This morning I meet up again with my sister, Aleisha, and a friend of hers, Karen. After a big breakfast in our Okayama hotel, we head south via two trains to Uno, a port town on Japan’s Inland Sea, and get on the ferry to Teshima.
We’re going to be spending a couple of days and nights exploring two of Japan’s ‘art islands’. Some years ago the visionary local government, concerned about a stagnating local economy and increasing numbers of young people moving away to the big cities on the mainland, conceived the idea of turning a number of the islands over to art.
The most famous of the islands, Naoshima, we’ll get to tomorrow, but today we head to the less visited, and even less overnighted on, Teshima.
In order to get to as much of the art installations on the island as possible, we rent a little car for the day, to zip around to the variety of properties and houses which have been turned into galleries or works of art themselves.
Most of the sites change every three years as part of the major drawcard, the Triennale. On a blazing summer’s day we sit on tatami mats inside the ‘Storm House’, as thunder, lightning and rain shake the walls. Lunch is at the Art House cafe, where we leave a message from Australia and England in the welcome book.
A handful of the sites are permanent, such as the Teshima Art Museum, which is just one building – an architerctural masterpiece of around 100m with no supporting walls just a roof that curves up from the floor and opens in two places to the natural light. Inside, hanging from one of the open windows two threads of fabric twist in the wind. Bubbles of liquid rise from holes in the floor and drift gradually down veritably impercitple slops towards slow drainage points. It’s a mesmerising place.
We visit the Heartbeat Project, Les Archives Des Coeur, of Christian Boltanski, a darkened room with a single flickering bulb under the soundtrack of the various recorded heartbeats of all the people from around the world who have paid to have theirs recorded. There’s a cafe designed by some crazy German guy, with lines that never let your eyes rest.
Across the other side of the island we visit a schoolhouse constructed out of window and doorframes.
Every now and then inbetween the tourist attractions we flit between there’s a glimpse of the realities for people who live here.
Karen comes down ill towards the end of the day and transfers into the front seat. At some point in this process I lose my sunglasses and JR pass, a mild inconvenience at this late stage of the trip. We return the car before five and then hang around the port until an old tanned dude comes to picks us up.
His cap is perched way too high on his head as he drives us along bumpy roads to the Amore Resort, where we’ve booked in the spend the night.
And that place is worth a post all on its own….