Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, China

Built in 1882, the Jade Buddha Temple was built in the style of the Song Dynasty with symmetrical halls and courtyards, upturned eaves, and bright yellow walls, Shanghai, China

Built in 1882, the Jade Buddha Temple was built in the style of the Song Dynasty with symmetrical halls and courtyards, upturned eaves, and bright yellow walls, Shanghai, China

 

Built in 1882, this famed temple in northwest Shanghai, China, is known for the two Burmese jade Sakyamuni statues, one seated and the other reclining.  Built in the style of the Song Dynasty, the Jade Buddha Temple has symmetrical halls and courtyards, upturned eaves, and bright yellow walls.  The great treasure here is the 6.5 foot / 2 meter seated Buddha, crafted from white jade with a robe of precious gems, which, unfortunately we were not permitted to photograph.

 

The new Shanghai is being built all around the few remaining 19th century buildings and temples, such as the Jade Buddha Temple, in Shanghai, China

The new Shanghai is being built all around the few remaining 19th century buildings and temples, such as the Jade Buddha Temple, in Shanghai, China

 

Two of the Deva Kings in the Chamber of Four Heavenly Kings at the Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, China

Two of the Deva Kings in the Chamber of Four Heavenly Kings at the Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, China

 

A third Deva King in the Chamber of Four Heavenly Kings at the Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, China

A third Deva King in the Chamber of Four Heavenly Kings at the Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, China

 

Three Buddhas with fresh offerings at the Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, China

Three Buddhas with fresh offerings at the Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, China

 

Another outer Temple building housed a large female Buddha set against an interesting carved backdrop [see the next image], Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, China

Another outer Temple building housed a large female Buddha set against an interesting carved backdrop [see the next image], Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, China

Several gilded figures are set against a carved backdrop in the Temple housing the large female Buddha [pictured above], Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, China

Several gilded figures are set against a carved backdrop in the Temple housing the large female Buddha [pictured above], Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, China

On this construction site, where an older Temple building was demolished, a new Temple building will be constructed to house the famous white jade, seated Buddha at the Jade Buddha Templ

On this construction site, where an older Temple building was demolished, a new Temple building will be constructed to house the famous white jade, seated Buddha at the Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, China

 

Lights and lanterns adorn the passageway into the Temple building presently housing the famous white jade, seated Buddha at the Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, China; regulations forbid ph

Lights and lanterns adorn the passageway into the Temple building presently housing the famous white jade, seated Buddha at the Jade Buddha Temple, Shanghai, China; regulations forbid photography of the white jade seated Buddha

 

 

Shanghai Skyline, China

This panorama of the Pudong district, Shanghai, China, includes the second tallest building in the world (center), the Shanghai Tower, standing at 632 meters - 2,073 feet and Dōngfān

This panorama of the Pudong district, Shanghai, China, includes the second tallest building in the world (center), the Shanghai Tower, standing at 632 meters / 2,073 feet and Dōngfāng Mingzhūta (the Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower) on the right, the tallest television tower in Asia at 468 meters / 1,535 feet (built from 1991 to 1994; from then until 2007, it was the tallest building in Shanghai and China)

 

Dynamic, fascinating, cacophonous, futuristic… Shanghai, China’s largest city continues its ceaseless metamorphosis at a dizzying pace.  Historic Art Deco architecture along The Bund is reflected in sleek, ultramodern office towers in the recently developed Pudong District across the Huangpu River.  Beginning in 1994 Shanghai had the tallest building in China (the Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower) and since 2015 the Shanghai Tower took that title.  That latest addition to Pudong’s skyline is the world’s second tallest building by height to the architectural top, after the Burj Khalifa in Dubai – but it is the world’s tallest building by height to the tallest floor.  A wide range of museums in Shanghai feature everything from historic artifacts to contemporary art, science and technology, even eyeglasses and tobacco.  Gastronomes can feast on a palate-pleasing selection of international dishes and Chinese cuisine — hairy crab, dim sum and braised meats marinated in Shaoxing wine are among the local specialties.

