Sunday, 29 October 2017

The Japanese Food Adventure Chapter 3 - Day 11. The magical Naoshima

We were on the move once again, it was time to leave Takamatsu and catch a ferry to Naoshima. The car ferry for foot passengers cost ¥520 (£3,50) and took just 50 minutes. The dots on the side of the ferry were a reminder of one of the reasons why we were visiting Naoshima, to see the incredible work of Yayoi Kusama.

The top deck was spacious but breezy, definitely the best spot for the ultimate view.

Downstairs looked really comfortable but the best view was our priority so we went back upstairs again.

Plum chewing gum, it tastes great for about 3 minutes.

My breakfast this morning was a pre-packaged hot dog from 7 Eleven costing ¥140 (94p). Mildly enjoyable but I had my mind set on having more breakfast when we arrived at Naoshima.

Goodbye Takamatsu!

Hello Naoshima! Until 20 or so years ago, Naoshima was a sleepy island where locals made a living from fishing and harvesting. Today the island functions like one giant art installation, a paradise of untouched beaches, surrounded by an abundance of art and architecture. This is the vision of Tetsuhiko Fukutake and Chikatsugu Miyak, who dreamt of developing the island into a cultural hub.

With a check in time of 4pm at our guest house we didn't want to spend all day wheeling our cases around. These lockers cost just ¥500 (£3.35) for 24 hours, we crammed our luggage into one and went on our way to explore the island.

Our starting point was Miyanoura Port. With a map from tourist information we worked out a route we could take exploring the South of the island. Later in the afternoon we would return to collect our luggage from the locker. 

Just beside Miyanoura Port is Yayoi Kusama's red dotted pumpkin. Yayoi Kusama, one of the most acclaimed Japanese artists, is a precursor of Pop Art and she influenced Andy Warhol as well as Claes Oldenburg. The more famous yellow pumpkin is on the other side of the island near Benesse Hotel, we would search for it later today. The red one is much bigger though and it's possible to step inside it through the large hole on the side.

Most of the cafes were closed but this place was open so it was time for breakfast again.

The breakfast was quite expensive compared to places on the mainland, I paid ¥1040 (£7) for a coffee and a slice of toast topped with egg, sweetcorn and cheese. The presentation was superb though, loved the way the pocket on the place mat had the napkin and fork sticking out!

This building was created by artist Shinro Ohtake, it's the public bath which
was created to provide both a place for Naoshima residents to rejuvenate and as a venue for exchanges between Japanese, international visitors and locals to take place. 

We didn't go inside but we spent a long time admiring the building. Apparently the exterior and fittings of the bathhouse, from the bath itself to the pictures decorating the walls, the mosaics, and even the toilet fittings, all reflect the universe of Shinro Ohtake.

We may have now been on a small island but there were still plenty of vending machines scattered about the place.

Many of the small shops and bars were closed but I'm guessing later in the day this place got much busier.

We kept spotting these all over the island, frogs cut out of buoys.

Armed with an Ambasa white water we left Miyanoura Port and headed towards the South of the island where many of the large art galleries could be found.

Sou Fujimoto's immersive seven meter polyhedron, named the ‘Naoshima Pavilion’ it's constructed using a white stainless steel mesh and allows visitors to enter inside its angular frame.

Not far from the Pavilion was this beach complete with children's play park.

We didn't have time to play around here though so we kept heading South.

We passed more beaches but nobody seemed to be using them.

These Lantana caught our eye, just incredible!

The first art gallery we came across was Chichu Art Museum. It cost ¥2060 (£13.75) to enter and featured artwork by Claude Monet, James Turrell, and Walter De Maria. 

Sadly I didn't have a drone handy to show you how the Chuchu looked from above so this photo of the museum guide will have to do to. It's built mostly underground to avoid affecting the surrounding scenery. The museum lets in an abundance of natural light that changes the appearance of the artworks and the ambience of the space itself with the passage of time, throughout the day and all along the four seasons of the year.

There's a strict no photo policy inside but I did manage to get a sneaky shot of the walkways which connect the various exhibits. As a huge fan of concrete I felt the admission fee was worth it for the museum structure alone. Rest assured though that every exhibit inside will take your breath away making Chichu Art Museum a place you must visit if you're visiting Naoshima. No pictures were allowed inside but I can tell you that we were blown away by the experience, attacking all of the senses from amazing light installations by James Turrell to seeing Monet's Water Lillies in the flesh. I hadn't expected the art museums to make such a big impression and only hope that when we revisit Japan we can visit more of the art on the surrounding islands.

It's possible to get a bus around the island adorning Yayoi Kusama's work but my wife and I far prefer seeing places on foot. The sun was beating down as we made our way to the next Museum further down the road.

The Lee Ufan Museum featured paintings and sculptures by Lee from the 70's to the present time. We didn't go inside but I did admire the concrete structure of the museum which is partially underground.

