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.
Precast concrete panels were used as the main cladding material for the museum.
We 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.
The Thinker at Tokyo National Museum of Western Art was made after the death of Auguste Rodin.
The 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.
A skylight consisted of multiple triangles provides an interesting design feature to the space, and also magnificent indirect lighting.
An architectural model provides a sectional view of the atrium and shows the exterior form of the skylight feature.
At one side of the atrium, a zigzag ramp led all visitors to the main exhibition on the upper level.
On the upper deck, we could get a clear view of the lobby atrium with its statues.
Again, 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.
The collection of the museum ranges from Renaissance to the modern ages.
The glazing feature brings in indirect sunlight, but it also creates a long bulkhead along one side of the exhibition hall.
Some of the paintings and statues were interesting, but our focus was always on the architecture itself.
At the museum courtyard, we could see the various facade cladding materials used at different periods of expansion.
At the forecourt, another zigzag ramp supposedly leads visitors to the lower courtyard. Now the entire area, including the exterior ramp, is closed off.
After 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.
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.
The 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.
There are two main levels in the Honkan. We walked up the grand staircase to the upper level to begin our visit.
Beautiful amours of samurai and shogunate were some of the most impressive artefacts in the museum.
The “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.
The Yaksha Generals (12 Heavenly Generals) is one of the most impressive display in the historical sculpture collection.
Architectural drawings by British architects from the 19th century reveal the popularity of Western culture in Japan during the Meiji Period.
Historical photograph of a Japanese samurai taken in 1862.
At Honkan, there is a room opens to the garden behind the museum. The room is decorated with exquisite mosaic and plastered motifs.
A traditional telephone matches well with the historical decor.
A garden of traditional pavilion and reflective pool provided some fresh air during our museum visit. Unfortunately the pavilion was inaccessible from the museum.
Apart from sculptures, paintings and photographs, historical textiles and garments also provided us a glimpse of the old Japan.
The 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.
After Honkan, we walked to the adjacent Toyokan Building. Toyokan houses a few levels of artifacts and artworks from Asia and the Middle East.
The Chinese and Korean exhibits reveal the close linkage between the cultures of the Far East.
The 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.
An hour-long morning flight brought us from the ancient Chinese capital Xian to the southern part of Minshan Mountains (岷山), a transitional area where the flat Sichuan Basin meets with the Tibetan Plateau. Geologically it is right on the vaultline between the Yangtze Plate and the Qinghai-Tibetan Plate, and is therefore prone to earthquakes. Ecologically it is the habitat for the endangered golden snub-nosed monkeys and giant pandas. For travelers, it is an famous destination for two of China’s scenic attractions: Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝) and Huanglong (黃龍). At 8:15am, we landed at the Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport, a highland airport (about 3400m above sea level) opened in 2003 to serve the constantly growing demand of tourism. We hopped on a minibus outside the airport for Jiuzhaigou. The bus ride took a little over an hour, traveling through villages, mountain passes, and valleys. Just as suspected, the minibus dropped everyone off at a village parking lot some 10 minutes of drive away from Pengfeng Village (彭豐村), where the main gate of Jiuzhaigou National Park and our guesthouse were located. A bunch of taxi drivers came over as if hawks saw their preys. Despite the rain, we pushed away the drivers and attempted to find our own way to Pengfeng. We walked into the adjacent village (don’t even know the name) and asked around. We eventually flagged down a car whose driver (a guesthouse owner) was willing to drive us to Pengfeng for a small fee. By the time we reached our guesthouse Friendship Hostel in Pengfeng, it was almost noon.
It didn’t took us long to refresh ourselves and began our afternoon adventure into Jiuzhaigou National Park. It was a 20 minute from our guesthouse to the park entrance. It was rainy and chilly and hardly visitors were entering the park this late in the day. We bought the admission ticket excluding the shuttle bus fare as we wanted to do some hiking in the area close to the park entrance, while leaving most of the park highlights for the next day. It was a slippery hike in a wet afternoon, but we had the trail pretty much all by ourselves. Our plan was to walk as far as we could and get a taste of the park. Along the Shuzheng River, in the remaining time of the day before the park closed, we covered the lower half of Shuzheng Valley (樹正溝). Despite the rain, we had some tranquil moments on the trail until reaching the area between Bonsai Shoals (盆景灘) and Sparking Lake (火花海), where apart from the magnificent turquoise lakes and scenic waterfalls, we also had our first experience of the horrific tourist crowds, which unfortunately, was also what Jiuzhaigou is well known for in recent years.
Winding through valleys and passes, the airport bus passed by a kitschy welcome sign of Jiuzhaigou in the middle of nowhere.
Snow was already present at mountain passes on our way to Jiuzhaigou.
At noon, we finally reached Friendship Hostel at Pengfeng Village. We chose to stay at Pengfeng because of its walkable distance from the park entrance. Despite simple, the guesthouse had a causal and welcoming atmosphere.
We reached the visitor centre and ticket office of Jiuzhaigou National Park at about 1pm. It was rainy and chilly and we were a little tired from the early morning flight, but our hearts were excited.
The trail along Shuzheng River was mostly consisted of boardwalk paths.
The hike was wet and sometimes slippery, but we felt like we were the only visitors for the first two hours.
Out of the nine Tibetan villages in Jiuzhaigou, seven are still populated. Closest to the park entrance, Heye Village (荷葉寨) is also one of the biggest. As we approached Heye, the rain began to recede.
