Sunday, April 11, 2010

April 10: Naoshima

April 10: Naoshima

Deserted copper-mill.
Along the Seto sea,
Chromatic butterfly.

Taitee totemo atsui desu ka?

Is it usually so hot?

All the pictures are from the Inujima Project, a combination architectural restructuring of an abandoned copper refinery and an art installation by Yukinori Yanagi

Today we started with the western breakfast: fruit plate (including canned pear), plain yogurt, cereal, one piece of toast and croissant each, coffee (good, strong),

Then we took the shuttle to town for a “chartered” ferry to an island where the Inujima Project has been built. Not sure what chartered meant, since the ferry had a schedule (people only, no cars). This was the first of three boat rides. On all three, we outnumbered the crew 2 to 1, as we were the only passengers.
So, now along with thinking of me as a blogger, baseball fanatic, art collector/chaser, you can include first mate. Or is it cabin boy?

The Inujima Project is fascinating: some guy took over a long-defunct copper mine and has converted it to a museum. The bricks (see pic) are the most unusual and interesting we’ve seen, and if we could figure out how to get them home would be using them at the beach for some construction, or just stacking. The current show includes long dark hallways with light at end of tunnel (done with mirrors), and a deconstruction of a 1930’s novelist’s house. Only two couples there in the morning (I think father/daughter, DB husband/wife), and there is a “docent” in each of the sections that explained what we were seeing, in decent English as well as Japanese. After we leave the exhibit, we tour the grounds of the old copper refinery.

We ate lunch in the museum cafĂ©, and it turned out to be one of our better meals: a “bowl” of rice (about one inch deep in circle about 8 inches across, topped with shredded egg (tamago, or it could have been small pickled yellow slices), and the top layer was a large selection of small pieces of fish and vegetables. Terrific! Olive soda (a local specialty), marinated kumquats, fish soup, a hot ginger lemon honey drink, and a chewy dense sponge cake (oxymoron) with lumps of cream cheese, served hot. Total $35. Another stop on this trip that was over the top.

We are waiting for our private ferry and some guy walks up to us and, in Japanese, we think offers to take us for a boat ride. We refuse politely. Then another boat with maybe 35 people on it shows up, at 1:13pm. DB asks people is this is going to our next step. Many quizzical looks. At 1:14 and 30 seconds, in sweeps a boat that holds about 16 people, it’s our private ferry. The second and third rides were private, same guy driving, to enable us to save time between morning and afternoon events. On this ride, when our private ferry driver saw that we had been waiting for a taxi for a few minutes (we are at a private dock too, it appears), he called the taxi service to tell them we were early and then went to a vending machine and bought us flavored bottles of water; we reciprocated later by sharing our almonds and cranberry mix. Neither of us spoke the other’s language.

Taxi arrives, an off we go to see Isuma Noguchi’s Japanese studio, He actually worked for the majority of his career in the US, and his studio in Long Island City, a short subway ride from Manhattan, is open for viewing. I recommend you head there, way easier to get to and a lot more informative!

Our fave ferry captain is there awaiting us and we have what seems a very short ride back to Naoshima. He’s taken the shortcut and left us off that the hotel dock instead of the public port area on other side of the island. Bless him!

Dinner in the “western” restaurant, which is in another part of the grounds. There are actually three parts to this hotel, and we are in the main (museum part). The lower part is made up of 5 or 6 buildings spread around a beach (this is where dinner is tonight, with a deck overlooking the water in front of us). The third part is above the museum, reached by taking a small cable car up an extremely steep incline, and is called the oval because of the way the rooms are in an oval around the crest of the hill, with a infinity pool in the middle of the oval. We’re glad we’re not up there, it is a schlep, a nervous schlep, up that grade.

Back to dinner. There are about 20 tables, of which all but two have Japanese diners. It must be exotic for them. We order and make our first mistake of the trip: we confuse homard and canard! Gotta love it, we are doing fine in Japanese and don’t know a bottom feeder from a frequent flyer in French (or second menu language). I order a small prix fixe meal (on our menu, rosay), with fish as main course. Get white asparagus as appetizer and something called “pie” for dessert. Turns out to be a form of dense round rhum baba like thing that tastes like pie crust. Not bad! So, western turned out to be French…again, food was very good, even the lobster.

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