– the title is longer than the thought process taken to create it (first half day of Echigo Art Field, 2015)

All journeys start at 01:55 in the morning. All journeys start with the last train to the station where the Moonlight Nagara will come in at 01:55. The last train to the station where the train will come in at 01:55 departs at 23:52. There are fifteen minutes between the 23:52 station and the 01:55 station, that is, between Shimizu and Shizuoka stations. All journeys involve indeterminable waits, except the wait is clearly determined and defined. Okay then, abominable waits. All journeys get shunted to 02:45 because there’s something wrong with the signal somewhere on the tracks in between Nagoya and Shizuoka. Okay, not all journeys, but the one that you’re on.

The Moonlight Nagara is a local train, stopping at a few designated stations, between Tokyo and Okagi in Gifu Ken. You can cover some serious ground. You used to be able to catch a great many other overnight trains, such as the Moonlight Echigo, and the train that went all the way to Kyushu – but JR has been phasing them out. I’m not sure why. Now the Moonlight Nagara only runs during the holiday periods, and it’s very popular with seishun juhachi kippu holders. Of which I was one. It’s a great deal. Google it.


Shizuoka at that time of the morning sure ain’t Tokyo. And Tokyo, at that time of the morning, away from the hubs and bars, sure ain’t a 24 hour party town. Even so, I’d be sitting for some time, so I wandered and trudged around with my indomitably heavy backpack, wondering just what that car was doing under the train bridge, idling, car lights spilling. It seems that Bikuri Donkey is open until 2:30 am. I considered going in, but wandered back to the station, thinking the train was going at the scheduled time.

We were not allowed entry until 01:30. Everything was shut down and being spruced up by shift workers on mobile polishers. I wasn’t the only one hanging out the front of the station. Of course there was the homeless guy taking a puff on his cigarette, but also a couple, maybe retired, some teenaged boys, or maybe early twenties, a mother and teenaged son. Cicadas, though I didn’t see any flying cockroaches. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen them in Honshu really. Must be more of a Shikoku, further down south thing.

The train going to the Osaka area was only ten minutes late. Not so ours. So, I practiced with my new camera. Some funky things you can do like getting it to convex signs


and to make other signs all vibrant and shadowed


An upside, I thought, was that the Moonlight Nagara for Tokyo was due get in at 5:05, but my connecting train wasn’t leaving until 6:20. It seemed my wait would be drastically shortened. Not so. They opened the throttle full speed, and even though those of us bleak and wearied at lonely train stops had had to wait, the train pulled in at exactly 5:05.

I was on my way to the 2015 Echigo Tsumari Art Field. I haven’t linked to the official page. It keeps getting so many hits that it’s out of action half the time. But that Japan guide link has links to the official page. I’d enjoyed it so much in 2009 that I saw it maybe five or six times. I’m not sure. Maybe 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 in the area and I had done one of the tours, and he wondered if I might be coming up again. I wasn’t going to, but what the hell, and I didn’t go in 2012, and I do love it so. Due to obon, his times were limited, and due to me possibly returning to Australia, my times were limited as well. Early August suited us both.

Of course, being last minute, accommodation was almost impossible, but I managed to stay one night at Yama no ie (mountain house) dormitory, and it was very classy for a dorm. 8 beds to a room (bunks). Quite new, so the scent of hinoki (pine) throughout. The place is run by an interior design firm which has an office in Tokyo and Niigata, as well as Matsudai in the Echigo area. One girl slept on the floor, but it wasn’t a youth hostel. There were four more rooms. Another room was the male dormitory, I think, and then maybe some private rooms? Anyway, everyone was from everywhere. Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia (not me, another woman). Children, students, academics. And this very cool statue, not an official art work, was just around the corner.


But, I’m way ahead of myself. My friend, K, picked my up from the Muikamachi station at 10:49am. That sounds like good time, and is pretty good for local trains, but I had been travelling since 02:45, and had left my house at just before midnight. Anyway, I got a bit of a snooze from Tokyo to Muikamachi, but the scenery was just so gorgeous between Minakami to Muikamachi that closing my eyes seemed a crime. Here’s the train chilling at Minakami. I had just disembarked the blue train on the opposite platform,

and also train-related, here’s the first art work K and I saw at Doichi station:



As you can see, it was very sunny, and quite a dry heat for Japan, but hot at 37 degrees centigrade. I’d misplaced my hat (found it the next day), and K’s wife, M, had kindly lent me one of hers (I’d texted ahead my emergency situation). What would I have done without it? I was slathered with sunblock, but still got a little crisp around the edges.