 

The Pudong district across the Huangpu River from the Bund (Central Business District) of Shanghai, China, was a marsh until development started twenty-five years ago; yes, all these bui

The Pudong district across the Huangpu River from the Bund (Central Business District) of Shanghai, China, was a marsh until development started twenty-five years ago; yes, all these buildings are modern in design and age!

 

These two Chinese Navy ships took our pier spot, so we were docked behind them near the Shanghai Port International Passenger Terminal, Shanghai, China; the view is towards the Bund whic

These two Chinese Navy ships took our pier spot, so we were docked behind them near the Shanghai Port International Passenger Terminal, Shanghai, China; the view is towards the Bund which begins with the triangular monument on the upper left and “bends” around to the left beyond the photograph [see our upcoming blog post on a walk along the Bund]

This view of the Pudong district with the Shanghai Tower, center, and the Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower on the right, was taken from the top deck of our ship while we were docked in Sh

This view of the Pudong district with the Shanghai Tower, center, and the Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower on the right, was taken from the top deck of our ship while we were docked in Shanghai, China

 

A view of the Huangpu River looking towards the east, where it meets the sea, Shanghai, China; the Bund is about 1.5 kilometers -1 mile in the opposite direction

A view of the Huangpu River looking towards the east, where it meets the sea, Shanghai, China; the Bund is about 1.5 kilometers /1 mile in the opposite direction behind our ship

 

 

Art Pilgrimage, Naoshima (near Takamatsu), Japan

The traditional Torii gate on one of the beaches of Naoshima, Japan, near the Benesse House Museum on the south shore is quite traditional – in stark contrast to the modern art and arc

The traditional Torii gate on one of the beaches of Naoshima, Japan, near the Benesse House Museum on the south shore is quite traditional – in stark contrast to the modern art and architecture that has followed the development of the area around it into a modern art center

 

On our last day in Takamatsu, Japan, we walked from our ship to the ferry pier and caught a high-speed ferry to the island of Naoshima.  Despite its diminutive size, this tranquil isle in the Seto Inland Sea draws nearly 800,000 art lovers each year.  Naoshima boasts several exceptional art museums (such as Chichu Art Museum and Lee Ufan Museum) and the Benesse House, a combination of hotel and museum designed by acclaimed architect Tadao Ando.  There is also the Ando Museum – a traditional Japanese country-style residence with a completely new (concrete) interior that holds the museum displays under the original wooden roof — that has excellent explanations and images of the various Ando projects on the island and a replica of his most famous project, the “Church of the Light”.  Part of Kagawa Prefecture, the island with its Mediterranean atmosphere, sandy beaches and sunny weather, combined with a laid back, rural feel is a relaxing getaway from Japan’s large urban areas.  Unfortunately, photography was not permitted in any of the museums, so we just have images of some of the outdoor art works and vistas. The Benesse Foundation web site, however, does contain many excellent images of the museum and artwork: benesse-artsite.jp

 

Entrance to the Lee Ufan Museum, celebrating art works by the Korean artist in a stunning building by architect Tadao Ando, Naoshima, Japan

Entrance to the Lee Ufan Museum, celebrating art works by the Korean artist in a stunning building by architect Tadao Ando, Naoshima, Japan

 

The view from the hill between the Lee Ufan Museum and the Benesse House Museum with the sculpture “Time Exposed Norwegian Sea”, 1990 [black and yellow boats] by Hiroshi Sugimoto and

The view from the hill between the Lee Ufan Museum and the Benesse House Museum with the sculpture “Time Exposed Norwegian Sea”, 1990 [black and yellow boats] by Hiroshi Sugimoto and a rock sculpture garden visible, Naoshima, Japan

A sculpture on one of the terraces of the Benesse House Museum, exterior to the museum_s restaurant where we had a delicious traditional Japanese lunch, Naoshima, Japan

A sculpture on one of the terraces of the Benesse House Museum, exterior to the museum’s restaurant where we had a delicious traditional Japanese lunch, Naoshima, Japan

 

A Bento box lunch served at the restaurant in the Benesse House Museum, Naoshima, Japan

A Bento box lunch served at the restaurant in the Benesse House Museum, Naoshima, Japan

