Naoshima - Art Island in the Seto Inland Sea
Have you heard of Naoshima? I visited Naoshima Island with my parents in February 2009.
The island is famous to art and architecture lovers thanks to Benesse Art Site Naoshima. It contains modern art museums and hotels designed by famed Tadao Ando and has contemporary artworks on display outdoors in a stunning sea-and-landscape. This mixture of art and nature is the highlight of the island. The famous “Pumpkin” by Yayoi Kusama has become an icon of Naoshima.
Naoshima has appeared many times in travel editorials; most recently Nina Willdorf mentioned it in Editor’s Letter in the March 2009 issue of Budget Travel with the photo of her and the yellow pumpkin.
For the information of Benesse Art Site Naoshima and the island in general, please visit the following websites. (I'm not going to tell much about what you can see because you can find it in these websites.)
The museums, hotels and outdoor artworks are scattered in the southern part of Naoshima. In the eastern part of the island (Honmura) is the Art House Project which transformed traditional houses into a space for modern art and there are six sites under the project. Honmura has a nostalgic atmosphere with traditional townscape, perfect for a relaxing walk with occasional stops at the sites of Art House Project, a shrine and a temple, and a few cozy cafes.
Accommodation is also set up for art lovers; Benesse House consists of four buildings of guest rooms featuring contemporary art. We stayed in Room 401 at Oval Building, decorated with Keith Haring's works. And the sunset view of the sea from the room was stunning. As the Museum and Oval buildings are adjacent to the Benesse House Museum, you can enjoy the museum after most of general visitors leave. I had the museum to myself at 8 pm.
You may want to try a minshuku, Japanese style local inns, if you are on budget. While Benesse House costs $350 or more per room (room only), you can stay in these minshuku for less than $100 per person with dinner and breakfast.
The year 2010 will be a good time for your visit to Naoshima and the surrounding area because the Setouchi International Art Festival 2010 will be held. For details on this event, please visit http://setouchi-artfest.jp/en/.
Of course, you do not necessarily have to wait until 2010 to visit this wonderful island.
(Text and photo by S. Kameyama.)
Summer Festival Season in Japan!
Jump into the summer festival in Japan this summer! Visitors are more than welcome to the lively atmosphere with people lifting massive portable shrines, women beautifully dressed in kimonos, and streets lined with numerous stalls. Please see the list of popular Japanese summer festivals. You can learn more about traditional and modern art festivals below!
||Gion Festival (Kyoto): Gion Festival is held throughout Japan during the month of July. Kyoto's Gion Festival is held at Yasaka Shrine and dates back to 869, well known as one of the largest festivals in Kyoto. The highlight of the event is the parade of 32 beautifully decorated floats on the 17th. The floats are described as a "moving museum" of decorations and elegant textiles. Children in traditional attire and festival musicians ride the floats. This Kyoto's style of music, design andfloat structure has influenced other festivals around Japan.
||Sumida River Fireworks (Tokyo): July and August are traditionally fireworks season in Japan. This is a large-scale fireworks show, where thousands upon thousands of fireworks are launched into the sky for hours. The Sumida River Fireworks is one of the major fireworks shows in Tokyo, said to have originated in the custom of the common people of Edo viewing fireworks while enjoying the cool of the summer evening. The old town evening sky turns into a spectacle of dazzling colors, people dressed in summer kimonos enjoy not only watching the brilliant fireworks display, but also enjoy the street fair vendors who sell delicious food, drink and arts & crafts.
|August 2-7, 1-7
||Aomori Nebuta Festival & Hirosaki Neputa Festival (Aomori): Gigantic papier-mache dolls parade at night. These gorgeous and colorful three-dimensional dolls compete each other in beauty and dynamism!
||Akita Kanto Festival See the 24ft-tall bamboo poles with 46 lanterns be carried through the streets in hope for a good fall harvest.
||Yamagata Hanagasa Festival Come and watch about a total of 10,000 dancers in a 100 groups participate in this festival as a parade is led by colorful decorated floats.
||Sendai Tanabata Festival (Star Festival) (Miyagi): Currently, Tanabata is to celebrate the summer starry night and an old romantic mythology behind. Unique to Sendai are the Seven Ornaments, which embody prayers for progress in studies or calligraphy, the well being of one's family, good health and longevity, prosperous business, a large catch and a rich harvest.
||Tokyo Bay Grand Fireworks (Tokyo): The Tokyo Bay Grand Fireworks Show is one of the largest and best known fireworks displays in Tokyo, where as many as 12,000 fireworks will be launched.
|Flags of teams
Take Yourself Out To The Ballgame! (Part Two)
If you're in Japan and fail to see a pro baseball game you'll have missed an essential part of your Japan travel experience. Really. If you want to experience and event with local Japanese, take yourself out to a ballgame. (This is the second half of Japanese Baseball story by Bob Bavasi. The first half was published in the last March issue.)
Japanese baseball and its fans are far removed from the relatively sedate game of the United States and Canada. Japanese fans are crowd-roaring, flag-waving, song-singing, chant-yelling home team boosters, who, in spite of all that, are the most polite and gracious you'll find anywhere in the sporting world.
Team and Stadium Locations
|Inside Tokyo Dome
If you're in Tokyo, there are five teams from which to choose. Here's a website for team logos, Stadium maps and locations.
