ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Osaka

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

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

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

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

DSC_1137Osaka Station, with its recently added canopy.

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

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

03Entrance pathway to the church.

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

05Interior of the Sunday School.

06Overall interior view of the Church of Light.

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

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

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

10Side view of the cruciform opening at the altar.

11Glazed wall meeting concrete wall at the church entrance.

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

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

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

* * *

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

Advertisements

DAY 3 – A DAY IN CENTRAL OSAKA, Osaka (大阪市), Japan

Day 3 was our only full day in Osaka (大阪).  Started from our hotel in Shinsaibashi (心斎橋), we explored the nearby neighborhoods on foot, including Dotonbori (道頓堀), Minamisenba (南船場), and Namba (難波). 1Daimaru is a well known Japanese department store.  The store in Shinsaibashi has been the landmark of the area since 1931. The building was designed by American architect William Merell Vories, with a mix of Art Deco and Neo-Gothic style. The food hall at the basement level is particularly a wonder to explore. 2Linking two of the city’s largest shopping districts, Umeda and Namba, is a 600m long covered shopping arcade, Shinsaibashi Suji.  In fact, covered arcades can be found in many cities and towns in Kansai.3Known for its eccentric nightlife and food scene, Dotonbori is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Osaka.  Restaurants, bars, multi-storey billboards and bustling tourist shops lined up along Dotonbori-gawa Canal.  The billboard of an athlete crossing the finishing line for Glico (a popular confectionery company) is one of the most iconic feature of Dotonbori.  4One can find many striking billboards along Dotonbori-gawa Canal, such as this gigantic Ferris wheel.  This Ferris wheel is an eye-catching landmark of a duty-free shop. 5Osaka is a heaven for street food lovers.  Takoyaki (grilled batter with diced octopus filling) is one of the most popular street food among all.  There are always a queue for the make-to-order takoyaki.6 There are many variation to the takoyaki recipes but the main ingredients are egg batter and diced octopus. 7North of Shinsaibashi lies the area of Minamisenba (南船場), a former hotspot for fabric wholesaling.  Since the decline of the fabric business in 1990s, many of the old office buildings and storage facilities had been converted into trendy shops, design studios and new offices.  At the heart of Minamisenba is Organic Building.  Designed by Italian architect Gaetano Pesce in 1993, Organic Building soon became the icon of the area.  It was an early envisioning of a vertical living wall.  The bright red facade is “cladded” with over 80 native plants to Japan.7b Perhaps, we were attracted by the simplicity of the storefront design. We walked into this little restaurant at a street corner in Minamisemb for a bowl of comforting beef udon. The interior decor is elegantly simple with a large wooden communal table and an open kitchen.7aIt is common to find high-carbohydrate set meal on a menu in Osaka such as a combination of udon/ramen and a bowl of rice. 8A beautiful wall painting in Minamisemba. 9One of the most successful renewal projects in Minamisemba is the conversion of the former Association of Agricultural and Forestry into the trendy hub of designers, artists and bookstores.  Many of the old architectural features from the 1930s remains.10At Minamisemba, we walked past a shrine complex called Namba Shrine.  Attracted by the full blossoms of cherry and plum trees, we decided to go in and check out the shrine.   11Plum (ume) blossoms at Namba Shrine.12The cherry blossoms at Namba Shrine was at its peak.13South of the busy Namba Railway Station lies a unique retail complex, the Namba Park.  Designed by American architect Jon Jerde and completed in 2009, the Namba Park shopping and office complex was built at the site of the former Osaka Stadium. The development consists of a 30-storey office tower and a 8-level shopping mall.  The shopping mall is designed as an urban oasis with extensive roof gardens in the midst of a bustling city.  14Much of the roof surfaces of the complex are designed as landscaping and dining terraces.  15The exterior scenic lifts with a glass roof take visitors to each shopping levels, topped with a Surrealist white blob.16The winding outdoor mall of Namba Park resembles a natural canyon with hanging terraces and layers of stones.