Jimmy Liao is a a children’s book writer. The art works are based on his stories, and the premise of the art at the Doichi Station was that the dog and child had got on a train and while we were in the carriage, we were watching their journey (on the film at the end of the carriage) as they were also watching/experiencing it. Major events of their journey were signposted in drawings around the inside walls of the carriage.

I can’t believe I didn’t take a photo of their faces. I had the chance. Again, I’m blaming getting used to my camera. This was a popular installation, and you didn’t want to block anyone’s view too much.


These were called Kiss and Goodbye and were, as said above, by Jimmy Liao from Taiwan. Unfortunately, I know those links will eventually die, but for now, you can learn a little about the artist, and see the second of the railway carriages that he decked out. The first was the best, I think.

I saw the second on my third day from an actual train window, as I was heading from Tokamachi to Nagano, then to Matsumoto. It was a treat to see  the art works that I thought I wouldn’t get the chance to set eyes upon due to distance and time. But, by dint of being on the train, and the scarcity of local trains in that area, there was no chance to get off and explore. The art work (below) doesn’t look as if it had any further installations within the structure.


Blame the train pulling out for the angled picture! If I straighten it, we chop off half of the pup. This was at the Echigo Mizusawa station on the JR Iiyama line.

In 2009 I had been desperate to see Restructure by Harumi Yukutake, but the tours were either full, and by autumn, the art work was no longer open. It wasn’t easy to get to. That and Marina Abramovic’s Dream House were high on my list. Restructure looks great in pictures. It’s also something special to come across this edifice. It’s covered with hand cut mirrors and stands in the middle of Echigo grassland, but it might make a better photo than an art piece. Even so, I was pleased to see it with K and the other family who had just pulled up. I was getting used to my camera, so a lot of the pictures are so-so. I haven’t edited a lot of them either. Anyway, you’ll get the gist.

This woman is probably a volunteer. I don’t think the masses of people “manning” the art works were paid. They were either charging entry for those installations that attracted a fee, or stamping the “passports” of those who had bought them. The passports are well worth it at 3400 yen. Especially if you intend to return and see more. They’re valid until the September closing, and probably available for the Autumn round of the festival as well.The great art museums in the States charge that for a day. Plus, your passport gets stamped for each art work you see! I love that. I’m such a trainspotter.





Lunch was at 13:30 at the Kamigo Clove Theatre Restaurant. More about that in the next post.


And it wouldn’t be an Echigo Tsumari post without a taster of Marina Abramovic’s Dream House.



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3 Comments on “– the title is longer than the thought process taken to create it (first half day of Echigo Art Field, 2015)”

  1. Jim D G Miles Says:

    Great entry, Sue! I miss Japanese art and train adventures like this.

    I’m going to follow your blog, to get a fix of Japan from back here in the UK 🙂

    • theheartbeatsoftly Says:

      Thanks Jim/James. I’m fairly sporadic with the blog, but want to write about this Echigo Tsumari trip. I don’t want to replicate the entries I did in 2009, but am keen to record. I was talking with friends the other day, and we mentioned that we really couldn’t remember which temple or the other we visited. I used to write about travels a lot, on both this and my lizardrinking blog (which I abandoned when I overwhelmed myself with political issues). I remember when I reread.

      A few things came about which led me away from doing so. Flickr lost its wonderful photo-editing tools, so I no longer mass uploaded, edited, and had photos ready to use. I got a crap camera phone. The ones I’d had before were good. The storage on my MacBook Air is minimal – and I don’t trust dumping everything in the cloud. Travel, different mindsets. I went back through this the other day (your stats are booming! You think WordPress would recognise the ISP), and realised I hadn’t consistently written since 2009, despite travel and living through and in the States, Australia, Japan, North Korea (travel) and Mexico (travel) and local side trips. Facebook too of course, but it’s so easy to scroll through, and not the forum for reflection for me.

      I got myself a new camera. Made myself get out of the house. I still don’t have any more storage, but am not storing on the hard drive. Plus, writing takes time. I’ll see if I persevere and finish the series. There you go. This comment is a blog post. How is the UK?

  2. […] with nary a sound « – the title is longer than the thought process taken to create it (first half day of Echigo Ar… […]

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