Emmanuelle Moureaux’s ‘Slices of Time’ exhibition at Now Gallery

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

 

I have been a fan of Tokyo-based French architect Emmanuelle Moureaux and her colour-driven architecture for some time. Since 1996, she has been living in Tokyo where she established Emmanuelle Moureaux architecture + design in 2003. I have never actually seen Moureaux‘s architecture and installations in real life, so I was really looking forward to seeing her first art/design exhibition “Slices of time” in London.

Moureaux invented the concept of shikiri, which literally means ‘dividing (creating) space with colours’. She uses colours as three-dimensional elements, like layers, in order to create spaces, and her work ranges from art, design to architecture.

 

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

 

Inspired by the location of the gallery, near the Greenwich Meridian, “Slices of Time expresses the past, the now and the future through 168,000 numbers cut out from paper. The cut-outs are hung in the gallery space, as a representation of the round earth floating. 100 layers of numbers in 100 shades of colours visualise the next 100 years to come (2020 to 2119), while 20 layers of numbers in white represent the past 20 years (2000 to 2019).

On the preview night, I headed to NOW Gallery on the Greenwich Peninsula, and a long queue had already formed outside of the gallery. At the door, we were assigned a timeslot and when it was our turn, we had to queue (again) outside of the exhibition area. We were allowed to walk around the installations for a short period before being hurried out to let the next group in.

 

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

 

It was wonderful to see the striking installations from above and up close. I am also glad that the architect has chosen paper as her medium – the installation truly reveals the beauty and power of paper. I only wish that I was given more time to linger, but since I was going to be away for several months, this was the only opportunity for me to see the exhibition before leaving. And for those who don’t live in London, there are currently two other exhibitions being held in Taipei (“Forest of Numbers” ) and New York (“100 colors”) where visitors can be stimulated by vast array of colours.

 

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux  Slices of Time Emmanuelle Moureaux

 

 

London Craft Week 19: Contemporary Japanese craft

BUAISOU indigo hands

Indigo Hands installation at Coal Drops Yard

 

At the London Craft week this year, many Japanese craftsmen and artisans were invited to take part and showcase their exquisite craftsmanship. Although Japanese craft is highly regarded worldwide, the future of many traditional Japanese crafts is still uncertain due to the lack of younger people entering these fields. In the past, traditional craftsmanship is passed down from generation to generation within artisan families. However, due to dwindling demand, urbanisation, change of lifestyle and taste in Japan, few young people would want to dedicate their lives learning and perfecting an ‘old-fashioned’ craft. In order to preserve these crafts, artisans have to constantly evolve, collaborate, and innovate.

In recent years, the revival of natural and indigo dyeing proves that there is no such thing as an ‘old fashioned’ craft. After computer and mobile technology took over our lives for the past two decades, many people are now finding comfort and joy in making tactile craft again. 

 

BUAISOU indigo hands  BUAISOU indigo hands

 

Eastablished in 2015, BUAISOU is a young team of Japanese indigo farmers and artisans responsible for the revival of sukumo – dried and fermented indigo leaves – in Tokushima, the hometown of Ai Zome (natural indigo dye). Tokushima was the top producer of Ai Zome garments in Japan in the 19th century with around 4,000 aishi (sukumo farmers), but due to the introduction of synthetic indigo and other various factors, now only six are left.

At LCW, Coal Drops Yard commissioned BUAISOU to produce a series of handmade and hand dyed flags, and the team conducted several onsite dyeing workshops in KIOSK N1C. Unfortunately, I missed the workshops, but I do hope to visit their studio in Tokushima in the future.

At Heal’s, the Japanese Craft Market showcased ceramics, Mino washi, blades, and wood craft produced by thirteen exhibitors from the Gifu prefecture. I visited Mino and Takayama in the Gifu prefecture last year, so seeing the crafts brough back memories for me.

 

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Heals Japanese craft market Gifu

 

There are several towns in the Gifu prefecture that are famous for ceramics, including Mino, Toki, and Tajimi. In Tajima, there is Ceramics Park Mino, a ceramic museum and park that showcases Japanese ceramics. The town also holds an annual ceramic festival during the second weekend of April which attracts thousands of visitors to this area. The region has a lot of small and large scale producers making tiles and ceramic wares including household items, crockery, sculptures etc. as well as huge furnaces and other equipments for industrial purposes.

