30 kinds of wonderful: 4. Birthday in Naoshima.

OK, so I’m doing this thing where I’m counting down to my 30th birthday with 30 kinds of wonderful. If you need to catch up, just start here.
Now let’s go!

4. Birthday in Naoshima

I’m not a good birthday person. Every time I go against my better instincts and have some kind of “festival of Niccola”, I regret it. I find nothing more awkward or stressful than putting my friends in a room together. This isn’t rational, but it’s true.

So of recent times, I’ve taken to fleeing (preferably fleeing the country) when my birthday appears on the horizon. It’s become a tradition, a “where will we go for my birthday this year?” conundrum.

For my 28th, I decided on Naoshima, an island in the Seto Inland Sea in Japan.

An institution called Benesse came up with the very wonderful idea of commissioning architect Tadao Ando to build a gallery there (and then another…) and also to commission various artists to create installations in abandoned houses in the Naoshima village nearby.

It’s a pilgrimage for architects and artists to visit Naoshima. It’s 5 hours on the bullet train from Tokyo, and also involves a charming one hour ride on much slower local trains through farmland, and finally a ferry trip out to the island itself.

As the travel options become more basic, you become less and less prepared for the Bond-villain style splendour of Benesse House, and even more so “The Oval” – the building we stayed in atop a cliff, accessed by a private funicular.

We arrived on a cold, dark night and explored the silent art gallery (closed to all except guests outside hours) before having a full kaiseki banquet in the dining room with only two other guests. Perhaps mid winter is not the most popular time to visit Naoshima, but the high winds and freezing wind only heightened the atmosphere, to my mind.

I’m no wordsmith, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking – the film I made during this trip is included below – the second half was filmed in Naoshima.

To be continued tomorrow…

~ by Niccola on January 6, 2012.

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