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Another old villa

I’ve read that Atami is a has-been resort town, and perhaps there is some truth in that… Just by skimming through the town (like we did) it doesn’t score so high on the charm meter. We were mainly there for Kiunkaku, another fancy villa from the eras past. Built by a successful businessman around the turn of the century, in the 40s it was turned into ryokan and many famous Japanese authors came to stay here. Hence the rooms they had occupied were turned into mini-museums. It was interesting to say the least, to see the mix and match of Japanese and British architecture, plus a Roman bath! Could it be the birth place of post-modern interior design in Japan, haha. A buddhist sculpture above a western style fireplace! A little absurd by today’s standards I thought, but I’m not sure if that’s a popular view point here. Definitely, wealthy people’s propensity for the European style runs deep here. And they do go all out - the quality was still amazing even after 100 years.





















Around Atami.







On a whim we tried a local hotspring bathhouse. It is perhaps the spookiest bathhouse I’ve tried yet. But it felt good to dip in after a sweltering day.







After searching for places to eat….




we ended up with McD!

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We made an unexpected stop

at Mishima and before changing to an Atami-bound train, and decided to see what was around the station.

Rakujuen, as it turns out, is a villa built by a Japanese prince in 1890.


















A little neighbourhood water park - a perfect place to be on a dog day summer afternoon.








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Eric on holiday





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Summer onsen

This past weekend we thought we would check out the Izu peninsula, a popular onsen destination from Tokyo. I picked Shirakabeso ryokan in the Yugashima onsen area. It was a little tricky to get to, via two trains, one bus, and pickup from the bus stop, but well worth it.




























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April 13: Leaving the island

First, ferry to Takamatsu.








Then flight to Tokyo Haneda.


Eric, is that you?

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April 12: And we got nothing to show for it

The most memorable of all was the last place we visited, the Chichu museum designed by Tadao Ando. Chichu, meaning inside or the middle of earth/land. Unbelievably, these are the only shots we have from there because this time we were forced to put the camera in a locker before entering the museum. The museum houses only a few selected pieces by Turrell, De Maria and Monet, and they are probably the luckiest artwork in the world. The building structure seemed to be literally built around each one of them and the rooms specifically calibrated for their display and our experience.

In Tokyo we often see of Japan’s strive for perfection in material goods and mass consumption - but here we were blown away by how it was applied to the exhibition of art. It was an incredible experience of art, culture and nature all in one, the highlight of our Japan tour so far.

On the way to the museum was a garden recreated from study of Monet’s paintings.



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April 12: More art houses

SANAA-designed Honmura Lounge. What a great space. Upstairs is office.




More amazing art houses by Tatsuo Miyajima (the numbers art), James Turrell & Tadao Ando (the darkness art), and Shinro Ohtake (the crazy art). Photography was not allowed and we wanted to respect the art and all, but it was way too hard to resist.









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April 12: The map reader

and exclusive tour operator for Eric.




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April 12: Art houses

A short shuttle bus ride away from Benesse complex is Honmura, another Naoshima art project that turns old houses from this sleepy island village into art. We walked around the village following the ‘art house map’. There were around 10 or so? Installing art in a remote fishing village may sound cheesy and potentially pretentious, but none of them were. They were all incredibly thoughtful and just really really amazing to experience. The best part was that it felt as if they belonged there. It was as if you don’t know where art ends and life begins.

Breakfast with Basquiat.


Walking around Honmura.
















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April 11: UFO of Naoshima

After the dinner we checked out the Oval House - only reachable by cable car from the museum - and found a surreal glowing oval floating atop of a Naoshima hill. And it’s a hotel too.










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April 11: Dinner at the museum

The museum is open through the night, amazingly, to restaurant and hotel guests. To walk through the empty museum at night without anybody around was quite extraordinary. It felt very personal - like we were house guests to a private art collector.

This piece by the ants is Eric’s favourite.


Dinner was a fancy kaiseki affair. Unfortunately for Eric, this being an island, it was heavy on seafood. But I enjoyed it thoroughly! That’s a Basquiat in the back, just a few feet away from miso soups.






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April 11: Park full of art

After check-in at our room in the Park House, we went out for a walk and ran into so much art. It was great.
















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April 11: All the photos you weren’t supposed to take

Sorry museum guards…















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April 11: First impressions

It was too early to check in so we went exploring…

Amazing ’space’ inside the hotel. Light never looked so good.







Beautiful grounds.




Lunch at the cafe restaurant. Who would have thought, but very good!




On our way to the Benesse Museum, just up the hill.



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April 11: Naoshima, finally

Tony and Ran spent their 2 months sabbatical break traveling Japan earlier this year. We asked them which city was their favourite and it wasn’t Kyoto or Nara, but instead this far-away island of Naoshima. We had heard about Naoshima here and there, and mostly only knew it as an island with Tadao Ando’s museum/hotel. But Tony and Ran’s enthusiastic vote pretty much sealed the deal. We were going to Naoshima. And it’s all true, it’s the most amazing place we’ve been so far.

First fly to Takamatsu.


Then ferry to Naoshima.




The first of many arts to come.




Finally shuttle bus to the Benesse House, the Tadao Ando designed museum/hotel.


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