 

Heals Japanese craft market Gifu

Heals Japanese craft market Gifu

Heals Japanese craft market   Heals Japanese craft market Gifu

Heals Japanese craft market Gifu

 

The ancient town of Mino is famous for Washi (Japanese paper), which is used for shoji doors, umbrella, fans, lanterns and stationery. The high quality and durable handmade paper uses pristine water from the Nagara river and is considered as natioanl treasure in Japan. You can learn more from my previous entry on Mino here.

 

Heals Japanese craft market Gifu

Heals Japanese craft market Gifu

Heals Japanese craft market Gifu

 

As soon as I arrived at Hida Takayama in the Gifu Prefecture, a glass showcase of wood crafted furniture at the railway station caught my eye. The wood-abundant Hida has maintained a woodworking tradition for over 1,300 years. This region is famous for its skilled woodworkers and beautiful handcrafted furniture, and its minimalist aesthetic is similar to Scandinavian design.

I think the exhibition was a good introduction to those who are unfamiliar with Japan’s regional craft and design. I hope the Toyama prefecture will be next on the list.

 

Heals Japanese craft market Gifu

Heals Japanese craft market Gifu

Heals Japanese craft market Gifu

Heals Japanese craft market Gifu  Heals Japanese craft market Gifu

 

At the Spanish luxury fashion house Loewe in Mayfair, California-based mother and daughter team Shizu Designs demonstrated traditional Japanese basketry weaving techniques that transform rocks into art. Rattan or cane is used to wrap and tie the rocks with ornamental knots used in Japanese ikebana basketry. Shizu Okino and Karen Okino also contributed to the LOEWE Baskets accessories collection which features their signature style.

It was mesmerising to watch the two artisans working side by side. Basketry is another traditional craft that is being revived today, and I believe these collaborations are likely to make people appreciate traditional craftsmanship and see it in a different light.

 

shizu design

shizu design

shizu design

shizu design

shizu design

shizu design

shizu design  loewe

shizu design

 

To be continued…

 

Noguchi for Danh Vo: Counterpoint at M+ Pavilion, Hong Kong

m+ pavilion   Isamu Noguchi

 Isamu Noguchi

 

I have always been fascinated by Japanese American modernist artist, designer and landscape architect Isamu Noguchi‘s work, yet I have never visited his museum in New York even though I used to live there. I have seen his work at MOMA and at other art institutions in America, but oddly enough, I have rarely seen his work being shown outside of America. Hence, I was quite excited about his exhibition in Hong Kong before my visit.

The ‘Noguchi for Danh Vo: Counterpoint‘ at M+ Pavilion exhibition is based on an ongoing conversation between two artists who never met: Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) and the contemporary Vietnamese Danish artist Danh Vo (born 1975). Vo, who has in recent years explored and researched Noguchi’s life and art, and has included Noguchi’s work in his installations with increasing frequency. This exhibition shed light on each artist’s protean body of work.

 

 Isamu Noguchi This Tortured Earth  Isamu Noguchi

 Isamu Noguchi

 Isamu Noguchi    Isamu Noguchi Ghost

 Isamu Noguchi bamboo Basket Chair

 

Occupying the main exhibition space were Noguchi‘s sculptures, furniture, lighting and worksheets. Noguchi‘s biomorphic sculptures remind me very much of another artist from the same period: Barbara Hepworth. Yet he was also a brilliant designer and landscape architect; his iconic coffee table designed in 1944 is still in production (now by Herman Miller/Vitra) after more than seven decades. Another classic design series are his Akari Light Sculptures, inspired by his trip to Gifu in Japan where it is famous for its manufacture of paper parasols and lanterns. Over the years, he created a total of more than 100 models, consisting of table, floor and ceiling lamps ranging in size from 24 to 290 cm.

In the middle of the room, there was a Chinese-style pavilion Untitled (Structure for Akari PL2) designed by Vo to hang Noguchi‘s paper lamp sculptures, and for visitors to rest. It blended extremely well with Noguchi‘s works.

