Jan 092018
 

January 2018

Most large, high-end, hotels place a Japanese restaurant near some form of Japanese Garden, the Hotel New Otani goes one step further.

The Hotel New Otani GardenIn the middle of Downtown Tokyo, this stunning garden is free to anyone that desires to walk around.

The garden was first part of the estate of samurai lord Kato Kiyomasa over 400 years ago.  Eventually, the land was turned over to the Ii family, dominant in the Shogunate Government of the Edo period.

Hotel New Otani Tokyo GardenLater, in the Meiji period, the land became the property of the Fushiminomiya family, then a branch of the imperial house. After the Second World War, the property was sold to Yonetaro Otani, the founder of Hotel New Otani, who established his private residence on the property and renovated the garden into what it is today.

Koi at the Hotel New Otani Tokyo GardenThe Hotel New Otani opened on September 1st, 1964 to coincide with the Tokyo Olympics. Its construction was requested by the Japanese government in order to fill a perceived shortage of hotel space for foreign visitors to the Olympics. Yonetaro Otani, a former sumo wrestler who founded and ran a small steel company, agreed to build a hotel on the site keeping the original garden.

Garden at the Hotel New Otani, TokyoThe Garden has undergone some changes when an addition to the hotel and an office building were built on the site, but it is still worth a stop in the busy hustle of downtown Japan

Japanese GardenThe hotel was a filming location for the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice, where it appeared as the headquarters of Osato Chemicals, the Japanese front for SPECTRE.

Japanese Garden TokyoThe New Otani also hosted the world leaders who attended the funeral of Emperor Hirohito in 1989 and those who attended the enthronement of Emperor Akihito in 1990.  The hotel has seen the likes of many a foreign dignitary.

dsc_3434 *Japanese Bridge in a Japanese Garden *Hotel New Otani Garden*Hotel New Otani Garden Fence

Jan 022018
 

January 2018

The Art House Project was a large leap into the lives of the locals of Naoshima Island.  There are many articles out about how the local people were not sure about the entire Benesse project, and how through the years they have learned more and more about contemporary art, and have learned to love the project, the art, and I am sure, the employment that comes with it.

The Art House Project involves older houses in the Honmura Port area of Naoshima remodeled into works of art.  There are seven projects, and photos are not allowed in any of them.

In the Honmura Port area is also the Ando Museum

The Ando Museum

The Ando Museum opened in March 2013. The museum is designed by the man it is named after, Ando Tadao, and is an homage to himself.

The Ando Museum looks like the regular, 100-year-old traditional residence that it is, from the outside, blending in perfectly into the town’s neighborhood. The inside of the building, however, combines traditional interior design with Ando’s signature use of concrete, creating a rather intriguing atmosphere with small unique spaces. The interior is truly a work of art in concrete.   Entry is ¥510 and is closed on Mondays – as is most everything within the Benesse Properties, with the exception of the Benesse House Museum.

For the remaining Art-Houses, you purchase a card for entry to all at ¥1030 or each individually for ¥410

Minamidera

Minamidera

Minamidera is a new building, and it was designed by Tadao Ando to accommodate the works of James Turrell. The vicinity was once home to five temples and shrines, as well as the ruins of a castle, making it the center of history and culture in Naoshima. The name Minamidera (literally “southern temple”) seeks to preserve the idea that the temples which once stood here were an emotional support for the people.

The Turrell installation is all about light, so if one is claustrophobic it is not a good house to visit.  It is an interactive exhibit and allows only 5 to 8 people in at one time, approximately every 15 minutes. During the holiday season, this was the only line I stood in, and that was for a mere 5 minutes.

Kadoya

Kadoya

Kadoya was the first building in the Art House Project to be completed. The house was constructed roughly 200 years ago, and it was restored to its original appearance with a stucco finish, smoked cedar boards (shou shugi ban), and traditional roof tiles. The townspeople of Naoshima participated in the creation of the work Sea of Time ’98 by Tatsuo Miyajima inside the main room of the home.

The Go'o House

Gokaisho

The name Gokaisho (literally “place to play go”) is derived from the long-ago custom of the islanders gathering here to play the game of go. Yoshihiro Suda converted the structure into an art space, and his work Tree of Spring, inspired by the work Falling Camellia by Hayami Gyoshu, is displayed in one of the two rooms.

Suda has several pieces throughout the island.  I first spotted his work in the Bennese House Museum, there appeared to be weeds growing out of the concrete wall, it was a lovely exhibit titled “Weeds” by Sudo made of painted wood.  The wood is so incredibly thin as to look exactly like a leaf.  In the hallway to the Terrace Restaurant is one of the camellias that is in Gokaisho.

A Camellia by

A Camellia by Yoshihiro Suda

Haisha

Haisha

Haisha, meaning “dentist”,  Shinro Otake converted this dentist’s home and office into a very intriguing work of art. The house incorporates an eclectic array of stylistic elements. The title of the work is Dreaming Tongue.

Ishibashi

Ishibashi

Formerly the home of the Ishibashi family, who made their fortune producing salt in the Meiji Period, it was used as a private home until April 2001. The salt-making industry supported the livelihood of people in Naoshima for many years, and restoring the home was considered important to understanding the history and culture of Naoshima. Hiroshi Senjyu spent five years from the original conception of the idea developing the entire space of this “tangible memory” into a work of art. Senjyu kept most of the home intact, and added his own paintings, it is in spectacular shape and is truly a work of Japanese architecture nicely blended with Japanese art.

The Go'o Shrine

The Go’o Shrine

This shrine sits atop of a hill, very close to a working temple.  It is a stunning piece of artwork. The artist is Hiroshi Sugimoto  A flight of glass stairs links an underground stone chamber with the main hall. The main hall and worship hall   are based on the style of early shrine architecture, as well as the artist’s own aesthetic sensibility.

A beautiful set of glass stairs is easily seen above ground

A beautiful set of glass stairs is easily seen above ground

Naoshima Go'o shrine

You are then given a flashlight and sent slightly down the hill to a very, very, very narrow corridor.

The stairway underground

The stairway underground

These wonderful pieces sit amongst the small town of Honmura.  Honmura is a wonderful area to wander and explore.

Naoshima Hall

Naoshima Hall

Naoshima hall, designed by architect Hiroshi Sambuichi is a multi-purpose facility, consisting of a main hall, a community center, and a garden. It utilizes the island’s prevailing winds to circulate air inside the hall

The hall took the top spot in the Best New Public Building category of the 2017 Wallpaper* Design Awards, presented by the British magazine of the same name. This was the first time that a Japanese architect had received the award.