 

A close up of some of the dishes in the Bento box lunch served at the restaurant in the Benesse House Museum, Naoshima, Japan

A close up of some of the dishes in the Bento box lunch served at the restaurant in the Benesse House Museum, Naoshima, Japan

 

“Three Squares Vertical Diagonal”, 1972-1982, by George Rickey on the shoreline below the Benesse House Museum, Naoshima, Japan

“Three Squares Vertical Diagonal”, 1972-1982, by George Rickey on the shoreline below the Benesse House Museum, Naoshima, Japan

 

“Cat”, 1991, by Niki de Saint Phalle in the Benesse House Park, Naoshima, Japan

“Cat”, 1991, by Niki de Saint Phalle in the Benesse House Park, Naoshima, Japan

 

“La Conversation”, 1991, with “Camel”, 1991, by Niki de Saint Phalle in the Benesse House Park, Naoshima, Japan

“La Conversation”, 1991, with “Camel”, 1991, by Niki de Saint Phalle in the Benesse House Park, Naoshima, Japan

 

The most famous of all of the sculptures on Naoshima, Japan, is “Pumpkin”, 1994, by Yayoi Kusama – it is to the island what the Golden Gate Bridge is to San Francisco: the locale’s icon

 

We found this description of a day on the island to be very apropos:

“A remote island with stunning underground architecture.

A massive crypt lined with copper bars, a colossal sphere at its center.

Mazes made of stone that lead from one underground chamber to another, each differing in shape and size.

I didn’t expect my visit to the Japanese “art island” of Naoshima to remind me of the world of Myst, the computer game I played as a child.

It’s been more than a decade since I played the game, but that strange, beautifully desolate island and the eerie feeling of wandering around it alone have stayed with me.

Exploring Naoshima’s underground galleries, I was reminded again and again of Myst’s mysterious mechanical structures, right down to the discovery of ‘puzzles’ that visitors are meant to figure out on their own.

Magnificent architecture

Some 3,000 islands dot the Seto Inland Sea of Japan, which separates Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, three of the four main islands of Japan.

While many of those islands remain quiet and uninhabited, Naoshima has been turned into one of the most remarkable art and architecture destinations in the world.

Visitors often refer to it as “Ando Island,” since most of the structures on the island were designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Tadao Ando.

A museum designed by and dedicated to the renowned architect is also located on the island.

Naoshima’s transformation into a unique art project began in 1987, when Soichiro Fukutake, the chairman of Fukutake Publishing, now known as the Benesse Holdings, Inc., purchased the south side of the island.

Enlisted by Fukutake to supervise development on the southern portion of the island, Ando went to work over the next two decades designing a hotel complex and museums.

Adhering to his guiding principle of designing buildings that follow the natural forms of landscapes, Ando’s buildings on the island blend into or are built into the earth, some of them opening up to the sky.

‘Perfect balance of light, sound, space, color’

Some of Ando’s buildings became part of the Benesse Art Site Naoshima (BASN), which showcases major artworks acquired by the company over the past decades.

Since 1995, many of those pieces have been created specifically for the island.

That same year, the company established the Benesse Prize at the Venice Biennale, commissioning winners to create works specifically for BASN, which includes Naoshima and the nearby islands of Teshima and Inujima.

Just as the art has been designed for the island, the buildings that house the works have been designed to maximize the impact of the art.

Opened in 2004, the island’s Chichu Art Museum showcases its collection in spectacular and unexpected ways.

In the museum’s Claude Monet Space, a vast, pure white underground chamber is made up of hundreds of thousands of tiny stone tiles.

The dazzling while tiles perfectly show off the enormous blue and violet paintings on each wall. Visitors remove their shoes at the entrance and are given soft slippers.

When I visited, I was the only person in the room (not counting an attendant who stood in a corner as still as a sculpture).

The space gleams white from the natural light peering through a white stone ceiling.

It was the same everywhere I went on the island — quiet, stupefying displays of beauty and art with breathtaking sea or landscapes in the background. Visitor numbers are restricted throughout the exhibitions.

