Sunday, April 11, 2010

April 11: Naoshima

April 11: Naoshima

The winds that blows -
ask them, which leaf on the tree
will be next to go.

Osewa ni narimashita

Thank you for your hospitality

List of pics:
- Octopus balls
- Octopus balls advert (from Osaka train station)
- One of the art houses
- DB with DeMaria balls
- Kitsch on top of "bathhouse" art project
- Sculpture near Benesse Hotel
- THB not in tights with Pumpkin sculpture
- Two views of the Sugimoto installation piece

Today we are seeing all the art in and around the hotel and nearby town. The weather seems promising and we’re doing a lot of walking, so I wear shorts. Japan is very casual, even so there aren’t many Japanese wearing shorts in April (a smattering of women and even a few men are wearing shorts, always with tights; for the record – and there is a picture of me today – I am not wearing tights).

There’s a lot to do, so after our western breakfast (only addition: French Toast) we pack up and start by seeing the piece of sculpture that first caught DB’s eye: a pumpkin sitting out on a dock in the water in front of the lower hotel. From there we start touring all the outdoor pieces, which includes a giant set of balls by Walter DeMaria (see pic). From there we head to the Chichu museum, arriving just as it opens. This is where we saw the Turrell skyscape on night one, now we’re seeing the Monet, DeMaria and other Turrell exhibits, and appreciating the Ando designed museum (which means really liking concrete, which we do). The path from the front desk area (separate building) to the museum is intentionally planted as if from a Monet garden, DB figured it out!

The DeMaria is the closest we will ever come to being inside a shine to a pharaoh. It is a huge room with long set of steps leading up to the first platform where this another giant ball, then more steps up to a viewing area of the room. You have to quiet, the sound really echoes (this Ando, so a ton of concrete) and around the room are small shelves holding wooden forms painted in gold shellac. 3000 years from now they will be trying to figure out who the god-figure was that this room is honoring.

Then we shuttle into town to walk around. We get there and across the street from the ferry terminal is a woman in a small shop. From the street you can see she is cooking small yellow dough balls (slightly larger than golf balls) on a small ridged grill. Octopus, she says. We order up, and here come 12, layered with bbq sauce (US tasting bbq sauce), dried bonito and something out of a shaker that we can’t identify. Yeow momma, they are (temperature hot), mostly soft on the outside and a small chewy item inside (octopi). Oishe! (delicious, one of new Japanese words). Set of 12, $4.

After walking the town and deciding not to take a ritual bath to see the kitschy art inside, we head back to the shuttle stop to take in the art house installations. Ooops, the shuttle ain’t coming for over an hour, so we walk it, half hour. Hey, it’s getting close to lunch, so we find a noodle house, two bowls and 3 pieces of already cooked shrimp and fish roll. The soup is so hot, you put the items in and in no time they are ready to eat. $11 total.

Now we visit the six houses and one shrine that have been converted to art installations. All unique, and most very Japanese. We have to wait to get into the Turrell (he’s everywhere we want to go) / Ando collaboration (amazingly, the house is NOT made of concrete) and the docent speaks good English, so while we are waiting we start asking him all our unanswered questions (best: what are those posts with writing on them near the shrines; answer: list of donors, with the one that gave the most closest to the shrine!).

After the Turrell, on his advice we go back and visit the shrine installation, we’ve missed part of the piece. He’s there again, getting ready to relieve the guy on duty there (turns out he is the manager of the installation staff) and translates the donor list for us. We thank him for sending us back and all the help. He’s very articulate, so of course we ask where he learned his English. Well, he worked in Berkeley, working on his photography (and at Kala) and lived in the Watergate complex in Emeryville. Oh, and he is a big baseball fan. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP! Give him my business card (with its baseball diamond design) and tell him to give us a shoutout if he’s coming our way and even better if he can arrange it during baseball season so we can take in a game.

We then move on to finish seeing the installations, wrapping up around 3:20. We’re sitting waiting at the shuttle stop as it starts to rain (yes, I am wearing shorts and no tights). Up drives our E-ville guy, and gives us a ride back to the hotel, showing us several sites we hadn’t seen yet. Over the top…hopefully we can reciprocate at some point.

Dinner tonight is in Japanese restaurant at the hotel, and this time we order the mini-menu. And, the printed menu does not match the meal being served. And, there is a group of 22 Japanese businessmen (and one female, who is sitting at an end of one table by herself being totally ignored). The other 4 couples cannot hear themselves, let alone their dining partners. Three of the couples are westerners, one Japanese. This afternoon, we had seen and briefly talked to the couple sitting next to us at one of the art installations in town. When the big group left, we chatted for a bit about tips they had for us in Kyoto, where we go next. As always, we seem to be somewhat unique in the art pilgrimage we’re on, even when in an art saturate spot like Naoshima.

The sequence of the courses seemed very eclectic, and yet for most part followed the first night’s meal headings.

Dinner (very good) tonight:
Hors d’oeuvres: a mix that includes a small piece of roast beef, a first
Soup: basic broth with a very soft ball of something
Sashimi: Flatfish (excellent, as always)
Steamed dish: a piece of shrimp surrounded by didi root (closest equivalent would be mashed potatoes, almost indescribably by western standards and a challenge to eat unless you moved the bowl very close to your mouth, which I did)
Grilled dish: Harvest fish (true, waitress showed DB the name in her book; I think it is euphemism for farmed fish)
Simmered dish: Hot egg custard with chunks (many unknown chunks, fish eyes? Who knows…)
Rice with extremely mushy peas, I don’t eat the peas (are children still starving in China?)
Two types of sherbet with a lichi’d orange (it helped the orange! I don’t think it was a giant lichi with orange flavor)
And, two types of tea served, one in middle and one with the dessert
Two glasses of wine and one draft beer, total $150

(During this meal, we start to strategize about the lack of comprehension of the contents of what we are eating. We may have settled on DA, Don’t Ask. Suggestions most welcome, use the comments section).


  1. How cool that you met someone who actually knew E'ville well!
    And, for the record, I prefer reading about the food from your previous trips. It is true, Japan is not in mine and Eric's future.

  2. sushi surprise=DA. sounds better than cafeteria surprise.