Teshima and More Art

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Our last day was a ferry boat trip to the nearby island of Teshima which was reclaimed by the Benesse Foundation from an environmental disaster zone due to large scale dumping of toxic waste.   The main attraction on the island is now a museum designed by artist Rei Naito and architect Ryue Nishsizawa. There is little else to see except a few scattered new art projects that have sprung up by private artists to complement the blooming of work on its sister island of Naoshima.  It is a rural island with agriculture, fishing and mineral mining.

This is a warning to stop reading further if you think you will have an opportunity to visit the Teshima Museum in your future.  It was an intense experience and made so in part because we had no idea what was there and what we would see.  I don’t want to ruin this possibility for any of you so decide whether to read on!

On the way to the Teshima Museum. Photo by Rich.

The approach to the museum is a long curving path through thick vegetation and then the entrance where the museum staff in broken English instructs you to remove your shoes because the art is in the floor in the form of “plates and cups” and be careful where you walk and to touch nothing and remain quiet.   The large curved smooth concrete space with two large oval cut outs in the rounded ceiling contains nothing obvious.   Some people are quietly walking around or sitting on the ground in meditation.  It takes a few moments to adjust to what is going on in the space.  The two large open areas spread light on the ground which is reflected in a small puddle of water in the middle below each of the two open apertures.  As it has been very lightly drizzling, my immediate reaction was that the rain has accumulated there.  But then I looked down to find the “art” that was described on the floor and found wriggling drops of water moving across the floor in the direction of the puddle and then noticed that their were small drops of  water coming out of the smooth concrete floor, creating this effect of constant movement.    Everyone is wearing socks and I realize I must look carefully where I walk to avoid stepping in water.  The very small rivulets of water move away from their generating holes and then sometimes merge together with others to form patterns and a sense of an alive element.  It is mesmerizing and extraordinarily peaceful.    And now I realize that the whole museum is designed as a giant water drop, with the two ovals letting in natural water and the underfloor water system providing a pallet of constantly changing design.

Photographs are strictly not allowed but one of our group snuck in a few before being caught and instructed to stop.   

Returning to Naoshima, we finish our stay with visits to the buildings we have not yet seen:  the Valley Gallery and the Lee Ufam Museum as well as some environmental art, including the iconic pumpkin by Yayoi Kusuma.  It has been an immersive experience into a different world, more international then Japanese as art speaks to the universal in all of us.

Yayooi Kusuma’s Pumpking. Photo by Geri.
Lee Ufan Museum designed by Tadeo Ando (entrance is hardly visible)
Yayoi Kusuma’s Project outside the Valley Gallery .
The balls move with the wind on the water and make a beautiful sound as they touch each other.

Inside the new Valley Gallery designed by Tadeo Ando
Naoshima Bath House. Marilyn went in the soaking tub there. Wild and funky.

And some random images from our 3 days in Naoshima:

Walking along a street in town, this was the view into a private garden.
In Honmura village: What does this sign mean? We assume “Help the Elderly”
The super sleek womens’ room at the Chichu Museum

And related to that, my last photo for this post: The cleanest nicest public bathroom I have ever seen. Almost all public toilets in Japan are the Toto Washlet design with heated seats, washing options, some with automatic flush (and sometimes it is hard to find the flush button as it is in Japanese), and some where the toilet seat automatically opens when you approach. Here you can see the flush button is clearly indicated. All immaculately clean. In restaurants or places where you are asked to remove your shoes before entering, there are usually slip-on slippers at the entrance to the bathroom for everyone’s use.

I’ll end my posts about Naoshima now and move on to our next destination, Shikoku Island.