 

 Isamu Noguchi    Isamu Noguchi

 Isamu Noguchi

 Isamu Noguchi    Isamu Noguchi

 Isamu Noguchi Leda

 Isamu Noguchi    Isamu Noguchi

 Isamu Noguchi

 

Outside of the building were a few cargo containers where Vo‘s works were exhibited. Like Noguchi, Vo‘s life was shaped and influenced by Eastern and Western cultures. Due to his refugee background, Vo often addresses the issues of history, identity and belonging in his work. His conceptual works often weave archival fragments together and personal references. He also doesn’t believe in providing explanatory material, hence, it’s up to the visitors to interpret his work. Last year, Vo held a sold exhibition at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, so he is undoubtedly one of the most prominent Asian artists working today.

 

Danh Vo  Danh Vo

Danh Vo  Danh Vo

Danh Vo’s conceptual art work

 

 

Manhole cover designs in Japan

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Sakura motifs are often featured in Japanese manhole cover designs

 

If you have visited Japan before, you have probably seen the wonderul manhole covers on the pavements all over Japan – it would be hard to miss them! The popularity of these manhole covers has been growing rapidly both locally and overseas, and often the ‘manholers’ would seek, photograph these covers and share them online to websites like Japanese Society of Manhole Covers (日本マンホール蓋学会), and the Manhole lid museum. Meanwhile, Osaka-based photographer S. Morita has been photographing manhole covers around Japan for several years, and there are close to 2000 designs on the site. However, if seeing the photos doesn’t satisfy you, then you could attend the Japanese Manhole Cover Festival or summit in Tokyo where a variety of manhole cover designs are exhibited, along side with souvenir to bring home.

 

Only in Japan: A factory tour of the Nagashima Imono Casting Factory

 

The history of the manhole covers in Japan is mentioned in the book, Drainspotting: Japanese manhole covers by Remo Camerota. In the 1980s, the modernisation of the sewer system in rural Japan was unwelcomed by the local residents, but a civil servant Yasutake Kameda solved that problem by introducing customised manhole covers in every municipality. By enabling each city/town/village to design their own unqiue covers to showcase their specialities or identites turned out to be a huge success, hence it has become a cultural phenomenon over time. Although each cover is designed specifically for the location, it would generally feature elements such as the town emblem, famous landmark, special event, war battle, official bird, local flowers or local mascots etc. The ones with firefighters indicate that there is fire hydrant underneath it.

Although I am not a manhole cover otaku, I have been photographing these manhole covers whenever I came across them over the years during my trips to Japan, and will continue to do so in the future.

 

Floral theme

manhole cover  manhole cover

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manhole cover  manhole cover tokyo

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Local symbols/ specialties

manhole cover nara  manhole cover nara

Deer and nature in Nara

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Nagoya’s Amenbo (or water strider) is the symbol for Nagoya City Waterworks and Sewerage Office as this insect only lives in clean water

manhole cover

Grapes in Furano, Hokkaido

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Washi paper making in Fukui

 

Local lanndmarks

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Osaka castle

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Shiragawa-go

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Nature

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Firefighters

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Toko firefighters

 

 

Save

Save

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Japonismes 2018: ‘Tadao Ando: The Challenge’ exhibition at Centre Pompidou

tadao ando exhibition

 

In my opinion, French people have always been fascinated by Asian culture and art, much more so than the English. Japonisme and Chinoiserie were extremely popular in Europe during the 18th and 19th centures; and thanks to globalisation, Japonisme is making a comeback. Officially.

To celebrate the 160 years of friendship between Japan and France, the Japonismes 2018 festival was launched to bring Japanese art and culture to Paris from July 2018 to February 2019. One of the major events is a major retrospective of world-renowned Japanese architect Tadao Ando at Centre Pompidou.

 

tadao ando exhibition

36 black and white photographs taken by Ando, 1984

 

Tadao Ando: The Challenge‘ focuses on four main themes – the simplicity of space, the urban challenge, project genesis and dialogue with the past. The exhibition covers Ando‘s fifty major projects over five decades via 180 drawings, 70 original plans and numerous slideshows. As soon as I walked in, I was captivated by the striking black and white photographs taken by Ando of his own architecture. The use of smooth concrete, natural light and simple geometry is highlighted in these photos, and there is no need for captions or descriptions.