‘They’ve managed to create a perfect balance of light, sound, space, color and proportion, which makes the experience transcendent and unforgettable,’ says Rhea Karam, a New York-based fine arts photographer at work on a project inspired by Naoshima.

The same as I did, Karam found the Claude Monet Space a shock.

‘Growing up in Paris, I was very familiar with Monet’s work and accustomed to seeing it everywhere to the point that I wasn’t particularly interested when I heard he was displayed in the Chichu Art Museum’, says Karam.

‘The unbelievable, almost holistic presentation of Monet’s Water Lily paintings made me see them in a light I had never before experienced.'” – by Francis Cha, for CNN; www.cnn.com

 

As we approached the port of Takamatsu on the return ferry ride from Naoshima, we could see our ship docked along the city_s skyline

As we approached the port of Takamatsu on the return ferry ride from Naoshima, we could see our ship docked along the city’s skyline

 

88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

After leaving the upper mountain tram station, we walked through the forest to come upon the Torii gate at the entrance to the Yashimaji Temple #84 complex on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, T

After leaving the upper mountain tram station, we walked through the forest to come upon the Torii gate at the entrance to the Yashimaji Temple #84 complex on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

 

The 88 Temple Pilgrimage (八十八ヶ所巡り hachijūhakkasho-meguri) is Japan’s most famous pilgrimage route, a 1,200 kilometer/746 mile loop around the island of Shikoku (where we were docked at Takamatsu).  We had the opportunity to drive to the site of Temple #84 and take the tram up to the top of the mountain to visit the Yashimaji Temple (屋島寺) with its spectacular view over the Takamatsu region.  After an excellent udon soup lunch at a nearby local restaurant Yamadaya Udon – famous for its udon noodles in a seaweed broth — we drove a short distance to visit Temple #85, Yakuriji (八栗寺).

 

A brightly painted pagoda on the path to the main area of Yashimaji Temple #84 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

A brightly painted pagoda on the path to the main area of Yashimaji Temple #84 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

 

“Many of the temples are said to have been founded or restored by the revered monk and scholar Kūkai (空海), better known by his posthumous title Kōbō Daishi (弘法大師).  Among his many achievements, he is said to have created the kana syllabary, brought the tantric teachings of Esoteric Buddhism from China, developed it into the uniquely Japanese Shingon sect, and founded Shingon’s headquarters on Mount Koya near Osaka.  While most modern-day pilgrims (an estimated 100,000 yearly) travel by tour bus, a small minority still set out the old-fashioned way on foot, a journey which takes about six weeks to complete.  Pilgrims, known as o-henro-san (お遍路さん), can be spotted in the temples and roadsides of Shikoku clad in a white jacket emblazoned with the characters Dōgyō Ninin (同行二人), meaning ‘two traveling together’ — the other traveler being the spirit of Kobo Daishi.” – wikitravel.org

 

One of several modern day pilgrims that we met on our walk, known as o-henro-san (お遍路さん), in a white jacket emblazoned with the characters Dōgyō Ninin (同行二人), meani

One of several modern day pilgrims that we met on our walk, known as o-henro-san (お遍路さん), in a white jacket emblazoned with the characters Dōgyō Ninin (同行二人), meaning ‘two traveling together’ — the other traveler being the spirit of Kobo Daishi; at Yashimaji Temple #84 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

 

Pilgrims and other praying visitors ceremonially wash their hands twice and rinse their mouths with water from the dragon-guarded water basin before prayers at Yashimaji Temple #84 on th

Pilgrims and other praying visitors ceremonially wash their hands twice and rinse their mouths with water from the dragon-guarded water basin before prayers at Yashimaji Temple #84 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

 

Part of the temple complex at Yashimaji Temple #84 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

Part of the temple complex at Yashimaji Temple #84 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan, set under the peaks of the mountain

 

This Buddha guards the entrance to the vista point overlooking the Takamatsu region beyond Yashimaji Temple #84 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

This Buddha “guards” the entrance to the vista point overlooking the Takamatsu region beyond Yashimaji Temple #84 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

 

The view of Takamatsu and the surrounding region from Yashimaji Temple #84 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

