Friday, April 10, 2009

Mizunokuni: the Art (inside)


Continuing on the theme of my favorite museum, Mizunokuni, here are a selection of the artworks that can be found inside.


Many provincial museums in Japan have interesting (and expensive) architecture, but contain weak or thin collections. Mizunokuni's collection is large, diverse, and I would guess expensive, though it is hard to discern the connection to water with some of the art!


A lot of the art, like this sculpture, is kinetic. All these little "aquanauts" are moving.


The nicest thing about Mizunokuni is that it is empty most days so you can wander at your leisure and not have to worry about crowds. It is empty because the museum is in the middle of nowhere, with no public transport, and almost no advertising.

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This piece on the lower-level is a huge bar of iron immersed in water encased in a clear perspex block that extends from the inside, through the glass wall to the outside.

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This final piece is actually a 3D model, set inside a case with a small viewing window to keep the illusion.

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Museum 104, or its more common name "Mizunokuni" is open from 9 to 5, Thursdays through Mondays. Entrance 400yen per adult, 200yen for kids.

Mizunokuni is located on Rte 261 along the Gonokawa River, about 25 kilometres upstream from Gotsu. There is a JR station about 2k away at Shikaga.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mizunokuni (inside)


Continuing on from yesterdays post on my favorite museum, today we go inside.


The first room inside the main building is a 4-story deep chamber with a spiral ramp running around the exterior and various openings looking into the space which is a multi-media environment that is a cloud chamber. At the top of the space are chutes and each day lumps of ice are placed in them. As they gradually melt the water falls as "rain" and react with devices on the floor that trigger various lights and sounds.


Just about every aspect of this museum has really nice touches. Even the benches continue with the water theme.


After passing through a couple of galleries we come to the science of water interaction zone, a kind of mini science museum with all kinds of contraptions and devices to explore the properties of water, even a couple of water-powered musical instruments.


At the end of the building is a large dome.

richard5356Align Center

Inside of which is another kinetic light and sound environment with the perfect acoustics of the dome.

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Continuously while walking through the museum and grounds the distinction between inside and outside wavers and often lacks a distinct boundary.

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It's one place in japan I've found where modern architecture and concrete really feels like it has adopted and adapted to traditional Japanese aesthetics, as with the small garden viewable from the cafe.

Museum 104, or its more common name "Mizunokuni" is open from 9 to 5, Thursdays through Mondays. Entrance 400yen per adult, 200yen for kids.

Mizunokuni is located on Rte 261 along the Gonokawa River, about 25 kilometres upstream from Gotsu. There is a Jr station about 2k away at Shikaga.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Mizunokuni (outside)

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This is one of my favorite museums in all of Japan. The setting, landscaping and water-scaping, architecture, artworks, and even the lunches in the cafe are all excellent, and yet the place is empty most days.

It's only a few kilometers from where I live, and I drove by it hundreds of times and never went in, presuming it to be overpriced and boring like so many provincial museums.

When I finally made it in I was gobsmacked and have been back many times since.

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The museums proper name is Museum 104 (104 degrees being the angle between the 2 hydrogen atoms in a water molecule.... but you knew that already!), but it is known as Mizunokuni, Waterland, and as might be guessed it focusses on the art, and science, of water.


The museum was dersigned by Takano Hiroyuki, and opened in 1997. The main building is meant to represent Noah's Ark resting on Mount Ararat, but to me it looks more like a bridge.


Inside the main building is an interactive area where visitors can explore the properties of water, actually a lot of fun. There is also a lot of art whose relationship to water is tenuous, but interesting anyway.


Mizunokuni is open from 9 to 5, Thur through Mon, entrance 400yen for adults, 200yen for kids.

You can be almost guaranteed to have the place to yourselves if you visit.

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Mizunokuni is located on Rte 261 along the Gonokawa River, about 25 kilometres upstream from Gotsu. There is a Jr station about 2k away at Shikaga.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Imamiya Shrine, Hamada.


Perched on a narrow spit of high ground sandwiched between the railway line and a main road, the Imamiya Shrine in Hamada looks abandoned.


However, on my last visit there I found a pile of discarded rope and gohei. These shimenawa were strung along either side of the roads in the neighborhood and made the way to the shrine sacred for the annual matsuri.


The head Imamiya shrine is in Kyoto and the enshrined kami are Okuninushi, Ebisu, and Kushinada. Curiously the shrine records here in Hamada say the main enshrined kami is Susano. The little red box on the steps is a vending machine for Omikuji (fortunes).


Inside the main room is a solitary Taiko, a standard feature at most shrines.


Next to the main building is a secondary Inari Shrine.

Sunday, April 5, 2009



Last year 9 wind generators began operating on top of Takanoyama behind Tsunozu and Uyagawa. I was surprised to learn that it was a public works project of the prefecture in partnership with Gotsu City.