 

tadao ando exhibition  tadao ando exhibition

Model of the Row House in Sumiyoshi – Azuma House, Osaka, Japan

tadao ando exhibition

tadao ando exhibition

 

The exhibition reminded me of an incident at Toto Gallery Ma in Tokyo ten years ago when my friend and I went there to see Ando’s exhibition. We had no idea that the architect was giving a talk on the day, and was surprised to see him there. However, we were stuck inside for ages due to the crowd – it was quite chaotic by Japanese standard! I didn’t see the architect this time, but at least I got to see the exhibition without leaps of people around me.

 

tadao ando exhibition

tadao ando exhibition

tadao ando exhibition  tadao ando exhibition

 

Besides his famous works like the Church of Light and Azuma House, there are also models and drawings of his unbuilt work, including his rejected plan for Tate Modern, and Nakanoshima Project II, featuring an egg-shaped shell within Osaka City Hall – which I think is quite ground-breaking.

There is also a model of Ando‘s new project in Paris: Bourse de CommercePinault Collection. With an estimated budget of $170 million, Ando was commissioned by François Pinault, the founder of the luxury group Kering and the investment company Artémis, to renovate the 19th-century former stock exchange and transformed it into a contemporary art venue. Even though there is no shortage of art venues in Paris, it is still exciting to see Ando‘s new work in Paris – can’t wait to see it.

 

tadao ando exhibition

tadao ando exhibition

tadao ando exhibition

tadao ando exhibition  tadao ando exhibition

tadao ando exhibition

tadao ando exhibition

pompidou centre

 

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s masterpiece: The Enoura Observatory in Odawara

Japanese rail

Japanese rail

Japanese rail

The cute Nebukawa Station first opened in 1922 but was swept away (along with a train full of passengers) by a landslide a year later. Hundred of people were killed during this disaster, and there is a memorial at the station that commemorates this tragic incident

 

After I left Atami, I took the train to the nearby Nebukawa Station as I had booked a tour to visit The Enoura Observatory, created by contemporary artist and the founder of Odawara Art Foundation, Hiroshi Sugimoto (who was also responsible for the renovations of the MOA in Atami). All visitors have to book the tour online, which includes a free return mini bus rides between the observatory and the train station.

Since it opened in the autumn of 2017, the observatory has been receiving international coverage and praises for its merge of nature, art, history and architecture, and it was highly recommended to me by a Japanese friend.

 

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

 

Like both places I visited earlier in the day, this site occupies a hilltop position that overlooks the Sagami bay. The site comprises a reception area, a gallery space, two outdoor stages, a revived Tensho-an tea ceremony room, a restored Muromachi Period (c. 1338-1573) Meigetsu Gate, and rock gardens featuring various rocks and stones collected from all over Japan by Sugimoto .

At the long gallery space, visitors can view Sugimoto’s photography work titled seascape. The artist has had a long fascination with the sea, and he explained: “my earliest childhood memory is of the sea seen from the window of the Shonan train, running on the old Tokaido line from Atami to Odawara.” And this memory was the inspiration behind the project.

 

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory  Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

 

Drawing ideas from ancient cultures and their relationships with nature, the 100-metre gallery is also a viewing platform where sun ray would reach the gallery space on the morning of the summer solstice.

On the morning of the winter solstice, the optical glass stage would glow as it catches the light on its cut edges. Its auditorium is a full-size recreation of a ruined Roman amphitheater in Ferento in the Lazio region of Italy, with the glass stage designed to look like it is floating on the surface of the sea.

 

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory  Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory  Enoura Observatory

 

The winter solstice also sends light through the 70-metre light-worship metal tunnel to illuminate a large stone at the other end. An aperture has been built into the tunnel to admit light, with a well beneath it. The chisel marks on it suggest that it dates from medieval times. The bottom of the well is covered with pieces of optical glass, where the individual raindrops can be seen as they fall into the well when it rains.

 

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory  Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

 

As you walk around the maze-like site, it is hard not be to awe of what you see or encounter. It gives you a sense of anticipation and appreciation for nature and beauty. Every element here is precisely positioned to lead you somewhere and to make you look. In a way, it is like being ‘manipulated’ to see the nature around you through architecture and landscape design, which is quite ambitious and bold.