Benesse House Museum is part of the Benesse Art site which also includes a hotel, shop and it's own beach area. Entry into the museum costs ¥1030 (£6.90) where you can enjoy contemporary art displayed in surroundings which use the natural light to great effect. There was also a strict no photograph policy here but I took this sneaky one to show you the stunning views from the museum.

In the museum there's a painting of a boat on a beach by Jennifer Bartlett. Turn your head and look outside towards the beach and you'll see a boat on the beach in the distance. This is a good example of how the museum weaves together the indoors and outdoors.

La Banc is one of five sculptures on display by French artist Niki de Saint Phalle.

Camel "1991"

Yayoi Kusama's yellow pumpkin has become the icon of Naoshima. Having seen it in photos so many times before arriving it really was quite something seeing it with my own eyes. It's showcased on a pier and uses the surrounding islands as a backdrop. 

We'd walked the route beside the coast to reach Benesse House so on our return to Miyanoura Port we decided to take the high road through the hills. Most other visitors had hired electric bikes to get around the island but walking did ensure we took in more of the detail around us.

Can you spot the yellow pumpkin in the distance?

I have no idea what it says, such a beautiful sign though!

Back in Miyanoura Port we stopped off at 7 Eleven before collecting our cases from the locker.

It was beer o'clock and with the red pumpkin as your backdrop a good reason to raise a can of Sapporo.

A pair of rice triangles and some battered chicken costing just ¥260 (£1.75) 

Just look at the colour of that yolk! The most flavoursome and creamy eggs I've ever tasted are in Japan, you can buy them ready cooked in 7 Eleven for around ¥140 (95p) a pair.

My wife was loving mochi balls, made with pounded sticky rice they contained a delicious sugary bean paste inside.

We caught a bus from Miyanoura Port to Honmura Port where our home would be for the next two nights at Gallery Inn Kuraya.

A double room here including breakfast cost ¥10000 (£67) per night. The room was very spacious and looked out onto a courtyard. The lady running the guesthouse (Kuraya) was incredibly friendly and welcoming, we felt at home straight away here.

Honmura Port was so peaceful and relaxing, an occasional boat would trundle past but other than that everything was so still.

Cafe Konichiwa was one of a few places to eat and drink in Honmura Port.

SANAA's pop-up terminal welcomes ferry passengers to Honmura Port, inside there's a waiting room and cycle park.

Last year in Tokyo we noticed a mock up display of an old tobacconist in Nakano Broadway. On Naoshima we spotted the real deal, there were a few tobacconists on the island and all with original signage.

The peaceful surroundings of Honmura Port seemed the ideal place to enjoy a beer.

The sun was setting and a heron was hovering above us. The sound of the water slapping on the port and cicadas in the trees was all we could hear. This moment right now was the most incredible moment of the entire trip, we felt like we were in paradise.

Such a magical moment called for another drink and grape Strong Zero came to the rescue.

We were getting hungry so went looking for somewhere to eat in the Honmura Port area. This place looked promising and opened at 6pm, it was only 5.45pm though so we went to see what other restaurants there were around here.

The port area was eerily quiet though and everything else appeared to be closed.

There were lots of temples to explore but we decided to return for a proper look in the morning as it was starting to get quite dark.

At 6pm we returned to the first restaurant we'd seen.

Being the only restaurant we could find we were relieved to discover they had a spare table as all the others were already taken. Having removed our shoes we sat on the floor at a large low down table.

It wasn't looking very promising for my wife to start with as fish was today's dish. The person taking our order was however able to offer tofu instead for my wife.

We started with a plum wine which was served with a huge ice cube. 

The set menu cost ¥1300 (£8.70) and looked incredible when it arrived at the table.

I didn't quite get what this was all about to start with.

It was a great miso soup!

I was initially quite surprised to find this at the bottom of the soup though, a turtles foot was my first thought!

The chef seemed shocked that I'd left them and explained to me that they were barnacles. He recommended I tried them so I did, the sweet flesh inside tasted a bit like lobster, they were delicious!

I ordered the roasted fish, I was unsure what type of fish it was but one things for sure, it tasted sublime. The restaurant serve fish that are caught the same day so it's really fresh and the food is cooked by the same guy that caught them.  

Some pickles

I recall these beans tasting really sweet.

A beautifully presented selection of mushrooms, broccoli, sweet potato and tofu. I had no idea what the colourful item below the mushrooms was though, anyone know?

Finally a bowl of rice to accompany this magnificent meal.

Back at the guesthouse I finished the night with some edamame snacks and a lemon strong zero.

Click here for Day 12
Island life on Naoshima

1 comment:

  1. I'm a long way behind the times in only just reading Japan 3, so you probably can't even remember what it tasted like, but my wife (who knows far more about fruit and veg than I ever will) and myself both came up with the same idea - something with those colours suggests a melon, and you can get multi-coloured melons. We think somebody just got artistic with a knife and a multi-coloured melon.