Another 12 have now gone up on the beaches at Asari and Kuromatsu, this time erected by a new local company Gotsu Wind Power.


While not the biggest in Japan, with towers of 80 metres and blades of 45 metres, they are pretty impressive close up.


The towers were made in South Korea and the generators are from Germany and Finland.


Japan lags far behind other countries in wind power generation, not because of a lack of wind, but because there is no national grid. There are 10 seperate regional power companies that don't share excess electricity across their borders.


Iwami generates a miniscule amount of hydro-electric power, and most of our electricity comes from the coal powered Misumi power station. There is a nuclear power station on the coast up near Matsue. (built on a fault-line of course!)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Meteor, Mountain, Manyoshu.


Bristling with towers and antennae, the 470m high Shimanohoshitakayama, hereafter known as Star Mountain, is visible from up and down the coast and from Rte 9 or the train as one passes through Gotsu.


The star on the mountainside, most visible after a snow or when lit up in August, symbolizes a meteor that slammed into the mountain in the year 874. At the site of the impact a temple was built. Reisyo-ji, and the meteor itself enshrined as Inseki Daimyojin, which could be translated as Meteor Great Shining Deity.


The space in the door of the little shrine is so you can reach in and touch the meteor. It is a decent size... I haven't been able to find out its weight, but it's close to a metre in length.
The crater made by its impact is now a small pond just in front of the temple.


The small temple itself is fairly nondescript, but outside there are several large statues of Kannon.


Like most temples or shrines that have a strong "folk" tradition, there are an interesting, eclectic, collection of little statues of assorted kami, buddhas, and saints.


Right next to the temple is a park with over 500 Camellia trees. Also nearby is a miniature golf course, and the local "Clean Center" which is where the trash gets recycled and incinerated. Only in Japan could a place that produces toxic dioxin be called a clean center!


There are several spots with scenic overviews of the coast and beautiful downtown Gotsu below.

There is a small settlement up here too, though I was surprised to learn that people didn't move on to the mountain until the 1940's.


The local shrine is named after Kakinomoto Hitomaro, probably the most well known of the ancient poets whose work is in the Manyoshu, the oldest anthology of Japanese poetry.

It is believed that the mountain is described in one of his famous poems, On Leaving Iwami, and the evidence is strong. The Sanindo, the ancient road linking the region to the capital in kyoto, passes in front of the mountain, and kakinomotos wife is from Tsunozu at the base of the mountain to the west. Actually he had quite a few wives, but Yosami no Otome is the most well known as she was a poet in her own right and her works are also in the Manyoshu. The love story of Kakinomoto and Yosami was made into a childrens picture book and images of the couple appear all over the Gotsu area, looking suitably cute.

This is a follow-up post to an earlier post.

Friday, April 3, 2009

4,000 years old trees.


At 1,126 meters in height, the seven peaks of Mount Sanbe make it the highest point in Iwami. There have been minor eruptions of this volcano in historical times, but somewhere between 3,500 and 3,750 years ago there was a major eruption.


A few years ago, while working on some rice paddies to the north of Sanbe, the topsoil was excavated away to reveal the top of an ancient tree buried during that eruption. Further excavation revealed a total of 30 trees that had been lying under the rice paddies, buried by the eruption.


The Sanbe Azukihara Buried Forest park shows some of the trees exactly as they were left after the volcanic activity. One can descend 13.5 metres below ground level to see them in-situ.


The biggest tree has a base of 1.8 metres, and the oldest tree has 636 tree rings making it easily more than 4,000 years old. The trees are Japanese Cedar.


One of the tree bases has its own building, and it feels like entering a missile silo.


The park and museum is located on the north side of sanbe, about 20 mins by car from Oda Station on the JR Sanin line. Like a lot of interesting sites "off the beaten track" there is no public transport that reaches it. Open Tue through Sun, year round, with several short breaks, so best to phone to make sure its open. (0854) 86 9500

Entrance Adults: 300yen, kids: 100yen

Wednesday, April 1, 2009



Some more pics of the local river, the Gonokawa. This bridge is about 30 kilometers upstream from my place.


This is downstream, just a few kilometers from the mouth at Gotsu. At 194k the Gonokawa is the longest river in West Japan.


This is the Kawahira bridge about 10 kilometres downstream in a typical early morning view. The source of the Gonokawa is only 60k from its mouth, but it curves around on itself about 270 degrees.

Gonokawa River, Shimane, Japan.

Some of my favorite spots are where the river becomes deep and still with thick bamboo groves along the banks.


The river is very popular for Ayu (sweetfish) fishermen. The locals use the typical long, narrow, flat-bottomed boats found everywhere on Japanese rivers.


Visitors usually can be found fishing on the banks or wading.