The Swallows and Giants are in central Tokyo. Jingu Stadium where the Swallows play is a continually rejuvenated old-time park that once hosted Babe Ruth. The more modern Tokyo Dome hosts the Giants and has an adjacent amusement park, restaurants, and a raucous multi-story off-track horseracing parlor.
The Lions in northwest Tokyo play in the Seibu Dome, a formerly outdoor ballpark that now has a cover. The Marines reside in east Tokyo in Chiba Marine Stadium, a circular multi-purpose stadium boasting a terrific fan museum. The well-known former New York Mets skipper, Bobby Valentine, enthusiastically manages this club and is known to lead fans in cheers.
The BayStars are a short 30-minute train ride from Tokyo to Yokohama Municipal Stadium, which is surrounded by a park, adjacent to Chinatown, and a few blocks from harbor side attractions.
North of Tokyo you'll find the Eagles in Sendai playing at the most intimate and fan-friendly of all the Japanese parks. The Fighters are the northernmost ballclub whose home is the Sapporo Dome.
In the greater Osaka area you can choose from the Tigers and Buffaloes in Osaka proper, while the Dragons are relatively nearby in Nagoya.
The Tigers play in what some call Sacred Koshien Stadium. Sacred or not it is indeed the only ballpark with a legitimate shrine just outside where fans make offerings. It's also home to the ever-popular twice-yearly high school baseball tournament.
Both the Buffaloes and Dragons play in domes with plenty of restaurants and other commercial attractions on premises.
South of Osaka is Hiroshima, home of the Carp who begin play this season in a brand new stadium conveniently located next to JR Hiroshima Station. The Hawks in Fukuoka are the southernmost team playing in the Fukuoka Dome and, until recently, managed by Sadaharu Oh, the world's home run leader.
All ballparks are easily accessible by train and subway...or simply say two simple words to any cabdriver: "Yakyu" is the Japanese word for baseball ("yah" as in yahoo, "kew" as in few) and the name of the home team.
Two Important Notes
Every first-time visitor to a ballgame in Japan never fails to remark on the energetic, ever-polite, always smiling drink girls who literally run through the stands vending beer, liquor and soft drinks. This caused a guest to remark, "I love this place. Every time I wave at a pretty girl, I end up with a beer n my hand!"
Also, if you're seeing a game in Tokyo you might consider a pre-game stop at the JapanBall Hall of Fame and Restaurant open Monday through Saturday for lunch and dinner until 9:30pm.
It's located in the easy-to-find Cafe Noodle Roje, an enchanting neighborhood cafe just blocks from the Tokyo Dome.
The JapanBall HOF was born in 2005 when a group of baseball fans decided this would be their gathering spot. They wanted a place that would be welcoming to foreign baseball fans, give them a personal feel for the country, and serve food that's varied and easy to take.
For More Information
Visit JapanBall.com for online tickets, game schedules, stadium and public transportation access maps, escorted baseball tours, and a general overview of the game in Japan.
Bob Bavasi is a longtime baseball executive, principal of Bavasi Sports Partners, and editor of JapanBall.com. He is happy to answer your Japan baseball questions. You may reach him at Bob@JapanBall.com
Great Hotels You Haven't Seen in Travel Magazines: Kaniyu in Tochigi
There are always some people addicted to something: In Japanese, they are called otaku, and there are video-game otaku, ramen-otaku, train-otaku. As this e-newsletter is about travel, let's talk about onsen-otaku in Japan. They are crazy about visiting as many good hot springs as possible and finding hidden unknown old cozy ryokans. If you think you have something to share with them, you should know the word, hitou, which means a secret onsen, usually located deep in mountains and remote from a town. Here I would like to introduce one of those hitou Onsen ryokans; Kaniyu, 100 mile north of Tokyo
Five Reasons I love Kaniyu
||It is in deep in the wild nature (You need to walk over 1 hour from the last stop of a public bus line, or call for hotel shuttle service)
||9 bath tabs, one is exclusively for women
||Great price (Starting 10650 yen per person ($109, Conversion rate $1 = 98 yen as of April, 2009) with dinner and breakfast included)
||High quality of pure natural hot water
Note: They are not ready to talk with you in English, so find reliable Japanese Agents or friends. http://www.naf.co.jp/kaniyu/welcome.stm (Available only in Japanese)
Local Places You Want to See: A Great Place for Haircuts in Japan
When you travel overseas, one easy way to make an unforgettable memory is to get a hair cut. In my case, one of a few faces I remember from my trips to Paris is a woman in a hair salon. They have a similar service and facilities in Japan. Another unforgettable hair cut experience was along a highway in a rural village in the southwestern part of China. Their salon is very different what we are familiar with in Japan, but their service and warm spirits are one of best moments in my 3 weeks in China.
I do not recommend this travel tip for ladies as it is a bit risky to have hair cut under language restrictions. But for men, if you think being short is just great, you should go to Sanpatsu-ya or a barber shop in Japan.
What I see the difference between the US and Japan in a barber shop industry, maybe you might want to find out on your own, but I will tell you, they use hot towels, shaving service, hair shampoo are included in a standard price in a standard barber shop. Some chain low-cost barbers don't provide these. If you go to a traditional barber shop, it will cost around 4000yen or $45, there are also discount chain with a standard service with around 2000yen, some low cost shop with a mimum service (just a 5 min quick cut only) goes with around 1000yen.