Naoshima I love hot waterOne other exhibit space is at Miyanoura Port titled Bath House.  It is actually a bathhouse, and the only way to view the art inside is to take a bath, but the building is fun to examine from the outside as well. The facility was created by artist Shinro Ohtake and is operated by the Town-Naoshima Tourism Association.  The place is actually called  “I♥︎湯” and is a play on words, the Japanese character for hot water (湯) is read as yu.

Naoshima Art *I love you bath house *Naoshima Bath

Due to the season, many of the art galleries are closed, but it is still easy to get your fill of art and architecture at Benesse.

The town of Miyanoura is also a very sweet town and worth walking around, here are a few shots of that town:

The local shrine, directly across from the port is lovely and historic

The local shrine, directly across from the port is lovely and historic

Not far from the port is a cemetery.  It was the New Year so flowers were everywhere.

Not far from the port is a cemetery. It was the New Year so flowers were everywhere.

Watering vessels at the cemetery

Watering vessels at the cemetery

Someone's stunning front yard

Someone’s stunning front yard

Flowers are doorsteps are classically Japanese, I loved these accompanied by seashells.

Flowers are doorsteps are classically Japanese, I loved these accompanied by seashells.

I will end this post with some fun photos taken around the Honmura area.

Honmura, Naoshima *Naoshima

Naoshima Critters These critters are all over townNaoshima CrittersI found this sign in one store, I hope it tells you the artists name, but I don’t read Japanese.
Naoshima Critters

dsc_2920 *Honmura, Naoshima *dsc_2916 *dsc_2913 * Honmura, Naoshima*

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I stayed in Benesse for a total of 5 days, and it was most likely one day too short.  I would have liked the opportunity to visit the island of Inujima, but it was closed for much of the time I was in the area and cramming it into the one day it was open and I had time, simply became unfeasible.

Benesse is truly an amazing experience and a must for anyone that loves architecture or art.

Jan 022018
 

January 2018
Benesse – To Live Well

Pumpkin by Yoyoi Kusama is the signature piece of Naoshima Island. The Yellow Pumpkin sits on a pier in front of the Benesse Park Hotel

“Pumpkin” by Yoyoi Kusama is the signature piece of Naoshima Island. The Yellow Pumpkin sits on a pier in front of the Benesse Park Hotel

The biggest employer on Naoshima is a Mitsubishi metals processing plant, but due to automation, and therefore, downsizing, the population of the island dropped from around 8,000 in the 1950s and 1960s to a little over 3,000 now.

The island has been “saved” by art thanks to Benesse Holdings, an education, and publishing conglomerate best-known for Berlitz, the language school company.

The Bennese Park Museum houses one of the larger restaurants, The Terrace, as well as a few small rooms for hanging out and gazing at the sea. Cylinder Bisected by Plane by Dan Graham sits in the middle of this photo

The Benesse Park houses one of the larger restaurants, The Terrace, as well as a few small public rooms for hanging out and gazing at the sea. “Cylinder Bisected by Plane” by Dan Graham sits in the middle of this photo

Looking out from the 2nd floor of the Benesse Park to the Terrace Restaurant and Benesse Beach

Looking out from the 2nd floor of the Benesse Park to the Terrace Restaurant and The Beach Hotel

According to Becoming, a book on the creation of Benesse, Benesse opened with the aim of providing visitors with a luxurious stay surrounded by works of art in a natural environment. The former head of Benesse Holdings, the late Soichiro Fukutake, had dreamed of opening a campground for children from all over the world, he met with the then town mayor of Naoshima, the late Chikatsugu Miyake who had wanted to create an environmentally friendly cultural and educational district in the southern part of the island.  These two men formed a mutual agreement to develop the island of Naoshima. Activities commenced with a trial camp for children, operated by employees of Fukutake Publishing. The off shoot of this was Fukutake’s company buying a huge piece of land and hiring world-famous architect Tadao Ando to design museums and luxury lodgings that now make up the Bennese Art Site. 

One part of "Shipyard Works" by Shinro Ohtake

One part of “Shipyard Works” by Shinro Ohtake

The first art project for the site was Open Air ’94 Out of Bounds, organized as an outdoor exhibition space in 1994. Out of Bounds referred to the crossing of borders in hope that Naoshima be linked to the rest of the world.  Pumpkin (the yellow one) by Yayoi Kusama was debuted in this exhibition, as well as Shipyard Works by Hinro Ohtake and Time Exposed by Hiroshi Sugimoto.

There are four places within the Benesse properties to stay.  The Oval, The Park,  The Beach and The Benesse House Museum. Each has their own unique flavor and varying prices.

Dining is difficult, there are a few restaurants on the island, but the hotels have several dining rooms, and while pricey, the food is world class.  You can choose between Japanese or European cuisine in many of them.  Others are fixed menus by phenomenal chefs.

There are other less pricey places to stay on the island, off of the Benesse properties, and the entire island is accessible by a free bus if you are staying within the Benesse properties or a ¥100 public bus.

There are ten rooms available within the Benesse House Museum, and you are allowed to wander the hotels after closing to enjoy the art.

There are ten rooms available within the Benesse House Museum, and you are allowed to wander the hotel after closing to enjoy the art.

The Oval sits atop the highest peak on Naoshima. It has only 6 rooms, all with spectacular views. Access to the oval is through a funicular that requires your room key for access, making The Oval a very private retreat.

The Oval sits atop the highest peak on Naoshima. It has only 6 rooms, all with spectacular views. Access to the oval is through a funicular that requires your room key for access, making The Oval a very private retreat.

Water flows from the streams above the Oval, through the eternity pool in the middle of the structure and out to sea.

At The Oval water flows down a water fall and into an eternity pool suggesting the concept of water flowing from the mountain streams to the ocean.

The Oval at Benesse on Naoshima Island

Every room in all of the accommodations have fine art in them. This particular one is in the Oval by David Tremlett

Every room in all of the accommodations has fine art in them. This particular one is in The Oval and painted directly on the wall by David Tremlett.  Many of the others contain framed drawings or paintings.

The Benesse Art Site group has truly thought of everything.  You are handed reams of information upon check-in, and every staff member I have encountered is well versed in all the ins and outs of the island.  English is spoken by most everyone, and in fact, it is now been added to the school curriculum on the island.

One of the inner-island ferries in Miyanoura Port

One of the inner-island ferries in Miyanoura Port

There are two ports on Naoshima, and getting here is done via ferry from Takamatsu to the Miyanoura Port, there are five throughout the day, with more added during the summer. Timing your arrival to and from the airport should be taken into consideration.  The ferry ride is ¥510. There are locals that take cars onto the island, via the car ferry, but most transportation is bike, moped, feet or public bus.

