ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Kengo Kuma

KURAMAE (蔵前), LA KAGU & KAGURAZAKA (神楽坂), Tokyo, Japan

Across Sumida River from Ryogoku and south of touristy Asakusa lies the low key Kuramae (蔵前), a hub for young artists and craftsmen in Tokyo.  After visiting two interesting museums in Sumida, we opted for a moment of relaxation just a stone throw away at Kuramae.  Like many up and coming neighborhoods, Kuramae contains a rather leisure atmosphere.  Without the tourist crowds that we would normally see in other more popular areas of Tokyo, there were still a considerable amount of local visitors in the area.  Queues were lined up in front of some of the most popular shops such as Kakimori, the wonderful shop of handmade stationery, fountain pens and anything related to writing.  We started off at Camera, a cosy little cafe selling good coffee, snacks, and handmade leather accessories.

01We started our brief Kuramae visit at Camera cafe.

02We sat by the long counter with coffee and snacks.  There were a few racks and shelves of leather accessories on display behind us.

03Maito offers a wide range of clothes and accessories made with dyes extracted from nature, such as flowers and tree bark.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe most popular shop in Kuramae we encountered was undoubtedly Kakimori stationery shop.  Visitors lined up outside the shop waiting for their turn to put together a custom made notebook with self-selected paper, cover, ribbon, etc.

05Inside Kakimori, other visitors were busy checking out the fountain pens, ink, and other writing accessories.

06Dandelion Chocolate was another highly popular bean-to-bar chocolate factory originated from San Francisco.

07We also spent some time at Koncept, a trendy shop with cool merchandises from all over Japan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter Kuramae, we took the metro to visit another interesting trendy fashion and design store, the La Kagu.  A grand wooden staircase provided a welcoming gesture for all pedestrians and visitors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConverted from a 1965 warehouse of a publishing company by renowned architect Kengo Kuma (隈研吾), La Kagu immediately became a retail landmark in at Kagurazaka (神楽坂).

03La Kagu is consisted of different lifestyle zones: food, clothing, shelter and knowledge.

04After La Kagu, we walked along the high street of Kagurazaka (神楽坂).  Kagurazaka (神楽坂) is a traditional Japanese neighborhood with a French twist, thanks to the considerable number of French expats living in the area.

05Cafes, restaurants, bakeries and boutiques line up the high street of Kagurazaka (神楽坂).

06In a side street, we stopped by a ramen store for dinner.

07We ordered our ramen from the machine outside.

08The friendly staff then prepared our bowls right in front of us.

09No complain could be made by ending the day with a bowl of delicious ramen in a local neighborhood of Tokyo.

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ASAKUSA AT NIGHT (浅草), Tokyo (東京), Japan

We both felt asleep on the train back to Tokyo.  The normally popular tourist district of Asakusa (浅草) was largely deserted by the time we walked out Asakusa Station at around 9pm.  We didn’t want to return to our hotel yet.  We decided to wander around Asakusa, from the world famous Kaminarimon (雷門) of Sensoji (金龍山浅草寺) to the inner streets of dining, shopping and entertainment district of Rokku.  Most shops were closed except for some restaurants and street eateries.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe buildings and streetscape around Tobu Asakusa Station reveal the former glory of Asakusa when the district was a foremost area in Tokyo.

02Tokyo Skytree and Philippe Starck’s Asahi Beer Hall stood out in the skyline beyond.

03Kengo Kuma’s Asakusa Culture and Tourist Centre (淺草文化中心) took on a different appearance under the perfect illumination.

04Surrounded by scaffolding, the Kaminarimon (雷門) of Sensoji (金龍山浅草寺) found a moment of peace with the absence of tourists.

05The 200m Nakamise (仲見世) Shopping Street closed for the night.  Security guards were checking the shopping streets to ensure no visitor stayed behind.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom Nakamise (仲見世), we entered a side street (雷門柳小路) into the grid network of small streets of restaurants, cafes, and bars.

07Orange Street (オレンジ通り), a street famous for its orange paint lies at the centre of the dining and entertainment area of Asakusa.

08The Rokku area of Asakusa was once the biggest entertainment district in Japan before WWII.  During the Edo Period (1603-1867), Asakusa lies outside the city wall and was a red light and theatre district.  During the prewar years of the 20th century, theatres and cinemas dominated the Rokku area.  Much of Asakusa was destroyed during the war.  Today, the entertainment district of Asakusa was only a shadow of its past.

10Some restaurants in the area still maintains the atmosphere of the prewar days.

11In contrast to the spirituality and history of Sensoji Temple just a few blocks away, the Rox Dome is a popular indoor batting stadium.

 

12The atmospheric Dempoin Dori (傳法院通) offers a glimpse of the former theatre and entertainment district.

Not many pedestrians were around at Dempoin Dori.  However some of the restaurants were still open.  The traditional shopfronts reminded visitors the appearance of the lively high street during the prewar years.

