ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “museum

ACROPOLIS OF PERGAMON, Bergama, Turkey

2006.05.04

At 19:00 we bid farewell to the hostel staff and left Sultan Hostel of Istanbul.  We took the T4 bus from Hagia Sophia to the Taksim Square.  We headed over to the office of Kamil Koc and waited for the departure of our first night bus in Turkey.  At 09:00 the next day we arrived at Izmir, where we transferred to another bus for Bergama, the town where the famous Classical Greek city of Pergamon once stood in the 3rd century BC.  We hired a taxi from Bergama’s otogar (bus station) to the acropolis archaeological park.  I was quite excited for arriving at the ruined acropolis of Pergamon, largely due to my 2003 visit of Berlin’s Pergamon Museum, where the Great Altar of Pergamon was restored and displayed for the past 90 years.  Seeing the Great Altar of Pergamon in Berlin’ three years prior to the trip was probably the main reason why I chose to stop by Bergama on our way to Selcuk from Istanbul.  In the archaeological park, the acropolis where the high altar once stood was pretty much in ruins.  A few notable structures, including the Trajaneum (where a headless marble statue in Roman armor stood in a courtyard) and the Greek Theatre, claimed to be the steepest theatre in the ancient world, represented the highlights.  Near the base of the theatre lower, we stopped by the ruined Temple of Dionysus to pay a little respect to the God of pleasure and wine.

As the capital of Kingdom of Pergamon during the Attalid dynasty (281-133 BC), Pergamon was one of the major cultural centres in the Greek world.  After 133 BC, Pergamon became part of the Roman Empire, and assigned as the capital city of province Asia.  As trading routes shifted to Constantinople during the Byzantine era, the once Greek and Roman metropolis was transformed into a medium size city, but maintained its religious importance as it was mentioned in the Book of Revelations as one of Seven Churches of Asia.  Then came the Ottomans who transformed Pergamon into a Turkish city with mosques and bath houses that we know today.  From the first visit of German engineer Carl Humann in 1864 to WWI, the Germans had made numerous expeditions and archaeological excavations at Pergamon.  Most of their findings are now on display at Berlin’s Pergamon Museum.  After WWI, artefacts found on site were being restored and exhibited at Istanbul or the Bergama Museum.

03EU37-22Probably the most famous Classical artefact in Berlin, the Great Altar of Pergamon has been moved to and reconstructed in the German capital about a century ago.

03EU37-24The statue of Athena Parthenos was found in the ruins of Library of Pergamon in 1880.

06ME10-17Today, the most prominent remaining structure at the Acropolis of Pergamon is the Greek Theatre.  With a seating capacity of 10,000, the theatre was the steepest in the world.

06ME10-18Below the theatre lies the town of Bergama.

06ME11-02Off to the side at the base of the theatre once stood the Temple of Dionysus.

06ME11-07Looking up the theatre from the Temple of Dionysus allowed us to fully appreciate the scale and steepness of the theatre.

acropolis 1A series of stepped walkways allowed the ancient audience to disperse efficiently.

06ME11-09Fragments of classical cornice and frieze could be found all over the archaeological park.

06ME10-24One of the most remarkable structures in the acropolis is Trajaneum, the only Roman building on site.

06ME10-25Completed by Emperor Hadrian, the Trajaneum was used to worship Zeus as well as  Emperor Trajan, Hadrian’s predecessor.

06ME10-29Occupying the summit of the acropolis, Trajaneum sent a clear message to the citizens of Pergamon that the Romans were fully in charge of the once Hellenistic city.

06ME10-26The Corinthian column capitals still look spectacular after 2000 years.

column base at acropolisIt was a pleasure to wander around the ruined acropolis and looked for the remaining architectural details.

hadrian at acropolisThe statue of Hadrian could still be found in the acropolis.

 


OLD TOWN AND LAKEFRONT, Kandy, Sri Lanka, 2019.12.10

Day 6 (3 of 3).

Located in the hilly heartland of Sri Lanka, Kandy was the last capital of pre-modern Sri Lanka before the country was colonized by the British in 1815.  Kandy was our last stop in the Cultural Triangle, and the first stop into the hill country.  The Kindgom of Kandy was established under King Sena Sammatha Wickramabahu (1473 – 1511).  In 1592, Kandy became the capital city of the last remaining kingdom in Sri Lanka, while the colonial powers, Portuguese and Dutch had taken over the coastal regions and gradually made their way into the heartland.

Home to the Temple of the Tooth Relic, Kandy is an UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular tourist attraction.  Many tourists, including us, stop by Kandy before heading to the villages of the hill country, such as Ella, Nuwara Eliya or Haputale.  Today, Kandy remains as the second largest city in Sri Lanka, and a major transportation hub in the region.  It also lies in the midst of tea plantations.  Known as the Sea of Milk, the artificial Kandy Lake remains as the focal point of the city.  The lake was built in 1807 by King Sri Wickrama Rajasinghe right by the Temple of the Tooth Relic.  During our 1.5 days in Kandy, apart from the Temple of the Tooth Relic and Royal Botanic Garden in Peradeniya, we had a waterfront stroll at Kandy Lake, made a brief visit to the national museum, had lunch in the old city centre and dined at the historical Empire Cafe.  Though a heavy shower in the second afternoon cut short the time we spent in the rather laid-back city.

IMG_6556On our first night on Kandy, we dined at Empire Cafe adjacent to the Temple of the Tooth Relic.

20Housed in a beautiful colonial building, Empire Cafe also serves as a hotel.

IMG_6558Under a rather vintage ambience, we had a enjoyable meal at Empire Cafe.

IMG_6559It was pleasant to sit by the window and enjoy the evening streetscape right by the Temple of the Tooth Relic.

IMG_6441Taking the tuk tuk down the steep slope from Villa Rosa was an exciting way to enter the city of Kandy.

02JPGWall paintings could be seen in a number of locations around Kandy.

