Suzhou Gardens and Grand Canal (“the Venice of the East”), China

The pond in The Garden of Cultivation, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the center of the city, Suzhou, China

The pond in The Garden of Cultivation, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the center of the city, Suzhou, China

 

From Shanghai we drove two hours west (about 62 miles / 100 kilometers) to the historic city of Suzhou, known for centuries as “the Venice of the East”.  Today it is a booming metropolis, with a population approaching 5 million in the city and 10 million in the greater Suzhou area.  “It is a major economic center and focal point of trade and commerce, and the second largest city in the province after the capital Nanjing.  The city is situated on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and the shores of Lake Tai and belongs to the Yangtze River Delta region.” — Wikipedia

“Historically, Sūzhōu (苏州市) was synonymous with high culture and elegance, and generations of artists, scholars, writers and high society in China were drawn by its exquisite art forms and the delicate beauty of its gardens.  Like all modern Chinese towns, Sūzhōu has unfortunately endured much destruction of its heritage and its replacement with largely arbitrary chunks of modern architecture.  Having said that, the city still retains enough pockets of charm to warrant two to three days’ exploration on foot or by bike.  And the gardens, Sūzhōu’s main attraction, are a symphonic combination of rocks, water, trees and pavilions that reflects the Chinese appreciation of balance and harmony.  Adding to the charm are some excellent museums, surviving canal scenes, pagodas and humpbacked bridges.” – www/lonelyplanet.com

 

One of many Chinese brides that we saw in The Garden of Cultivation, Suzhou, China, where they posed for professional portraits

One of many Chinese brides that we saw in The Garden of Cultivation, Suzhou, China, where they posed for professional portraits

 

Our first visit was to The Garden of Cultivation, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the center of the city.  It is regarded as one of the city’s nine finest “Mountain and Water” landscapes.  We had the opportunity to have tea in one of the tea houses and individually learn and practice some Chinese calligraphy with brush and ink.  Our instructor also showed each of us our English names in Chinese characters.  It was clear to all of us that much study and practice would be needed if we wanted to become even moderately competent in calligraphy.  After our garden visit we had a ride on a small boat down the Grand Canal.  In the neighborhood of Suzhou where we disembarked we walked to the Songhelou Restaurant for a Chinese banquet luncheon.  Their signature dish, Sweet and Sour Mandarin Fish, was excellent and a dish that we also enjoyed again later on during our stay in Shanghai.

 

One of the teahouses on the pond in The Garden of Cultivation, Suzhou, China

One of the teahouses on the pond in The Garden of Cultivation, Suzhou, China

 

Our calligraphy instructor showing us the Chinese characters for one of our English names, The Garden of Cultivation, Suzhou, China

Our calligraphy instructor showing us the Chinese characters for one of our English names, The Garden of Cultivation, Suzhou, China

 

Suzhou, China, today is a booming metropolis, with a population approaching 5 million in the city

Suzhou, China, today is a booming metropolis, with a population approaching 5 million in the city

 

An older neighborhood that has not yet been replace by modern high rise buildings, Suzhou, China

An older neighborhood that has not yet been replace by modern high rise buildings, Suzhou, China

 

A “traditional” shoe store – on wheels, presenting a combination of physical goods (not Internet photos) selection and instant home delivery, Suzhou, China; beat that, Amazon!

A “traditional” shoe store – on wheels, presenting a combination of physical goods (not Internet photos) selection and instant home delivery, Suzhou, China; beat that, Amazon!

