Posted tagged ‘photos’

– encounter 13b – Utsunoya

February 17, 2016

All of our countries have routes that maybe our ancestors didn’t walk on, but which someone used. The indigenous population of Australia have lived on that land for at least 45,000 years. We have a land seeped in history. Only thing is, it isn’t ours. Different climates required different needs, and that which has been well-documented and has physical, tangible remains is maybe more accessible and familiar to the western imaginations, and perhaps provides many people with a touchstone to received and learnt, perhaps cellular, images of the past.

The paths that surround Utsunoya are linked to its history as being a town on the Old Tokaido road, and in fact, some of the original path can still be walked through the hills. To hike through those hills and visit the beautiful park nearby alone is worth it.That is, it’s cool to walk the path, but it would be cool to walk it without knowing it’s history too, though maybe not as cool.

What is suggested for exploration in the Utsunoya area by most websites seems to be a quick walk to Utsunoya from the road stop, if that’s where you disembarked from the bus. I walked up from Mariko basho. . . .

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A sign to a soba restaurant just over the bridge, and in Utsunoya. Hiking is always best rewarded with a lovely bowl of soba or udon.

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This way to the Meiji Tunnel and other attractions.

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Keep going. A map at the entrance of Utsunoya.

 

Hiroshige

A replication of one of Hiroshige’s paintings, or in his style, of Utsunoya, or the Old Tokaido passing by it.

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Through the town itself.

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A few tourists were wandering around, but it was the later afternoon, wet and rainy. No tourists in this photo!

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Many things were shut up.

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It was still beautiful though. A dog barked at me constantly from the safety of his house. I couldn’t find the soba restaurant, but I didn’t look too far. I had a mountain to hike!

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The stairs up to the tunnel.

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Keep climbing.

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Signs. Tunnel, tunnel, tunnel. If you look at the map way up above, there is more than one!

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Signs.

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Signs.

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Signs to the old Tokaido Rd. I would be coming back to this, but was turning left for now.

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Signs to the tunnel.

Utsunoya is picturesque, and a walk through the Meiji-era Utsunoya Pass tunnel, which was the first toll road in Japan is definitely worth it. There is nothing wrong with the traditional itinerary.

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Suruga side

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Suruga side

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Suruga side.

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Looking back at the Suruga side.

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On the way through.

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In the centre.

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Utsunoya Pass, Meiji era tunnel brickwork.

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Okabe side.

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Commemorating the importance of the tunnel, according to this site.

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Again – are these machines used for transporting harvested tea?

Walking through the tunnel, you are departing areas contained within Shizuoka City (Suruga ward), and you exit into areas contained within Fujieda City (Okabe). The recommended itinerary might also tell you to, double back, and then walk up and over the hills along what is left of the Old Tokaido Road.

Old Tokaido Road Sign 2

Clearly marked on the right.

Old Tokaido Rd Sign 3

Less clearly marked, right where you need to turn, as is so often the case in Japan. Even so, I’m grateful for the signs in English when they are there.

Old Tokaido Rd stairs

Walking up to the Old Tokaido Rd.

Old Tokaido Rd jizo

Respects being paid to ancestors and gods,  on the corner overlooking Utsunoya.

Old Tokaido Rd village overview 1

An earlier photo showing how little the village below has changed.

Old Tokaido Rd village

Utsunoya.

Old Tokaido Rd bamboo

Bamboo brushing the curve of the road.

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Monument on Old Tokaido Rd, Utsunoya.

Old Tokaido Rd information

Information which I cannot read. It pertained to some foundation stones in the area.

Old Tokaido Rd foundation

These were foundations of maybe an inn. Below were the foundations of maybe a shrine, according to this site.

Old Tokaido Rd crest

Up and over the crest of the Old Tokaido Rd. Heading into the Fujieda shi side of thigs.

Old Tokaido Rd rise 1

And again.

Old Tokaido Rd tree roots 1

I thought that a storm must have blown through here recently. But photos on the Net from a number of years ago seem to indicate that this part of the path is always full of tree litter, and exposed roots.

Old Tokaido Rd tree roots 2

I can imagine monsoonal rain bringing these down in mudslides. They were beautiful, though. Magestic.

Old Tokaido Rd other side

Okabe side.

Old Tokaido Rd other side sign 1

Old Tokaido Rd sign on the Fujieda side of things.

Old Tokaido Rd other side sign 2

An entrance here, an entrance there.

Where you at?

There are a lot of maps around like this. If you can read a little kanji, it will help, but they can also give you a visual sense, even if you can’t.

Old Tokaido Rd other side sign 3

Old Tokaido Rd, Utsunoya, this way AND this way. You can see a haka (cemetery) in the background. That is a mikan (like a mandarin) tree just behind too. It was bearing fruit.

Old Tokaid Road tree roots 3

I retraced my steps. Many magnificent trees, though I don’t know how deeply their roots ran. I turned around to take this photo. I wasn’t walking in this direction.

Old Tokaido Rd stone marker

Stone marker.

Old Tokaido Rd information

Information.

Old Tokaido Rd Suruga side

Coming back to the Suruga side of the Old Tokaido Rd. It was beautiful walking through the hills with the rain tapping on the leaves, and birds singing. The rain was not too heavy, though I definitely needed my umbrella.