01On the outer wall of a school building, different groups of painters were busy making murals.

03Similar to other Sri Lankan cities and towns, tuk tuk is the best way to get around in Kandy.

IMG_6452Like other tourists, we spent most of the time in Kandy near the Temple of the Tooth Relic.  The temple entrance plaza was always crowded with visitors.

04Around the Temple of the Tooth Relic, vendors were selling all kinds of Buddhist souvenirs, lotus offerings, snacks and king coconuts.

IMG_6815We made a brief visit to the small national museum behind the Temple of the Tooth Relic.

05Kandy Lake is the main focal point of the city.  The waterfront scenery reminded us of some European cities and towns.

06Right by lake embankment, the Ulpange or Queens Bathing Pavilion stands out as a beautiful between the palace and the lake.   Built in 1806, the building was used as a bathing chamber in the past.  Today, it belongs to the local police.

08Kandy Lake is also home to Asian water monitor lizards, one of the largest lizard species in the world.

09In the heart of Kandy Lake rises an artificial island planted with palm trees and shrubs.

10Known as Walakulu Bamma or Cloud Wall, the ornate wall was built around part of Kandy Lake for aesthetic purpose.

11With over 160 years of history, the Queen’s Hotel stands proudly across the street from the entrance of Temple of the Tooth Relic and Kandy Lake.

12The elegant colonnade of Queen’s Hotel prominently connects the entrance plaza of the Temple of the Tooth Relic with the old city centre.

13We followed the colonnade of Queen’s Hotel towards the old city centre.

14The old town centre is a busy hub of shops, banks and restaurants.  We had lunch at one of the cafes before an afternoon shower forced us to return to the hotel.

 


SEAFOOD, CANAL, & HISTORY, Otaru (小樽), Hokkaido (北海道), Japan, 2019.06.22

Day 8 (3/4).

It was raining with occasional thunderstorms all the way from the Hill of the Buddha to Otaru.  After a week on the road, we finally arrived at Otaru (小樽), the port city at Ishikari Bay roughly half an hour of train ride from Sapporo.  For many Japanese and East Asians, Otaru has become famous after the 1995 hit movie “Love Letter”.  Directed by Shunji Iwai (岩井 俊二) and starring Miho Nakayama (中山 美穂), “Love Letter” was filmed entirely in Hokkaido, particularly in Otaru.  After the film, The little port city Otaru has become a cultural destination.

We dropped off our bags at the hotel, returned the Toyota near the railway station, and found our way to Sankaku Market (三角市場) for a seafood lunch.

IMG_0223Situated near Otaru Station, Sankaku Market (三角市場) is very popular for tourists and locals for fresh seafood.

IMG_0211The market sells seafood from all over Hokkaido.

IMG_0213The market has only one narrow aisle and shops at both sides.

IMG_0222Some shops also offer seafood snacks or lunch.

IMG_0220We chose the most popular eatery in the market, Takinami Restaurant, where there was a long queue of visitors at the door.

IMG_0217Seafood appetizers

IMG_0218Sea urchin, crab meat and prawns with rice, and crab miso soup

IMG_0226Despite the rain, we made a brief visit to the canal area of Otaru.

IMG_0235We didn’t stay long at the canal because of poor weather.

IMG_0275Instead, we dropped by the Otaru Art Base: four historical buildings were preserved and converted into art exhibition spaces.

IMG_0255Built in 1923, Takahashi Warehouses was turned into the Stained Glass Museum.

IMG_0258Most of the stained glass windows on display were manufactured in England in the 19th and early 20th century.

IMG_0264These stained glass windows were preserved from churches that got torn down.

IMG_0244In the heydays, there were 25 banks supporting the economy of Hokkaido.  One of them was Mitsui Bank (三井住友銀行).  The Neo-Renaissance building symbolizes the prosperous years of Hokkaido.

IMG_0295The former lobby and reception counter are splendid.

IMG_0305Former conference room

IMG_0288Former vault.

IMG_0314Other than the history of the former bank building, there was also an art exhibition in the building.

IMG_0330After checking out the Art Base, we returned to the hotel and finished the slide of Yubari (夕張) cantaloupe purchased from the market.

* * *

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 4 (4/5): DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, India, 2018.11.27

From our guidebook we picked Saffron Restaurant for lunch.  Situated on the leafy rooftop of Nachna Haveli Hotel, Saffron Restaurant offers an atmospheric venue away from the busy lanes of Jaisalmer.  The building complex is owned by the Nachna family.  They are direct descendants of Maharawal Jaisal, the founder of Jaisalmer.  The Nachna Haveli was partially converted into a heritage hotel in 1996.

IMG_9869We entered the Nachna Haveli Hotel through a elegant gateway.

IMG_9865Beyond the gate, we arrived at a sleepy and lush green courtyard.

IMG_9863Comfortable seating adjacent to the courtyard offers visitors and guests a great place to escape from the afternoon heat.

IMG_9859We were told to go upstairs to the roof for the Saffron Restaurant.

IMG_9860Compared to the dusty and often busy street outside, the leafy and tranquil rooftop of Saffron Restaurant felt like a paradise to us.

IMG_9856At Saffron, it was a big surprise to find that film shooting was going on at part of the rooftop.  It was a scene of causal talk between a mother and daughter while hanging the laundry.

IMG_9877After lunch, we went to check out the guidebook recommended handicraft shop Desert Handicrafts Emporium.

IMG_9881Desert Handicrafts Emporium is owned by LN Khatri, a knowledgeable historian and folklorist of the Thar region.

IMG_9882After purchasing two embroidered pieces, Mr. Khatri led us to his Thar Heritage Museum.  With a decent collection of artefacts and antiques from various desert villages.

IMG_9883One of the most interesting display was a Gyan Chaupar (meaning ‘Game of Knowledge) game, which sometimes can be referred as the Snake and Ladder game.  The game has been around in India since the 2nd century.  It is a game that involves educating people about religious vice and virtue.

