A Visit to the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum Japan

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It takes some planning to visit the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum Japan. For one thing, the museum is located in a village Mure near Takamatsu, on the island of Shikoku – not exactly a well-trodden spot. For another, the museum is only open three days a week — Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday — and tours are held three times a day by appointment only. In order to make an appointment, potential visitors must write their preferred dates and times on a postcard and mail it – no email allowed, at least for those living in Japan. And finally, the admission fee for adults is 2,160 yen, which is a bit pricey, as museums go.

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These barriers are intentional – a winnowing process to limit the number of people who trample through the spaces. They pretty much worked against me, though I’d wanted to visit the museum from the time I first heard about it years ago. I had developed an interest in his art, which includes sculptures in bronze and stone, paper lanterns, furniture, gardens and even a playground. As an American living in Japan, I was also interested in his life story. He was born in California to an American mother and Japanese father and spent part of his childhood in Japan. He would later travel all over the world creating installations, designing sculptures and monuments, and gathering stones. Late in life, he discovered Mure and lived and sculpted there.

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I finally made arrangements to visit with my friend Wendy, who had coincidentally grown up in the small town of Rolling Prairie, Indiana (pop. 500) where the young Isamu had attended an experimental school. We were joined by Wendy’s friend Cathy, who sometimes does translation work for the museum. As we approached the museum, a light rain misted down. Somehow the gray sky and the wet stones made the scene all the more poignantly beautiful.

 

First, we entered the Stone Circle sculpture space where many stone sculptures – some finished at the time of Noguchi’s death and signed with his initials, some not. Although the sculptures have been named, they are not labeled. We asked the guide about some of the sculptures’ names. She told us that one tall sculpture of sleek stacked blocks was made partly of imported stones. Although the area has a history as a quarry and Noguchi sometimes used stones from Shodoshima, he also sourced his materials in Italy and other far off places. Imagine the shipping costs!

 

We also peeked into his workspace, which has been preserved as it was when he used it, the tools meticulously lined up. Following our meditative stroll among the arranged rocks, we climbed stone slab steps to a sculpted garden featuring hillocks green with grass, a moon-viewing platform, and a stone sculpture encasing some of Noguchi’s ashes. Finally, we had a look at the house where he lived in the last years of his life with its tatami floors and stone tables.

 

10 YA Novels Involving Travel in Europe

Two things that I love – travel in Europe, and YA novels. Here are ten books that include both:

1. Small Damages by Beth Kephart

A high-achieving teen, who winds up pregnant, is sent by her mother to Seville to secretly have her baby and give it up for adoption, but she starts to have other ideas.

2. Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone

Thanks to her time-traveler boyfriend Bennet, Anna gets to go to Italy, Thailand and other fun places without even trying.

3. The White  Bicycle by Beverley Brenna

Taylor Jane Simon, a teen with Asperger’s Syndrome goes to the South of France with her Mom.

5. Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson

A high school drama club goes to Italy! Gelato! A hot guy named Giacomo! Romance! Plus, great writing!

6. Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Sort of like that movie Before Sunset, but in Paris, with an American high school student and a Dutch guy.

7. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

A fun romance set in an international school in Paris. But you probably already know about this one…

8. Flirting in Italian by Lauren Henderson

Art! Italy! Hot Italian guys!

9. Westminster Abby by Micol Ostow

From the Students Across the Seven Seas series, feauturing teens on foreign study. American Abby goes to London!

10. Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible by Suzanne Kamata

Paris! Art! Manga! My YA debut!

Anything you’d like to add to this list?