Blind Blue Landscape is a site-specific work by Teresita Fernandez in the corridor to the Terrace Restaurant

Blind Blue Landscape is a site-specific work by Teresita Fernandez in the corridor to the Terrace Restaurant

I am here during the Christmas/New Year holiday season.  That is considered high season price wise, but it is a divine time to come as the crowds are minimal.  The hotels are full, but no reservations are needed for the exhibits, and a wait of 10 minutes for a timed exhibit is all I have suffered.  In 2016, 800,000 people visited the island for the Triennial, I can not imagine fighting that type of crowd.

These two boats are part of a piece by Jennifer Bartlett. There is a three part canvas in the museum with the two boats painted, and two of the boats sitting on the floor in front, then as you look out the glass towards the sea, there are these two boats set in the same position on the same beach that is in the painting

These two boats are part of a piece by Jennifer Bartlett. There is a three-part canvas in the museum with the two boats painted, and two of the boats sitting on the floor in front, then as you look out the glass towards the sea, there are these two boats set in the same position on the same beach that is in the painting

Photography is not allowed in any of the museums, so a purchase of the book Remain in Naoshima, is the best guide to the collection, however, there are many outdoor installations that can be photographed.  The lack of descriptions of the art was the only place I feel they missed a beat. Most pieces were marked solely with the name of the piece, the date, and the artist.  The book Remain in Naoshima is in each room, so studying the pieces is easy if you are so inclined, but the stories to many of the pieces are of interest, and much I did not learn until I returned to the room and flipped through the book.

The view from room 405 of The Oval

The view from room 405 of The Oval

Chichu Museum

The Chichu museum (literally museum underground) is another Tadeo Ando creation, built in 2014 it is on the southern portion of the island. The building is a stunning piece of architecture all by itself. The site features only three artists, with permanent installations, these are by Walter De Maria and James Turrell, as well as painted works in the Water Lilies series by Claude Monet.  These are said to be the only paintings by Monet that can be viewed in natural light, and you take your shoes off to enter the gallery. – Tickets for the Chichu Museum are ¥2060, you purchase a ticket at a small building then walk through a sweet little garden to reach the entryway to the actual museum.

The Lee Ufan Museum

The Lee Ufan Museum

Opened in time for the 2010 Setouchi Triennale, the Lee Ufan Museum is one of the more recent additions to the Benesse collection. The museum features works by the Korean contemporary artist Lee Ufan, who was born in Korea but has been working and teaching in Japan. On display are large installations made of stone, concrete and huge slabs of iron, as well as a number of paintings from earlier in his career. This building was also designed by Tadeo Ando, and like his other buildings, it is filled with different geometric shapes in reinforced concrete and stunning outdoor spaces. The entry to the Lee Ufan Museum is ¥1030.

The entry to the museum is on the right hand side of the building as to not disturb the elegance of the front.

The entry to the museum is on the left-hand side of the building as to not disturb the elegance of the front.

Just before entering you encounter this pottery piece by Ufan, after that, no photos are allowed.

Just before entering you encounter this pottery piece by Ufan, after that, no photos are allowed.

There is a huge selection of outdoor sculptures spread throughout the property, you can pick up a map from any of the front desks and enjoy the day wandering and seeking them out.

The stairway goes up and over Seen/Unseen Known/ Unknown by Walter de Maria. This sits near the Benesse private pier with other outdoor sculpture

The stairway goes up and over Seen/Unseen Known/ Unknown by Walter de Maria. This sits near the Benesse private pier with other outdoor sculpture

The red pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama greets you at the Miyanoura Ferry Terminal

“Red Pumpkin” by Yayoi Kusama greets you at the Miyanoura Ferry Terminal

Looking down at Pumpkin from The Oval

Looking down at “Pumpkin” from The Oval

This post has been about the Bennese Art Site, read the next post for information about the town itself, and more art.

Dec 312017
 

Like many countries, New Years preparations begin before the actual day. There is a very large Shinto Shrine, also called the Hokkaido Shrine Jingu at Marayuma Park in Sapporo.  The snow conditions made a trip there difficult, so I visited the local version closer to town, near the Nijo Fish Market.

It was a few days before the New Year and I wanted to pick up some blessing amulets and place an ema (pronounced emma) at the shrine.

dsc_2661

Ema’s on the right ( “picture-horse”) are small wooden plaques, common to Japan, in which Shinto and Buddhist worshippers write prayers or wishes. The ema are left hanging up at the shrine, where the kami (spirits or gods) are believed to receive them

Ema are prayer boards that are related to an old tradition of donating horses to shrines. It’s popular to write your wishes for the coming year on an ema at New Years.

New Years in Japan

Omikuji

Omikuji are fortunes that are available at shrines and temples. Your fortune is determined by choosing a stick from a specially designed box.

New Years is a natural time for people to be curious about their future. If you get a bad fortune it’s customary to leave it behind at the shrine by tying it at the designated spot.

I am actually spending New Year’s Eve on the island of Naoshima and have been wandering and appreciating the signs of the New Year.

New Years in Japan

A few days after Christmas, the entrances to many homes, stores, and buildings in Japan are decorated with a pine and bamboo kadomatsu. This decoration is prepared to welcome the Shinto gods and derives from the Shinto belief that the god spirits reside in trees. Furthermore, the display of pine and bamboo expresses the desire to obtain virtue and strength to overcome adversity.

New Years in Japan

Entrances to ordinary homes are decorated with a shimenawa braided straw rope. Like the kadomatsu, it signifies that the home has been purified in order to welcome the gods.

New Years in Japan

Kagami Mochi is a New Years decoration that traditionally consists of two mochi rice cakes with a daidai fruit on top. They are associated with longevity and are eaten on the first weekend after New Years.

You will often see them out of plastic as well

You will often see them out of plastic as well

Soba Noodles for New Years in Japan
You must have soba noodles at some point in the evening, or  “Toshikoshi-Soba” when eaten on the night of New Year’s Eve. The reason and origin are not clear but the general theory is that people eat Toshikoshi-Soba with the hopes that they can live thin (frugally) but long, just like Soba noodles, in the coming year.

Ring in the New Year in Japan

In the evening you head to the temple to ring in the New Year and warm yourself by the fire

New Years in Japan

Then there is sake. A drink of O-toso first thing on New Years Day is said to ward off sickness for the entire year ahead, as well as invite peace.  There are rituals surrounding the serving and drinking of O-toso, at Bennesse House it was served a few times during the day and in various different ways.

Serving spiced sake in the morning at Bennesse House

Serving spiced sake in the morning at Bennesse House

Later in the day sweet sake was served in the traditional shallow bowls

Later in the day sweet sake was served in the traditional shallow bowls

New Years in Japan

Like any country in the world, there are, I am sure, far more rituals, but these are the ones I observed or took part in.
New Years in Japan

*Japanese Shrines in New Year *Japanese Shrines in New Year

*New Years Eve in JapanHappy New Year – and I hope your 2018 is a great year for you and yours.