IMG_9888Displays at the Thar Heritage Museum are grouped in such a way that visitors can easily learn about the specific life and work of various kinds of people in the Thar Desert.

IMG_9896Opium was popular in Rajasthan in the old days.  Khatri’s museum designates a corner to display the artefacts used for opium smoking.

IMG_9892Mr. Khatri’s father was actually a ghee collector in the Thar Desert.  A number of old ghee containers are on display.

IMG_2245The displayed items in the museum reflect a bygone era of the Thar Desert.

IMG_2250Embroideries with gold and silver threads are popular in villages of the Thar Desert.

IMG_9897Vintage black and white photographs in the museum convey a romantic sense of the bygone Rajasthan.

IMG_9889Mr. Khatri was kind to show us around and talked about the highlights of his collection.  The visit offered us a thorough glimpse of what life was like back in old Rajasthan.

 

***
Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

***
Posts on 2018 Rajasthan:-

Day 1: Jodhpur
DAY 1.1: IN TRANSIT TO RAJASTHAN
DAY 1.2: PAL HAVELI & THE OMELETTE MAN, Jodhpur
DAY 1.3: SPLENDOR OF THE SUN FORT, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.4: SUNSET OVER THE BLUE CITY, Mehrangarh, Jodhpur
DAY 1.5: SADAR MARKET AND GHANTA GHAR CLOCKTOWER, Jodhpur

Day 2: Jodhpur, Osian, Jaisalmer
DAY 2.1: MARBLE CENOTAPH JASWANT THADA, Jodhpur
DAY 2.2: MEDIEVAL STEPWELLS, Mahila Bagh Ka Jhalra, Gulab Sagar, & Toorji Ka Jhalra, Jodhpur
DAY 2.3: PILGRIM OASIS IN THAR DESERT, Sachiya Mata Temple, Osian
DAY 2.4: SUNRISE AT THE FIRST GATE OF GOLDEN FORT, Jaisalmer

Day 3: Jaisalmer
DAY 3.1: THE GOLDEN LIVING FORT, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.2: JAIN TEMPLES PART 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.3: JAIN TEMPLES PART 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 3.4: FORT PALACE, Jaisalmer

Day 4: Jaisalmer
DAY 4.1: RESERVOIR OF THE GOLDEN CITY, Gadsisar Lake, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.2: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 1, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.3: ARCHITECTURAL JEWEL OF RAJASTHAN, Patwon Ki Haveli Part 2, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.4: DESERT HERITAGE, Hotel Nachana Haveli and Thar Heritage Museum, Jaisalmer
DAY 4.5: LAST STROLL IN THE GOLDEN CITY, Jaisalmer

Day 5: Pushkar
DAY 5.1: RANIKHET EXPRESS
DAY 5.2: 52 BATHING GHATS, Pushkar
DAY 5.3: SUNSET OVER SACRED WATER, Pushkar

Day 6: Pushkar & Jaipur
DAY 6.1: SUNRISE OVER PUSHKAR LAKE, Pushkar
DAY 6.2: GRANDEUR OF THE MAHARAJA, City Palace, Jaipur
DAY 6.3: IN SEARCH OF 1860 CARL ZEISS CAMERA, Jaipur

Day 7: Jaipur
DAY 7.1: AMBER FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.2: JAIGARH FORT, Jaipur
DAY 7.3: MAHARAJA’S ASTRONOMICAL LEGACY, Jantar Mantar, Jaipur
DAY 7.4: PALACE OF WINDS, Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Day 8: Bhangarh, Abhaneri & Agra
DAY 8.1: ON THR ROAD TO AGRA
DAY 8.2: HAUNTED RUINS, Bhangarh, Rajasthan
DAY 8.3: CHAND BAORI, Abhaneri, Rajasthan
DAY 8.4: THE ABANDONED CAPITAL OF MUGHAL EMPIRE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 8.5: FRIDAY MOSQUE, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 9: Agra
DAY 9.1: CROWN OF THE PALACES, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.2: AGRA FORT, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.3: RAWATPARA SPICE MARKET, Agra, Uttar Pradesh
DAY 9.4: SUNSET AT MEHTAB BAGH, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Day 10: Delhi
DAY 10.1: TRAIN 12627, Agra to Delhi
DAY 10.2 : HUMAYUN’S TOMB, Delhi
Day 10.3: NIZAMUDDIN BASTI, Delhi


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DAY 7 (6/7): THE SUBTLE BEAUTY OF A WARRIOR’S REFUGE, Nomura Samurai House (武家屋敷跡 野村家), Nagamachi Samurai District (長町), Kanazawa (金沢), Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県), Japan, 2018.05.31

We wandered around Nagamachi (長町) on narrow lanes flanked both sides by yellow earth walls.  We slowly found our way to Nomura Samurai House and arrived at the house’s forecourt about an hour before its closing time.  Once we took off our shoes, we were free to walk around the former samurai house.  It was hard to imagine that such a tranquil complex with a picturesque garden and tea house was actually the home of a powerful samurai (warrior official who served the feudal lord) in the Edo Period.  In the 16th century, Nomura Denbei Nobusada, an official of the first feudal lord of the Kaga Domain Toshiie Maeda, was assigned with the Nomura Family House.  12 generations had passed until the 19th century when the Nomura lost their property during the Meiji Restoration.  It was the historical moment of transition when the samurai system quickly became obsoleted against rapid modernization of Japan.  A business man and shipowner named Kubo Hikobei bought the house in mid 20th century.  He restored the garden and house and was responsible for several alterations, which included adding a tea house.  The focal point of the Nomura Samurai House was undoubtedly the small  garden at the back of the house.  Stone lanterns, stepping stones, pine trees, a small waterfall, a tranquil water pond, and several curious koi fish form a beautiful picture to welcome visitors and exemplify the essence of traditional Japanese gardens.  Journal of Japanese Gardening even claims that the small Nomura garden is one of the top three gardens in the entire nation.  While judging beauty is purely subjective to the eye, the layering of natural scenes and careful arrangement of the verandas, pathways, stepping stones and stone bridges would definitely slow down the pace of visitors.  Only with patience and a peaceful heart could one fully appreciates the carefully configured beauty of the garden at Nomura.