Old Tokaido Rd leading to tunnel stairs

If you could (you can’t) take those stairs, it would take you within proximity of the Utsunoya Pass Meiji tunnel.

Old Tokaido Rd Suruga side 2

I wandered once more to the Meiji Tunnel and walked through it.

What I would suggest you do however, rather than just the suggested itinerary, if you have the time, and your purpose is hiking, is to take the Tsuta no hosomichi from just behind the Utsunoya rest stop on the Shizuoka side. This website describes the path

This road is an oldest path for crossing the Utsunoya Pass, which is mentioned in “The Tale of Ise.”
It served as an important road until the old Tokaido was opened in 1590.
Many travelers walked along this path while it was used as an official road since the Heian period.

It is a tough trek though, and I walked past the entrance a few times towards the end of my hike, because I couldn’t actually believe it was the path. This blog post describes it as “incredibly steep.” “Hosoi” means narrow. A post that I can’t find at present says that it would take 25 minutes to climb and 15 minutes to descend. I’m actually terribly at climbing down mountains, and there were a lot of slippery looking rocks at the mouth of the path on the Okabe side, so reversing the route I’m suggesting above could be a good idea too (climb the really steep stuff, descend the more gentle – if there is a gentle descent. I suspect not).

Anyway, I’d pop over to Utsunoya village, do the section of the Tokaido trail which is there, and will also get your heart rate going if you don’t hike much, and even if you do, but it’s not too difficult. Double back, walk through the Meiji Tunnel, take the path that indicates the way to a museum.

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This will exit at Tsuta-no-hosoimichi park. Turn left.

Once in the park, make sure you cross the bridges and enjoy the river and various structures controlling its flow (see below). The paths over the river lead back to the main trail, so you can enjoy this diversion. There is information around the park about the engineering, and also included slightly in blog post. From there I would continue, looking for the maps and signs for Tsuta no hosomichi and turn here (picture below). This is not my photo. I should have taken it. It’s from a guy who walked the Old Tokaido Rd on a wing and a prayer. The link to his blog is in the caption below the photo.

The entrance is across a small stream and begins with those rocks, or I guess it’s the river. I thought I had enough time to get back to the Utsunoya road stop, Suruga Ku side, but I wasn’t sure. It was about 4:30. The sun sets at 5:30, and though from the map it seemed I should be fine, it was wet, and getting darker, so I decided not to risk it. I was’t sure how long it would take. Photographs on the Internet indicate that I should have taken it though! If you google つたのほそみち入り口 you’ll get some hits. Definitely on my list.

The descent should take you to just behind the Utsunoya rest stop, Suruga side, the point that you started from. If you can get a hiking map from somewhere, there really are a lot of walks in the area, and they seem to loop up. If you can’t, give your self a good few hours (get there earlier, rather than later) and check out the many detailed maps as you go through. Some are bilingual, but not all are.

Bee Hives Utsunoya

Coming into Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park, I walked behind this house. It’s shed is full of bee hives (unused, I guess?? Or waiting to be used.)

Honey for sale Utsunoya

They were selling honey (hachimitsu はちみつ)

Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park 01

These bridges were fun to cross, and with the gentle (or not so gentle) rain and mist, truly evocative.

Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park

Another one.

Warrior Helmet Dam (Kiwada River Sabo Dam)

Damming this river was apparently an engineering feat. Actually, the building of all of the tunnels, and “harnessing” of nature, or complementing of nature (?) was. This dam is indicative of a larger dam further up the river (I think! It might be this one) called the Warrior Helmet Dam colloquially. It’s offical name is the Kiwada River Sabo Dam.

Bridge -Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park

Bridge

Water wheel and other buildings Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park

I don’t know if these smaller buildings operated as tea houses and so on when the weather was better and it was tourist season.

Buildings Suspension bridge Tsuta-no-hosoi mich park

Buildings, bridges, on the other side of the river.

Making of the dam

Information about the engineering was scattered around the park.

Map of the area Tsuta no hosoi michi park

Map of Tsuta no Hosoimichi Trail. I would have liked to have been armed with some of this information.

Explanation Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park 1

Information about Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park and Path. Click to enlarge.

Explanation Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park 2

Information about Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park and Path. Click to enlarge.

Explanation Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park 3

Information about Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park and Path. Apparently the path had been used officially since the Heian period, and was used prior to the opening of the Tokaido Rd. The Tokaido Rd. opened in 1590,as quoted above.

Looking back at the other side of the river Tsuta-no-hosoi michi park

There’s that little building, below, which I had passed directly on the other side of the river. I’m returning to the bus stop (or hoping to find it) now, after deciding I didn’t want to risk being stuck on a steep narrow path in the middle of the mountain ranges as the night fell.

Older house on the way to the Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop

This older house was on the way to the Utsunoya road stop on the Okabe side (there are two).

Sign Tsuta no Hosoimichi Park

If you’re driving, this is the sign to look out for.

Clouds Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop 1

I think I made the right decision. It was getting close to 5:00, and the clouds and mist were billowing in.

Clouds Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop 2

Clouds, rain, traffic. I’m heading toward Fujieda here.

