Contemporary Arts, Gardens and The Venice of Japan Tour Itinerary (4 Days | 3 Nights)
Highlights: Takamatsu | Naoshima Island | Teshima Island | Kurashiki | Okayama
This Japan tour itinerary starts on day one at Ritsurin Garden in Takamatsu on the Island of Shikoku and one of Japan's most beautiful gardens. Created in the seventeenth century, this beautiful stroll garden was once a park attached to a villa built by the Matsudaira lords. Shikoku is also famous for the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, which is the fulfillment of Noguchi's wish that his former studio in Mure-cho, Japan, be an extension of his Museum in New York to inspire artists and scholars. Its collection includes 150 sculptures, many of which are still unfinished, preserving the working atmosphere of his studio.
From Takamatsu you will journey by ferry to Naoshima Island, which has emerged as a center of contemporary art in Japan. On Naoshima you will spend two evenings at Benesse House, designed by famed Japanese architect Tadao Ando as a museum of contemporary art that splendidly blends in with its natural surroundings. Visit the newest museum on Naoshima designed by Tadao Ando which opened in 2010, the Lee Ufan Museum. 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.
The following day two, take a water taxi on a short ride to the Island of Teshima. On Teshima, rent bikes, choose your route and visit Teshima Art Museum and Les Archives du Coeur. Uniting the creative visions of artist Rei Naito and architect Ryue Nishizawa, Teshima Art Museum stands on a hill on the island of Teshima overlooking the Inland Sea. Shaped like a drop of water, the museum lies in a corner of the spacious grounds surrounded by once-fallow rice terraces that have been restored with help from local residents. "Les Archives du Cœur" compiles recordings of heartbeats from around the world for exhibition, listening, and the creation of an archive. This project is made up of three elements: an installation using recordings of heartbeats, a listening room where visitors are able to listen to archived recordings, and a recording room where their own heartbeats can be recorded. Continue your exploration of Naoshima begun the day before including the Art House Project where artists transform spaces into contemporary artworks while restoring old buildings and shrines. Included in Art House Project are works by artists such as James Turrell and Tatsuo Miyajima. Follow this unique encounter with a must see walk-through of the Chichu Art Museum which is one of the prettiest museums to be encountered anywhere – built specifically to house the works of Claude Monet, Walter De Maria and James Turrell.
From Naoshima on day three, travel on a ferry ride to the Port of Uno where you will travel to Kurashiki where your day will be spent strolling along Kurashiki's willow lined canals, hump-backed stone bridges and dozens of white washed, black-tiled kura or rice storehouses experiencing its immaculately preserved merchant quarter that dates to the Edo period. Also, visit the Ohara Museum of Art with its wonderful collection of Western art including works by Monet, Renoir, Gauguin and Picasso. With a splendid panoramic view from atop Mt. Tsurugatayama, visit historic Achi Shrine that was built to hold back invading sea tides; in time it became the very heart of prosperous Kurashiki. Relax in a fabulous ryokan in the town center.
On day four, travel to Okayama and Koraku-en Garden where you will sip tea in a garden tea house while viewing Okayama Castle. Outside of the City is Kibitsu-jinja Shrine, an old shrine with its main sanctuary built in the peculiar Kibitsu-style, which joins the two roofs of the Irimoya-style with a pitch on the two sides on the upper part and on the four sides at the bottom. Meet with a Shinto priest who will bestow private blessings on you in a very sacred room in a ceremony unique to this shrine.