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  • Day6

    Japan's Inland Sea

    August 14, 2016 in Japan ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    We left the salubrious Hotel Izutsu early on Sunday morning and headed for the subway. It was an easy 20 min trip to the main Kyoto train station and headed up to the Shinkansen platform. We wanted something for breakfast and there weren't a lot of options open at that hour so egg sandwiches washed down with fruit juice had to do.

    The Shinkansen arrived and departed right on time (of course) and it was a smooth hour or so trip from Kyoto to Okayama. To us Aussies when we say we go from one city to the next we imagine long stretches of country driving with few towns and houses to be seen along the way. Japan is nothing like that. Kyoto and Osaka are sort of merged into one big metropolis with only a few more rice fields appearing when you get out of the central suburbs. There are always houses, roads, and people.

    We were roughly heading west from Osaka along the shore of the inland sea. Okayama is what you would call a regional town with a population of just over 700,000. It also has an important train line connection which is why we were headed there.

    We changed to the Chayamachi train and 20 mins later changed to the Uno train. It may sound scary changing trains so many times in a country where you don't speak the language but really it is pretty easy. The guys on the gate are very happy to help tourists and most signs are in Japanese and English.

    We were heading for the island of Naoshima on Japan's inland sea for our night of indulgence on our holiday. Naoshima is a really interesting island. T found out about it from Catherine and thought it would be a great place to go and it was (thanks Cath).

    Once we arrived at Uno we made the 10 min walk across the road to the ferry to Naoshima. The ferry was actually a car ferry and loads of Japanese were looking to take their cars to Naoshima and the other islands. It was only a 20 minute trip before we arrived at Miyanoura Port on Naoshima and made it off the ferry.

    We found the shuttle bus to our Hotel - Benesse House - and sank into the air conditioning for the 15 min drive.

    Nayoshima is a small island that was barely supported by fishing back in the 80s when it was decided to create a centre for arts and bring tourists to Nayoshima and other islands in the vicinity. Based on the crowds we saw this has been an outrageous success. We happened to be there for the Setouchi Triennale Festival which happens every 3 years and sees hordes of people come to the islands to look at art galleries and generally form queues. One of the most popular galleries, Chi Chu Art Museum, has 5 Claude Monet paintings and there was a 2 hour queue to see it on the day we arrived, luckily one of the ladies at the Hotel recommended we go at 9am the next day and there was no waiting.

    Part of the Art program on the islands includes taking old houses that otherwise would have been left empty and using them for artists to show their work. This meant you would walk down small lanes and find an art gallery happening. Really interesting and a great use for old houses.

    The yellow pumpkin on the water is one of the most famous images of Naoshima.
    One of Japan's key architects, Tadao Ando, designed a number of galleries and buildings on Naoshima in the Brutalist style so the buildings were just as good as the art. More info on the broader festival is here suffice to say it was very impressive.

    As well as taking in the art we went for a trip to Honmura, one of the towns on the island, and stumbled across an Hawaiian style burger joint. We didn't stop for a burger but did stop for one of their craft beers. They had 2 on offer, one was 'Alcohol of Wheat' and one was 'Alcohol of Barley', we opted for Alcohol of Barley which was alcoholic ginger beer and very refreshing as it was easily pushing 40 degrees.

    Benesse House is THE place to stay on the island and the building was designed by the same architect that designed most of the other galleries, it was very nice and luxurious. Happy hour on the deck was definitely one of the highlights, drinking beers and watching the lights of Takamatsu across the sea come on. Dinner was a 5 star event and definitely one of the culinary highlights of the trip so far.

    I've been noticing some of the materials used to build Japanese houses. Being such an earthquake prone area there are very few houses made of bricks. Most seem to be wood which is then scorched to give the blackened look in the photos or some type of fibro. There are some concrete block buildings but these aren't very common.

    Tomorrow we move on from Naoshima and head further west to Hiroshima.
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