Clouds Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop

Walking along on the wrong side of the road (for the bus), trying to figure out just how I was going to get home.

clouds Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop

I crossed over a pedestrian walk way, a fair way down, when I saw a bus stop, and it was the right move. On this side, I could have caught a bus to Fujieda, and taken a train back. But it was preferable to get back to Shizuoka by bus from here. The rest stop can be seen in the distance on the right.

Detailed map Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop 1

This was the map I really wanted! Lots of great detail in both languages. Click to enlarge. Exciting figuring things out with the resources at hand, though.

Detailed map Okabe side of Utsunoya rest stop

Information. Times. Click to enlarge.

Tsuta no Hosoi Michi explanation 1

Information. Yup, where I thought, You couldn’t possibly turn there, was exactly where you turned. Photos of the start of the Tsuta no Hosoimichi trail.

Tsuta no Hosoi Michi explanation 2

Information.

Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side 1

I found my bus stop. Actually, I walked to the next one, as I had about 20 minutes to wait, but stopped shy of walking through the working tunnel. Masses of cars, the tunnel is quite long, and I’m not sure if pedestrians were allowed.

Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side 2

Snake clouds. Trucks resting.

Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side 3

Mist and clouds.

Waiting for the bus Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side

The bus stop. Sakashita.

Arrival Clouds billowing in Utsunoya rest stop Okabe side

My bus! I was happy to see it. Lights always look pretty shining in the rain.

Aoi beer Golden Ale

A good day hiking was rewarded with a glass of Golden Ale once I returned to Shizuoka. Aoi is a local brewery and this little bar on one of the main streets has only about seven seats. Two were empty when I arrived. It was still early. Lots of individuals (well, 3 out of 5) were women enjoying a beer. Two, myself and the lady to my left, were solo.

Aoi Beer A taste of Green tea

According to my phone, I’d walked 65 flights of stairs. I hadn’t of course, but I’d gone up and down a fair number of gradients. This beer had traces of green tea flavour. I was having a chat to the master and another guy to my right by this time. I might have been onto my third bevvie. A mistake. Still, conversation wasn’t too bad, though my Japanese is pretty rusty nowadays.

Soba-cha

After leaving Aoi beer stand, I enjoyed a cup of soba-cha (buckwheat tea) at a soba restaurant at the station.

Oysters

I finally got my soba at the station. Not very romantic, I know, but very tasty. This was a small side dish of oysters. I ordered far too much.

Kani-soba

This soba contained shreds of crabmeat, and I can’t remember what the other flavours were. Delicious.

extras

It was a set, so tempura and rice too. Far too much, but I ate it all. 16 kilometres all up. Not bad for a half day trip with plenty of sightseeing and stops for photographs.

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– encounters 11, there were no encounters

February 10, 2016

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Though I did see a building positioned over the canal.

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Shadows cast on industry

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The toenail moon

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Sunsets are peach here.

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Shadows, lines.

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Walk, don’t walk.

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Hey, the moon’s the same colour in colour.

– encounters 9, not so much happening

February 9, 2016

Freeway_1

Not so much happening this day. I took a walk in the direction of Okitsu, taking a path that runs from just beyond the bus centre which is just past the pain Shimizu post office. It runs between the train tracks and houses, and is pleasant enough.

Freeway_2

Though Shimizu is surrounded by a lot of these kinds of roads that take you elsewhere.

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A bit of green and artwork as I approached the station on the way back. I’d walked under the tracks about a kilometre before this.

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Made the mistake of trying to walk on the bay side, which meant really just walking along a very heavy, industrialised road. However, I eventually connected with the path that leads up to S-Pulse Plaza, which is pleasant.

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This is the walk on the way back. Beautiful light this way for the sunsets.

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And again.

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The final daylight goodbye

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– encounters 5b & 6a

February 5, 2016

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The beginning of this post really belongs to encounters 5. The Verkehr Museum, near Shimizu Port, is currently holding an exhibition of Taku Tashiro’s work. He’s an illustrator and graphic designer. The exhibition is interesting enough. I wouldn’t make a special trip just to see it. However, if you were combining checking out the Shimizu Port area, it’s worth popping into. Admission is only 400 yen and it runs until the end of February. The Verkehr has some really interesting exhibitions detailing the port history of Shimizu, and there were also some very lovely impressionistic/abstract etchings from a local artist. I’ve misplaced her name(card).

Encounters 6 begins with setting out to walk inbetween Shimizu and Okitsu station. You always think, easy, right? I’ll just follow the railway lines. Except they go places you can’t go. The easiest way to follow them is to be on them, which, in Japan, would probably result in death, considering how well they are utilised. Not really an option. Google maps, or GPS and so on, direct you to the most boring, car-ridden path you could possibly take. So, if you know the general direction, then follow the tracks when you can, if you don’t have to double-back too much, and there are lots of hidden pathways and opportunities.

Along the main road, maybe the old Tokaido Road, is the Zagyoso Musuem/Villa. A reconstruction of one of those elegant older houses you often encounter only as reconstructions. It belonged to one of the wealthier members of Okitsu, and he was visited by many dignitaries, etc. Not really my cup of tea, but entrance was free, the grounds and house were lovely, and if you like matcha and ice-cream, it was available, though maybe not on a mid-weekday. I was out walking to see what I’d encounter, so there was one thing.

