office in Shanghai, Neri & Hu Design and Research Office, the design of the Westin Hotel revealed a clever interplay of contrasting colours and variation of materials to express a minimalist interpretation of traditional Chinese architecture.

dsc_7493The Big Wild Goose Pagoda and Da Ci En Temple.

dsc_7503Golden Buddha at the main hall of Da Ci En Temple.

dsc_7506Outside the main hall of Da Ci En Temple.

dsc_7512Worshiper outside of another prayer hall at Ci En Temple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Big Wild Goose Pagoda from below.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAView of public plaza and urban axis from the top of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

dsc_7527View of traditional architecture below the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

dsc_7529Staircase inside the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

dsc_7535Urban parks surrounded the Big Wild Goose Pagoda from all four sides.

dsc_7539Statue of Xuanzang in front of Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

dsc_7540A museum attached to the Westin Hotel designed by Neri & Hu Design and Research Office.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAtrium inside the Westin Hotel.

dsc_7548A interior courtyard at the Westin Hotel.

dsc_7552Reception lobby of the Westin Hotel.

dsc_7559By the time we left the Westin Hotel flood lights had already lit up at the pagoda.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China


TIANZIFANG (田子坊), Shanghai, China

Hidden in a series of alleyways of traditional townhouses known as Shikumen (石庫門), an interesting area popular with artists and young people has become a major tourist attraction in the former French Concession of Shanghai.  Known as Tianzifang (田子坊) since artist Huang Yongyu (黃永玉) named the area after an ancient painter Tianzifang (田子方) in 2001, Tianzifang has become a vibrant location for young people and artists.  Many of the traditional Shikumen houses were restored during 2000s and converted into craft shops, cafes, bars, souvenir stores, etc.  Taken quite a distinct approach towards preservation than the nearby Xintiandi (新天地), Tianzifang maintains a relatively low-key and community feel.  Electrical cables were hanging all over, while weathered bricks and decades old windows could be commonly seen.

We spent much of the last morning of our Shanghai trip wandering in the alleyways of Tianzifang to absorb the lay-back and creative atmosphere.  We did quite a bit of window shopping.  At the end, we stopped by Cafe Dan for coffee and soba.  Owned by a Japanese, Cafe Dan is a lovely small cafe serving excellent Japanese food and great coffee from around the world.  Up a flight of narrow wooden stair, the dining area of Cafe Dan on the upper levels felt like a peaceful oasis above the bustling activities of tourists and visitors of Tianzifang.  Sitting by the wooden window screen, we had some moments of tranquility under the warm sunlight, while the aroma of our filtered coffee gradually filled the cafe interior.

DSC_2528We reached Tianzifang through one of these alley entrance on Taikang Road.

DSC_2384One of the alley gateway into Tianzifang.

DSC_2383Statue of the ancient painter Tianzifang from the Warring State Period (481 to 403 BC).

DSC_2311Hand-drawn 3D map of Tianzifang.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlleyway in Tianzifang.  Some shops were at the upper level of the old houses, accessible by narrow stairway from the ground level.

DSC_2317Much of the old houses in Tianzifang were transformed into cafes, restaurants and shops.

DSC_2303This shop is dedicated to Teddy bears.

DSC_2322Pedestrian nodes such as a small courtyard could be found at a number of places.

DSC_2333Colourful or kitsch souvenirs selling the Chinese culture could be found all over.

DSC_2352A shop selling traditional and bespoke clothing.

DSC_2386Statue dressed like a red army during the Cultural Revolution in front of a second-hand camera shop.

DSC_2419Interesting murals contribute to the community feel of Tianzifang.

DSC_2320Alleyway in front of Cafe Dan.

DSC_2519Entrance of Cafe Dan.

DSC_2459Interior of the upper level of Cafe Dan.

DSC_2464Delicious Japanese soba at Cafe Dan.

DSC_2481My cup of coffee was brewed with beans from the Galapagos.

DSC_2511The alternating tread wooden staircase at Cafe Dan was an interesting feature.

DSC_2521Heading out of Tianzifang to find our way to our next destination of the day, the small Blue Nankeen Museum.

 

***

Read other posts on Shanghai 2016:
0.0 SHANGHAI, 2016
1.0 SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China
2.0 HUMBLE ADMINISTRATOR’S GARDEN, Suzhou, China
3.0 LION GROVE GARDEN, Suzhou, China
4.0 SOUP DUMPLINGS AND MORNING STROLL, Shanghai, China
5.0 ROCKBUND, Shanghai, China
6.0 M50, Shanghai, China
7.0 1933 SHANGHAI (老場坊) , Shanghai, China
8.0 POLY GRAND THEATRE (上海保利大劇院), Shanghai, China
9.0 FORMER FRENCH CONCESSION, Shanghai, China
10.0 POWER STATION OF ART, Shanghai, China
11.0 LONG MUSEUM (龍美術館), West Bund, Shanghai, China
12.0 THE BUND (外灘) AT NIGHT, Shanghai, China
13.0 TIANZIFANG (田子坊), Shanghai, China
14.0 CHINESE HAND PRINTED BLUE NANKEEN GALLERY (藍印花布博物館), Shanghai, China
15.0 LUJIAZUI (陸家嘴) OF PUDONG (浦東), Shanghai, China