01After a path made of large stepping stones, a humble entrance welcomed all visitors at the entrance garden.

02Prominently displayed at the foyer was a samurai armour.

03The painted screen doors at the tatami drawing room were quite eye-catching.

04Japanese cypress wood, rosewood, ebony, paulownia wood, etc were used for different functions inside the house.

05The family altar is lavishly decorated with gold paint and leaves.  Kanazawa has been a famous place for gold leaf manufacturing for over 400-years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Japanese is almost a synonym to fine craftsmanship.  All nails in the Nomura House are carefully kept out of sight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the back garden, trees and shrubs of different sizes provide a layered backdrop to the stone lantern.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe boundary of garden and architecture almost disappears.  Walking or sitting at the wooden veranda would make one forget all the troubles.

09Irregular stepping stones, rectangular stone bridges, and the smooth wooden veranda allow spectators to appreciate the beauty of the garden at his/her own pace.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA plinth like water basic reveals a certain contemporary charm of minimalism.  Gentle ripples and the sound of the dripping water create an almost spiritual effect to the visitor experience.

11At the end of the veranda, we found our way into another small outdoor space and a stair up to the tea house.

12The transitional space between the garden and the stair to the tea house is another masterpiece of landscape design.

13Before one reaches the stair up to the tea house, a small water feature reminds visitors of the purity and vitality of water.

14The outdoor spaces at Nomura Samurai House are full of beautiful surprises.

15A large variety of bamboo, timber and stones have been used to create a rich palette of textures.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust like many tea houses in Japan, the tiny tea house at Nomura Samurai House is an artwork in itself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the tea house, the lush-green vegetation of the garden defines the ambience.

18Before leaving Nomura Samurai House, a display bonsai reminded us the beauty of many traditional Japanese art did require tons of patience, techniques, care and imagination to maintain.  What might seem to be a simple pot plant was in reality had gone through decades of care and subtle alterations.

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DAY 7 (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.

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DSC_6082Another Yayoi Kusama’s flower installation inside the museum.

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

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

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

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

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

DSC_6108Polka dots were everywhere.

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DAY 4 (2/3): EDO TOKYO MUSEUM (江戸東京博物館), Sumida, Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.17

This was our third visit to Tokyo.  Apart from its delicious food and sleek fashion, we were also eager to learn about the city’s history.  In Sumida, we chose to visit the Edo Tokyo Museum, an interesting museum on Tokyo’s history housed in a monumental building designed by Kiyonori Kikutake (菊竹 清訓).  Established in 1993, the museum offers a good introduction of the history of Tokyo, from the founding of Edo to the present day.  Raised on a platform overlooking Ryōgoku Kokugikan (両国国技館), the architecture was modeled after an old storehouse in the Kurazukuri style.  Unlike Sumida Hokusai Museum where the scale of the minimalist architecture fits perfectly with the surrounding neighborhood, Edo Tokyo Museum takes a much more monumental approach.

01As soon as we stepped out the lift from Ryōgoku Station, we were overwhelmed by the monumental museum building.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe reached the entrance platform underneath the raised museum building via a grand staircase.

03At the far side of the entrance platform we could see the famous Ryōgoku Kokugikan (両国国技館).

04We purchased the museum tickets and headed towards the red escalator.

05Enclosed in a glass tube, the red escalator was the main access point up to the museum.

06A partial reconstructed Nihonbashi (日本橋) lay ahead of us once we entered the museum main hall.

07Below the reconstructed Nihonbashi, the most prominent feature was the reconstructed Nakamuraza Kabuki Theatre.

08The story of Tokyo began with the founding of Edo Castle (江戸城), the residence of the shogun.

09From different miniature models, we learnt the evolution of Edo and then Tokyo.

10Interesting information also included traditions and festivals in Tokyo.

11Theatre art was an important part of the Japanese culture and history of Tokyo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADominated with Western brick houses built after a fire burnt down much of the area in 1872, Ginza (銀座) Bricktown was the model area of modernization during the Meiji Period.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt certain period of the day, there would be performances and activities held in front of the reconstructed Nakamuraza Kabuki Theatre.

 


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 (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 (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.


DAY 1 (3/6): TOKYO NATIONAL MUSEUM (東京国立博物館), Ueno Park (上野公園), Tokyo, Japan, 2017.06.14

After the magnificent lunch bento at Innsyoutei, we followed the main path further into Ueno Park to reach the museum clusters.  Here one can find the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, National Museum of Nature and Science, National Museum of Wester Art, as well as the largest of them all, the Tokyo National Museum.  Established in 1872, the Tokyo National Museum (東京国立博物館) is the oldest and largest Japanese museum.  We didn’t plan to see everything.  We were a little tired from the flight, so we took it easy to explore the museum complex.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Tokyo National Museum is consisted of several buildings: Honkan, Toyokan, Heiseikan, Hyokeikan, etc.  We started with Honkan, the main museum hall.  This present Honkan was designed by Watanabe Jin. The building was completed in 1938 to replace its predecessor designed by British architect Josiah Conder.  The former building was severely damaged in the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

02There are two main levels in the Honkan.  We walked up the grand staircase to the upper level to begin our visit.

03Beautiful amours of samurai and shogunate were some of the most impressive artefacts in the museum.

04The “Fujin and Raijin”or the Wind and Thunder God by Ogata Korin reminded us our visit to Kyoto’s Kenninji Temple (建仁寺), the original location of the screen.  At Kenninji, we saw a replica of the famous screen.

05The Yaksha Generals (12 Heavenly Generals) is one of the most impressive display in the historical sculpture collection.

06Architectural drawings by British architects from the 19th century reveal the popularity of Western culture in Japan during the Meiji Period.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHistorical photograph of a Japanese samurai taken in 1862.