As I wandered along I came across the Seikenji temple. According to virtual tourists, train spotters like it because the Tokaido line runs right in front of it. Which it does. Apparently, according to the link just prior, a shot of a train passing under the bell tower is well sought after.

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That brick wall was beautiful, mainly because the red brick is so rarely seen in Japan. The temple overlooks Suruga Bay, and the horizon would be the ocean if not for the elevated highway that divides the vision.

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The photo below details some further information about the temple. The temple was also a crucial in terms of negotiation between the powers that be and foreign powers/ religious interests, particularly Korean, throughout its history. It must have boasted stunning views once upon a time.

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I was the only one in the grounds, though some workers were labouring in the nearby haka (cemetery). A monk sang while I overlooked the grounds. Very peaceful.

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senkeiji_05

I love the depictions of the 500 arhats / rakan/ boatsatsu / bodhisattva that you can see depicted within Japan. Enlightened folk, in other words, who have reached sainthood, nirvana, possibly, but who come back to earth to help out the mess and mass of we bumbling fools. Of course, they’re quite often bumbling too.

Recently I saw Takashi Murakami’s depiction of these 500 fellows at the Mori Art Museum. The information I gained there was useful to understand the different personalities, facial expressions, foibles and achievements of the arhats. I visited a number (500?) of these at Nihon-ji, just outside of Kurihama. That’s a trip well worth doing. It’s detailed in this very long post from a previous blog of mine (there are a lot of photos!).

Anyway, I didn’t expect to see them. It was a delight to come across them, and to wend my way up the mountainside where I was abruptly met with a locked gate. So, I didn’t wander too far. But that gave me more time to check out the arhat who seemed to be having a pretty lively conversation with one another. I liked them so much, I’ll post a number of pictures to give readers some idea of the variety.

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My favourite. This one has the Buddha inside the Buddha. Or the pure heart is shining forth.

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This guy is very mellow.

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The temple from the back. That’s Suruga Bay in the distance.

And here’s Murakami being an arhat at the foyer of his Mori exhibition.

Takashi_Murakami_Arhat_01

Takashi_Murakami_Arhat_02

Stay tuned for encounter 6B.

– encounters 5

February 2, 2016

Yesterday’s encounter was an airfield, today’s are the plum blossoms that have been disobeying the calendar for the last few weeks. We’ve had a mild winter, despite the few days of very cold weather. They’re not in full bloom yet.

River_Walk_2

River_Walk

Oh, and a review I did of Jane Joritz-Nakagawa’s Distant Landscapes was published on Plumwood Mountain: An Australian Journal of Ecopoetry and Ecopoetics at the beginning of February. I think Jane took it favourably:

It’s just so good. I can’t believe how perceptively and closely the work is read/analyzed here. the heart beats oftly* is brilliant. the heart beats oftly* could be a psychotherapist and could also make lots of money like being a reviewer for a major newspaper.

*The blog name has been used to protect the somewhat shy – however, if you follow the review link, of course you’ll find my name. John Roberts, aka Hank Chinaski has no such issue with publicity, and many thanks to him for reading the final drafts and providing valuable suggestions. I need Jane as my PR person.

Until tomorrow’s encounter, or the day after.

– shadows 2

January 30, 2016

01_Shimizu
Views around here.

– nothing is nothing unless it involves a lost passport. day 2, after breakfast

August 18, 2015

Australian-passport

Yeah, not this kind of passport. And we switched to a silver logo. I didn’t notice.

EchigoTsumariPassport2015

This one. The Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale 2015 Passport gives you access to all the artworks, and it has plenty of spaces for stamps. Without the passport you end up paying quite a lot for individual exhibitions and entrance to art hubs, such as the Nohbutai centre.

On my solo journeys I have never been so careless, as in, I never have been, not that I have, but with K, both in 2009 and 2015, my passport was not in my possession for a period of time.

2009 was probably more problematic. We were on a tour with a set time. We’d had lunch at Cafe Reflet and I’d talked K into taking a few unauthorised minutes to see

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Reverse City (my photo from 2009), and had set my passport down as I took photos.

Like your daggy aunt with her best spectacles on a chain around her neck,

Spectacles_Chain

I also make sure I pick up a little passport holder that I can hook over my neck in a similar way to prove both my dagginess, my train-spotterishness, and my practicality, it has to be said.

However, it gets annoying. I take it off. I set it down. Especially in summer where sweat is a constant creep on all parts of your skin.

Luckily K is a marathon runner. From where the bus left to where Reverse City sways in the wind is a moderately steep 4 or 5 minutes away, at a run. There it sat. It was returned. I thanked K profusely and berated myself.

This time we saw

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Ryo Toyofuku’s Golden Playroom

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Ryo Toyofuku’s Golden Playroom

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Ryo Toyofuku’s Golden Playroom.

That image is the right side up. He covers everything in gold and makes amazing wall collages from it. Check out this post to see what he did with the Matsudai Castle in 2009.

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and we saw Shinji Morino and Kiryubu’s Matsudai Satoyama Kiryu-bu!!

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Matsudai Satoyama Kiryu-bu!!

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and we spent time at Masahiro Hasunuma’s Dream of land – twelve short stories, twirling flipbooks.

