– touring

The few who possibly flit between these blogs when I am not deleting them will know that I have been taking in a lot of art this summer and autumn. In particular, I have been going to the Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial, 2009. It is in its fourth year and it is amazing.

I might go tomorrow. I definitely went yesterday and I also went last week. Yesterday I went by myself to the Matsudai area where there is a large concentration of artworks and it is possible to wander around. The train (the special art train) goes directly there, but you can also get there, with a lot more bother, on other trains. The only draw back is the 3 hour journey, but, talk about location, location, location.

There is another drawback, actually. On all my other art journeys, bar the last two, I’ve been accompanied by a friend with a passion for art. When I look at the pieces I wonder what he will think and whether he would like it, and I think he’d love the experience, even if the pieces didn’t grab him. However, there are enough pieces and styles of art all over the place for there to be something for everyone.

By accompany I mean of course in words. A text here while I’m on the train or the bus to say this is where I’m going today and I’m sure you’d be into it. Anyway, due to one thing and another he hasn’t been able to join me on the last two trips, so I’ll post what I did here, because I miss his company and because it’s fun to have people come along with you. Of course, there is great freedom in being able to take any path you wish when travelling alone, though, and yesterday was perfect for that. I’ll post the pictures as I saw them, but if the post is getting too unwieldly, which is likely, I’ll do two or three posts.

Matsudai is worth going to for the scenery alone. Koyo, the time when the leaves change, is meant to be stunning, and the early Autumn hint I had of it yesterday would seem to support that.

Coming in on the train to the station which has no guard (which indicates that it doesn’t get much traffic) you’ll see No Butai Snow-Land Agrarian Culture Center (the Japanese have a way with words). This is an artwork in itself, designed by MVRDV from the Netherlands. It stands without pillars and I’ve seen it three times now and it truly is a very elegant building. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. The day starts, later than before there was the special train, but still early enough, at about a quarter to six, and I’m on the train out of my suburb by 6.56 a.m., arriving in Niigata at 7.29 in enough time for this 7.35 (this is the train, but this shot is from Matsudai. Shhh, don’t tell anyone).

This is no ordinary train. This train has been put on especially for the Autumn leg of the triennial, not that anyone much seems to know about it (there is no English information. I don’t know how widespread the Japanese information is). Hold on, I lie. The trainspotters know about it and boy do they ever, which is why I took the following picture:

The trainspotters all seem to be about thirteen to fifteen year old boys, and wear lovely lemon sweaters and keep their valuables in bum bags. Of course, wanting to blend in and aspiring to be worthy of a bum-bag, when one took a photo of the unreserved sign, I decided it must be special and took a photo too.

I think the train usually doubles as the Moonlight Echigo, which is a nighttime train to Tokyo. The carriage I was in is usually the women’s only carriage when the train is used for that purpose. The trainspotters were pretty excited about that and took a photo of the sign stating precisely that, and of the train number.

They didn’t go all the way to Matsudai. In fact, quite a few got off at the next stop. Not before passing a train yard, at which time  a plumpish, bespectacled lad rattled off the serial numbers, or whatever they are called, of all the trains he could see on the tracks outside.

At the end of  every platform at every station where the train stopped, the professionals (all men) were snapping away with their bad ass, super duper photography gear, the teen fans were snapping with their mobiles, and every now and then an office lady, probably following my lead, took a photo too, because everyone else did.

Anyway, long after the trainspotters left (though I saw some of  them again that evening on the train which waited for an hour and a half due to an earthquake… grrrr) we pulled into Matsudai at about 10.00 a.m.

No Butai



Before I even got to that building, though, even though I have been there before, but not from the approach I was taking today (foot vs. tour bus) I saw the few things I could see in the actual township of Matsudai. That took me to the creative gardenwhich was past its prime (that is, no flowers) and to

heart of a tree, heart of a people

Heart of a tree, heart of a people. This was done in 2000, the first triennial, by Singaporean artist, Tang Dawu, in conjunction with the town’s school children who apparently painted their wishes on the glass that makes up the big banana leaf.

I could take or leave this installation. Really, all I wanted was the stamp. Maybe my whole purpose in going to the triennial 5 times (and if I go tomorrow, make that 6) is to get stamps. At every artwork there is one of these:


186 is the number of Dawu’s artwork and it correlates to a number on your art-passport, and you stamp it. Voila! If the art work has an admission price, then someone else stamps your passport for you. The passport gets you into the art works, and half price if you visit again. Of course, by now, the ink has dried, the caps of the hanko are missing, the pads are sodden with rain, you get blue or red ink all over you . . . but there are enough working hankos and stamp pads to go forth and seek and view art with a ferocity of purpose.

So, I established that where I want to go tomorrow will be a 4 kilometre walk up some steep hills, and then I went to No butai to see some of what I had already seen, but at a more leisurely pace than the previous visits, and to explore the hills behind which were jam-packed with installations. Going down the stairs to cross under the railway I came across this


and I had to stop and take a picture (a move I would probably regret later when my memory card reached capacity). Two trip-trapping girls walking past me probably just thought I was from Tokyo and therefore, all was maybe forgiven. Or maybe they were from Tokyo, and thought I was a country hick who thought a dead moth was an installation.

Approaching Nobutai, you will see this gorgeous, vibrant, joyous piece of art, Tsumari in Bloom, by Yayoi Kusama (2003).


It’s number 150 in the passport. Tsumari means field, and though this reminds me of a butterfly, I think it’s meant to be a huge flower kind of thing. Kids love it. Me too.