Dec 312017
 

December 2017

Teshima is a rural island in the Seto Inland Sea that, with the nearby islands of Naoshima and Inujima has become a destination for contemporary art. The island also serves as one of the venues of the Setouchi Triennale art festival that is held in the region.

The building that houses Les Archives de Coeur by Christian Boltanski

The building that houses Les Archives de Coeur by Christian Boltanski

The main attraction is the Teshima Art Museum, but there are other exhibits as well.  It was winter when I visited, so many were closed, but that also meant, what was open had easy access (no lines).

One of the other permanent artworks on the island is Les Archives du Coeur (“Heart Archives”), it is located in a small building along the beach in the eastern outskirts of the Karato port area. For ¥510, it is one of the multiple locations across the world where visitors can make recordings of their heartbeat and listen to the recorded heartbeats of other people in a slightly unnerving environment. French artist, Christian Boltanski is the creator of the project and has been doing this since 2008.

When you enter the gallery it is dark, the small light bulb goes on with each heart beat. It takes a very strong beat to actually light the room enough to see the walls.

When you enter the gallery it is dark, the small light bulb goes on with each heartbeat. It takes a very strong beat to actually light the room enough to see the walls.

I had gone in and thought to record your heartbeat a little weird.  However, after you leave the main exhibit hall there are small computers with high-grade earphones to listen to other heartbeats, you choose the country and the person, it is weird, and in fact it is a little spooky, but after walking out and staring at the sea I realized it was an opportunity to be part of an actual art exhibit, so I walked back in and paid my ¥1540 and put myself into the exhibit via a quick recording.  That seems like a bit much (around $15US) but you walk away with a CD of your heartbeat (an outdated mode of recording) packaged in a stunning box, that is, in itself, a small piece of art, so it was worth it, to me.

All the glass in the house is red, creating a perfect environment inside for the art.

All the glass in the house is red, creating a perfect environment inside for the art.

The other large exhibit that was open during the winter was the Teshina Yokoo House (¥510).  This, like the Teshima Art Museum, is one of the more moving exhibits I have seen in a very long time.  While the art was contemplative, the building was stunning. The house is a  collaboration between artist Tadanori Yokoo and architect Yuko Nagayama. The project was created by altering and renovating an old private house located the Ieura District. The exhibition areas are divided into a “Main House,” a “Warehouse,” and an “Outhouse”.

Photos are not allowed inside, and overall shots of the exterior are hard to get from the narrow streets, but this is the entry to the home.

Photos are not allowed inside, and overall shots of the exterior are hard to get from the narrow streets, but this is the entry to the home.

The most moving space is the silo-like structure.  It appeared at first to be something you simply look into.  It took the docent to tell me you could actually enter the space.  The juxtaposition between the glass floor and the darkness completely fool the eye.  Once inside it is hard to leave, it is filled with old postcards right up to the top and is such a warm and comfortable space to enjoy, it was a very memorable experience.

The mosaic stream, filled with koi, continues under the house. It can be enjoyed through the glass floors.

The mosaic stream, filled with koi, continues under the house. It can be enjoyed through the glass floors.

As I mentioned much of the sites are closed during the winter, but you will trip over outdoor pieces.  A really fun one, that looks like it belongs there because it is on a playground. Installed for the 2013 Triennale, it is by Spanish artists Jasmine Llobet and Luis Fernandez Pons.

No one wins - Tashima Triennial“No one wins – Multibasket” creates a place where both the local residents and visitors can simply play basketball. There are multiple hoops and players must use their imagination and make up their own rules.

As you wander the island you come across the rice fields that are being brought back to life with the help of the Tashima Art Museum

As you wander the island you come across the rice fields that are being brought back to life with the help of the Tashima Art Museum

Everyone's yards were filled with various types of citrus trees. These consisted of Lemons, Mandarins and Iyolans.

Everyone’s yards were filled with various types of citrus trees. These consisted of Lemons, Mandarins, and Iyolans.

I always enjoy viewing temples when I can, there are several on the island, but this one was truly special

Temple viewing in Japan is always a joy

Temple viewing in Japan is always a joy

temples of Japan

On an island with a fishing industry, a fish Kami seems to me to be a normal thing to see at a shrine.

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*The Teshima Bulletin Board

Getting to Teshima requires some planning, the ferries only run a few times a day.  A good 5 hours should be allotted to the island, and remember I was there in the winter when the lines were either very, very short or non-existent.

Once you arrive there is an easy to miss area with bike rentals and a gift shop.  Here you will find the Teshima Guide that tells you everything that is open or closed for the day.

Renting bikes is the best way to get around the island, you can get an electric one if the hills are intimidating for you. Otherwise, for ¥100 per ride (about $1US), you can hop on the local bus.  It also doesn’t run very often, but walking is very easily supplemented with a few bus rides to cover the longer distances between ports.

The Tobas Rehberger house, in the Ieura port area was closed for the winter.

The Tobias Rehberger house, in the Ieura port area, was closed for the winter.

Tobias Rehberger is a German artist that does full exhibit installations with optical illusions. This is one of the permanent collections that was closed for the winter

The Needle Factory

Also in the Ieura area is the Needle Factory, another permanent exhibit that is closed for the winter.

Artist Shinro Ohtake takes an abandoned sewing needle factory and inserts and abandoned fishing boat for a full-size statement.

Teshima, Japan

Teshima is a wonderful island, strolling is easy, and art is accessible.  One will go for the Teshima Art Museum, but there is oh so much more.

Dec 302017
 

December 30, 2017

Teshima Art Museum

Teshima is a small island in the Inland Sea of Japan.  It had suffered economically until the Benesse Group, founded on the island of Naoshima, started turning the surrounding islands into art and architecture havens.  I began this adventure on the island of Tashima, and in particular with the Tashima Art Gallery, because it is December 30th and the gallery closes for the first week in January.

The Teshima Art Gallery is actually an art installation extraordinaire.  There are no photos allowed inside, and as a photographer, even I had to agree with the policy.  The building is a stunning meditation space with water as a medium.

However, the official photographer Noboru Morikawa has photos on his website.   I have borrowed one from his site, but it still does not give you any sense of the wonder of this museum.

Teshima Museum

I was drawn to the museum for its architecture, and that is a wonder unto itself. The architect is Ryue Nishizawa

According to the website:
“Structurally, the building consists of a concrete shell, devoid of pillars, coving a space 40 by 60 meters and with a maximum height of 4.5 meters. Two oval openings in the shell allow wind, sounds, and light of the world outside into this organic space where nature and architecture intimately interconnect. In the interior space, water continuously springs from the ground in a day-long motion….The museum, which resembles a water droplet at the moment of landing, is located in the corner of a rice terrace that was restored in collaboration with local residents.”