 

Enoura Observatory  Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory  Enoura Observatory

Enoura Observatory

 

After spending some time here, it felt quite peaceful and contemplative. I think the project has succeeded in merging nature, architecture and design together harmoniously. It would be wonderful to revisit the site on the days of summer/winter solstice for a more enchanting experience.

 

The art of shibori at Bunzaburo in Kyoto

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Katayama Bunzaburo Shoten’s flagship store in Kyoto

 

When I was going through my pile of leaflets/ business cards that I picked up from my previous trips to Kyoto, one particular leaflet caught my attention. It was from Bunzaburo, a tie-dyed/ shibori (the term means “to squeeze or wring”)  company in Kyoto. Oddly enough, I couldn’t recollect much from my previous visit, so I decided to pay another visit to its shop while I was in Kyoto.

Opened in Kyoto in 1915 by Bunzaburo Katayama, Katayama Bunzaburo Shoten specialised in the manufacturing of high-end kimono silk fabric with shibori tie-dye decorations, especially Kyo Kanoko Shibori (tiny dotted pattern that resembles a young deer’s back). Although Shibori is often associated with Arimatsu in Nagoya (which I will write about in the forthcoming entry), the Kyo Kanoko Shibori technique was created in Kyoto and has been handed down without cessation for over 1,000 years by a number of craftsmen.

 

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Unfortunately, like many of the traditional arts and crafts in Japan, the kimono industry is under threat in this and age, and many producers have to either adapt or face closure. At Bunzaburo, “Tradition exists in innovations” is the motto of their third generation president, Kazuo Katayama. For over 100 years, they have continued to innovate and merge traditional techniques with new designs; one of their design concept is “Wearable Art” – using bold designs to create a fusion of fashion and art. And in 1991, they won the Best Design Award in the Made in Kyoto Award (appointed by Kyoto Prefecture) for their creation, Aimu – a glass plate which allows a thin piece of Japanese indigo-dyed hemp fabric to be sandwiched in the middle.

When you step into their shop housed inside a traditional Japanese house through the shibori noren, you would be surrounded by beautiful and elegant shibori lighting and accessories. I literally felt a sense of exhilaration as soon I walked in.

 

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Having previously learnt some basic shibori techniques, I understand how time-consuming it is to create these work, though this may not be the case for the shop’s visitors. Hence, in order for customers to understand the processes, they have an area displaying and explaining various shibori techniques, which I think is fantastic.

When the friendly shop assistant came over for a chat, she was extremely thrilled when I told her that I will be doing a workshop on indigo dyeing and shibori. She started explaining their products to me, including a new range of leather handbags and shoes that feature shibori patterns (and she kindly modeled the shoes for me). I could sense the pride she felt for her company’s products, and she was more than happy to give me their brochures to take home.

The shop offers a wide range of fashion items and accessories including wearable bracelets and rings, which are affordable and great as gifts. If you are interested in shibori, then this shop is a ‘must’ stop in Kyoto.

 

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img_9506-min  img_9512-min

 

KATAYAMA BUNZABURO SHOTEN

221 Hashibenkeicho Takoyakusidori Karasuma Nishiiru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto

 

Kaikado tea caddies shop & cafe in Kyoto

Since I only had four days in kyoto (including a day out at Miho museum with my friend), I didn’t manage to fit much shopping in. Hence I targeted a few shops either close to where I was staying or near a sight I wanted to visit. One of the shops that was high on my agenda was a small tea caddy shop near my lodging in the Kawarmachi district.

Kaikado is a traditional tea caddies maker established in 1875, which makes them the oldest handmade tin tea caddies maker in the world. And it all started from the tin plates imported from Cornwall of all places!

 

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Using imported tin from England, the company’s founder, Kiyosuke kaikado, designed the first generation of tin tea caddy. His aim was to provide a well-designed, functional tea caddy capable of storing the type of tea leaves commonly sold by tea dealers and merchants. His successors later added copper and brass to their collection, developed a two-tiered design, whilst still maintaining the traditional techniques and basic shapes. Their iconic Chazutsu (the standard Kaikado Tea Canister) involves a 130-step fabrication process, and are still being produced and used across Japan including the Japanese Imperial household.

