Art Houses


The morning sun came into our Seven Beaches room as if through glass block (it wasn’t) but diffuse enough to add to the serenity of our surroundings. Island serenity remained throughout the day.

After breakfast of muesli and yogurt we evaded the Chinese folks racing from the ferry. Following a short bus ride, we made our way to  to buy tickets for the Art House Project. The directions pointed us in the wrong direction, but we eventually the gift shop/ticket booth.

Art House is a work-in-progress that is preserving centuries-old residences and converting them into galleries or art installations, each with a different theme and featuring the work of different artists.

We started with Minamidera, the design of architect Tadao Ando and featuring artwork by James Turrell. It is by far the most dramatic, as visitors enter in total darkness where we had to feel our way along a wall until we came to benches. The docents repeat warnings to put away phones etc. Dropping an object means losing it. And they were serious.

I had just achieved a meditative state when a woman started talking and then a gentle light begin to appear. They could have extended the silence and darkness for maximum effect.

One of the charms of the project was encountering local residents going about their business as we looked for and at the exhibits. An elderly gentleman who had set up his folding chair on a corner pointed us in the direction of a house we had missed. He no doubt had days’ worth of entertainment.

Many exhibits/installations had effects that played with light and dark. Go’o Shrine incorporated steps covered in plexiglass into an ancient shrine. One entered a tunnel at the base with a flashlight. On leaving glimpses appeared of bright blue sky and the sparkling Inland Sea, framed by trees. The view of nature replicated the size and shape as the entrance to the tunnel.

I found Hiroshi Senju’s Ishibashi the most impressive. The enormous house (four hundred years old) had belonged to a wealthy famiy that made salt. The mansion sat at the end of a long alley that took us past a shop selling vintage clothing. The gracious open spaces with gleaming floors held a wall of stone rubbings in various shapes and sizes. Outside, enormous stones had been formed into a bench in one case, and an arch in another.

We took the bus back to the port and ate lunch at Cinna-mon – rice with modestly spicy curried veggies and excellent salad with sesame oil dressing.

In the early evening we ventured to 7-Eleven, which appears to serve as the grocery store for a good portion of the island.

Thereafter we repaired to Naoshima Bath, which had been closed the day before. The guests on the female side were equally divided between westerners and locals. The latter not only bathed but shampooed hair and brushed teeth. It occurred to me afterward that some of the smaller more modest houses on the island might lack full bathing facilities.

The water in the bath was hot, hot, hot – so hot that one of the westerners had to get out. I stayed in until the skin on my fingers shriveled to almost nothing.

Slept the best since I arrived.

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