Before you enter you are told to be careful where you step.  Most obviously you are told of small pieces of pottery, but you are also told that the water droplets are part of the installation.  This seems silly until you enter the space and realize the water droplets are a huge part of the installation.  In fact, they are what it is all about.  Water is pushed through very small holes via the small pieces of pottery or extremely small holes in the ground.  They then traverse across the space, joining together organically and then disappearing with a wonderful “quiet water down the drain” sound.  All of this spectacular mind-blowing art is from the artist Rei Naito who worked in very close collaboration with Ryue Nishizawa to create a space that must be experienced to understand.

There are countless articles from Architectural and Art magazines that can be cited here, there is no point, you simply must experience this space personally if you ever have the opportunity to be in Japan.

Even the walkway to the museum is a work of art

Even the walkway to the museum is a work of art

Teshima, Benesse

Looking out onto the inland Sea of Japan

Looking onto the first opening which is on the entryway side of the museum

Looking on to the first opening which is on the entryway side of the museum.

Teshima Art Museum Benesse

The entry to the museum. They limit the number of people that can enter at a time, and you must take off your shoes to go in.

Teshima Art Museum

The Art Space of Teshima Art Museum is a shell-structure that is thought to be the lowest building in history, with a height of only four and a half meters and a thickness of only twenty-five centimeters.  There are two skylights in the ceiling.  The water-drop-shaped floor measures forty by sixty meters and there are no interior supports.

Such a structure is possible today because of technology, and in no way could have been achieved in an earlier era.  Using special software Matsuro Sasaki conducted the structural calculation in such a way that there would be no straight lines in the entire design.  The concept was realized by the advanced technology of Kajima Corporation.

To realized the design, soil from the site was mounded and coated with mortar. Next, double iron reinforcing frames for concrete were assembled on the mound.  It took twenty-two hours overnight in the middle of winter for 120 concrete mixers to pour the concrete over the mound, which was left to dry for five weeks.  Finally, it took six weeks to dig out the soil from inside the new concrete shell.- From the Curator’s Notes

Dec 282017
 

December 2017

Sapporo

Getting around Hokkaido in the winter is not the easiest of tasks, so this trip is limited to Sapporo.  There are lots of fun things to keep one busy if you dress warm and have patience.

After enjoying the Sapporo TV Tower and the lights in Odori Park, or the Snow Festival if you are here in February, there are several interesting historic places to visit.

Sapporo is a very new town. Its founding did not occur until the 1860s with a population of seven. The population did not pass one million until the 1970s and is still just under 2 million. After a total of 17.5 percent of the city was destroyed as a part of Allied air raids on Hokkaido during WWII, the area was developed as a food production area to help with the Japanese food shortages.

Their subway system was built in 1971, and they held the Olympics in 1972. Maria Callas sang her last opera in Sapporo in 1974.

For these reasons, there is not too much historical architecture.

The former Hokkaido Government office Building

The Former Hokkaido Government Office Building

The Former Hokkaido Government  Building is nicknamed akarenga or “Red Bricks”.  It is an American neo-baroque style Meiji era building designed in 1888 by a Hokkaido government engineer.

When built it was one of the largest buildings in Japan.  The dome, constructed in 1873, was designed by American advisor to the Development Commission Horace Capron.  Domes, at that time in history, were architectural symbols of independence, so when the Hokkaido Government was established in 1886 the first governor nostalgically added the dome.

The building burned down in 1909 and was restored in 1911. It was further restored in 1968 and now serves as a museum, art gallery, public space, and houses a research library.

Former Hokkaido Government Building

The riser on the entry steps are exceptionally high, but the stone is gorgeous.  There are air vents that look like chimneys and lightning rods, all parts of Western architecture.  There are around 2.5 million bricks, made in Shiroishi and Toyohiro villages, now part of Sapporo.  The French-style brickwork uses longitudinal and transverse bricks laid alternately.  This is a rather rare form of masonry in Japan.

Sapporo Japan in winter

The entry and main hall are centered around this three section arch. The stairway typifies western architecture.

architecture of Japan*Meiji era architecture

The road leading to the entry was the first paved road in Sapporo. It was laid in 1924 with bricks made of chemically treated elm.

Sapporo Diorama

A map of 1800s Sapporo in the Former Hokkaido Government Building

Sapporo Japan architecture

The grounds are also surrounded by a lovely and rather large park.

Sapporo Clock Tower

Another building from the 1800s is the clock tower. Built in 1878 it is both a historic and cultural symbol of Sapporo.  Originally called the Embujo – military drill hall, it served as that for the Sapporo Agricultural College (now Hokkaido University) the first agricultural institution in Japan.  Invited by the government as the first Agricultural liaison, American Dr. William S. Clark, who at the time was president of the Massachusets Agricultural College came to Sapporo to be the Vice-president of the Sapporo Agricultural College.  Clark designed the curriculum with its military training similar to that of his original school. The clock tower was actually designed by Clark’s successor William Wheeler as a military hall, it was later called the Clock Tower.  It was Governor Kiyotaka Kuroda who actually proposed installing the clock, which was manufactured and purchased from the E. Howard Watch and Clock Company of Boston. This was added in 1881.

This very American, mid-west architecture is now a small museum with an entry fee of ¥200, and well worth the visit.

The clock in the tower was built by E. Howard & Co. from Boston and it is a weight driven clock. That means a large weight, 50kg in this case, is suspended from the clock and descends under the force of gravity at a calculated rate. When the weight reaches the bottom, after about 7 days, it is wound back up by a crank handle. These pictures are a replica of the clock, the workings and the actual weight.

The clock in the tower is a weight-driven clock. That means a large weight, 110 pounds, in this case, is suspended from the clock and descends under the force of gravity at a calculated rate. When the weight reaches the bottom, in about 7 days, it is wound back up by a crank handle. These pictures are a replica of the clock and its workings.

Sapporo Beer Factory

This old brewery building is now just one of 7 buildings that make up the Sapporo Factory Shopping Mall.

At the beginning of the Meiji era, the Japanese government established various businesses in Hokkaido as part of a wider effort to colonize Hokkaido. One of these businesses was the Kaitakushi Brewery. This brewery leveraged Hokkaido’s abundant natural resources, including its cold weather, to produce beer. The first brewery building was made of wood and later enlarged with red brick as the beer became more popular. Even then the beer bore the iconic star mark of Sapporo.

In 1882, the Kaitakushi was abolished due to financial difficulties, and buildings built by the Kaitakushi were liquidated. In January 1886, the Kaitakushi Brewery belonged to the newly established Hokkaidō Prefectural Government. Privatized in 1887, Kaitakushi Brewery was renamed Sapporo Bakushu.

Old Sapporo Kaitakushi Brewery

The wooden floors undulate as the slowly incline.

The wooden floors inside the original brewery building undulate as they slowly incline.