* * *

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


DAY 1 – HANAMI, Mount Yoshino (吉野山) 1 of 2, Japan

After some light sleep on a 4-hour red-eye flight, we landed at Kansai International Airport at 6:30am on a Saturday morning.  Our vacation officially kicked off.  As we stepped out of the plane, we took a deep breath of the cool and refreshing air which reminded us of a familiar smell of the North American spring.  At the airport, it took us over an hour dealing with all the business related to train passes (Haruka & ICOCA, JR West Wide Area Pass, and Hanshin Tourist Pass).  At last, we hopped onto a Haruka Express and headed towards Tennoji Station in Osaka. A promising weather forecast for the afternoon prompted us to make up our mind on our first destination of the trip – a leisure stroll among the famous Mount Yoshino’s (吉野山) cherry blossoms.  After dropping off our luggage at our hotel, we walked over to Abenobashi Station hoping to purchase tickets for a limited express train to Yoshino.  Unfortunately, the staff of Kintetsu, the private corporation that runs exclusive train services to Yoshino, told us that all the morning limited express train tickets for the entire weekend had been sold out.  Not a surprise to us as hanami (flower viewing) is very popular among the locals.  We had no choice but to take the slower express train departing in 20 minutes.  We rushed into a convenient store in the station and grabbed several onigiri (seaweed wrapped rice balls with a variety of salty fillings) and a can of hot coffee. The train ride took about 1 hour and 45 minutes.  We arrived at Yoshino Station at around 12:30pm.  The station and its forecourt were packed with visitors and food vendors.  Two options laid in front of us, either queuing for the short cable car ride or stepping on the paved path that meandered all the way from Shimo Senbon section (Lower Thousand Trees) at the base, to Naka Senbon (Mid Thousand Trees), and up to Kami Senbon (Upper Thousand Trees) and Oku Senbon (Top Thousand Trees) near the top.  We chose to walk.  Along the way, cherry blossoms were everywhere, both along the footpath or upon mountain slopes across the valley.  Despite the peak of blossoms were already over by about a week at Shimo Senbon and Naka Senbon, thanks to the cooler micro-climate, the upper sections of Kami Senbon and Oku Senbon were still at their peak.  Souvenir shops, food vendors, restaurants, and ryokan, along with religious shrines and Buddhist temples lined up the uphill route.  This unique combination of cherry blossoms, historical temples, and handmade local delicacies made Mount Yoshino a worthy destination inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List. 1Loads of visitors arrived at Yoshino Station from cities all over Kansai. 2Mount Yoshino has the country’s oldest surviving aerial lift. 3After a night of rain, much of the remaining cherry blossoms at Shimo Senbon (Lower Thousand Trees) had fallen. 4.1Some cherry blossoms still managed to cling onto the branches at Shimo Senbon (Lower Thousand Trees). 4The gateway signified the entrance into Shimo Senbon’s main street, where vendors lined up along the way uphill. 5Kinpusenji Temple contains Japan’s second largest timber structure.  We were fortunate to enter the main hall and have a glimpse of the three gigantic Zao gongen statues. 7.5Clear sky finally arrived at about 3pm. 7As we approached Kami Senbon (Upper Thousand Trees), more lookouts allowed visitors to enjoy the panoramic views of cherry blossoms across the valley. 8The beauty of Mount Yoshino came from the multi-layering of blossom colours. 11Local Japanese, be it a group of family members, a couple or a solo visitor, usually take their time sitting under the cherry blossom to eat, drink and chat. 12A photographer set up a platform next to a tea pavilion offering free photo shooting for visitors at the top of the Hami Sendon section. When posing, most of the locals invariably made a “V” sign with their fingers. The owner of a tea house set up an outdoor patio in an open area where visitors could dine under tree canopies. This also turned out to be a perfect lookout for an unobstructed view towards the valley.  All visitors were required to take off their shoes before stepping onto the patio’s bamboo mat. There were many small wooden pavilions designed as resting areas on Mount Yoshino. They were thoughtfully designed with low walls and large openings that serve like picture frames, capturing the beauty of mountainous landscape. There were many street vendors selling beverage and snack but this one was the most special among all. The vendor had his little stall set up at an lookout point. The vendor furnished the open area with bright red chairs, floor mats and paper umbrella. We bought a sakura flavored ice-cream and sat down to rest a bit. 16Sun break.  Finally, near sunset.

* * *

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