 

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Their small shop near the canal is easy to miss, and I had to walk back and forth a few times to check the number. Also, I wasn’t sure if it was opened either, and I hesitated a while before entering inside. Once inside, I felt as if I had walked into a craftsman’s workshop and mini museum… there are tools on display and lots of beautiful tea caddies everywhere, including labels that indicate how long it takes for the colours of the metals to change. It is the changes of metal colours that make these caddies so unique. Since the philosophy of wabi sabi is deeply ingrained in the Japanese culture and aesthetics, it enables them to appreciate the beauty of rustic objects, imperfection, and embrace the state of impermanence. Hence, these tea caddies are not just about good design and craftsmanship, they also embody the essence of the wabi sabi philosophy and aesthetics.

 

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Located not far from the shop is their spacious cafe housed inside a restored 90-year-old listed building that used to be a garage and administration office. Opened in 2016, the cafe was designed by Thomas Lykke from Danish design and architecture studio, OeO. The tea caddies are displayed on shelves and behind the glass cabinet, and they blend extremely well with the Nordic/Japanese style decor.

The simple menu offers snacks, cakes, as well as coffee from Japanese roaster Nakagawa Wani Coffee, black teas from Postcard tea London, and green tea from Rishouen tea Uji. I had their Ice matcha latte and it was very good. Prices here are not cheap, but I liked the relaxing ambience and decor, and best of all, it wasn’t packed with tourists even during the peak tourist season. Believe me, tranquility is worth the extra two hundred yen!

 

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Kakaido shop: 84-1 Umeminatocho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto

Kakaido cafe: 352 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shimogyoku, Kyoto

 

Art, nature & permaculture in Fujino

fujino

 

Most foreigners who visit Japan tend to stick to big cities or well-known onsen/resorts, and they rarely travel to the rural parts of Japan. On this trip, I completely fell in love with Japan’s rural countryside. The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage was a highlight, but I also loved Fujino, a rural town (with population of just over 10,000) located in the northern edge of Kanagawa Prefecture and about 1.5 hour outside of Tokyo. Officially, the town name doesn’t exist anymore after it was merged into Sagamihara city (it became Midori Ward in 2010), but locals still fondly call the area Fujino. Surrounded by mountains and tea plantations, the numerous hiking trails are big attractions for hikers who live in Tokyo due to its proximity and beautiful scenery. On a clear day, you can even see Mount Fuji (which we did one day) up on the hill.

 

fujino  fujino

fujino

fujino  nature fujino

fujino

spider web

 

Actually Fujino is not near Mount Fuji, its name means wild wisteria town. As soon as you step out of the railway station, you would see a ‘love letter’ art installation – an envelope sealed with a heart held by 2 hands – midway up on a mountain opposite the station that welcomes visitors.

So what differs Fujino from other rural towns in Japan? First of all, it is the first official Transition Town in Japan, and the 100th in the world. The world’s first Transition Town was initiated in 2005 by Transition Network founder and permaculture teacher Rob Hopkins in Totnes in Devon (see my earlier blog entry here). The Transition Town Movement is an international network of grassroots groups that aim to increase self-sufficiency through applying permaculture principles to reduce the potential effects of peak oil, climate destruction, and economic instability.

Hence, Fujino is considered a hub for sustainable communities that use local resources, farming, traditions and culture to increase self-sufficiency and tackle peak oil and climate change.

 

fujino

flowers

fujino flowers

fujino flowers

fujino flowers

 

Besides permaculture, the area has also been attracting artists for decades. During the times of WWII, some sixty of Tokyo’s most prominent artists (including Tsuguharu Foujita, Toshio Nakanishi, and Genichiro Inokuma) evacuated to this village, with the goal of building a ‘city of artists’ here. Since the 1970s a number of foreign artists, artisans and craftsmen have also moved here.

Although Fujino never became a world-renown ‘art city’, a ‘Fujino Furusato Art Village Plan’ was launched in 1986 to promote it as an art dwelling community. In 1995, a multi-purpose art centre called Fujino Workshop for Art was built. It has a 300-seat concert hall, rehearsal studios, craft-making studios and accommodations. The venue provides workshops in pottery, woodworking, and natural dyeing for local children, adults and visitors.