Sapporo Smoke Stack

The Takashiro Nagayama residence is undergoing a complete restoration, so it was not available for viewing during my visit.  However, it is a beautiful blend of Japanese and American architecture.

Nagayama residence sapporo japanBuilt around 1880, this residence was built as the home of the second director of the Hokkaido Agency. The interior of the residence, which is surrounded by a garden full of azalea and Japanese yew trees, combines Western and Japanese architectural styles. A purely Japanese study, for example, connects to a Western drawing room. It is an early example of residences incorporating Western architectural technologies, which became popular during the Hokkaido pioneering period.

Japanese architectureThe two-story building on the north side of the property is a Western building that the Mitsubishi Mining and Cement Co., Ltd. built upon purchasing the residence after Nagayama passed away.

Sapporo has a vast array of lovely modern buildings and public parks, but their historical architecture, while spread throughout the city, is worth pursuing if you are an architecture fan.

Dec 282017
 

December 2017

Sapporo is a very walkable city, and what you will notice is the lack of automobiles, most likely due to its incredible train system, subway system, and underground walkways.

When you visit the Old Hokkaido Government Building there is a map that shows Sapporo in the 1800s, the Toyohira River runs through Sapporo and off of this is a small canal Soseigawa.

When you visit the Old Hokkaido Government Building there is a map that shows Sapporo in the 1800s, the Toyohira River runs through Sapporo and off of this is the small canal Soseigawa.

Sapporo is logically organized thanks to its grid system. The main thoroughfare, Ō-Dōri, meaning “Big Street”, runs east to west across the city and divides the city into North and South, while Sōsei-Gawa “Creation River” divides the city into West and East. Soseigawa is the small canal that runs through the downtown area. While covered in snow in winter, and a little hard to navigate, it is a public park with art during the rest of the year.  You can even see it in the above 1800s map.

One of the lovely bridges that cross the Sosiegawa Canal

One of the lovely bridges that cross the Sosiegawa Canal also called the Sosiegawa River

Sapporo fish market

Walking along the Soseigawa River you will run into the Nijo Market, It is said to have developed in the early Meiji Period when fishermen from Ishikari Bay started selling fresh fish there. There used to be a row of fish markets along the Soseigawa River. Eventually, noodle shops, bars, and grocers moved in creating today’s Nijo Market. Today the market still serves the local population and judging by the number of boxes being wheeled out, the restaurant business as well, but it is also filled with tourists.

Throughout the market are sushi restaurants tucked in small alleys and around corners, or you can grab fresh fish grilled by the sellers right on the sidewalk.

December is prime time for Hokkaido Crab

December is prime time for Hokkaido Crab

Hokkaido Crab

There are a few places selling things other than fish. At today’s exchange rate that ¥5000 is around $45US for just under one pound

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This is nothing like the Tokyo Fish Market, but it is still a fun place to spend an hour or so, and a great place to get a rice bowl topped with the freshest fish.

Fresh uni and oysters were the choice for me this morning.

Fresh uni and oysters were the choices for me this morning. This ran around $24US

Another view of the Sosiegawa River

Another view of the Sosiegawa River

The Japanese are without a doubt some of the most polite people in the world.  Along the sidewalks, you will find these free bags of sand, and everyone helps to spread the sand in the more slippery parts of town.

sand bags in Sapporo Winter

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Horohiro Bridge

Mizuho Ohashi Bridge crossing the Toyohira River

This Ferris Wheel (Nobia) is atop the Nobesa Shopping Mall

This Ferris Wheel (Noria) is atop the Norbesa Shopping Mall

They say if you ride the yellow one all your dreams will come true.

They say if you ride the yellow one all your dreams will come true.

Six U.S. dollars will get you a very, very slow ride on the Noria on the 7th floor of the Norbesa Mall in the Susukino entertainment district of Sapporo.  It is worth it if you love Ferris Wheels, and not for the faint of heart if you have issues with heights.  If you wanted your feet planted firmly, but still want the view, read my post on the TV Tower here.

The Ferris Wheel can be seen for miles in the evening. Changing colors and patterns as it turns.

The Ferris Wheel can be seen for miles in the evening. Changing colors and patterns as it turns.

The mall is more of a giant carnival with games, a bowling alley and restaurants, it all comes alive after the sun goes down, as does the entire Suskino area.

Norbesa Mall, Sapporo

The Suskina Entertainment Area is filled with bars, pachinko palaces, restaurants and even a red-light district

The Suskino Entertainment Area is filled with bars, pachinko palaces, restaurants and even a red-light district

Susukino originated in 1871, when the Hokkaido Kaitakushi designated the area as the red-light district. After the construction of the district, the Kaitakushi named this place as “Susukino Yūkaku” (Susukino red-light district), and integrated other brothels into this district. Today, Susukino is Japan’s largest entertainment district outside of Tokyo. It is packed with stores, bars, restaurants, karaoke shops, pachinko parlors and red light establishments, a great place to wander in the evening.

However, it is also the home of Ramen Yokocho, or Ramen Alley, a very narrow paved lane lined with very tiny shops serving up Sapporo’s famous ramen, so should you be in the area during the day it is a great place to find a bowl of noodles.

The first store in the alley is Aji No Karyo and proudly displays a sign on the window saying Anthony Bourdain ate here.

The first store in the alley is Aji No Karyo and proudly displays a sign on the window saying Anthony Bourdain ate here.

Looking down the small alleyway

Looking down the small alleyway

You can order at the table, or some restaurants allow you to pay and order at the same time via a machine.

A ramen noodle ordering machine

A ramen noodle ordering machine

covered shopping malls in Sapporo

Shopping seems to be the number one past time in Sapporo.  I have never seen so many shopping malls per capita in one city in my life, I honestly think Sapporos shopping malls far outweigh the number in Tokyo, they are both above and below ground, so the numbers of stores are staggering. Most are modern high rises that can go two to five stories below ground and then another 7 above, but every once in a while you trip over an older fashioned covered mall like this one.  These have the types of stores that serve locals, not tourists, but they are a respite from the wind and snow and somewhat fun to explore.

old fashioned store sapporo japan

They even have big dreams – this gentleman brings memories of Paris to his store.

shopping sapporo

One of my favorite things is Matcha Kit-Kats, I was agog to find there are far more flavors than I ever knew. In fact Kit Kat’s are quite the thing in Japan partially because Kit Kat sounds similar to the Japanese phrase kitto kattsu, or “you will surely win.” Because of this it is often given as a good luck gift to students before their university exams. Nestle capitalized on this and the Japanese tradition of omiyage (or the gifting of regional specialties to family and co-workers after trips) and has released over 300 limited-edition seasonal and regional flavors since 2000. The newest is Tokyo Banana as of this posting.

