Day 19 – More Kurashiki and Naoshima Island

So because we couldn’t get good view of Kurashiki by night, we decided we would get up early and see it in the morning light, as you can see, the sun was barely up when we left the hotel room.

Early morning start

We basically walked to the same shrine and explored around there and could see where we walked passed during the previous night. There were actually quite a few cemeteries around the place and they’re all quite small, with only a few burial plots.

Cemetery around the shrine

We also saw a few of these little ‘poles’ in the ground which I didn’t really understand, not sure what it was actually referring to.

May peace prevail on earth

It was such a stark contrast between night and day, the eerie walkways and the shrine looked so much more lively during the day compared to night. I didn’t get the feeling that there were ninja’s hiding somewhere.

Outside the shrine by day

We got to see a lot more of the shrine too as we didn’t want to explore too much at night as we could barely see.

Walk to the shrine by day
Details in the roof-work

There was a little room near the front of the shrine which was now open and going inside there was a lantern/light hanging from the ceiling and upon closer inspection, there was a lovely piece of art underneath.

Zodiac signs

While the shrine isn’t buzzing with life, there is the odd person who comes to pray in the morning, perhaps more visitors come later on, but this was at aboutt 7am and there were less than a handful.

Old man prays
Interesting roof decorations

So on the walk back, we noticed this interesting shop, the roof of the thing was covered with dog figurines, the shop itself appeared to be a souvenir shop or something, not sure of the relevance of the dogs, stands out so much though.

Lotsa dogs on the roof

Along the little river, we again saw the same swan from the previous night, this time round they were looking for a feed. I never knew they could twist their necks like this, kinda freaky.

Swans have funky necks

So getting back, picking up our bags, we took a train out to Okayama for our next destination, thankfully the Japanese train stations have large lockers for you to store your belongings, we dumped our luggage in them and set off to find some food. Okayama itself seemed like a rather large city and there were heaps of buildings around the station, a lot busier than Kurashiki.

Warrior statue at Okayama
Ball of pins?

There was also quite a buzz around the station, not sure what the occasion was but downstairs they were cooking and selling various kinds of food. There was also a film crew going around and interviewing people, completely oblivious to why, we couldn’t resist the smell off the freshly cooked noodles.

Noodles being cooked

Ended up with a small box of Yakisoba for breakfast and it was quite tasty.

Quite delicious

As the trains to get to the port for Naoshima weren’t exactly frequent, we had some time to explore the local vicinity. There was a little bun shop down stairs and I found what the staff were wearing to be somewhat amusing. The buns were delicious though, warm and soft and filled with red bean.

Some sort of sweet bun
Mine was filled with red bean

It was finally time for us to catch our train to Uno station where we’d board a ferry to go to Naoshima island. Unfortunately for us, we forgot to get off at our stop (as we had to change trains) and as a result, we ended up going down a long journey across the longest set of consecutive bridges in the world. I read about it a few days before and it spans something like 14km in total, it took a while to get across all the bridges (and also on the way back). After taking a train in the reverse direction, we had to wait for another 50 minutes for a train to Uno station.

Catching the wrong train across the longest series of bridges

After finally arriving at Uno, about 2 hours later than anticipated, we looked around while waiting for the ferry to take us to the island. Naoshima is basically a little island spiced up by some art, the area around the ferry port at Uno had some art of it’s own, this one in particular caught my eye, initially it looks fine, but inspecting closer, you can see this lady has three legs!

3-legged woman?

So we finally got off the large ferry and begun our journey around.

The ship to Naoshima

So the two main attractions on Naoshima Islands are the Benesse House Art Gallery and a set of houses which have been restored with an artistic edge.

U <3 i?

When initially walked around, we couldn’t seem to find anything artistic about any of the houses, looking at the maps showed where they should have been but they looked ordinary. We went to the Town Centre which had a rather unique design for a map, but it provided no insight into these so-called artistic homes.