The view of Takamatsu and the surrounding region from Yashimaji Temple #84 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

 

The entry gate ro Yakuriji Temple #85 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

The entry gate to Yakuriji Temple #85 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

 

Multiple Torii gates in front of a small Shinto Shrine at Yakuriji Temple #85 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

Multiple Torii gates in front of a small Shinto Shrine at Yakuriji Temple #85 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

 

Beautiful calligraphy on the Torii gates at Yakuriji Temple #85 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

Beautiful calligraphy on the Torii gates at Yakuriji Temple #85 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

 

The temple complex at Yakuriji Temple #85 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

The temple complex at Yakuriji Temple #85 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

 

Details of the entry gate (as we exited) Yakuriji Temple #85 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

Details of the entry gate (as we exited) Yakuriji Temple #85 on the 88 Temple Pilgrimage, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

 

 

Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

Sculptures outside the wall of the outdoor sculpture garden at the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan, set against the surrounding mountains

Sculptures outside the wall of the outdoor sculpture garden at the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan, set against the surrounding mountains

 

Following his death, prominent Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi’s workshop was converted into a captivating museum – the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum in Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan – approximately 30 minutes from the pier where our ship docked.  Originally an Edo-era storehouse, the workshop holds the artist’s original sculpting tools.  Outside, nearly 150 sculptures, some incomplete, stand as silent testimony to his skill and vision.  The restored Meiji-period warehouse contains one of his largest and most famous, “Energy Void,” carved out of Swedish black granite.  We were able to see Noguchi’s nearby home (from the outside) and had the opportunity to also walk in the hillside gardens that the artist designed for his 80th birthday, a few years before his death in 1988.

 

A sculpted stone, "The Egg", at the top of the hillside garden walk above Noguchi_s home and studio, Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

A sculpted stone, “The Egg”, at the top of the hillside garden walk above Noguchi’s home and studio, Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

 

Sculptures in the hillside garden walk above Noguchi_s home and studio, Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

Sculptures in the hillside garden walk above Noguchi’s home and studio, Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

 

In the reception area of the museum after we had gotten our tickets, I found a book on the museum with this beautiful poem by Noguchi, written on 7 November 1983:

Gift for the Future

I approach my 79th birthday this month with growing awareness.

I celebrate it by building a garden in my place of refuge in Shikoku.

It is a gift to the future, and to the people who harbored

my mother and gave me my years of childhood.

How true it is that all things worth while must end as gifts.

What other reason is there for art?

 

Finished and unfinished sculptures outside the outdoor sculpture garden at the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

Finished and unfinished sculptures outside the outdoor sculpture garden at the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

 

Finished sculptures in the shed within the outdoor sculpture garden at the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

Finished sculptures in the restored Meiji-period warehouse within the outdoor sculpture garden at the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

 

One of Noguchi_s largest and most famous sculptures, “Energy Void,” carved out of Swedish black granite is in the shed within the outdoor sculpture garden at the Isamu Noguchi Gard

One of Noguchi’s largest and most famous sculptures, “Energy Void,” carved out of Swedish black granite is in the restored Meiji-period warehouse within the outdoor sculpture garden at the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Takamatsu, Shikoku Island, Japan

 

Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988)

Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988); photograph courtesy http://www.noguchi.org

 

“Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) was one of the twentieth century’s most important and critically acclaimed sculptors.  Through a lifetime of artistic experimentation, he created sculptures, gardens, furniture and lighting designs, ceramics, architecture, and set designs.  His work, at once subtle and bold, traditional and modern, set a new standard for the reintegration of the arts.  Noguchi, an internationalist, traveled extensively throughout his life.  (In his later years he maintained studios both in Japan and New York.)  He discovered the impact of large-scale public works in Mexico, earthy ceramics and tranquil gardens in Japan, subtle ink-brush techniques in China, and the purity of marble in Italy.  He incorporated all of these impressions into his work, which utilized a wide range of materials, including stainless steel, marble, cast iron, balsa wood, bronze, sheet aluminum, basalt, granite, and water.

