Monthly Archives: April 2010

Matsuyama – Dogo Onsen

We recently visited Matsuyama, home to the Dogo-Onsen, the oldest bath house in Japan with a 3000 year old history. Many of you will be familar with Hayao Miyazaki’s anime – Spirited Away, which is based on this very bath house. The bustling busy-ness of this historic bath house was also brought to life in the animation. Staff were constantly running around and yelling out ‘welcome’, ‘thank you’, ‘please’ to guests, or instructions to each other. People were constantly afoot, and there was none of the serenity one usually associates with a contemporary spa. Bathing is a communal activity in the Japanese culture, and many groups of women and men visit the baths together, scrubbing themselves in the public bath while chatting away un-self-consciously. It was an amazing experience to a foreigner like me. πŸ™‚

Industrial activity on the islands on our way to Matsuyama from Kobe

Our greenhouse gases!

Matsuyama in dusk – finally arrived after 4 hours travel from Osaka!

Dogo Onsen – 3000 year old bathhouse – oldest in Japan!

View of bath house architecture from street

Bath house – rear view – series of roofs which are copper clad. Beautifully green.

Doesn’t this image remind you of one of the scenes from Spirited Away? πŸ™‚

Around the bath house is a fence with iron cast crane sculptures

Men and women alike seem to enjoy dressing in uniform type yukatas, carrying littel bamboo baskets for their towels, and visiting the baths together! Bathing together (yes, in the nude)Β is a community activity.

The corridor leading in to the women’s public bath (door on the right under red cloth)

Corridor lined with pictures of visiting Imperial Family – who have their own private rooms

No one actually thinks nudity is an issue here… All just part of nature…

Busy-ness at the ticket booth, and lockers for shoes. No one ever enters a Japanese house with shoes.

After one’s bath, some could pay a bit extra for a lounge area to relax and be served a cup of tea and rice crackers

Or one can pay that little bit more for a private room to dress properly and be served tea and sweet dessert dumplings.

View out of our private room – looking at adjacent modern buildings through the beautiful old shoji screens

Down the dark hall way with all private rooms on each side

Poking our heads out of some windows, we noticed some services of the building… enough to convey the utilitarian nature of this old building, and somehow reminded us of how Chiro the child protagonist ran through the back of house stairways and pipes in Spirited Away…

Chiro sitting on the balcony of the bath house


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Awaji Yumebutai – masterplanned project by Ando

We spent two days on Awaji Island just working our way through this project – it is a large site, masterplanned by Tadao Ando as a redevelopment after the 1995 earthquake.

Crossing the world’s longest suspension bridge from the Kobe side of main island, to get to Awaji Island

Ando created this artificial landscape to showcase flowers of the region.

Bird’s eye view

Another little waterfall – note reflection of rippling water onto the concrete soffit!

Water feature on upper level – little white shells have been placed onto the concrete bed where there is water. A lot of work!

The concrete tower houses an elevator through which we come up, and through the skybridge, we arrive at the top of those flower beds.

Within the space behind the artificial waterfall. Even as the sight was amazing, the sound of water falling was so transcendent and emotionally overwhelming. I couldn’t stop giggling with happiness and wonder the moment I stepped into that space.

The view through the waterfall

The Miracle Plant Museum – one of the many buildings on site. It is a climate controlled greenhouse that has many wondrous tropical/local plants.

Stairway leading up to roof deck – scale of the walls were ginormous!

The chapel located within the Westin Hotel which is one of many buildings on the masterplan. Many weddings were held in this chapel as part of the wedding package by Westin Hotel. Very echoey!

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Awaji Island – The Water Temple

Tadao Ando’s famous Water Temple was a little hard to get to, but well worth the visit. We’d been hearing about it from our lecturers since uni days… so we were especially happy to have made it here to experience it in person. πŸ™‚

The curved wall by which one walks to the stair way, around the lily pond.

About to descend the entry stairway.


Having descended the stairs, one turns left, and it leads to the red shrine.

To the right is the altar. Not allowed pictures within. One can keep walking around the red shrine.