Naoshima Town Centre

It was only until we were able to ask someone that we realised you have to buy a ticket before they’d show you inside where the marvels began. Unfortunately we weren’t able to visit all the houses/features, but the little shrine below was one of them.

Small regular looking shrine

From the outside it looks regular, but these steps were a little unique, the glass itself was extremely clear but I didn’t make much of it.

Steps made of optical glass

It was only until we were shown to a passage way around that leads under the temple that we were told that the glass itself is optical glass! i.e. very expensive and clear glass used in camera lenses and the like. The passage way led to the base of the steps which extend underground and you can see the light peering from above. Walking out was rather cool as you could see the exit in the distance but all around you is black.

Underground passage which leads to the glass steps

We also visited this house which had clippings from all over the world on the floor (underneath sheets of glass) very interesting to see where this artist had collected things from as you could see newspaper clippings and currencies from all over the world. But the most interesting thing was a friggin’ statue of liberty inside! I didn’t take photos of the rest of the house as you’re not supposed to.

Mini statue of Liberty

We had visited three other houses, one where the original was mirrored by the artist, but I couldn’t really see the artistic merit, the guy couldn’t really explain it though. Another had a little pool inside and had lots of little LED number things, each counting from 0-9 at different rates and they were a variety of colours, rather mesmorising to look at.

The last house was certainly very interesting basically we were lead into a dark room and instructed to turn everything which emitted light off (I had forgotten to turn my GPS tracker off and they told me to do so immediately). You’re told to form a train withe everyone else, use your hands to guide you to the bench at the back and sit down, all in a pitch black room. You’re then told to just look forward for about 5 – 10 minutes. Initially you see absolutely nothing, it’s pitch black. As time goes on, you start to notice a very faint rectangle in the distance, it gets a little brighter but still completely indistinct. After 10 minutes we’re told to get up and walk towards it, at this stage you’re able to kind of see around you, you can make out people and shapes! It was rather amazing! You could also then see two faintly lit light bulbs on either end and the dull rectangle itself quite clearly.

That last house was definitely a highlight, we then decided to walk to the Benesse House, this feat took about half an hour and was quite fun, as we approached we found a free shuttle bus to the gallery itself. It was getting dark and the sun was setting in the distance.

Walking along the sunset

A short bus ride later, we arrived.

Benesse House
Outside Benesse House

So Benesse House is an Art Gallery as well as a resort you can stay at, residents are able to peruse the art gallery at anytime they like(even late night). Inside there’s no photography (for obvious reasons) but the art inside is rather modern and definitely unique, the kinda art you look at and think, wow, that’s cool.

The one photo I did take was of this extremely simple artwork but very well done. Basically it’s figurines in a quarter circle formation, but mirrors on both sides transform it into a full circle.

Interesting yet simple artwork

So after exploring the floors of Benesse House, we had to get a ferry back and take a train to Hiroshima, but as we were feeling somewhat adventurous, we decided to walk/run/jog to the port, in the dark! There wasn’t much lighting on the road and the map we had wasn’t very detailed.

It took over an hour to get there and we narrowly missed taking a wrong road, it was all instinct and we were quite glad we made it at the end, it wouldn’t have been fun to be stranded on the island. We were so tired at this point and didn’t spend too much time looking around, I snapped a couple of pics around the station exit and we immediately proceeded towards our hostel which was about 10 minute walk.

Outside Hiroshima Station

We checked in and immediately went off in the hunt for food, we remember walking past a restaurant on the way towards the hostel and that was going to be dinner. This place was completely decked our in baseball gear, it’s actually very popular in Japan and th owners here have  real passion for it.

Decked out with baseball stuff

The Ramen here came in awesome servings, so much stuff! heaps of pork, eggs and even wontons! The ramen here was delicious, absolutely loved it.

Yummy and filling Ramen

The entrance to the store had a funky door chime as well, each time someone would go in, you would hear the crowd cheer after someone hitting a home run, great atmosphere.

Outside the Ramen shop

We were quite buggered after this and headed straight back and chilled for a bit before going to bed to rest before heading out on another adventure.

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