Can your read all the flavors?

Can you read all the flavors? Strawberry, Wasabi, Rum Raisin, Momiji Anju Aji, Red Bean Sandwich and Shinshu Apple.

One of the last items I did was to find a Shinto shrine, it was close to New Years and time to purchase protection amulets.  The lovely Hokkaido Shrine Junga at Marayuma park was too far to navigate in the snow so I found a sweet shrine closer to downtown.

Hokkaido Shrine Tonga at 3 Chome Minami 2 Johigashi, Chuo

The Hokkaido Shrine Tonga at 3 Chome Minami 2 Johigashi, Chuo

They have a small gift shop and they show all of the protection amulets with English translations in case you are interested.  This temple seemed to have a predominance of transportation and auto safety amulets, but there are many others as well.

The washing station was so cold as to be frozen.

The washing station was so cold as to be frozen and not useable.

Ema's on the right Ema (絵馬, lit. "picture-horse") are small wooden plaques, common to Japan, in which Shinto and Buddhist worshippers write prayers or wishes. The ema are left hanging up at the shrine, where the kami (spirits or gods) are believed to receive them

On the right are Emas ( “picture-horse”) these are small wooden plaques, common to Japan, in which Shinto and Buddhist worshippers write prayers or wishes. The ema are left hanging up at the shrine, where the kami (spirits or gods) are believed to receive them.

Dec 262017
 

December 2017

Otaru CanalOtaru is a lovely little town situated on Ishikari Bay of the Sea of Japan. It was an Ainu (native peoples of Hokkaido) settlement, and the name “Otaru” is recognized as being of Ainu origin, possibly meaning “River running through the sandy beach”. Otaru was recognized as a village by the bakufu (The shogun’s officials were collectively the bakufu) in 1865, and in 1880 the first railway line in Hokkaido was opened with daily service between Otaru and Sapporo.

Historic Buildings of Otaru

A former Millet store, this delightful building dates to the Meiji period of Japan. 1909

An Imperial decree in July 1899 established Otaru as an open port for trading with the United States and the UK.

The city flourished with herring fishing and was once the center of the economy of Hokkaido.
Otaru once called “Northern Wall Street was also a central banking and financial center.

architecture of Otaru

Natori Takasaburo a metals merchant and hardware trader from Yamanashi prefecture built this store with attached living quarters in 1906. The exterior walls are made of Sapporo soft stone. This is an excellent example of commercial architecture of the later Meiji period

Otaru is a major station on the JR Hakodate Line, making it very easy to get to from Sapporo. There are at least five trains per hour, a one-way trip is ¥640 and the fastest train takes around 30 minutes.

The canal was completed in 1923 to aid in getting goods, via smaller boats, from the ships to the warehouses that line the canal. It is just a 10-minute walk from Otaru Station.

Otaru architecture in Japan

This building stands in the center of town and was a warehouse for Mukai Kimono Shops branch store. It is one of the few brick warehouses built in Otaru. Because of a large fire that swept through the town in 1904 the building used thick earthen fire doors on the interior of the windows.

the glass of Otaru JapanThe area is also known for its glass blowing so the biggest things to do are shop at the tourist stores along Sakaimachi road and eat fresh fish. You can find fresh fish stores and chose your own or dine in one of the hundreds of restaurants serving fresh sushi. It is crab season in Japan, so fresh crab abounds in all of the restaurants.

You can also find several fish stores throughout town that will grill the fish right there

You can also find several fish stores throughout town that will grill the fish right there

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You can also take boat rides on the canal, sadly the snow and winds were too heavy the day we were there and they were not running.

Otaru River Cruises

Shopping in Otaru

The shops of Sakaimachi Street

There are two quasi covered malls, while not the greatest stores, it does offer a respite from the snow and wind if needed.

There are two quasi-covered malls, while not the greatest stores, it does offer a respite from the snow and wind if needed.

Small sushi restaurants can be found hidden off a side alley from one of the covered malls.

Small sushi restaurants can be found hidden off a side alley from one of the covered malls.

When the sun goes down lights come out on the canal

When the sun goes down, lights come out on the canal

Otaru Japan

If you have the chance to visit in February, don’t miss the snow light festival.

Otaru snow light festival

Dec 252017
 

Christmas Day – 2017

Sapporo Beer

The Sapporo Beer Museum and Bier Garten are a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Sapporo Beer Museum

The factory was built in 1890 as the Sapporo sugar factory and used as the beer malting plant until 1963.  It was turned into the museum and beer garden in 1966.

Sapporo Bier Garten

Registered as one of the Hokkaidō Heritage sites in 2004, the museum is the only beer museum in Japan.

In 1895, Japanese sugar manufacture declined, causing the liquidation of the beet manufacturing factory run by the Sapporo Sugar Company. In 1903, the Sapporo Beer Company purchased and remodeled the factory to use as a brewery.

Sapporo Beer Posters

Beer posters through the ages, notice the predominance of women, and yes, children.

A very good self-guided tour, with English translation cards, is available through the museum.  You can also take a guided tour for a small fee, which includes beer tasting, however, it was not available Christmas day as the tasting room was closed.

Some interesting facts about Sapporo beer:  In 1869, the Meiji government set about developing Hokkaido, establishing a Kaitakushi (the national government Hokkaido Development Commission). One of the businesses established under this commission was the Kaitakushi Brewery.

The following year the  Sapporo Brewery was born. It was originally slated to open in Tokyo, but wild hops were discovered in Hokkaido and the area was found to be highly suitable for both the cultivation of hops and also barley.

The first brewer was a Seibei Nakagawa, a Japanese man that had gone to Germany of his own accord to study beer brewing.

Since Sapporo beer was brewed in the German style, which relies on fermentation and maturing to be done at low temperatures, and since ice was easy to procure in Hokkaido, the area turned out to be ideal for beer production.  Also, at the time they had not developed the ability to fully remove yeast, which would change the taste of the beer if the temperature rose, so the ice was also needed during the transportation of the beer to Tokyo.

In 1937, due to a war economy, all beer production in Japan stopped. At the end of the war, the company was split into Asahi Breweries and  Nippon Breweries (now Sapporo).  The Nippon brand included Yebisu.   However, Nippon did not utilize either of those names in making beer.  In 1956, the unrelenting cries of fans pushed Sapporo Beer to bring back the name, and once again begin making beer in Hokkaido.  The sale of Sapporo Beer did not even go countrywide until 1964.

Labels of Sapporo Beer through the ages

Labels of Sapporo Beer through the ages

Sapporo Beer Museum

The Kaitakushi Brewery was established in the place where now the Sapporo Factory Shopping Mall is in downtown Sapporo. The inauguration was held at the brewery, and beer barrels were piled up in front of the building. These barrels were restored, and now stand in front of the Sapporo Beer Museum

The museum does not take more than a half of an hour, if the tasting room is open it could take longer, but what everyone goes for are the restaurants.

