Touring Japan 2010: Day 3 – Art Houses

By Michael Gakuran | | Adventure | 7 Comments |

I awoke in a relaxed manner after a lazy night’s sleep with the early morning sun on my face. It looked as though it was going to be another beautiful day on Naoshima and I had plenty of quirky art left to see before catching my ferry over to the main island of Shikoku.

The bright blue building above was my lodge for the night. A cheap little dormitory called Kowloon with friendly staff and a laid-back atmosphere. The walls of the entrance hallway were covered with postcard-sized postits from previous satsfied guests who had stayed on the island. It’s in a handy location right near the main port of Miyanoura and you probably won’t find much else cheaper at around 3000 yen a night!

Taking my rental bike out again, I peddled out towards the town of Honmura, the place of a permanent exhibition known as the ‘Art House Project‘ (家プロジェクト). Basically a project to transform vacant or ruined houses into works of art. Not a bad use for haikyo! It’s split into about 8 different houses and you can get a ticket to cover them all for 1000 yen. One of the most memorable ones for me was Kadoya, a 200 year old storehouse that has been renovated and turned into the wonderfully refreshing ‘Sea of Time’. Coming into that cool, air-conditioned room out of the summer heat and staring down into inky-black water with strange flashing numbers was intriguing.

Another strange exhibit was an old shrine with a glass staircase. Walking around and down the hill slightly presented me with an impressively narrow tunnel leading into a cave. Inside, the bottom of the glass staircase floating in an optical illusion joining Heaven and Earth.

One more excellent art piece was by James Turrell, the famous light artist. Guests are taken inside in small groups, sat in complete darkness for some time and have the mystery of light unravel before their eyes. No way at all to photograph this one, or really explain it. Quite nice though!

The Dentist’s shack made of random bits and pieces that were collected was rather odd. A famous statue placed inside and various scrapbook-style photographs scattered everywhere. I was just drawn to it because of its haikyo appearance.

On my way back to the port, I decided to take a lesser-known route through the centre of the island and discovered this huge dustbin. Apparently it was made from the waste slag produced by factories on the island. Nice way to recycle!

I decided to forego paying the huge museum entrance fees and headed back to town. There wasn’t a great deal that really captured my interest inisde, from what I’d read in the brochures anyway, and I was eager to take a look inside the bizarre bathhouse by the bicycle rental shop that had been closed the day before.

The place is called I Love Yu which is a play on ‘I love you’ because the Japanese word for hot water is ‘yu’ (湯). Outside, a ramshackle looking building quite similar to the crusty Dentist’s shack, but inside, a work of modern art topped quite randomly with a statue of an elephant.

The detail inside was gorgeous though. All the taps had designs on them and the bath itself was made up of a mixture of white panels and a selection of old memorabila that had been waterproofed and set into the floor. A large picture of octopus in an undersea scene adorned the wall.

Even the changing rooms had stuff going on, from a jellyfish toilet to a retro hairdryer and bench with television screen set into it. An old film about some female divers was playing, showing them dipping for clams in their birthday suits. Very fitting for the men’s bathroom. I wonder what was in the women’s area..?

After a bath and returning the bike, I grabbed my ferry ticket and sorted out my diving for Thursday by phone. A quick trip and I was landing on the main island of Shikoku in the city of Takamatsu. Craig (known as @CraigScanlan on Twitter) met me there and took me to one of this favourite haunts – a simple place selling kushiage and oden. His new wife Asuka came to join us shortly and we chatted about travelling on Shikoku, work, life in Japan and his recent wedding. Yet another successful meeting made possible by the networking power of the internet and in particular, Twitter.

I never cease to be amazed at how different people are than to how they come across online. Meeting in person really exposes the human, more fallible side of people. Even those who have seemed like minor celebrities to me in the past have, upon meeting, become just another decent human being with flaws and quirks like everyone else.

It’s far too easy to de-personalise tweets and blog updates from the person writing them, I’ve found. Somewhere in the electronic exchange the living, breathing human is lost and only a voice carried by words is left. It’s both a fantastic and dangerous thing. As with any story, reading the words allows one to conjure up a highly individual picture that is likely to be quite different to the one the author originally had in mind. This is a powerful thing – the same words can give rise to an infinite number of different colourful and creative pictures. But at the same time in other forms of writing, like blogs and journalistic articles, the same process can lead to misunderstanding and even dangerous errors. A single fact written in a certain way can bloom outwards with a life of its own, distorting and misleading. Likewise, tweets and inocuous status updates on social media sites can give each reader a different impression of the author.

Perhaps I’m just rambling about trivialities. Perhaps this is already completely obvious to everyone. But for me it’s been something brewing inside for a while now. How can we really understand what the person behind the tweet, blog, article is trying to say? So much seems to be open to interpretation…

And with that, I shall close up today’s entry before we get anymore philosophical. Until next time then!

7 comments on “Touring Japan 2010: Day 3 – Art Houses
  1. Gakuranman says:

    Haha – interesting motto! People really are exposed upon meeting. Not many can hide true body language and control their thoughts perfectly in real life, so all sorts of things come out ;).

  2. Jill Sylvan says:

    “New wife”, eh? How many times have you been married?

    (this is a joke, as I've noticed some people online do not comprehend me)

  3. I love the photos and tour, especially the sea of numbers. The part about online personae is so, so true. I even find it awkward meeting people I've only emailed a few times :/ For almost 2 years I've had a sort of penpal in Brooklyn and, even though I now live in the next borough, there's a sort of tacit agreement that we won't meet up. If you don't contact a penpal for 6 months, it's no problem – but if you don't call a mate for that long, it's like you've rejected them.

    I think it's probably easier when you meet up with bloggers because you (gulp) video blog. I can't speak for other bloggers, but I just turn into a gibbering idiot over webcam.

    The Internet giveth, the IRL taketh away!

  4. Gakuranman says:

    Cheers for meeting up and giving some pointers on Shikoku Craig. Twas good fun!

  5. Glad to be a part of your story! Great Pics!

    And you're right about images….i figured you're be wearing a gakuran 24-hours-a-day! ;-p

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