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flipbooks

Notice that bag on the table? That contained my camera and my train ticket! That one I did not forget, but you can see why I might.

flipbooks
This picture is taken from the art field site, and shows you the contents of one of the twelve flip books shown above. Each flipbook reflected a month and season in the Echigo area, and each flipbook told an animated story about it as you turned them around. Very cool.

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Looking out from the building housing the flipbooks

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Furthermore, we saw Passing through the umbilical cord, by Asayo Yamamoto,

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through which we passed,

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You could pick one piece of fruit/vegetable if it was ripe, leaving a 100 yen donation. You entered the installation from portable steel steps leading up the top underside roof of a kamaboko, and then you clambered down the other side. Okay, Google tells me that kamaboko is Japanese for surimi, or seafood extender, which is

kamaboko

a semi-cylindrical shape, such as the storage sheds. Therefore, I don’t know if the locals call them Kamaboko, or if, as the titles are “Kamaboko-type”, it’s just a useful metaphor. K was saying it was the word for some kind of fish dish, which surimi is. The above is not my photo.

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We also viewed  Satoyama Field Museum Visitor Centre by Musashino University and Tsohihiro Mizutani Lab,

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which had unfolded from when I’d witnessed it earlier in the day. A brief sojourn past the car ikebana written about in the last post, and at long last picking up the official English guidebook for the festival (a tenth the size of the Japanese one),  before I realised I did not have my passport with me.

It meant no stamps at Nobutai! Though I’d got some of them previously, and I probably had to get the majority of them in the Nobutai Center, which we didn’t have time to explore within (I much prefer the installations, though the hubs are fun).

I realised I’d left it at the flipbook house, or at least I thought I had. All of these installations were near my accommodation from the night before, Yama no ie. The flipbook house was less than five minutes away from my accommodation, but further from Nobutai.

The night before, K and I had asked a man, bent over and seemingly feeble, yet fixing up vines around the edges of his house, about the flipbook installation. It was after six. Most things were closed. The old man didn’t know, and we resolved to see it the next day. We didn’t know what it was either. We’d just seen a house with one of the art field signs in front of it.  But when we spoke to the researcher staying at Yama no ie later, she recommended it.

Scarecrows

Okay, the above is not a picture of the old man at all, and it was taken from this article about the festival in 2012. However, it reflects some of the colour of the area, and considering I didn’t take the old man’s picture, this will need to suffice.

The photographs are posted in the order we viewed the installations, apart from the one below (and the scarecrows). When we walked into the area where the flipbooks were, the installation being in an old house surrounded by equally old houses, we saw marrow drying in the sun.

Marrow

You need to take your shoes off at a lot of the installations, especially the ones housed in old schools and residences. Dream of Land – Twelve Short Stories was no different.

Because I had so much travel, tramping and time planned, I needed shoes with support. This also meant shoelaces, and some difficulty getting into and out of my footwear, despite my many years in Japan. Curse you Plantar fasciitis!

I had strewn my possessions in the top floor of the building housing the installation, as you saw in the photos above, but had asked K to remind me to pick them up, and thought I’d done a pretty good job of reminding myself too.

However, while pulling on our shoes, looking out at those drying marrow strips, a lady as old as the man yesterday had been – I’m guessing late eighties at the youngest – offered to give K and myself some tomatoes and cucumbers. I’d rested my possessions on a shelf while pulling on my shoes. They had made it to the ground/first floor at least!

I was interested in hearing exactly what was going on, so I joined K when I could, and left my passport behind. Not intentionally. The old woman was an unexpected element. The day was hot. Tomatoes and cucumbers were summer fruits, the lady explained (I’m sure she said kudamono, fruit). We should put them in water, when we could. We should eat them soon. We thanked her and placed them in the back of the car.

K rescued my art experience again, pulling into the residential area (a no-no. I would have been fine walking up) – and fortunately the festival was not in full swing. There it was – my way and means and entry into the visual, aural, tactile and other art delights that punctuated the Echigo landscape. Still resting on the shelf. We explained ourselves to the lady who was still pottering about. She shrugged her shoulders, it happens. Then we went on to visit the loin cloths and birds in a shrine. Tori near a Torii.

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The entry to A story of birds and Korato, by Maki Kijima. You can see some birds by the top of the steps.

– I never was much good at ikebana, or baseball for that matter – day 2, before breakfast

August 11, 2015

I had a pretty good pitch in softball, though. Put me on first base or on the pitcher’s mound (did we even have one of those in softball? I don’t think so) and I could catch anything. Not outfield, though. And they’d often put me outfield, before they realised – when class sizes had shrunk to the size of the withered skin of a raisin – that they needed all members of our year seven class to have some useful role in the softball team.

How many of us were there? I think there were only seven girls. Girls played softball. We combined with the year sixes, of course. There were enough of them to make up two classes. One of those classes was a combined grade 6/7 to which I belonged.

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(Not my image).

They discovered I was pretty good as a goalkeeper in netball too. Necessity is the mother of all invention. I don’t do well when I know there’s a way that I should be doing something. This of course, means that I don’t really learn much. Learning takes practice. I’m not good with scrutiny, having team members rely upon me and with not being able to adapt to something quickly. I can get there, though. With practice, you nearly always can, though a mere pass in maths with hours of sweat-inducing effort seems hardly worth it.