08At Honkan, there is a room opens to the garden behind the museum.  The room is decorated with exquisite mosaic and plastered motifs.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA traditional telephone matches well with the historical decor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA garden of traditional pavilion and reflective pool provided some fresh air during our museum visit.  Unfortunately the pavilion was inaccessible from the museum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAApart from sculptures, paintings and photographs, historical textiles and garments also provided us a glimpse of the old Japan.

12The museum shop at Honkan is beautiful designed.  A gentle passageway ramps up to the upper mezzanine.  Along the ramp stands a low wall of book display.

13After Honkan, we walked to the adjacent Toyokan Building.  Toyokan houses a few levels of artifacts and artworks from Asia and the Middle East.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Chinese and Korean exhibits reveal the close linkage between the cultures of the Far East.

15The Toyokan also contains some interesting pieces from Egypt and the Near East.  After visiting Honkan and Toyokan, we had a little more understanding on the heritage of Japan, and felt it was time to check out the other museums in Ueno Park.  So we exited the Tokyo National Museum, passed by a gigantic model of a blue whale in front of the National Museum of Nature and Science and headed towards the National Museum of Western Art.

 


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.

 

 


DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM (陝西歷史博物館), Xian, China

Back from the Han Yang Ling Mausoleum, we continued our historical journey at the provincial history museum of Shaanxi.  There was a long queue at the gate for people to collect the free admission tickets (4000 daily).  We skipped the wait by buying a ticket to the special exhibition of “Treasures of Great Tang Dynasty”, which we wouldn’t want to miss anyway.  We entered the museum building which was designed to mimic the traditional architecture of the Tang Dynasty.

We started our visit with the special exhibition of Tang treasures unearthed from Hejia Village (何家村) of Xian.  Known as the Hejia Village Hoard (何家村唐代窖藏), the 1000+ treasures ranged from gold and silver wares, coins, jade items, agate wares, crystals, etc.  These treasures were carefully stored in clay pots roughly 65cm tall, hidden underground sometime after AD 732 during the An–Shi Rebellion (安史之亂) when Tang China was engulfed in a nasty civil war.  As the east terminus of the Silk Road, the treasures of Changan (now Xian) revealed the degree of cultural exchanges in the Chinese capital during Tang, when goldsmiths and silversmiths from Central Asia such as the Sassanian Empire (now Iraq and Iran) came to Changan and brought with them the world’s most advanced metal crafting skills.  The treasures from the hoard were mainly made domestically with a mixture of techniques and styles from both within China and other places along the Silk Road.  It was an impressive collection and indeed, a very fortunate case for Chinese archaeology that these items could survive the Cultural Revolution when the collection was first unearthed.

We then moved on to the museum’s permanent collections.  We quickly walked through the prehistoric exhibits, and focused on the bronze items from the Shang Dynasty 商朝 (1600-1046 BC) and Zhou Dynasty 周朝 (1046-256 BC), Terracotta Warriors of the Qin Dynasty 秦朝 (221-206 BC), treasures of the Han Dynasty 漢朝 (206 BC- AD 290), and more artefacts from the Tang Dynasty 唐朝 (AD 618-907).  In this post we have included selected photos of the magnificent artefacts from the Shaanxi History Museum.

dsc_7874The Main exhibition hall of Shaanxi History Museum was inspired by Tang architecture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASmall gold dragons (赤金走龍), Hejia Village Hoard.

dsc_7878Gilt Silver Plate with Double Foxes in Shape of Double Peaches (鎏金雙狐紋雙桃形銀盤), Hejia Village Hoard, is inspired by Persian influences in style and technique, combined local references of good fortune: peaches and foxes (foxes and a few other animals were also considered a reference to good fortune in Tang China).

dsc_7879Gilt Silver Plate with Phoneix (鎏金鳳鳥紋六曲銀盤), Hejia Village Hoard

dsc_7882Silver Vessel in Form of Nomadic Leather Flask Depicting a Dancing Horse  (舞馬銜杯仿皮囊式銀壺), Hejia Village Hoard.  Another piece of silver ware reflected the influences from the nomadic tribes of Central Asia.

dsc_7902Gold Bowl with Design of Lotus and Mandarin Ducks (鴛鴦蓮瓣紋金碗), Hejia Village Hoard.  A golden bowl for wine.

dsc_7904Agate Cup with Beast Head (獸首瑪瑙杯), Hejia Village Hoard.  A rare piece of Tang treasure with influences from Persia.

dsc_7915Bronze blades and masks for rituals, Late Shang Dynasty (13th-11th Century BC)

dsc_7918Bronze Bianzhong (編鐘) of Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC), an ancient music instrument.

dsc_7928Terracotta Warriors of First Qin Emperor, Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).

dsc_7945The Kneeling Archer, Terracotta Warriors of the First Qin Emperor, Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).

dsc_7946Gilded Incense Burner, Han Dynasty (206 BC- AD 290), depicting a fantasy mountain supported by dragons.  The incense smoke would leak from the gaps like mountain mist.

dsc_7962Oil Lamp depicting a goose with a fish in its mouth, Han Dyansty (206 BC- AD 290).  The smoke from burning the oil would go through the goose’s neck to its body, which was filled with water.

dsc_7973Gilded Bronze Dragon with iron core, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

dsc_7976Tri-coloured Watermelon, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATerracotta figure of Lady, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).  A selection of these terracotta figures revealed the impressive hair, makeup and fashion styles of the Tang Dynasty, which changed every few years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATerracotta figure of Lady, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

dsc_7987Terracotta figures of the Chinese Zodiac, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

dsc_8000Funeral Procession of the Prince Qinjian from the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644).

***

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


POWER STATION OF ART, Shanghai, China

After a morning of the former French Concession, a short taxi ride took us to the former Expo ground by the Huangpu River for an entirely different side of Shanghai.  Opened in 2012, Power Station of Art is China’s first state run contemporary art museum.  Like London’s Tate Modern, the 440,000 sq.ft art museum is housed in a former power station.  We spent about two hours at the art museum.