The back of the altar are these screens. To the left is a little concrete void that allows light from above ground.

If one turns right upon descending the stairs, there is a corridor leading to restrooms and other staff areas out of bounds to the public.

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Kobe – Hyogo Prefecture Museum of Art

The Tadao Ando-designed Hyogo Prefecture Museum of Art was beautifully laid out in plan and circulation. Lucky we had our wide angle lens which could capture the expansive and generous outside spaces. Some outdoor spaces and vistas reminded us very much of the Qld State Library.

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Day out at the Suntory Museum

Went to visit the Suntory Museum yesterday and could not resist taking a shot of ourselves in the context. This museum by Ando wasn’t as interesting as some of his other work, but it was a lovely backdrop for 4 architects. πŸ™‚

And it is good to see the lighter side of things.

Suntory museum from the front entry

Ando-esque ramp

Interior shot – circulation between concrete ‘dome’ and steel/glass facade

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Food for the spirit

Have been offline for the past 3 days 2 nights as we have been up the mountains. It was a nearly 4.5 hour journey changing between trains/buses/cable cars to get to Mount Koya. It was a quiet change from the city life, and was a good way to experience the tranquil life of buddhism. The temple guest rooms themselves were sufficiently kitted out in modern conveniences with heaters, feet warmers under the dining table and tvs, to make one’s life comfortable in a zero degree climate. Guests were expected to attend the 6am 1 hour long prayer rituals every day. It was very cold sitting in their main prayer hall on one’s knees. Though we are allowed to sit cross legged, there were plenty of stiffness for the last few days… πŸ™‚ In spite of the physical discomfort, it was lovely to listen to the monks’ echoing chants, more musical than monotonous, with a sombre resonant gong sounding from time to time. 7am breakfast was fairly sparse with a piece of tofu, pickled radish and white rice with soup, which resulted in excessive peckish-ness…we had to snack rather a lot during the day! Dinner was a more sumptuous meal with over 40 ingredients, and 3 trays of food filled with at least 3 or 4 little bowls, each meticulously laid out in the way that Japanese excel at. During the day we visited the Okunoin cemetery, filled with some 200,000 tombstones and very very old cedar trees. At nights, we read and laid about relaxing after a hot bath. I was much refreshed to come back to the secular world, though I have to say some others were weary from the 6am mornings… πŸ™‚

Tombs in Okunoin

Little rocks/stones piled up like little shrines in front of tombs

Bodhisattvas – they are dressed with little aprons and beanies, very cute. Apparently dressed by mothers to help protect children.

Rengejo-in: The temple dwelling we stayed at with its beautiful manicured courtyard in the middle

Every room/corridor faces some kind of landsape

The outdoor stairs in between guest wings

Enroute to our rooms upstairs

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Day out of Kyoto – Miho Museum

Took a day trip out of old-world Kyoto to visit I.M.Pei’s famed Miho Museum. It was a nice change from looking at old-world structures, the museum took us about 1.5 hours to get to, but it was worth the trip because we got to leave all the tourists behind and see a little of the very pretty countryside of Kyoto. Here’s just some pictures of Miho Museum. The musuem is set up by the Shumei sect, its founder Mihoko Koyama is a lady who wanted to spread the philosophy that “to seek beautiful things is to seek God”, and if one appreciates the beauty in things and fine arts in life, then there will be less inclination to do evil in the world.

The “journey” through a tunnel to be made on foot or by electric buggys to get to the museum – signifies one leaving the secular world behind

The tunnel – quite breezy, but otherwise not dark and scary at all…

Light at end of tunnel – one sees a temple roof form which is the entry into the museum –

Much of the museum is underground so the building does not make too much of a visual impact on the mountainous landscape.

Approaching the ‘temple’ steps

The entry foyer. The bonsai planted outside is about 150 years old, specially selected by IM Pei and transported to be planted here. IM Pei reckons it looks like a hand gesture of welcome, as if to show one the way into the landscape.

Intricate shadows cast by the roof structure. The ‘timber’ battens are in fact aluminium battens cladded in timber veneer.

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