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(Not my image).

It’s insecurity, mind you, not arrogance, but maybe the two rub off one another somehow. The skills that you can dabble in when you visit Japan or other places are many. Having begun my career as an assistant language teacher in the JET programme way back when, I had many chances to place a flower in a vase a certain way, to fold paper to create an origami homunculus (maybe I was being too ambitious), or to cast a horse-hair brush over washi paper with grace and ease.

It was beyond me. Beyond my confidence. I even had the aikido outfit, but only attended classes twice. It was a wonder I picked up any of the language at all. Wasted opportunities. Flower arrangement is the art of ikebana in Japan, and it can be elegant, amusing, uplifting and something beyond a bunch of blooms strewn into a jam jar, or conversely that could capture its very essence.

Yuji Ueno knows all about it.

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This one is termed Ultimate flower arrangement/garage, and in Japanese, I’m sure the word ikebana is used instead. Ueno’s exhibition was part of the Selected 100 Marginal Artists of Today, as part of the 2015 Echigo Tsumari Art Triennial. They were exhibiting in and around Nohbutai (For pics of Nohbutai, see below). Here’s a 2013 article on Ueno and his attitude toward ikebana. I can’t get much information about this artwork online.

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According to the linked article above, it’s an expansion of and play upon the tradition of hanagaruma. A picture of the same lifted from the article is below.

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I can’t readily find out if the work is from 2012 or 2015 as Ueno has participated in events for a while. This was the first Nohbutai exhibit that K and I had seen when we’d pulled into town (Matsudai) the day previously and, from a distance, apparent meaning was puzzling.

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We didn’t see it from this angle though. Nohbutai is the centre for the Matsudai area, and I’ve posted many pictures of it in the 2009 touring reports.

I slept like a log at the end of my first day touring. Well, not quite, but I was asleep before 12 and slept straight for 2 hours. I know, because I woke at midnight. Of course I went back to sleep, and I do sleep fitfully generally speaking, but the periods when I slept were restful.

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You can just see the tip of Yayoi Kusama’s Echigo in Bloom at the very edge of that picture. The person on the bike was tending a small vegetable garden just near it.

My plan was to strike out at about 7am, as breakfast was served at 8:30am at Yama no ie. I knew there were many artworks in the hills around Nohbutai, and I wanted to see the ones that had popped up since the 2009 visit, and perhaps some 2015 ones. I still didn’t have a guide with English, and not much time, so I was relying on memory and trust.

I did know that Illya and Emilia Kabakov had a new artwork, but the researcher I’d been chatting to the night before said she’d been unable to find it. However, we did reminisce about others tucked into the folds of the mountains, such as the spirals and the little library in the forest. Referenced in 2009.

There are a number of practical and not so practical artworks around the Nohbutai center, too, and it was good to see them so early in the morning, packed away. Though also great to see kids and others clambering all over them later on.

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Gyro for Playing with Earth by Takahito Kumura. They look like unicycles, but are not. When we returned later, there were only one or two on the racks.

The palm of the god (below) is by Nobuhiko Terasawa. It’s housed in a Kamaboko style structure. The Kamaboko are the rounded warehouses that people in the Echigo area use for storage. They have arched roofs so that snow slides off easily. The Kamaboko installation can be found elsewhere in this blog, and they do seem to go through a metamorphosis each festival. K and I explored later when the center was open.

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Anyway, time was ticking. There are a few ways to climb the hills. Art work is peppered throughout them. If you start at the 2009 post touring and read through to touring 8 on this blog, you will see a good representation of most of the permanent, and some not so permanent, art works in this area. If you check out my art collection on flickr, there are 9 albums dedicated to the 2009 festival.This time I decided not to take any photos of art works I had already seen, except if they’d changed significantly.

Anyhoo – new stuff.
It was hot. The hills were steep. I decided to walk past the Ricefield, the very first installation of the festival back in 2000, thereby bypassing a great many other worthy installations. I gave a quick nod to Simon Beer’s snowman (Carpe Diem). I’ve seen this icy fella (not really. He’s made of foam) on-season and off. He must prefer festival years when he can peer out of his refrigerated door to the spectators gazing in. Unless he’s a misanthrope. Which he very well could be. He’s pretty isolated year in, year out.

At a meeting of three roads, one which led to the highly recommended WD Spiral Part III Magic Theatre, I chose the path which had jinsei written in Japanese. I’d found the tricky turn to the Kabakovs’ work, and it was fitting that I’d walked through their original installation just a short while prior.

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The Arch of Life in English. It doesn’t seem that Ilya and Emilia Kabakov have too bright a view of our journey. Even so, they make sure it plays out in beautiful surroundings.

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I knew that Arch of Life would be crowded later, as the art work would have symbolised a lot to those who are invested in the festival. Therefore, it was great to just have me and the screaming, screeching, tweeting, rustling birds and insects. The sun rises a little after five nowadays (the days are getting shorter), so everything was already well illuminated, and Japan doesn’t really lose its heat overnight. However, it was still cooler at that time than at nearly any other.

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Click on this one and have a better look at the side face of the egg.

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Stamp!