Upon arrival at the grand hall on the ground floor, we were immediately astounded by the gigantic piece of installation art that involved a life-size train carriage and a number of mounted animals.  The piece belongs to French-Chinese artist Huang Yongping (黄永砯) as the centerpiece of his exhibition, Baton Serpent III: Spur Track to the Left.  On the upper floors, through a retrospective exhibition marking his 60th birthday, we got to know about the magnificent works and tragic life of Datong Dazhang, a Chinese artist from Shanxi Province active in the 1980s and 90s, and eventually committed suicide in the year 2000.  With vivid posters, drawings and videos illustrating renowned architect Bernard Tschumi’s design philosophies, we spent a brief time full of architectural thoughts at Tschumi’s exhibition, Architecture: Concept & Notation.  The last thing we saw before leaving the museum was In the Name of Architecture, a design exhibition by Atelier FCJZ encompassing the studio’s ideas on architecture, fashion, lifestyle, and graphic design.

DSC_1561Built in 1985, the Nanshi Power Station was turned into the Pavilion of Future in 2010’s Shanghai Expo, and subsequently converted into an art museum by Original Design Studio.

DSC_1564Today, the Power Station of Art has become a prominent cultural venue in Shanghai.

DSC_1566The life-size train carriage of Huang Yongping’s Spur Track to the Left.

DSC_1570Huang Yongping’s Spur Track to the Left.

DSC_1582Huang Yongping’s Spur Track to the Left.

DSC_1575Other installation by Huang Yongping’s on the ground floor.

DSC_1577Other installation by Huang Yongping’s on the ground floor.

DSC_1585Other installation by Huang Yongping’s on the ground floor.

DSC_1651Huang Yongping’s Baton Serpent on the second floor.

DSC_1599View of Huang Yongping’s Spur Track to the Left from the third floor.

DSC_1604Huangpu River and the former Expo ground as viewed from the museum’s outdoor terrace.

DSC_1605Outdoor terrace of the Power Station of Art.

DSC_1635Greatly under valued and seen as a social dissident during his lifetime, Shanxi avant-garde artist Datong Dazhang (大同大) lived a harsh life in the 1980s and 90s as an artist who was way ahead of his time.  Entirely self-taught and self initiated, Zhang works ranged from installations, photography, performance art, and drawings.

DSC_1621Datong Dazhang’s Questioning the Weight of Scales.

DSC_1632Datong Dazhang’s The Fear of Math, where pig heads were arranged in an abacus arrangement.

DSC_1634Prohibited from showcasing his art because of political issues, Zhang continued to make art during the 1990s and documented a number of performance arts with zero audience.

DSC_1643Bernard Tschumi’s Architecture: Concept & Notation.

DSC_1653Architectural model at Atelier FCJZ’s In the Name of Architecture.

DSC_1661Cool copper partitions at the entrance of FCJZ’s exhibition on the ground floor.

 

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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


SUZHOU MUSEUM, Suzhou, China

Before we kicked off our brief spring break in Shanghai, we took a high speed train to visit  Suzhou, Shanghai’s neighboring city famous for its picturesque canals and historical gardens about 100km northwest of Shanghai.  Today, Suzhou is the second largest city in Jiangsu Province, and is only half an hour of high speed train away from Shanghai.  Its gigantic train station is conveniently located by the Waicheng River just north of the old city.  Across Waicheng River, the north gate and the ancient city wall reminded visitors its 2500 years of history.  The full blossoms of peach flowers along the river promenade signified the pleasant spring season south of Yangtze River.

We crossed a bridge to enter the old city, and continued to headed southeast towards Suzhou’s tourist heartland, the area around Humble Ambassador’s Garden.  Just before reaching Humble Ambassador’s Garden, we decided to first check out Suzhou Museum.  Designed by architect I. M. Pei, the museum is a pleasant destination to have better understanding about the ancient city.  Borrowing design motifs, colour palette and planning strategies from the local architecture, Suzhou Museum expresses a contemporary atmosphere with touches of the local heritage.  At the heart of the complex, the central courtyard maintained the spirit of a Suzhou garden, with water ponds, pine trees, and a contemporary reinterpretation of Suzhou artificial mountains.

The collections in the Suzhou Museum ranged from artifacts to historical paintings.  We were more interested in the architecture itself, from its minimalist rock garden to its interior water feature where a prominent staircase connected all floors.  After a brief tour of the building, we exited the museum at a side entrance leading to a well preserved historical garden complex.  The complex belonged to Prince Zhong of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, a state that ruled part of China in the mid 19th century.  By the time we exited the complex onto the main pedestrian street, we were only a stone throw away from the entrance into Humble Ambassador’s Garden.

DSC_0188High speed rail links Suzhou to Shanghai in only half an hour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASuzhou Railway Station stands at the opposite to the city’s old north gate.

DSC_0202Peach and plum flowers greeted us outside Suzhou Railway Station.

DSC_0228Inside Suzhou Museum, we were soon attracted by these huge vine plants that dominated the trellis of a courtyard.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe giant vines.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWell lit corridors connect all exhibition rooms in the museum.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWithin the museum complex, the central courtyard and its reflective pool often serve as a visual focus beyond the windows.

DSC_0242This magnificent landscape painting in the garden is made of various thin sheets of rocks.  The layering of the mountain-like stones and its reflections make a perfect scenery for the garden, presenting a twist to the traditional Chinese gardens.

DSC_0245 The simple geometry and the elegant aesthetic of the building were greatly inspired by the regional tradition of architecture.

DSC_0268Feature stair in the museum.

DSC_0279Feature stair with the mini water fall beyond.

DSC_0288Feature stair in the museum.

DSC_0275Skylights were used in a number of exhibition halls to provide soft ambient lighting.

