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November 18th 2013
Published: November 21st 2013
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I suppose this was the super luxury part of our trip. From Takamatsu we took a ferry to the island to Naoshima in the Seto Naikai sea between the main islands Honshu and Shikoku. Here we stayed in the Benesse House. Benesse is a complex of four different hotels on a rugged part of the island. They are called Park, Beach, Museum and Oval. All buildings are designed by the Japanese Architect Tadao Ando. Park is where we stayed and it is situated on a grassy lawn with artworks. Beach is directly on the waters edge. Museum has hotel rooms which are connected directly to the museum. From the rooms the museum is accessible 24/7. Oval is situated on top of a mountain and has panoramic views of the sea and mountains with floor to ceiling glass walls. It is only accessible with a little monorail that climbs the steep mountain from the the museum. These rooms are €500 per night. A bit too much for our budget. All rooms in all of the entire complex overlook the inland sea, so it is hard to go wrong. The museum is an integral part of the complex, wedged into the hillside overlooking the sea. From our hotel room in Park we could have a private hotel car take us up to the Museum at 10:00 at night if we wanted. And we did. One night I even had the car take me to the laundry room so I could finally wash all my underwear after 2 weeks. I think I will never again in my life be able to say that I have washed my underwear in a museum at 10:30 at night.

Almost the entire island is devoted to art. There are installations all around the grounds at Benesse. And on the island there is the Benesse house museum, the Chichu museum, the Li Ufan museum and the Art House Project. The first three are all designed by Ando. Chichu has incredible works by James Turrell, Walter de Maria, and Claude Monet. Unfortunately no photos were allowed in any of the museums. One of the most impressive was a pavilion designed by Ando for an installation done by James Turrell. We were led into a room which was pitch black. You could not see anything. Yet. We were instructed to wait. About ten minutes later you noticed that there was a vague rectangular object to be seen. Just barely. It might have been blue. We were asked to approach the shape. Once closer the form we were asked to touch it. We tried but could not. Because it was not an object but a space, illuminated in an extremely low blue light. A twist of perception. It was fascinating.

Part of the experience at Benesse House is dining. There are very few restaurants on the island. Benesse has it's own restaurants, one near Park and the other in the Museum. One evening we had a 5 course French meal at Park and the next night an 8 course traditional Kaiseki meal in the museum. Both were absolutely incredible. Except the dessert for the Japanese meal. Poached pears that could have come out of a Del Monte can. Seriously? That I didn't understand. But apart from this little snafu it was a wonderful experience to be at this place. Benesse House is Japanese service and hospitality at it's very best.

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