Yayoi Kusama (草間彌生) is a modern artist in every description of the term. In her 80s now she’s finally getting the recognition she deserves inside Japan. She was born in Matsumoto so when I heard Matsumoto was going to put on an exhibition of her work called “Yayoi Kusama: The Place for my Soul” I knew I had to make the trek to see it.

Seeing Yayoi Kusama art in Japan is actually a bit difficult. Other than one piece or two at museums across Japan permanently has a famous pumpkin on a small island of Naoshima which is both beautiful and very difficult to get to (travel bucket list) and the Matsumoto items. But if you’re in Tokyo Feb 22 – May 22  this exhibition will be showing (see below)

I first found out about her in the Marc Jacobs x Louis Vuitton documentary. She ended up doing a collaboration with Louis Vuitton and Louis Vuitton to hype the collab did a giant exhibition of her work starting at the Tate Museum in London. I was lucky to visit the exhibition and I fell in love. I’m a Yayoi Kusama obsessed now. From nails to lots of her prints and other bits inside my place in the States.

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Her giant flower sculpture. At least 30 feet tall and the size of a building. There are rare permanent Yayoi Kusama outdoor sculptures so this is a treat. Also great for selfies.

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Outside the museum she was on display.

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It was sakura seaoson in Matsumoto so I could see real and Kusama flowers.

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A suprising permanent installation is the Yayoi Kusama Coca Cola collab outside the Museum.

You can’t buy the faux Kusama cokes, but the rest is buyable and cute. And yes you can sit on Kusama works!

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Driving throughout the streets of Matsumoto is the Yayoi Kusama bus. It was released in 2010 and drives around a loop of all the Matsumoto tourist sites. I just missed it!

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Another permanent piece of Kusama in the main lobby of the building. The Matsumoto art museum opened in 2002 and is a really beautiful well lit building with lots of room for exhibitions.

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Stairs leading up to the exhibition. Classic Kusama.

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The exhibition starts off with her spinning chandeliers and mirrors. It’s one of her newer Ifinity Room styles.

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A whole dedicated to this giant steel pumpkin and a matching interior. I really loved this.

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An Infinity Room based on cloth versions of her earlier Phallus work.

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One her most recent pieces. Using dots, reflectives and phallus shapes all her eras in one.

She started using basic phallus shapes all lumped together to discuss how she felt about living in a masculine world and how intimidating it all felt. Seriously she’s 87 right now and she’s been doing feminist art since she started doing art. If haven’t been exposed to Kusama, give her a shot.

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Her early drawing work. She likes to display her pieces now all together instead of separate.

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One of her pieces I think from the 80s. It doesn’t really go with a lot of her other work, but it’s interesting

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Not pictured was her Infinity Mirrors pod and truly the highlight of my exhibition experience. Yayoi Kusama usually does Infinity Mirrors rooms which are beautiful, but the pod is a one person experience where you step in and for one minute you experience full deprivation of anything else but the Infinity Mirrors. Everywhere you look is infinite. Just you and the infinity. It’s like one full minute of being in beautiful space. And it was at the end of the exhibition so you really do feel like she let you in fully to her world.

 

Heading to Matsumoto Museum of Art:

Sadly her exhibition has ended in Matsumoto museum (link, link), but her flower sculpture, Coke dotted walkway and small pumpkin sculpture are all on permanent display. All of those are free to see without paying the 410 yen admission. It is a straight 10 minute walk from Matsumoto station (google map) and I think Matsumoto makes an amazing day trip from Tokyo. The Nagano region is my favorite in Japan and I’ve seen a lot so give it a try. If you’re heading to Matsumoto I talk about cost and direction in my Matsumoto Castle sakura post.

See Yayoi Kusama: A place for my Soul exhibition in Tokyo and another exhibition in the United States

If you’re in Tokyo February 22 – May 2017 the “Yayoi Kusama: My Eternal Soul” exhibition will be at the National Art Center near Roppongi. You can also pick up Yayoi Kusama goods nearby at the Mori Art Museum Gift shop in Roppongi. The Mori Art Museum Gift shop is a really cool place to buy art related gifts. Some of my favorite bits in my house I bought at the Mori Art Museum Gift shop.

Also if you’re needing more Kusama and you’re in the States she will be touring starting in May at the Smithsonian (Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden) in Washington D.C. along with Seattle, Los Angeles, Cleveland and Ontario.  I’m really hoping to make it to the DC leg, wish me luck!

 

If you’re curious about my own Kusama collection check out my Instagram stories today  :smiley:

 

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Matsumoto Castle sakura viewing wasn’t something I expected to do last Spring. Actually I thought I had planned my two week Spring trip to sakura forecast perfection. HAHAHHAA I WAS WRONG!

Sakura are gorgeous super fickle flowers. Forecasts change quickly and even if you wait until a month before to book your travel plans, the predictions can STILL BE off. Six days before I was set to leave for Japan the sakura flood came scrolling across my instagram and twitter and all I could do was sit there and glare. DAMN YOU SAKURA! But that’s one of the big things about sakura planning. You just have to be flexible.

The full pink of sakura season. The pinkness happens at the end of the main variety of sakura blooming.

Matsumoto Castle is one of those great flexible locations. It’s in Nagano prefecture but a very easy day trip from Tokyo (2 1/2 hours by train). Since it’s further up to the north, Matsumoto Castle (松本城 Matsumoto-jo) sakura bloom later than Tokyo. It’s a popular sakura location for Japanese and the castle appeared ready to with lots of volunteers for their “mankai” or full bloom season. Spring is the most popular time to visit and with good reason!