DSC_0277The pleasant main hallway where visitors come and exit the museum.

DSC_0313 A stage for Chinese opera in the former Prince Zhong Complex.

DSC_0324 Decorative planting, rock display and natural light in small courtyards at Prince Zhong’s Complex.

DSC_0328The front hall of Prince Zhong Complex opens directly to the main pedestrian streets.

 

***

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


CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURE, Guangzhou, China

Our last day in Guangzhou was dedicated to the contemporary architecture at Zhujiang New Town again.  The night before, we had a brief visit of the area to check out Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House, Rocco’s Guangdong Museum, and Nikken Sekkei’s Central Library illuminated with dramatic lights.  The next day we returned to check out the interior of these buildings.

The first stop we made was Guangzhou Opera House.  We joined a 1.5 hour guided tour that took us into the a number of the major spaces in the complex, from the main auditorium to practice rooms.  While the interior spaces of the Opera House were visually impressive, the uncounted design and construction deficiencies and traces of poor maintenance were all difficult to ignore.  Nevertheless, Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House still stood out as the most unique architecture we saw in Guangzhou.

Not far from the Opera House stood the new Guangzhou Library designed by Japanese design firm Nikken Sekkei.  Completed in 2013, Guangzhou Library is a neatly detailed and designed public building.  Once got in, we were immediately overwhelmed by the large and airy atrium and the glassy link bridges overhead.  We wandered in the library briefly before moving over to the Guangdong Provincial Museum.  Opened in 2010, Rocco Design Architects’ museum building is a mega-scale Chinese treasure box.  Similar to the library, the main atrium space of the museum offered a pleasant surprise for us.  A single footbridge high up overhead created a dramatic visual impact.  To our disappointment, we then discovered that it was blocked off from public access as soon as we reached the bridge.  The permanent collection of the museum presented the rich heritage of various regions in Guangdong.

It was late afternoon by the time we left Guangdong Museum.  We rushed to the Guangzhou East Station for our direct intercity train back to Hong Kong.  Overall our three-day trip was a pleasant introduction to the heritage of Guangdong Province.  Seeing the photogenic diaolous in Kaiping County was especially interesting for us.  Perhaps one day we would return to Kaiping at a different season, such as early spring when yellow mustard flowers blanketed the fields under the shadow of the century-old watchtowers.

01From the metro station, we made a short walk underground before ascending to the ground level.  At almost 600m, the Canton Tower played well as an urban icon for us to orient ourselves.

02Approaching Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House and the reflective pool.

03The triangular ceiling coffers and curved concrete walls reminded me of Hadid’s other projects,

04The ceiling motif did remind me of Hadid’s Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg, Germany.

05Bronze statue at a stair landing that led to the underground parking level.

06The magnificent main auditorium of Guangzhou Opera House.

07Cool light troughs filled up the walls and ceiling of the music practice room.

08The wavy ceiling and wall treatment of the dance studio was another highlight of our guided tour.

09Interior circulation space in the Opera House on the upper levels.

10During daytime, the building structure and facade details could be closely examined by visitors.

11Overall view of the Opera House.

12Atrium of the smaller concert hall in the Opera House complex.

13Approaching the Guangzhou Manmade Library.

14Central atrium of the Guangzhou Library.

15Rocco’s Guangdong Museum resembled an enlarged Chinese treasure box.

16The museum atrium was a remarkable design.

17New kinds of materials were used in the museum project.  The overall experience of the space was centred at the flying bridge high above.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVisitors leaving the Guangdong Museum, with Hadad’s Opera House at the back.

19The entrance path of the museum provided a nice urban playground.

* * *

All posts on 2015 Kaping and Guangzhou

1) TWO EPOCHS OF EAST MEET WEST: Kaiping (開平) and Guangzhou (廣州), China
2) QILOU (騎樓) BUILDINGS OF CHIKAN (赤坎鎮), Kaiping, China
3) DIAOLOU (碉樓) OF ZILI (自力村) VILLAGE, Kaiping (開平), China
4) VILLAGE OF MAJIANLONG (馬降龍村), Kaiping, China
5) JINJIANGLI (錦江里村) VILLAGE, Kaiping, China
6) ZHUJIANG NEW TOWN (珠江新城) AT NIGHT, Guangzhou, China
7) SHAMEEN ISLAND (沙面島), Guangzhou (廣州), China
8) CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURE, Guangzhou, China


ZHUJIANG NEW TOWN (珠江新城) AT NIGHT, Guangzhou, China

Other than Kaiping diaolous, another reason for our 3-day excursion from Hong Kong was to check out Guangzhou’s contemporary architecture.  After arriving in Guangzhou by long distance bus, we took the city’s metro to Shamian Island (沙面島) to check in at our hotel and had a Cantonese meal.  Before calling it a day, we rushed out again to explore the new central business district to see its flamboyant buildings at night.  Soon we arrived at Zhujiang New Town Metro Station and walked towards the Opera House.

In a distance, the Guangzhou Tower on the south side of Pearl River aligned perfectly with the strip of public plaza that marked the central axis of Zhujiang New Town (珠江新城), the new central business district of Guangzhou.  Along both sides of the axis, new commercial towers lined up like soldiers queuing from afar all the way to the Pearl River.  Before reaching the river, three public buildings stood out, the Guangzhou Library designed by Japanese firm Nikken Sekkei, Guangdong Provincial Museum by Rocco Design Architects, and Guangzhou Opera House by Zaha Hadid.

01Reaching Zaha Hadid’s Guangzhou Opera House from its back.

02A ramp flanked by stone walls of the opera house expressed a sense of urban fluidity.

03The craftsmanship and the maintenance of the stone cladding were far from ideal.

04Similar to many other cities around the world, The Phantom of the Opera has become a popular musical with lots of sold out shows.

05Main hall of Guangzhou Opera House with Guangzhou IFC at the rear.

06The upper plaza of the Opera House has become a hotspot for photos.