17Despite its decline in the postwar years, Asakusa remains an interesting place to stroll around and get a feel of Tokyo’s history and its vibrant dining scenes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday, the Rokku area is still a focus of dining and entertainment experience, with outdoor eateries here and there near the junction of Don Quijote Department Store.

16Most shops were closed for the night, but the street-side eateries were still quite lively when we were there.

18The junction in front of Don Quijote Department Store was brightly lit up by neon lights of theatres and shops.

19Apart from the street eateries and traditional shops, there are also covered arcades in the area providing another alternative shopping experience.

20After strolling for an hour or so, we headed back to Asakusa Station and took the metro back to Shibuya.  Passing by the narrow alleyways near the station, the Tokyo Skytree across Sumida River could be clearly seen at the street end, revealing a new chapter of shopping and entertainment just a stone throw away from Asakusa.


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).


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

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.

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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


FOLK ART MUSEUM, Xiangshan Campus (象山中心校區), China Academy of Art (中國美術學院), Hangzhou, China

Before we left the Xiangshan campus, we dropped by the new Folk Art Museum.  Designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the Folk Art Museum is the latest addition to the campus.  Similar to Wang Shu, Kengo Kuma’s work has long been considered as a contemporary representation of the essence of traditional architecture.  Last year when we were In Tokyo, we visited Kengo Kuma’s Suntory Museum of Art and Nezu Museum, and immediately fell in love with Kengo Kuma’s clever interplay of light and shadow, magnificent treatment of transitional spaces between interior and exterior, poetic arrangement of circulation spaces and contemporary interpretation of traditional Japanese architecture.

The Folk Art Museum at Xiangshan sits against a hill like a series of overlapping parallelograms.  Aligned with Kengo Kuma’s principle “to recover the place”, the spirit of the sloped landscape is carefully maintained with the cascade arrangement and ramp circulation of the building.  Old roof tiles are extensively used as roofing and also an outer screen outside the glass walls of the building.  The tiles serve the purpose as shading device by casting a myriad of floating shadows in the interior.  Their existence provokes a poetic atmosphere made of light and shadow.  Before our trip, we were delighted to find out that the Folk Art Museum would be ready to open its doors two days before our visit.  Unfortunately, when we arrived at its door, all we could see was an empty building with several installation workers inside the building.  All we could do was walk around the building and ascend to the accessible roof via a long flight of exterior stair that penetrates the museum in the middle.

After our visit to Xiangshan, we took the public bus back to Downtown Hangzhou.  We returned to the hotel to pick up our bags, took a taxi to the airport bus station, and hopped onto the bus for Hangzhou International Airport.  When we get off, the yellowish afternoon sun and a banner promoting a new direct flight from Hangzhou to Copenhagen greeted our arrival at the airport.  It wasn’t too busy in the airport concourse and we had plenty of time after checking into the waiting zone, reviewing our photographs in the cameras while waiting for our Dragon Air flight back to Hong Kong.  This concludes our 5-day visit to Anhui and Hangzhou.
1The pathway that leads up to the museum entrance and entrance forecourt.

2After we walked up the stair to the upper part, we reached a platform and a secondary entrance of the museum, and a stair that leads further up to the roof.

3Upper platform of the complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA peek into the museum interior from the upper platform.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur reflection on the glass wall of the museum beyond the screen of tiles.

4Dark tiles are clipped with tiny hangers onto the diamond shaped wire system.

5Space between the outer screen of tiles and the inner layer of glass windows.

7Second stair that leads to the upper roof.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAView from the upper roof down to the Xiangshan campus and beyond.

8Layers of sloped tiled roofs produce the unique minimalist form that resembles undulating terrain of natural landscape.

11Sometimes, the tiles seem like floating in mid air.

12We were forbidden to visit the museum interior, we had no choice but to return back down to the main campus after a walk around the Folk Art Museum.

DSC_3762It was late afternoon when we arrived at Hangzhou Airport for our flight home to Hong Kong.

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Read other posts on 2015 Anhui and Hangzhou
1. History, Scenery, Architecture, 5-day tour of Anhui and Hangzhou, China
2. Laojie (Old Street), Tunxi, China
3. Hongcun, Anhui, China
4. Xidi, Anhui, China
5. West Sea Canyon, Huangshan, Anhui, China
6. From Monkey Watching the Sea to Welcome Pine, Huangshan, Anhui, China
7. Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China
8. Folk Art Museum, Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China

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Read other posts on 2015 Anhui and Hangzhou
1. History, Scenery, Architecture, 5-day tour of Anhui and Hangzhou, China
2. Laojie (Old Street), Tunxi, China
3. Hongcun, Anhui, China
4. Xidi, Anhui, China
5. West Sea Canyon, Huangshan, Anhui, China
6. From Monkey Watching the Sea to Welcome Pine, Huangshan, Anhui, China
7. Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China
8. Folk Art Museum, Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China