 

Going through one of many bridge “tunnels” on the Grand Canal, Suzhou, China

Going through one of many bridge “tunnels” on the Grand Canal, Suzhou, China

 

Typical homes along the Grand Canal, Suzhou, China; many of the homes have belonged to the same family for many generations – sadly, the canal no longer has such a “grand” appearan

Typical homes along the Grand Canal, Suzhou, China; many of the homes have belonged to the same family for many generations – sadly, the canal no longer has such a “grand” appearance

 

Interspersed among the homes are sections of commerce (shops and restaurants) along the Grand Canal, Suzhou, China

Interspersed among the homes are sections of commerce (shops and restaurants) along the Grand Canal, Suzhou, China

 

Our ride down the Grand Canal, Suzhou, China, was in one of the boats pictured here

Our ride down the Grand Canal, Suzhou, China, was in one of the boats pictured here

 

A classical bridge over a wide lake along the Grand Canal, Suzhou, China

A classical bridge over a wide lake along the Grand Canal, Suzhou, China

 

A walk along the Bund, Shanghai, China

The Bund is a mile-long stretch of waterfront promenade along the Huangpu River in Shanghai, China, that is a living museum of the colonial history of the 1800s with 52 buildings of vari

The Bund is a mile-long stretch of waterfront promenade along the Huangpu River in Shanghai, China, that is a living museum of the colonial history of the 1800s with 52 buildings of various architectural styles, including Gothic, baroque, and neoclassical styles (here, looking to the north from the Promenade around Fuzhou Road)

 

“For a century, the Bund (Chinese: 外滩 wài tān /why tan/ ‘Outer Beach’) has been one of the most recognizable symbols and the pride of Shanghai.  The architecture along the Bund is a living museum of the colonial history of the 1800s. You’ve never been to Shanghai if you haven’t seen the Bund… The Bund is a mile-long stretch of waterfront promenade along the Huangpu River.  To the west of this stretch stand 52 buildings of various architectural styles, including Gothic, baroque, and neoclassical styles.  It is often referred to as ‘the museum of buildings’.” – www.chinahighlights.com

 

This view is from the gardens in planter boxes along the Promenade, looking south along the Bund and the Huangpu River beyond the shoreline formally designated as “the Bund”, Shangha

This view is from the gardens in planter boxes along the Promenade, looking south along the Bund and the Huangpu River beyond the shoreline formally designated as “the Bund”, Shanghai, China

 

The government has done an excellent job preserving the historical buildings from the settlement period along the Bund, Shanghai, China; the newer skyscrapers stand in the distance in st

The government has done an excellent job preserving the historical buildings from the settlement period along the Bund, Shanghai, China; the newer skyscrapers stand in the distance in stark contrast – with limited land area and 24.5 million people in Shanghai, the only realistic way to build is up, so there is a plethora of tall buildings across the cityscape

 

A small group of us spent the morning walking from our ship’s birth at the Shanghai Port International Passenger Terminal to the beginning of the Bund at Broadway Mansions on the north side of the Wusong River (Suzhou Creek).  We crossed the bridge and walked the length of the Bund to the south with a stop in a park along the way for tea at a tea house.  Walking south really showed off the pollution as we were looking through it towards the sun.  When we reversed direction on our return walk to the terminal the pollution seemed less severe, due to the optical illusion of having the sun behind us and bright trees, parks and buildings in the foreground of our vision (and photographs).  The smog index was 139, somewhat unhealthy, on the international scale of 0 (no smog) to 400 (terrible and sickening). Of course, we all tried picturing the Bund and our walk 100 or 150 years ago during the colonial period when the buildings and development of the Bund were similar, but there was very little pollution.  The Shanghai municipal government, along with the national Chinese government, are heavily publicizing the positive steps that are being undertaken in the city to reduce pollution and increase energy production from renewable sources, lessening contributions to pollution in the future.  As Americans at this time, it was embarrassing to see China moving forward to combat climate change and pollution while watching the current Washington administration reversing course and removing the U.S. commitments and actions on combating climate change by executive orders and E.P.A. actions.