07The Guangzhou Library by Nikken Sekkei was another interesting building in the area.

08Cool facade treatment expressed horizontality and layering.

09Rocco’s Guangzhou Museum presented a sense of mystery.

10The semi-outdoor stadium on an island in the Pearl River.

12Guangzhou Tower with colouful lighting effect.

13Guangzhou IFC and the axial plaza.

14Visitors enjoyed themselves on the floor feature lighting.

* * *

All posts on 2015 Kaping and Guangzhou

1) TWO EPOCHS OF EAST MEET WEST: Kaiping (開平) and Guangzhou (廣州), China
2) QILOU (騎樓) BUILDINGS OF CHIKAN (赤坎鎮), Kaiping, China
3) DIAOLOU (碉樓) OF ZILI (自力村) VILLAGE, Kaiping (開平), China
4) VILLAGE OF MAJIANLONG (馬降龍村), Kaiping, China
5) JINJIANGLI (錦江里村) VILLAGE, Kaiping, China
6) ZHUJIANG NEW TOWN (珠江新城) AT NIGHT, Guangzhou, China
7) SHAMEEN ISLAND (沙面島), Guangzhou (廣州), China
8) CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTURE, Guangzhou, China


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.

* * *

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


DAY 83 (2 OF 2) – MUSEUMS & CULTURAL CENTRE, SANTIAGO, CHILE

Other than the central market, we spent the entire day hopping around the city centre to visit various cultural institutions.  Our first destination was Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights).  Built as one of the Bicentennial projects in 2010, the museum is dedicated to “raise awareness of the human rights violations committed by the State of Chile between 1973 to 1990, to dignify the victims and their families, and to raise discussion and awareness on the importance of respect and tolerance, so that these events would never happen again.”  The visit to this museum provided us general knowledge on Chile’s modern history from the coup in 1973 to the fall of Pinochet in 1990.  We liked the interactive memorial wall at the central atrium where we could use an interactive device to select one of the hundreds of photographs of political victims on the wall to know more about each individual.
Next we went to the Bellas Artes area to see the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo and Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes.  At Contemporaneo, we were delighted to see a show of Georges Rousse’s work.  There was an interesting installation of his “spatial painting” of a white star at the central hall.  Adjacent to Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, we visited Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes to have a quick view of Chilean art in the last 200 years.
Before dinner, we dropped by Centro Gabriela Mistral (GAM), a newly built cultural centre in Barrio Lastarria.  We wandered around the complex to check out its outdoor plazas, exhibition spaces, bookstore, café, restaurant, wine shop, etc.
Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (4 photos below)ImageImageImageImage
Georges Rousse’s installation in Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (2 photos below)ImageImage
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (1 photo below)Image
Centro Gabriela Mistral (5 photos below)
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Read other posts on Santiago and Valparaiso in 2013 South America:

Day 83.1 – Mercado Central, Santiago
Day 83.2 – Museums & Cultural Centre, Santiago
Day 84.1 – Centro Cultural Palacio la Moneda, Santiago
Day 84.2 – Arrival, Cerro Artilleria, Valparaiso
Day 85.1 – Ascensores, Valparaiso
Day 85.2 – Paella Lunch, Valparaiso
Day 85.3 – Cerros Alegre and Concepcion, Valparaiso
Day 86.1 – Hill of Colours, Valparaiso
Day 86.2 – Trolleybuses, Valparaiso
Day 86.3 – Casa Museo la Sebastiana, Valparaiso
Day 86.4 – Seafood, Valparaiso
Day 87 – New Year’s Fireworks, Valparaiso

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


DAY 71 (4 OF 5) – ESTANCIA HARBERTON, TIERRA DEL FUEGO, ARGENTINA

Thomas Bridges, a missionary, pioneer, and founder of Estancia Harberton, is an important historical figure in Ushuaia.  He left England for Falkland Islands and later Ushuaia during his early teens.  After he arrived in Tierra del Fuego, he mastered the language of the Yamana People (the native nomadic people living in the area of Ushuaia) and later compiled the Yahgan-English dictionary.  His son Lucas Bridges also published an important book called Uttermost Part of the Earth, describing his own childhood experience in Ushuaia and studies of the bygone Yamana People.  The books by Thomas and Lucas Bridges are two of the most crucial publications about Ushuaia and its native people.  Today, Estancia Harberton is still run by the great grandson of Thomas Bridges, and has become a tourist establishment containing a museum, restaurant, guesthouse, farms and a boat dock.
The estancia (ranch) would be a peaceful place to soak up the history and atmosphere of Tierra del Fuego if we planned for a longer stay in Ushuaia.  After our visit to Martillo Island, we had about an hour to explore Estancia Harberton and its Museo Acatushun.  Although small, Museo Acatushun has a huge collection of specimens and skeletons of marine mammals and birds found in the region.  Its skeleton collections of whales and dolphins mainly come from stranded individuals found near Rio Grande, where the dramatic tidal difference can easily become a trap for ocean wildlife.  The tour by the museum staff was thorough, and we came out with a better understanding of marine mammals of the region.
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Read more on Ushuaia in 2013 South America
Day 69.1 – Magellan Straight
Day 69.2 – Arrival, Ushuaia
Day 69.3 – Fuegian Grill, Ushuaia
Day 70.1 – Museo Maritimo, Ushuaia
Day 70.2 – Chiko Restaurant, Ushuaia
Day 70.3 – Beagle Channel & Isla H
Day 70.4 – Kalma Resto, Ushuaia
Day 71.1 – Pier, Ushuaia
Day 71.2 – Fuegian Trees, near Estancia Harberton
Day 71.3 – Penguins, Martillo Island
Day 71.4 – Estancia Harberton
Day 71.5 – Kaupe Restaurant, Ushuaia
Day 72.1 – Post Office, Isla Redonda, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego
Day 72.2 – Senda Costera & Bahia Lapataia, Parque Nacional Tierra Del Fuego
Day 73 – Stranded in Ushuaia Airport

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