These are packed in the evening, so a leisurely lunch was considerably more inviting. There are five restaurants on the grounds, each with a slight twist on either its decor or its menu offering, but the big thing is that they all offer all you can eat and, should you choose, all you can drink.  The catch on the all you can drink is you have 100 minutes, and, more importantly, it does not include the premium beers.

Sapporo Beer Garden Genghis Khan meal

The reason people go to eat is the Genghis Khan.  You can order it as a meal (shown above) or as part of the all you can eat.  You grill your own strips of lamb and vegetables.

Ghengis Khan dinner Sapporo

As mocking you for improperly cooking your Genghis Kahn is de rigueur, directions are set before you so you are not teased by the table next to you.

fat Genghis Khan Sapporo Japan food

You begin by getting your personal, table-top, griddle covered in fat with the slab of lamb fat that comes with the raw meat and vegetables.

Sapporo Beer Garden Genghis Khan mealNext, you place the vegetables on the edges and the meat in the middle.

Sapporo Beer Garden Restaurants

Cook until the meat is no longer red, and your vegetables to your liking.

Sapporo Beer Garden Restaurants

Kessel Hall, the most fun of the restaurants that are open for lunch, is dominated by a giant Kessel.

In German the word Kessel (literally a cauldron) is commonly used to refer to an encircled military force, and a Kesselschlacht (cauldron battle) refers to a pincer movement. The common tactic which would leave a Kessel is referred to Keil and Kessel (Keil means wedge).

In German the word Kessel means cauldron.

Sapporo Beer Garden and restaurants

Notice the plastic bags next to the diners.  The smoke is so intense in the room when it is full that you, your hair and your clothing go home reeking of Ghengis Khan.  The plastic bags are provided by the restaurant to keep that from happening to anything that you brought in that isn’t attached to your body.

The green and yellow drink at that table are flavored beers, Sapporo also makes several types of soft drinks.

Next to the Sapporo Beer Museum and Garden is a shopping mall with a grocery store that I would pay good money to have in my hometown.  If you have not indulged in entirely too much beer, it is absolutely worth a stroll. There is an ATM, and as those that travel in Japan, know, those are not the easiest to find, so it is a great opportunity to get some cash.

There is a taxi stand at the museum, but it was snowing on Christmas day and cabs in the snow in Japan are as rare as they are anywhere else in the world in the snow.  There is also a cab stand at the shopping mall, and it was frequented often, just a word to the wise.

KANPAI!

screen-shot-2017-12-25-at-7-52-26-pmSo just a small note about Christmas in Japan, known as more of a time to spread happiness rather than a religious celebration Christmas Eve is often celebrated more than Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is thought of as a romantic day, in which couples spend together and exchange presents. In many ways, it resembles Valentine’s Day.

We had a fried chicken dinner because fried chicken is often eaten on Christmas day. It is the busiest time of year for restaurants such as KFC and believe it or not you can put in orders in advance at KFC’s and other fast food restaurants that serve fried chicken. This most likely came about because of a 1974 advertising campaign by KFC called ‘Kentucky for Christmas!’ (Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!) which was very successful and made KFC popular for Christmas.

Meri Kurisumasu

and if you are really challenging me Merry Christmas in Hiragana is: めりーくりすます; and in Katakana is: メリークリスマス.

 

Dec 242017
 

December 24, 2017

It is Christmas in Japan, and Sapporo does it big.  Today we spent the day walking the German Christmas Fair, and yes, all the gifts and food are German.  You go for the lights and the people watching unless of course, you want to take home German gifts from Japan.

Snowman Building

Snowman Building during the day in front of lights that decorate the night.

The market has been held in Sapporo since 2002, when the city celebrated its thirtieth anniversary with its sister city, Munich, Germany. The stalls sell Christmas items, hot wine and cold beer, and German food.  The market is up for one month in Odori Park and ends on Christmas Eve.  Sapporo White Illumination, also in Odori Park, a tradition that began in 1981, is a  Christmas light show that stays up until Christmas day.

There are so many photo opportunities throughout the German Christmas Fair

There are so many photo opportunities throughout the German Christmas Market

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Saint Nick can even be found here and there

Saint Nick can even be found here and there.

There are lots of places to do “selfies” and posed shots, but the best vantage point is the 30th floor of the Sapporo TV Tower.

Sapporo TV Tower

Sapporo TV Tower

While Illumination Sapporo Japan

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Looking down on Odori Park from the observation level of the Sapporo TV Tower

Looking down on Odori Park from the observation level of the Sapporo TV Tower

the Noria Ferris wheel at the Norbesa Center in the Susukino Entertainment district, and ski resorts in the distance from the observation tower

the Noria Ferris wheel at the Norbesa Center in the Susukino Entertainment district, and ski resorts in the distance from the observation tower

To make your visit complete you must go back at night to see all the lights.  Start at the TV Tower Observation deck, this time with a long line of people, and end at Odori W8.

Odori Park at night from the Sapporo TV Tower Observation Deck

Odori Park at night from the Sapporo TV Tower Observation Deck

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The Ferris wheel not only changes colors but also changes patterns making for a wonderful light show from the observation deck.

Christmas in Sapporo Japan

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Christmas Eve in Sapporo Japan

There are decorations of light displays for 8 blocks, all different

There are decorations of light displays for 8 blocks, all different

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Tunnel of Lights

Tunnel of Lights

Sapporo christmas lights

Frozen bananas and marshmallow treats

Frozen bananas and marshmallow treats

There is all sorts of fun shopping both day and night

There is all sorts of fun shopping both day and night

German Christmas Market Sapporo Japan

Hot chocolate, hot wine, cold beer and lots of German food

Hot chocolate, hot wine, cold beer and lots of German food

Only in Japan would there be an entire building to take your dishes after eating.

Only in Japan would there be an entire building to take your dishes after eating.

The kids finished the snow man they were building this afternoon

The kids finished the snowman they were building this afternoon

Children in their Christmas costumes enjoying the Christmas lights

Children in their Christmas costumes enjoying the Christmas lights

The people watching continues throughout the evening

The people watching continues throughout the evening

Ekimae dori is a street off of Odori Park that is lined with trees that are lit up so beautifully.  These are up until February 12th.

Ekimae dori is a street off of Odori Park that is lined with trees that are lit up so beautifully. These are up until February 12th.

Minami 1-jo dori, in front of the JR Tower shopping mall also has a lovely light display as well, and it is up until March 14th

Minami 1-jo dori, in front of the JR Tower shopping mall also has a lovely light display as well, and it is up until March 14th

Walk and you will find spontaneous caroling, what more can you ask at Christmas?

Merry Christmas!