“Born in Los Angeles, California, to an American mother and a Japanese father, Noguchi lived in Japan until the age of thirteen, when he moved to Indiana.  While studying pre-medicine at Columbia University, he took evening sculpture classes on New York’s Lower East Side, mentoring with the sculptor Onorio Ruotolo.  He soon left the University to become an academic sculptor.  In 1926, Noguchi saw an exhibition in New York of the work of Constantin Brancusi that profoundly changed his artistic direction.  With a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, Noguchi went to Paris, and from 1927 to 1929 worked in Brancusi’s studio.  Inspired by the older artist’s reductive forms, Noguchi turned to modernism and a kind of abstraction, infusing his highly finished pieces with a lyrical and emotional expressiveness, and with an aura of mystery.  Noguchi’s work was not widely recognized in the United States until 1938, when he completed a large-scale sculpture symbolizing the freedom of the press, which was commissioned for the Associated Press building in Rockefeller Center, New York City.  This was the first of what would become numerous celebrated public works worldwide, ranging from playgrounds to plazas, gardens to fountains, all reflecting his belief in the social significance of sculpture.

“In 1942, Noguchi set up a studio at 33 MacDougal Alley, in Greenwich Village, having spent much of the 1930s based in New York City but traveling extensively in Asia, Mexico, and Europe.  The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the backlash against Japanese-Americans in the United States had a dramatic personal effect on Noguchi, motivating him to become a political activist.  In 1942, he started Nisei Writers and Artists Mobilization for Democracy, a group dedicated to raising awareness of the patriotism of Japanese-Americans.  He also asked to be placed in an internment camp in Arizona, where he lived for a brief seven months.  Following the War, Noguchi spent a great deal of time in Japan exploring the wrenching issues raised during the previous years.  His ideas and feelings are reflected in his works of that period, particularly the delicate slab sculptures included in the 1946 exhibition “Fourteen Americans,” at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

“Noguchi did not belong to any particular movement, but collaborated with artists working in a range of disciplines and schools.  He created stage sets as early as 1935 for the dancer/choreographer Martha Graham, beginning a lifelong collaboration; as well as for dancers/choreographers Merce Cunningham, Erick Hawkins, and George Balanchine and composer John Cage.  In the 1960s, Noguchi began working with stone carver Masatoshi Izumi on the island of Shikoku, Japan; a collaboration that would also continue for the rest of his life.  From 1960 to 1966, he worked on a playground design with the architect Louis Kahn.  Whenever given the opportunity to venture into the mass-production of his interior designs, Noguchi seized it.  In 1937, he designed a Bakelite intercom for the Zenith Radio Corporation, and in 1947, his glass-topped table was produced by Herman Miller.  This design — along with others such as his designs for Akari Light Sculptures which were initially developed in 1951 using traditional Japanese materials — are still being produced today.

“In 1985, Noguchi opened The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum (now known as The Noguchi Museum), in Long Island City, New York. The Museum, established and designed by the artist, marked the culmination of his commitment to public spaces.  Located in a 1920s industrial building across the street from where the artist had established a studio in 1960, it has a serene outdoor sculpture garden, and many galleries that display Noguchi’s work, along with photographs and models from his career.  Noguchi’s first retrospective in the United States was in 1968, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.  In 1986, he represented the United States at the Venice Biennale.  Noguchi received the Edward MacDowell Medal for Outstanding Lifetime Contribution to the Arts in 1982; the Kyoto Prize in Arts in 1986; the National Medal of Arts in 1987; and the Order of Sacred Treasure from the Japanese government in 1988. He died in New York City in 1988.” – www.noguchi.org

 

Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan

When we entered Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan, we discovered a field trip of local elementary school children whose assignment was to sketch their interpretations of the Saku

When we entered Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan, we discovered a field trip of local elementary school children whose assignment was to sketch their interpretations of the Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) in full bloom

 

A flourishing castle town during the Edo period (1603-1867), Takamatsu today is the capital of Japan’s smallest prefecture, Kagawa.  Although the feudal castle (one of just three seaside citadels in Japan) was destroyed during the Meiji Period, its venerable landscape garden, Ritsurin Koen (Ritsurin Garden) is one of the nation’s most celebrated.  The workshop and part-time home of the late Isamu Noguchi, a Japanese-American sculptor, designer, and architect famous for his work with wood, is also nearby.  The nearby islands, particularly Naoshima, are the home to strikingly designed modern art museums that are as interesting to see as the contemporary art they house.