Ambling along, you come to the corridor which links the train station to the agrarian centre and it is lined with coloured pickets each with a family name of a Matsudai family. I think there are only 1470 names, and I think they are all the families of Matsudai. I know you’ve seen it before if you’ve visited my flickr, but I made sure I got some of the names this time, and also, I got the final shot where a video of the residents welcomes you into the agrarian centre.


This piece is by a Spanish artist, Josep Maria Martin (2003 – the work, not his birthdate).

Before entering the centre, though, I have of course taken the view in on the right including the Rice Field, but more about that in a later post. This time around, with all the time in the world, or at least another five hours until 4 o’clock, I can take everything in, whether I like it or not. And I’m serving it up, so we’re all just going to have to pick the eyes out of it.

I didn’t like everything that I saw, but I appreciated that someone created it and conceptualised it, and made my walk in the hills around Matsudai charming and exciting, though the squirrel I saw, the little frogs hopping out of the way, the beautiful setting, had already won me over.

So, looking out to the Rice Field were,


part of the Satoyama Play Park. I’ll have a few more photos of the playground equipment, which was created for children to enjoy interacting with art with their entire bodies, holistically, I guess. And the kids really do enjoy this equipment, though I saw more play on a wooden structure that I’ll post later rather than this. Then again, as you can see from the pictures of the centre, rain was imminent and a typhoon had just passed two days previously. Nothing much was dry.

And, adjacent and just behind that piece of art-equipment, 


Between the Sky and the Earth. Now, I can’t say this really excited me, but it does look as if the chairs are doing the jitterbug, and I am sure that if they had not been wet, they would have been very comfortable to sit in. And what a view they had, anyway.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself again slightly (the following about the Kamaboko-type Storehouse Project / kamaboko gallery was inserted on October the 12th). Before even getting to the play equipment it is a requirement to get down on your knees and peer through the peep holes provided on these storage houses. Each of them had an artwork within, even the smallest. It was wet (now the day before) yesterday, so I didn’t take a second look, but, yes. . . I had  hunkered down and seen what was in that tiny one on a previous visit when the sun had been shining. I can’t remember now, of course. Each of the storage houses has a work by a different artist.


Kamaboko-type Storehouse Project / kamaboko gallery, Tsuyoshi Ozawa.

The Venus that you can see (is it Venus?) was covered in fruit and looked like a delicious cheesecake. There may even have been some plastic models of cheesecake within.

Because there are fifteen artworks with the number 147, including the play equipment and the chairs, and because one of the exhibitions of 147 is a paying one within No butai, I couldn’t stamp my passport, and what’s more, there was no need, because I had already visited, had a whirlwind tour, and got the stamps. The same goes for 150, Tsumari in Bloom, and 149, the Storage Gallery. But, I had not stamped everything, nor had I seen everything, nor had I seen what I had seen thoroughly! Capiche? So, it was on to the Satoyama Art Zoo. But, more of that tomorrow, or the next post.

In the meantime, I’m going to play a bit with time and skip forward and back and show you the inside of No Butai. The outside might look a bit like something resting on its haunches, but the inside is sleek and kitsch all rolled into one.

This is Cafe Reflet by Jean-Luc Vilmouth. The scenes above and outside are reflected on the table-tops and the whole room is the most gorgeous sky blue. The food is macro-biotic BUT tasty! The flavourings are great. I had lunch here on the 4th of October, so not yesterday, but I had a slice of cheese cake yesterday that didn’t taste macro-biotic at all, so maybe it is not purely so. Tasted delicious, though.

The ladies’ room is like stepping into some Doris Day, Rock Hudson kind of movie. I didn’t even notice that the mirrors reflect the scenery outside, even though I was taking that picture. Even through the Venetian blinds. Pretty neat, huh?

And these toilets are a trip. The middle door is the exit door. Whatever is behind the door (a toilet folly) is occupied. If all other toilets are occupied, as they were when I first came to No Butai, then it’s easy to get confused. When I visited the first time the guide had told us that the toilets were fun. I didn’t even notice what was not-quite-right until a fellow tour-ee pointed it out to me.

And lastly, the stairs leading up to the observatory (read, roof) – though this shot is of them going down:


I really like the use of colour in this place. I’m not sure if I have recreated it correctly. It was kind of hellish, but a bit warmer in intention.

So, I’ll wind this up now. Uploading and editing takes time, but if anyone is curious, this is the area I went to, and I made it as far as number 184 and most of the pieces in between (a few were closed). You can correlate those numbers to the art works at this site, if you have that much interest. Either knock yourself out, or don’t worry too much about it! I didn’t visit any except the garden and the banana leaf on the other side of the train station. Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.

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5 Comments on “– touring”

  1. […] the heart beats oftly Just another WordPress.com weblog « touring […]

  2. […] more. I saw it in the summer and the autumn, and in the autumn, I explored independently. I wrote eight posts on it. Don’t worry, it’s not all words. There are a lot of photos. A friend who lives […]

  3. […] more. I saw it in the summer and the autumn, and in the autumn, I explored independently. I wrote eight posts on it. Don’t worry, it’s not all words. There are a lot of photos. A friend who lives […]

  4. […] more. I saw it in the summer and the autumn, and in the autumn, I explored independently. I wrote eight posts on it. Don’t worry, it’s not all words. There are a lot of photos. A friend who lives […]

  5. […] on. There are a few ways to climb the hills. Art work is peppered throughout them. If you start at touring and read through to touring 8 you will see a good representation of most of the art works. If you […]

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