There are three or more paths you can take back down to Nohbutai. Two via road, and about three through the fields and hills. I chose the road, and revisited Tatsuo Kawaguchi’s, Relation-Earth/ the Big Dipper, which was a big square piece of rust in a rice-field when I saw it in Autumn 2009

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(Is that my picture? I’m not sure).

Not so in 2015:

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Relation-Earth/the Big Dipper, Tatsuo Kawaguchi.

Can you see the farmer tending his rice to the side? Click to make the picture bigger, and zoom in.

I walked past The○△□Tower and the Red Dragonfly, by Shintaro Tanaka (2000), and Reverse City, by Pascal Marthine Tayou (Cameroun, 2009), two of my favourite installations. A young girl from our hostel was checking them out. I only found this out later. I saw her, but didn’t realise she was staying at Yama no ie.

She was an exchange student from Taiwan, and was currently living in Akita, to the north of Niigata Ken. She was travelling around on the seishun juhachi kippu, but was struggling with a rather big yellow suitcase, as were many of the travellers (No. They didn’t all have yellow suitcases).

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Stock picture, not mine.

Of course she didn’t have her luggage with her at this early hour. I saw it when she was checking out. Considering how scarce accommodation was due to the festival’s popularity (travellers had to go from one business to another), and how far out of the way a lot of installations were, with a public transport system that could not be termed as frequent, a suitcase was cumbersome. I tried to find lockers for my backpack as soon as I could when I was using public transport, and luckily for days one and two, K and I used his car.

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A picture of mine from 2009. Tetsuo Sekine’s Boys in the Wonderful Red Loin Cloths

I had to make a decision. Whether to see the addition I heard of to the Boys in the Wonderful Red Loin Cloths, or to go back for breakfast. I knew it was about fifteen minutes to the artwork and also to the dormitory cafe, in opposite directions. I opted for breakfast and chatted with the Australian researcher about research in the Arts (including creative writing).

K was coming at 10am, and once breakfast was finished, and the woman from Sydney had gone to meet her interpreter, and the Taiwanese woman had combatted her suitcase, I had time to actually get my head straight, to find the location of art works I wanted to see on the map, and to plan a vague itinerary. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed the distraction of talking to my fellow travellers, and I know that I took up their valuable preparation time as well. The hectic breakfast pace quickly subsided, and the ensuing serenity of Yama no ie was the perfect place to spread out my map and wait for K.

Luckily I also waited for the loin cloths. That’s not a sentence you write every day. The new installation was not just about the loin cloths (fundoshi). Its title is Native Vegetation – Standalone Soil, another Tetsuo Sekine creation. However, there were some of the new-look loin cloths, as seen in the picture below. There were masses of the standalone figures, and they were a fair way from Nohbutai and the dorm. Having a car afforded us more time to wander around and take in other artwork.

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– a coffin by any other name would still be as uncomfortable as f**k (day one, second half, jumping ahead)

August 10, 2015

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The picture above is from Japan magazine and illustrates Marina Abramovic’s Dream House. Not to say I didn’t see it, but I hadn’t figured out how to turn off the automatic flash on my camera yet, so I didn’t get any images which captured the mood.

This photo from this page shows how you are meant to sleep in it, though the dream bed in the photo below is not in Abramovic’s Dream House.

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These are the suits that you wear, and to your side, in the coffin/bed is a book, tucked into a recess on the floor of the bed. And in that book, you record your dreams. The pillow is square and hard and I think it was made either of wood or stone. Anyone is free to correct me. You can see a version of it in the picture of the bath below (scroll down).

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This blog post (not mine), illustrates the process somewhat. I’ve lifted the photo below from the post as well.

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Dream House is nestled in the curves and folds of the Matsunoyama part of the Echigo Tsumari art field. You can stay in the house and doing so is part of the art project. I have wanted to, but not in summer. That little red room was hot, and those pyjamas don’t look as if they’d bring your temperature down.

In 2011 I stayed at the House of Light, James Turrell’s design, which is in the Kawanishi area. My ex and I stayed off-season, in late October, and paid a very small price to have the whole house to ourselves. During peak time, such as throughout the Triennial, you share with other users.

Dream House wasn’t as great as I thought it would be, but I’m sure that sleeping over might change my opinion. K asked the attendant if most people slept in the coffin-beds. She said they did, but there are only three or four of them. Whole families sleep here. There are tatami rooms where you can lay out your futons,  but how comfortable would sleeping be with this as your wallpaper, even if you’d paid for the experience?

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Being so overwhelmed by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami on the east coast of Japan, I hadn’t realised that the following day there had been a large earthquake in the northern part of Nagano, which caused damage to many of the Echigo art installations, including the Dream House, and the destruction of Australia House (I think it was that earthquake, and not another which affected Australia House). Dream House was reopened for the 2012 festival, and the words above and below were added at that time in response to the earthquake. The website is playing up again, so I cannot verify that 100%.

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The usable tatami rooms might have been upstairs, at it doesn’t look as if that glass case is easily movable.

Anyway, along with restructure, this was on my must-absolutely-see-if-we-have-a-car list. And K had a car. Yaay, K-san!

On the way there, we viewed the wonderful tanada (terraced rice fields). If you search for Echigo, or go to the art category, on my blog you can see photos of these from my prior visits. The aforementioned earthquake affected a lot of these as well, due to mudslides and weakened structures. This isn’t the most defined of pictures, tanada-wise – there’s a better one in the next post (as yet, unwritten, August 10) – but it is pretty.