 

We found that Japanese of all ages enjoy and celebrate the short Sakura season which marks the end of winter and the arrival of spring and a revival of life and spirits, Ritsurin Garden,

We found that Japanese of all ages enjoy and celebrate the short Sakura season which marks the end of winter and the arrival of spring and a revival of life and spirits, Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan

 

Ritsurin Garden, a national “Special Place of Scenic Beauty”, is a superb Japanese cultural asset that conveys the characteristics of the daimyo strolling gardens that were typically seen in the 17th and 18th centuries.  A daimyo strolling garden is a type of traditional Japanese garden in which ponds and hills are expertly constructed over a vast tract of land.  Visitors can enjoy the garden’s space as they leisurely walk around. Ritsurin Garden is celebrated as one of Japan’s largest and most beautiful pine gardens with approximately 1,400 well-tended trees and floral species blooming throughout the year.  Construction began in 1625 and took over a century to complete, resulting in a delightful landscape of 13 rounded hills and six ponds linked by pathways and elegant arching bridges, sprawling 185 acres / 75 hectares.  Ritsurin Garden opened to the public on March 16, 1875, and received France’s Michelin Guide’s highest rating of three stars in 2009.

 

One of the school children proudly let me photograph the initial part of his pencil sketch of Sakura, Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan

One of the school children proudly let me photograph the initial part of his pencil sketch of Sakura, Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan

 

Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) just after full bloom, with some petals now forming a “snow blanket” on the ground as the wind began to blow the mature blossoms off the trees, Ritsurin Gard

Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) just after full bloom, with some petals now forming a “snow blanket” on the ground as the wind began to blow the mature blossoms off the trees, Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan

 

Sakura reflected in the Fuyo-sho (lotus) pond, Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan; note that in the summer about 1,000 lotuses can be seen in bloom covering the pond_s surface

Sakura reflected in the Fuyo-sho (lotus) pond, Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan; note that in the summer about 1,000 lotuses can be seen in bloom covering the pond’s surface

 

A small island in Gun_o-chi pond, Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan

A small island in Gun’o-chi pond, Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan

 

Sakura reflected in Gun_o-chi pond, Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan

Sakura reflected in Gun’o-chi pond, Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan

 

Construction of Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan, began in 1625 and took over a century to complete; the hills and ponds are very important components in the overall beauty and

Construction of Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan, began in 1625 and took over a century to complete; the hills and ponds are very important components in the overall beauty and serenity of the garden

 

A traditional wooden walking bridge at Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan, leads to Shofuda, a landscaped hill built of many stones piled together

A traditional wooden walking bridge at Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan, leads to Shofuda, a landscaped hill built of many stones piled together

 

A small group of ladies out for a boat ride on Nanko pond in the South Garden of Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan

A small group of ladies out for a boat ride on Nanko pond in the South Garden of Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan

 

A bride and groom in Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan, for their wedding photographs were kind enough to let me also capture their image

A bride and groom in Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan, for their wedding photographs were kind enough to let me also capture their image

 

The wedding couple posed upon the most photographed bridge in Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan, on Nanko Pond – this bridge is one of the iconic images of Japanese gardens

The wedding couple posed upon the most photographed bridge in Ritsurin Garden, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Japan, on Nanko Pond – this bridge is one of the iconic images of Japanese gardens

 

Bamboo Garden, Arashiyama DIstrict, Kyoto, Japan

One of the highlights in Arashiyama is the famous Bamboo Grove, named by CNN as one of the most beautiful groves on Earth, Arashiyama DIstrict, Kyoto, Japan

One of the highlights in Arashiyama is the famous Bamboo Grove, named by CNN as one of the most beautiful groves on Earth, Arashiyama DIstrict, Kyoto, Japan

 