Heye Village (荷葉寨) was the first village we encountered. Houses in Heye were still decorated in Tibetan style.
Village houses of Heye Villag (荷葉寨).
From Heye Village, we continued to walk along Shuzheng River until reaching an area with a number of small lakes, including Bonzai Shoals (盆景灘), Reeds Lake (蘆葦海), Double Dragon Lake (雙龍海), Sparkling Lake (火花海), and Sleeping Dragon Lake (臥龍海). Despite the gloomy weather, we had our first glimpses of Jiuzhaigou’s crystal clear turquoise water.
Water plants were clearly visible in the crystal water.
At Reeds Lake (蘆葦海), the reeds can grow as tall as human height.
Drying reeds on racks near Reeds Lake (蘆葦海).
Winding boardwalk along Reeds Lake (蘆葦海).
A Tibetan roadside shrine with colourful prayer flags.
Bird enthusiast taking photos of an eagle with a professional telephoto lens.
With water coming from two opposite ridges, one of the highlights of our day was Sparkling Lake Waterfalls (火花海瀑布).
Looking down the turquoise water of Sleeping Dragon Lake (臥龍海) from the zigzag boardwalk on the higher ridge.
Small waterfalls at both sides of the boardwalk from one lake down to another were virtually everywhere in the Sparkling Lake (火花海) area.
It was almost 7pm when we returned to Pengfeng Village. We opted for a recently established restaurant of Chongqing cuisine for dinner and retired to our guesthouse after a brief visit to a small grocery shop. As we hoped for a good rest in a rather cold night, all we could wish was some fine weather in the next morning.
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
Continuing on the accounts of our experiences at parks in Southern Ontario, this time we would write about the Bruce Peninsular National Park. At Bruce Peninsular that separates the Georgian Bay from Lake Huron, Bruce Peninsular National Park and Fathom Five National Marine Park are popular among hikers, adventurers, and tourists. From Tobermory at the tip of Bruce Peninsular, regular tour boats take visitors out to Flower Pot Island to appreciate its unique rock formations, and Cove Island for its romantic lighthouse. Adventure seekers also regard the Fathom Five National Marine Park, the area south of Cove Island, as a paradise for shipwreck scuba-diving. Back on the shore of mainland, Tobermory is a hub for all activities in the area. Regular ferry also departs from here to Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world. Near Tobermory, the Bruce Peninsular National Park offers a well maintained natural reserve for nature lovers and hikers who either begin or end the 700km Bruce Trail that connects Tobermory to Niagara.
450 millions years ago during the Silurian era, a shallow warm sea covered a vast area of Northeastern United States and the Province of Ontario in Canada within a depression in the Earth crust known as Michigan Basin. Known as the Niagara Escarpment, the northern edge of Michigan Basin is still visible today. The Niagara Escarpment runs like an arch from the western edge of Lake Michigan up along the southern edge of Manitoulin Island, and from the Bruce Peninsular all the way down to the New York State, cutting through Southern Ontario between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie where the Niagara River makes the famous 50m drop at Niagara Falls. For 700km from Niagara-on-the Lake to Tobermory, the Bruce Trail runs almost in alignment with the Niagara Escarpment. It is the longest and oldest marked hiking trail in Canada. Before hitting its terminus at Tobermory, the trail enters the Bruce Peninsula National Park where we visited twice in 2007 and 2011.
The first time we visited Tobermory, we spent a long time on the beaches at Burnt Point. We were fascinated by the crystal clear water in gradient tones of turquoise. The rocks at the beaches were light grey in colour, and were covered with small holes as if bombarded with rounds of shelling. These unique grey rocks eroded by wave actions and layers of flat stone platforms in the turquoise water were fossil evidences of the prehistoric past at the Bruce Peninsula, when the tropical sea of Michigan Basin was full of marine life and coral reefs. It was hard to imagine that the cool temperate Bruce Peninsular was once a tropical reef similar to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. During our second visit of the park we spent a little more time visiting its unique grotto and stone beaches, and walking its network of hiking trails where from time to time thousand-year old cedar trees and prehistoric reef fossils revealed the ever-changing natural landscape of our planet.
The Big Tub Lighthouse was declared a recognized heritage building since the early 1990s. A major restoration to the the Big Tub Lighthouse was made in 1987 after a fierce winter storm washed away its shingle sidings and part of the foundation.
At Burnt Point, the water was so clean that the flat rock platforms under water could be seen clearly from above. When the wind brew over the peaceful bay, the rippled image of the rocks produced a poetic Impressionist painting on the water surface.
Indian Head Cove Beach (background). Many visitors love to explore the Grotto near the beach. The Grotto (foreground) can be reached on foot from the beach but it requires some simple rock climbing skills.
The entrance to the Grotto (foreground) and Indian Head Cove Beach (background). Visitors have to climb down from the cliff top to reach the Grotto on foot. It isn’t an easy direct route but it still attract many visitors. Swimming from the Indian Head Cove Beach is another popular option to access the Grotto if the water is warm enough for a comfortable swim.
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Read other posts on Parks of Southern Ontario
1.1 Land of Water and Forest, Algonquin Park, Ontario ( 1 of 3)
1.2 A Tale of Rocks and Maples, Algonquin, Ontario ( 2 of 3)
1.3 When Moose Meets Beaver, Algonquin, Ontario, (3/3)
2. Ancient Reef and Escarpment, Bruce Peninsula, Ontario
3. Algonquin Legend and Mazinaw Pictographs, Bon Echo Provincial Park, Ontario