 

fujino The Kumano Shinto Shrine

fujino The Kumano Shinto Shrine

fujino  fujino

fujino The Kumano Shinto Shrine

fujino The Kumano Shinto Shrine

After doing the Kumano Kudo pilgrimage in Wakayama, I was pleasantly surprised to find a Kumano Shinto Shrine up in the mountains

 

Soon it was followed by the opening of the Fujino Art Village, an art and craft market where local artisans and craftsmen sell their work in 9 individual huts. The village is not massive, but it is a good spot to find one-of-a-kind handmade crafts and designs and support local artisans. You can find glassware, woodwork, leather goods, ceramics, and home accessories here.

 

fujino art village  fujino art village

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tsumugu fujino art village  tsumugu fujino art village

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fujino art village  fujino art village

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Fujino art village

 

At the art village, you can also enjoy lunch at an organic cafe/restaurant. From Fri to Sun, the cafe becomes a pizzeria serving stone oven pizzas with organic produce made by potter, Touhei Nakamura (also a friend of Bryan). In addition to the standard pizzas, he also serves some unconventional ones with an Asian twist, and they are super delicious with very thin base and crunchy crust.

 

fujino art village

Touhei pizza  fujino art village

Touhei pizza

Touhei pizza

 

While staying with Bryan, we had the opportunity to meet his artisan friends who live locally. One of them is a basket maker and his basketry works are incredibly beautiful and intricate.

 

basketry  basketry

basketry

basketry

 

Bryan also took us to visit a potter who lives in a very secluded place… we had to walk downhill along a trail off a road for about 15 minutes in order to reach his home studio at the bottom of the valley.

While the potter normally sells his pottery through a gallery, we got to buy his very reasonably-priced work from him directly, and needless to say, we were all more than happy to part with our cash in exchange for some exquisite handcrafted pottery.

 

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pottery

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pottery

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A secluded potter at his home studio

 

Last but not least, we also visited a secluded art gallery and cafe called Studio Fujino founded by graphic designer/art director, Yuko Higashikawa. After working in Milan on exhibition planning for some time, she returned to Japan to pursue a slow life. Her galley is surrouned by nature, and its secluded location means you are very likely to miss it if you are led by a local. (N.B. Unfortunately, I learned that the gallery closed its doors two months after our visit, but I hope it will revive in a different form in the future).

 

 studio fujino studio fujino   studio fujino

studio fujino

 studio fujino

Studio Fujino

 

After spending 10 days being surrounded by nature, it was hard to leave this place behind. My only wish is that I can return again in the near future.

 

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Spring in Kanazawa

kanazawa

kanazawa

 

After days of traveling to and from various small towns and villages, I finally arrived at a big city – Kanazawa – the capital of Ishikawa Prefecture. Before my visit, I had heard that it is a historical and picturesque city which has been nicknamed ‘Little Kyoto’. Although like Kyoto, the city escaped air raids during WWII and has preserved many historic architecture; it does not remind me of Kyoto at all.

During the Edo Period, Kanazawa Castle was the headquarter’s of the Maeda Clan, the second most powerful feudal clan after the Tokugawa. Hence Kanazawa is also known as the ‘samurai city’ with a samurai district at the foot of the castle where many samurai residences used to live.

Now the city is still seen as an important city in its region, and with the new shinkansen line opened in 2015 that connects the city to Tokyo in less than 3 hours, it is attracting more tourists from overseas and within Japan.

 

kanazawa castle

kanazawa

kanazawa  kanazawa

kanazawa

kanazawa

 

One thing that struck me when I arrived was the sightings of many Western expats here, which was quite unexpected. And after experiencing amazing hospitality for days, I did experience some unfriendly service here (perhaps I was just unlucky), which did slightly spoil my stay.

 

kanazawa

kanazawa

kanazawa

kanazawa  kanazawa 

kanazawa

 

Kanazawa Castle Park is a large park in the city centre, and you can enjoy a pleasant stroll here. While I was walking through the park, I also saw a few Japanese couples taking wedding photographs here, so I guess it is a popular spot for wedding photography.

The castle was the headquarters of Kaga Domain, ruled by the Maeda clan for 14 generations from the Sengoku period until the Meiji Restoration in 1871. Like most ancient buildings in Japan, the castle was burnt down several times, and now the surviving structures include the Ishikawa Gate from 1788, the Sanjukken Nagaya and the Tsurumaru Storehouse all of which are designed Important Cultural Properties. Since the castle’s keep no longer exists, it did feel a bit like walking around a ‘film set’ in a samurai film.