LONG MUSEUM (龍美術館), West Bund, Shanghai, China

Before our trip, a number of people recommended the Long Museum to us.  Designed by a focal firm Atelier Deshaus, the Long Museum is a fine piece of contemporary architecture that has been featured in many design magazines.  Despite our tight schedule in Shanghai, we managed to squeeze in two hours to visit this contemporary art museum at the West Bund of Xuhui.  The riverside promenade of Xuhui district hosts a number of cultural establishments like the Long Museum, and also occasional art events such as the West Bund Biennale of Architecture and Contemporary Art.  Along with upcoming developments such as the movie production and entertainment complex – Dream Centre, the once industrial area West Bund of Xuhui is gradually transforming into a lively cultural corridor by the Huangpu River.  The privately-owned art museum near the former Expo ground stands as a proud revelation of Shanghai’s ambitions to boost the local contemporary art scenes.

We arrived at Long Museum in the mid afternoon.  Dozens or so visitors were busy photographing the cherry blossoms in front of the museum.  Others were having fun taking seflies against the backdrop of a well preserved industrial structures, which has now become a significant feature outside the museum.  At the museum’s rear side facing the riverside promenade, locals were enjoying themselves playing badminton and skateboards.  We entered the museum through its main entrance at the side.  Once inside, we were immediately captivated by the high vaulted space of the main exhibition hall.  There is not a single white wall in the museum.  With high volume spaces and half-vaulted ceiling, the museum is like a minimalist concrete cathedral, offering visitors diverse spatial experience, and a sleek atmosphere and backdrop for showcasing contemporary art.

Exhibited in galleries and a number of international biennale around the globe, Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson is a prominent figure in the art world.  Eliasson creates interesting art installations that often engage spectators through the use of basic elements like water, light or shadows.  We were delighted to see Eliasson’s solo show at the Long Museum.  Playful reflections, shadows, and lighting effects of his pieces did a fine job engaging spectators in multiple ways.  We spent about two hours seeing Eliasson’s exhibition until the museum was about to close its doors.  After the visit, we strolled along the riverside promenade to take in the relax atmosphere.

DSC_1718 Visitors gathered in front of Long Museum to photograph the fine cherry blossoms.

DSC_1725Concrete structure from an old factory is preserved as an exterior feature of Long Museum.

DSC_1764The old structure becomes a local favorite for portrait photography.

DSC_1799The old industrial structure create a beautiful scene of shadows and textures.

DSC_1809Visitors walking beyond the old industrial structure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA visitor and dramatic sunlight casting onto the vaulted concrete wall.

DSC_2097Main exhibition space of Long Museum.

DSC_2092Olafur Eliasson’s installation art took over every wall and corner of Long Museum.

DSC_2079Spectators having fun with their own reflection at one of Eliasson’s piece.

DSC_2062Mirrors are used in many of Eliasson’s pieces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA sphere that allows visitors to enter is a popular piece.

DSC_1858Moving shadows and interesting reflections was a result from lighting effect and a suspended ring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAElegant shadows of an abstract installation.

DSC_1917Visitor and the semi-vaulted ceiling.

DSC_1942Visitors queuing for a glimpse of their own reflection at one of Eliasson’s piece.

DSC_1955A mother photographing her daughter from the other end of the piece.

DSC_1952A room with alternating lighting that changed the hues of wall decorations from black and white to rainbow colours.

DSC_2125The passageway between the old industrial structure and the museum facade made of pour concrete and expanded metal.

DSC_2131Locals having a good time with badminton and skateboards at the back of Long Museum.

DSC_2175The riverside promenade behind Long Museum links the museum with other cultural establishments at the West Bund of Xuhui.

 

***

Read other posts on Shanghai 2016:
0.0 SHANGHAI, 2016
1.0 SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China
2.0 HUMBLE ADMINISTRATOR’S GARDEN, Suzhou, China
3.0 LION GROVE GARDEN, Suzhou, China
4.0 SOUP DUMPLINGS AND MORNING STROLL, Shanghai, China
5.0 ROCKBUND, Shanghai, China
6.0 M50, Shanghai, China
7.0 1933 SHANGHAI (老場坊) , Shanghai, China
8.0 POLY GRAND THEATRE (上海保利大劇院), Shanghai, China
9.0 FORMER FRENCH CONCESSION, Shanghai, China
10.0 POWER STATION OF ART, Shanghai, China
11.0 LONG MUSEUM (龍美術館), West Bund, Shanghai, China
12.0 THE BUND (外灘) AT NIGHT, Shanghai, China
13.0 TIANZIFANG (田子坊), Shanghai, China
14.0 CHINESE HAND PRINTED BLUE NANKEEN GALLERY (藍印花布博物館), Shanghai, China
15.0 LUJIAZUI (陸家嘴) OF PUDONG (浦東), Shanghai, China