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I’d be very nervous negotiating the curves of the road, so I’m glad that K was behind the wheel.

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I think this building housed “Elixir”. I detail that a little further down.

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Charming or spooky, depending upon your knowledge of what lies within.

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A relaxing bath. You can see the pillow. That was the shape and size of the ones in the coffin-beds. I think Abramovic uses stones, and possibly herbal properties, to usher in good dreams. So maybe the selection of vegetation in the bath holds some meaning. There were two baths.

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I’m not really sure what all the glasses of water symbolised. They weren’t for drinking (or so we thought).

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You can see the tour bus waiting. This group had gone before us, but as it was a Tuesday, the place was not swarming with too many people.

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The furin rings sharply on the breeze, and brings our thoughts to a possible respite from the heat, and to our own selves. It’s a beautiful sound, and reassuring, protective sight in a slightly sombre house.

Within the same area was a 2003 Australian exhibit, Elixir, by Janet Laurence. That is the artist page. The Tsumari page is still having trouble!

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Just down the curve of the road were another two 2003 Australian installations in Harvest House and Rice Talk.The artists were Lauren Berkowitz, and Robyn Backen, respectively. There’s a lot more to Rice Talk according to that link than I got from the website or guidebooks (we were using the Romaji and titles in English to connect with dots on the maps, and what we wanted to see, due to my appalling Japanese. It was all part of the adventure. Gathering enough information to be able to understand something and proceed. Of course K could understand the Japanese, but we had to determine which exhibits we wanted to see). It seems I didn’t take any pictures of Rice Talk though.

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The map below shows you the direction and areas we covered on day one. Those areas have sub-areas. Click on it to get a better view.

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Points one and two (Jimmy Liao and Harumi Yukatake) were in the Museum of Picture Book Art, Tokamachi South Area. I’d seen that exhibition before, by the way. It’s definitely worth it.

Point 3 is in the Asia Art Village, Tsunan Area. That’s where we saw this big guy:

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And also where we ate. I’ve skipped right ahead to point 4 in this post, which is Abramovic’s Dream House, and the nearby art works. Point 4 and 5 are in the Kyororo, Matsunoyama area.

Five is full of sounds and pictures I didn’t take (next post), and six ends us up here, at Yama no ie (as opposed to Yume no ie – mountain house as opposed to dream house). This is in the Central Matsudai area which counts Nohbutai Snow Land Agrarian Culture Center as its base. If you search through the blog, you’ll find some pictures (go back to 2009).

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The dormitory and cafe are on the right and run by a vary harried, but capable woman. She usually has more staff, but they were all off volunteering or working for other events and installations for the festival. She managed to keep the place running for 40+ people, single-handedly.

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Inside the cafe. A very calm space. We had a delicious dinner, that took some time to come, but was worth the wait. A vegetarian hiyashi soba, with trefoil for garnish and taste. Yum. I can’t remember what K had. We also wandered the streets a little, but really didn’t take in any more art works, though the building next to Yama no ie is an art work.

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This sign gives you an indication of just how many art works are in that area, and that is just a fraction of them.

Then I bid K farewell, after we kind of organised ideas for the following day, and had a chat to an Australian researcher who was interviewing locals on their opinion of art as community.

Planning

I was so beat that my notes made hardly any sense, but they were a vague guideline I could use when I was more in the present the next morning.

Okay, the next post will be pre-coffin and post. Until then.

– the last hoorah

June 28, 2014

Pansies

is smaller than the first.

– today

October 12, 2013

I rode my bike slowly against the wind.

this middle aged takes some

defining.

(c) theheartbeatsoftly/lizardrinking, 2013

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From Skart, Aichi Triennale, 2013.

(c) theheartbeatsoftly/lizardrinking, 2013

– sanagawa river (sana river river)

April 22, 2012

– sakura and shadow

April 5, 2012

theheartbeatsoftly/lizardrinking, (c) April, 2012.

My new camera-phone takes some extremely large photos. I’ll have to adjust the settings. How y’all doing? This bough fell from the tree, and I have my own private hanami going on in my living/tatami room.

– spring

March 21, 2012

Weeping plum blossoms at Mukaiyama Park

Weeping plum blossoms at Mukaiyama Park

theheartbeatsoftly/ lizardrinking (c) 2012

– sense less of place

March 19, 2012

Smith Tower – once the tallest building in Seattle. Great views of Puget Sound.

A train crossing the tracks near the Sculpture Park, towards the Ballard end of town (maybe, or is it the place beginning with P? I always forget). Click on the pic – this one is really best viewed larger.

So, you spend some time somewhere, you get a feel for the place. Cairns, Melbourne, Matsuyama, Sur, Sydney, Christchurch, Lyttelton, the suburbs of Perth, Fremantle, St Edward Park of Seattle, the Bridle Trail of Boya – Yokohama, Higashiyama, Shibata in Niigata – they all resonate. Chicago, even, the beautiful lake of Towada. I am looking forward to this sun once again sweeping its evening glaze over my skin. The streets empty, yet you’d think they should be full. Yet, they are not really empty, there’s just an abundance of space.