Matsumoto Castle is known as Crow Castle because of its black exterior. I think its dark look really sets off sakura well.

Matsumoto Castle in its full glory. Along with Matsumoto City’s mascot Alp-chan (アルプちゃん) dressed in samurai armor. For the sakura season there was also a roaming guy dressed in samurai armor that you could take photos with (top right).

Anything x sakura or red maple is my WA OTP so when I’m able to get blossoms x castle… so much bonus!

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The castle peaking out from behind the sakura.

There were a few weeping sakura. Weeping sakura bloom later than regular sakura. They’re very plentiful in Kyoto but not so much around Matsumoto castle.

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I usually don’t take many pictures inside of castles because they’re essentially darkened old buildings that house museum examples and mainly great for their exterior and for having wonderful views when you get to the top. I am so amused by old art though.

Climbing the castle was definitely worth it for this view. The moutains in the back are part of the Japanese Alps.

Inside the castle looking out to the grounds and city of Matsumoto.

Mankai or full bloom in all its glory. Matsumoto Castle sakura gave me hope I’d see more sakura that trip.

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Reasons I’m not on this blog, top being –  I cannot pose, I am more like a bakery possum than a human, and I make stupid faces. But damn it’s the only photo I got of the full glory of the line of sakura trees leading up to the castle. Check out that lovely pink sakura rain.

All I did was resize this photo because I wanted to show how some of the sakura very beautifully pink that day.  :dotbow:

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I love when sakura fall because they their whole blossom tends to fall.

We snuck in for the last full blossom day of Matsumoto’s sakura season. It was an overcast day and storms were brewing to rain the next day and take down the fragile blossoms.

How to get there: From Shinjuku take the Super Azuza (スーパーあずさ) limited express to Matsumoto station. There is reserved and unreserved seating which you can sort out at Shinjuku station. It’s free if you have JR Rail Pass or it’s 8,000 yen round-trip for unreserved. It’s a 15 minute walk to the castle from the station.

More information at: myoko-nagano

 

And to think this is just the sakura opener for the blog. So many more sakura posts to do. And many Nagano posts to do, too!

If you missed any previous sakura posts on the Doll check them out here I’ve got a fourth in a series of sakura foods posts coming up too.  :hearts3:

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Nagano is a really wonderful town with a spectacular temple, the Nagano Zenkoji Temple. Nagano of course is famous for the 1998 Winter Olympics and symbols from that event still remain. It’s also shockingly close to Tokyo. And quite doable if you’d like to simply make a day trip out of it. Tokyo station to Nagano station is only 86 minutes by Shinkansen.

Of course Nagano is a ski resort town and also known for its monkey park (like the one in Arashiyama). But the Jigokudani in Nagano is a hot steam monkey park. English website for the monkey park is here and taking 1 hour and 30 minutes by bus from Nagano station it’s definitely something you’ll have to spend the whole day on.

I went back in 2011 (previous post of getting lost in the apple orchards of Nagano). And figured this was a great time to share because it was koyo time in Nagano (mid November). The Nagano Zenkoji is massive and one of the best temples I’ve been to outside of Kyoto. But instead of all this talking let’s photo and  talk.

 

The walk is one of my favorite things about the Nagano Zenkoji. It’s on high and you’re surrounded by gorgeous mountains in full koyo colors. And the shops are all these mom-and-pop businesses.

Almost to the temple check out those gorgeous koyo colors. Even a cloudy day won’t dim this.

The main temple itself which was massive.

I love when temple ema get cutesy. I’ve blogged about cute ema in Nara that were heart-shaped but Rilakkuma ema?

It’s the simple needs, isn’t it?  :wink:

The Rokujizo statutes six Bodhisattvas, who gave up Buddhist enlightenment, in order to provide salvation to others.

Close-up of one of the Rokujizo

Super cool incense burner

The Sanmon gate which was refurbished in 2007. Now you can see the giant Buddhist statues inside. Obviously that statue did not need to be asked if he lifts.

Just outside the temple is a super fancy building that must house a restaurant. Check that wonderful red maple.

Further down the way all the gorgeous places now turned to nice restaurants.

I stopped by Kinoko & Vegetable to eat. It’s on the Zenkoji road. I highly recommend it! It was an all you can eat buffet of mainly vegetables. Everything was locally sourced and seasonal. It was only 1,400 yen for all you can eat. So many vegetables. I will definitely eat there again.

The crowd down the temple street. Check out the JRock band on the right. I think there were semi-famous because some people were taking pictures. I know 0 about JRock so…

I loved the look of the coffee shops that line the cold Nagano street. See the cute coffee mug?

Another coffee shop offering traditional Zenzai (red bean soup) sweets.

Tiny little stalls that lined the temple road.

And Nagano itself since it’s not just monkey parks, apple orchards and shrines. It’s a bustling town.

This was a day trip for me from Niigata to Sendai. I was able to enjoy Zenkoji easily but not do the monkey park because of staying in Sendai that night.

Traveling Japan can be inexpensive! I spent 1,400 on food. 200 on beverages. And 1,000 on a train ticket because I got lost. The temple was free. So in total 2,600 yen for a detour or $25 USD.

Want more Nagano posts? Only the apple one here

Want more traveling around Japan posts? I’ve got you covered from Sendai to Kagoshima 

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