Get ready, it’s time for Dr HH’s traditional VeganMoFo guest post!
Hello! Dr. HH here with my annual contribution to the HH VeganMoFo. Why have I specifically been drafted in for today’s post? Being a high brow, classy, intellectual individual with an eye for the finer things in life, it was only natural that I write about our day of exploring the Naoshima Art Island. The day started bright and early from our base in Okayama with me polishing my monocle and dusting off my top hat in preparation for a classy day of art critiquing.
The first thing you spot upon arriving by boat at Miyanoura port is this splendid pumpkin. Unfortunately, it is difficult to appreciate this piece of art fully as there are so many goons about getting in the way.
It was easy for us to roughly split the island’s museums into two halves for us to tackle before and after lunch. We hopped on the bus to take us to our first stop, the Chichu Art Museum. This housed just a few things, including five of Monet’s water lilies. They also had this pond outside that was inspired by said paintings. There were no pictures allowed of any of the indoor art and we were in the small minority of people who actually followed the rules, so you’ll have to make do with some just some outdoor pictures. This was our favourite museum on the island, it only had three things in but they were all excellent and the building itself was very impressive too.
Next was the Lee Ufan Museum which housed a selection of what I can only describe as modern art. I remember there being quite a lot of rocks, but not a lot else. There were also some outdoor bits – I’m sure you can all pick the artistic majesty of this piece I call ‘rock and stick with archway in the distance’.
From here we went to Bennesse House. This was the biggest museum on the island, which housed a varied collection of modern art and provided some spectacular views of the island. Much like most modern art galleries, I enjoyed some of the art and found it good fun whilst other pieces left me scratching my head.
It was a bit of a grey and grisly day but the rain was quite gentle at this stage so we decided to take a fairly long walk up towards our eatery before tackling our lunch. On the way there was a good selection of outdoor art, we spotted some funny looking creatures and the most famous spot on the island, the yellow pumpkin!
Our lunch spot, Genmai Shinshoku Aisunao, was tucked away down a side street near the Ando museum. On Happy Cow it is listed as using fish stock, but we were informed that everything was vegan and from what I remember the reviews back this up. We were served this exciting looking lunch special. In the great Japaense tradition we had become accustomed to, our waitress offered to explained the dishes to us, clarified that the tiny green blobs were made from kelp and excellent with rice, and with that she was off. Oh well, knowing what things are only detracts from the excitement!
There was an excellent bowl of brown rice, topped with some sesame seeds that gave it a good savoury flavour. I’m normally pretty critical of rice and it feel it’s quite a dull carb, but here it was a great addition to the meal, and the kelp did indeed add an extra punch of flavour to it. The bowl of miso soup at the front was delicious with a great depth of flavour. The white plate in the back corner had some relatively uninteresting chunks of pumpkin and carrot, but there was a piece of spongy freeze dried tofu that we’d really taken a shine to when it had been served to us before, and once again it did not disappoint. The rest of that plate had some pickled vegetables and some little cut up noodley bits, which were all good accompaniments to this spread. The black bowl at the back had some tofu and mushrooms in a broth, which was probably the best part of the whole lunch. Finally, the dessert plate…we knew from the menu that we were getting a soy milk pudding, which turned out to pretty much be a sweet bit of tofu. It was perfectly pleasant but not particularly exciting. What we did not expect was for the beans on the plate next to it to also be a little sweet, that was odd. Overall, this was an excellent meal that provided us with plenty of fuel for our afternoon wanders.
Next on our list was the Ando Museum, dedicated to the architect who designed most (maybe all?) of the museums on the island. It provided some models and some background on how the buildings had been developed and extended over the years. The last thing on the list for us was the Art House Project. This was made up of five different small locations, each with an exciting exhibit. It sounded a little like a mini version of the Biennale in Venice so we were quite excited to see what was on offer. We hustled from site to site in the pouring rain to take in four of the exhibits, but unfortunately they were rather underwhelming. One consisted of sitting in the dark for about ten minutes, and another was just a small flower arrangement. The other two were a little more fun but still not particularly exciting.
By this time, the rain was heavier than ever and we had about 20 minutes to get back across to our ferry port so we abandoned the idea of seeing the last of the art house projects and sped off on our way.
This was a great and long day out. We set off early from Okayama and made an effort to see as much as we could. I really enjoyed the Chichu Museum and Bennesse House but I could happily have skipped the other museums. The outdoor bits and pieces were great fun too, and the island was a pleasant place to stroll around…well, it would have been more pleasant if it hadn’t rained all day! The food was excellent and I would thoroughly recommend a trip to Naoshima Island. If you have even a passing interest in modern art there’s plenty to enjoy, and it’s certainly something a little different from the hustle and bustle of your average Japanese city.
What kind of squash would you most like to see transformed into art?