 

Kanazawa Castle

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Kanazawa Castle

Kanazawa Castle

Kanazawa Castle

Kanazawa Castle

Kanazawa Castle

Kanazawa Castle Park

 

One of the most popular attractions in Kanazawa is the Myoryuji Temple (aka the Ninja temple) built in 1643. It is so popular that visitors are urged to reserve for their daily tours in advance through their phone (no emails) reservation system. Tours are conducted in Japanese, but there are written guides for foreign visitors. Unlike its name suggests, the temple was not home to the ninjas, but it served as a secret military outpost for the Maeda lords.

The building is constructed with a complicated network of corridors and staircases, traps, secret rooms and escape routes. From the outside it appears to be a two story building, but there are actually four stories with 23 rooms, 29 staircases and a lookout tower.

Despite the troublesome reservation system ( I got my hotel to call the day before), it is still worth visiting this ingenious temple. There are some very inventive and eye-opening ideas and creations, so it is not to be missed.

 

Myoryuji Temple ninja temple

Myoryuji Temple ninja temple

ninja temple

Myoryuji Temple (also known as the Ninja temple)

 

Another main attraction is the The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art designed by SANAA (Sejima and Nishikawa Architects and Associates) in 2004. The minimalist circular building is located within a park with some outdoor sculptures scattered around it.

There were two temporary exhibitions at the time of my visit but they were charged separately, which I thought was rather steep, so I picked only one of them. The most photographed art work here (the only work that can be photographed inside the museum) must be Leandro Erlich‘s ‘Swimming Pool’ (only accessible with a paid ticket) – a deceptive looking ‘pool’ where people appear to be underwater. It is probably the most memorable work at this rather small and average art museum. Personally, I think the architecture outweighs the contents, which is a bit of a shame.

 

kanazawa

The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art

Colour activity house Olafur ELIASSON

Colour activity house Olafur ELIASSON

The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art  leandro erlich swimming pool 

leandro erlich swimming pool  leandro erlich swimming pool

The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art

The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art and its art works include Olafur Eliasson’s ‘Colour activity house’ and Leandro Erlich’s ‘Swimming Pool’

 

One lesser-known attraction is the Yanagi Sori Design Memorial, which is affiliated with Kanazawa College of Art that houses the celebrated industrial designer’s designs and furniture.

Yanagi Sori (1915 – 2011) was an influential Japanese designer who founded the mingei movement that promoted Japanese folk crafts and the beauty of everyday objects. He was also known for his simple, organic and functional designs. His iconic Butterfly stool, which was designed in 1954 after visiting Charles and Ray Eames, was chosen as part of MOMA’s permanent display, and it is still being produced today.

 

yanagi sori design memorial

yanagi sori design memorial

yanagi sori design memorial  yanagi sori design memorial

yanagi sori design memorial

yanagi sori design memorial  yanagi sori design memorial

yanagi sori design memorial

 

Yanagi taught at Kanazawa College of Art for almost 50 years, and after his death, his design studio donated 7,000 of his designs, products, and materials to Kanazawa College of Art, which gave birth to this free memorial space.

This is not a major tourist attraction (I only saw one other Japanese visitor during my visit), yet it is worth a visit if you are interested in beautiful Japanese designs.

 

yanagi sori design memorial

yanagi sori design memorial

yanagi sori design memorial

yanagi sori design memorial

Yanagi Sori Design Memorial

 

If you love markets and seafood, then Omicho Market will be seen as ‘heaven’. There are about 200 shops and stalls, as well as restaurants and sushi bars focusing on seafood. You can have breakfast, lunch and dinner here (which I did), and I could have eaten more if I had a bigger stomach. I love wandering around food markets and it was fascinating to see the variety of seafood available here. If only London’s markets offer 1/4 of the stuff I saw here, I would be visiting the markets daily!

 

Omicho Market  Omicho Market sushi

Omicho Market

Omicho Market

Omicho Market

Omicho Market

Omicho Market

Omicho Market

Omicho Market

Omicho Market

Omicho Market and the amazing seafood

 

To be continued…