 

The Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank building from the British settlement days in the 1920s in the foreground and the Customs House, beyond it, on the Bund (looking north), Shanghai, China

The Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank building from the British settlement days in the 1920s in the foreground and the Customs House, beyond it, on the Bund (looking north), Shanghai, China

 

We left the Bund, Shanghai, China, for a short detour through an adjacent park, preserved for the green space, with numerous giant skyscrapers standing all around it

We left the Bund, Shanghai, China, for a short detour through an adjacent park, preserved for the green space, with numerous giant skyscrapers standing all around it; the government has done an excellent job in meeting its goal of having a lot of parks and green space for the Shanghai population within the city

 

The northern terminus of the Bund (just before the Waibaidu Bridge across the Huangpu River) has a waterfront park, Huangpu Park, with the landmark triangular, tall Monument to the Peopl

The northern terminus of the Bund (just before the Waibaidu Bridge across the Huangpu River) has a waterfront park, Huangpu Park, with the landmark triangular, tall Monument to the People’s Heroes, Shanghai, China

 

A view of the stretch of the shoreline along the Huangpu River (north of the Bund) beyond the Monument to the People's Heroes on the left to the Shanghai Port International Passenger Ter

A view of the stretch of the shoreline along the Huangpu River (north of the Bund) beyond the Monument to the People’s Heroes on the left to the Shanghai Port International Passenger Terminal (the low, egg-shaped blue-green building on the right edge of the image), Shanghai, China

 

Our ship was docked slightly north of the Shanghai Port International Passenger Terminal because, on our arrival, the two Chinese Navy ships were berthed in the berth directly in front o

Our ship was docked slightly north of the Shanghai Port International Passenger Terminal because, on our arrival, the two Chinese Navy ships were berthed in the berth directly in front of the terminal, Shanghai, China

 

 

Shanghai Skyline at Night, China

The Pudong district_s new skyscrapers lighted up at night, Shanghai, China

The Pudong district’s new skyscrapers lighted up at night, Shanghai, China

 

Few cities in the world have skylines that come alive at night in full color as pulsing billboards – Shanghai is at the top of the list in our experience, with perhaps Singapore (and its laser light show) right up there, too.  Our ship’s birth at the Shanghai Port International Passenger Terminal gave us prime viewing of the Pudong district’s new skyscrapers on the port side.  From our balcony on the starboard side we were mesmerized by a nearby tall skyscraper that changed the moving/pulsing light patterns on its exterior several times a minute from various “paintings” wrapped around the skyscraper to vertical Chinese character advertising billboards.  From the ship we could also look forward and catch a glimpse of the Bund starting at the bend in the Huangpu River.  All in all, a terrific night-time light show.

 

A close up of the new skyscrapers along the Huangpu River in the Pudong district, north of the Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower, Shanghai, China

A close up of the new skyscrapers along the Huangpu River in the Pudong district, north of the Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower, Shanghai, China

 

A light show on the nearby skyscraper which we could watch from our apartment_s balcony on our ship, docked at the Shanghai Port International Passenger Terminal, Shanghai, China

A light show on the nearby skyscraper which we could watch from our apartment’s balcony on our ship, docked at the Shanghai Port International Passenger Terminal, Shanghai, China

 

A floral pattern “wallpaper” on the nearby skyscraper which we could watch from our apartment_s balcony on our ship, docked at the Shanghai Port International Passenger Terminal, S

A floral pattern “wallpaper” on the nearby skyscraper which we could watch from our apartment’s balcony on our ship, docked at the Shanghai Port International Passenger Terminal, Shanghai, China

 

A geometric design in lights on the nearby skyscraper which we could watch from our apartment_s balcony on our ship, docked at the Shanghai Port International Passenger Terminal, Shang

A geometric design in lights on the nearby skyscraper which we could watch from our apartment’s balcony on our ship, docked at the Shanghai Port International Passenger Terminal, Shanghai, China

 

A Chinese character advertisement on the nearby skyscraper which we could watch from our apartment_s balcony on our ship, docked at the Shanghai Port International Passenger Terminal,

A Chinese character advertisement on the nearby skyscraper which we could watch from our apartment’s balcony on our ship, docked at the Shanghai Port International Passenger Terminal, Shanghai, China

 

A nighttime view of the Bund at the bend in the Huangpu River in central Shanghai, China

A nighttime view of the Bund at the bend in the Huangpu River in central Shanghai, China

 

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