“Arashiyama (嵐山) is a pleasant district in the western outskirts of Kyoto, Japan.  The area has been a popular destination since the Heian Period (794-1185), when nobles would enjoy its natural setting.  Arashiyama is particularly popular during the cherry blossom and fall color seasons.” – http://www.japan-guide.com

 

Before entering the Bamboo Garden in the Arashiyama District of Kyoto, Japan, we passed a cemetery and a temple that was mostly hidden by beautiful Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)

Before entering the Bamboo Garden in the Arashiyama District of Kyoto, Japan, we passed a cemetery and a temple that was mostly hidden by beautiful Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)

 

Walking in the Bamboo Garden in the Arashiyama District of Kyoto, Japan, is like entering another world – the thick green bamboo stalks seem to continue endlessly in every direction an

Walking in the Bamboo Garden in the Arashiyama District of Kyoto, Japan, is like entering another world – the thick green bamboo stalks seem to continue endlessly in every direction and there’s a strange quality to the light

 

We decided to visit the district as one of the highlights in Arashiyama is the famous Bamboo Garden.  Lonely Planet notes: “Walking into this extensive bamboo grove is like entering another world – the thick green bamboo stalks seem to continue endlessly in every direction and there’s a strange quality to the light.”  On CNN, it was referred to as one of the most beautiful groves on Earth.  It is quite calming to walk through the grove and hear and see the trees gently swaying in the breeze.  Within the forest are several Shinto shrines.  Nearby we visited a beautiful Buddhist compound including a temple.  And of course, on the main street there were many shopping and snacking opportunities for our small group of four.

 

The entrance to Seiryoji Temple (Sagashakado Temple), Arashiyama DIstrict, Kyoto, Japan

The entrance to Seiryoji Temple (Sagashakado Temple), Arashiyama DIstrict, Kyoto, Japan

 

“Seiryoji Temple is a time-honored temple of the Pure Land sect of Buddhism.  It is better known as Sagashakado Temple (Hall of Shakyamuni Tathagata in Saga).  Seikakan, the mountain villa of Minamoto-no-Toru, the model for Kikaru Genji, the hero of “Tale of Genji”, was once located at this place.  After his death, the villa was converted into Seikaji Temple, which is the origin of Seiryoji Temple.  In 1945, a life-size image of Shakyamuni Tathagata was enshrined.  Thus, the temple is commonly called Sagashakado Temple.  Later, the high priest Chonen came back from China (Sung) with a standing image of Shakyamuni Tathagata, which had been brought to Japan from India via China.  In order to enshrine the image, the priest planned to build a new temple to be called ‘Great Seiryoji Temple’.  Since he passed away without accomplishing his wish, his disciple, Jozan, established Seiryoji Temple and enshrined the image.  In 1953, a covered space was found in the back of the image, and internal organs made of silk were placed inside.  Since then, the image has also been called the living Shakyamuni Tathagata.  The main hall  was reconstructed at the initiative of the fifth Tokugawa Shogun Tsunayoshi, his mother, Keishoin, and others in 1701, where the principal image, the standing statue of Shakyamuni Tathagata (National Treasure), is located.  The tombs of the high priest Chonen, Minamoto-no-Toru, Emperor Saga, and Empress Danrin are located in the precinct of the temple.” — from a signboard at Seiryoji Temple

 

The decorations at the entrance to Seiryoji Temple (Sagashakado Temple), Arashiyama DIstrict, Kyoto, Japan

The decorations at the entrance to Seiryoji Temple (Sagashakado Temple), Arashiyama DIstrict, Kyoto, Japan

 

Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) and Seiryoji Temple (Sagashakado Temple), Arashiyama DIstrict, Kyoto, Japan

Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) and Seiryoji Temple (Sagashakado Temple), Arashiyama DIstrict, Kyoto, Japan

 

We were privileged to welcome several Geishas aboard our ship, docked in Kobe, Japan, for singing, music and dancing before dinner where we had an opportunity to talk with them (with the

We were privileged to welcome several Geishas aboard our ship, docked in Kobe, Japan, for singing, music and dancing before dinner when we had an opportunity to talk with them (with the assistance of a translator), as they individually came around to our table, about their training and work and performing arts