In Bruges

I slept like a dead thing last night – was much needed and much appreciated. Work travel is all good and well, but when the work back home (or in this case, in the Middle East) keeps going and you’re on even more unusual time zones that you’re accustomed to, it just creates different challenges.

We were up early hoping to see a few things in the morning so we could be back to work this afternoon. First up was the obligatory canal boat ride, to see a bit of the city from the waterways. Apparently 8 million people visited Bruges last year and it sounds like nearly all of them did the short boat trip on the canal which takes little over 30 minutes.

What a glorious day! Saint John Nepomuk, patron saint of boatmen, bridges, priests and all men who have something in common on the water.

Gruuthuse Palace named for the wealthiest family in Bruges in the 15thC.

The Djiver Marketplace, where markets are held every weekend in the summer.

This is the Spiegelrei (Mirror Quay) and it sits just opposite the Jan Van Eyck square with its statue (c.1878), and the “Poorterloge” with its tower.

Pelikaan (N°8) is a pediment house which features a pelican feeding its children with its own blood. It is the symbol of charity and these houses were created as social housing in the 15thC – they are still social housing, even though tiny houses along those canals are worth upwards of €800k.

The Church of Our Lady dominates the skyline on this side of town – it’s a beautiful building.

Palais du Franc is a former law court, now turned museum… like most of the beautiful old buildings in Bruges.

So the building below is the one that Colin Farrel jumped out of in the movie, ‘In Bruges’, which is part of the same hotel we are staying it… you can see our hotel window in this picture – it is the left window of the two with the white painted frames, just to the right of the shot. It’s a great little spot, with fantastic restaurants just downstairs, music and a great ambiance all round. It’s always nice to choose somewhere to stay and it turns out nicer than you had even hoped.

Every visitor to Bruges seems to come to this little point beside the canal for a now Insta-famous selfie spot.

Gabled rooflines were used as a symbol of seigneurial housing, and became the fashion of the powerful bourgeoisie of the free market towns.

Bricked in windows were also evident along the canals – for those who don’t know, many European countries established a window tax, as a way of taxing the rich, and for some people, they took to bricking up their windows to minimise their tax burden on their windows. It sounds ludicrous, but it’s true. It’s also where the term ‘daylight robbery’ comes from.

Tanner’s House.

Bruges’ swan population have been seen as a symbol of the city’s power and wealth since the 16thC.

After our short boat ride, we made our way to the Church to see the Madonna.

Bruge’s ‘Church of Our Lady’ is a Roman Catholic church dating mainly to the 13th to 15th centuries. It has a 115m tower that remains the tallest structure in Bruges and is apparently the third tallest brickwork* tower in the world (after two in Germany)… *not to be confused with stone work edifices.

The construction of the church is in a high gothic style with flying buttresses, which were constructed in 1270-1280. It has an impressive black and white marble floor throughout and several baroque style chapels emanating from the main nave.

Our Lady of Perpetual Succour.
Philippe Bernaerdt, 1660. Bruges. Oil on canvas.

Confessionals. Jacob Berger and Ludo Hagheman. 1697. Oak.
This heavily ornate row of baroque confessionals is considered one of the most beautiful example of its kind in existence. The figures represent numerous saints – St Jerome, St Augustine, Faith, St John, St Catharine of Alexandria, as well as the Virgin and Child and St Anne and St Peter.

De Baenst Chapel… named after the a prominent Bruges family.

Passion triptych, Bernard of Orley and Marcus Gerards, c1534. Oil on panel.
Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy died at Nancy in 1477 and was finally laid to rest here in 1563. This painting was commissioned by his granddaughter, Margaret of Austria for the tomb of her own husband, Philibert II Duke of Savoy. Unfortunately the artist, Orley died before he could complete it and it was instead finished by Marcus Gerards the Elder and was later transferred to this chancel for Charles the Bold. It depicts the crucifixion, and side panels featuring the flagellation, the Way of the Cross, the Harrowing of Hell and the Lamentation. Waste not, want not, I guess.

Blessed Sacrament Chapel, Jean-Baptiste de Bethune. C.1863
*Interestingly, Bethune was the nephew of the then Bishop of the church and scored the job of decorating the sacristy from sheer nepotism. He created this entire space in the English style complete with murals and stained glass. They must have been happy with his work as he scored commissions for two more chapels of stained glass after this one.

Tomb of Mary of Burgundy, createdby Jan Borman and Reiner van Thienen. Gilded and enamelled by Pierre de Beckere. 1490-1502, Bruges.
Mary of Burgundy died after falling from her horse on 27 March, 1482 at the Prinsenhof (Ducal Palace) in Bruges. She was only 25 years old, but had ruled the Low Countries since the death of her father, Charles the Bold in 1477. She specifically requested to be buried in the Church of Our Lady. Her husband, Maximilian of Austria, commissioned this tomb in 1490 in a Gothic design. The side panels show her family tree on both her mother’s and father’s side.

While Charles has lions at his feet, his daughter Mary has two rather stunned looking puppies keeping her company in her skirts.

Coats of Arms of the Knights of the Golden Fleece
Pieter Coustain and Jan Hennecart, 1468, Bruges. Oil on panels.
Above the baroque choir stalls are 30 coats of arms of the prestigious Knights of the Golden Fleece. Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy founded the order in 1430 on the occasion of his marriage to Isabella of Portugal.

From 8-10th of May 1468, the order held its meeting in this church and Charles the Bold presided over that meeting. Usually, a member of the order was retained for life, but could be expelled for failure to adhere to the rules of the order. Charles the Bold’s nephew, John of Burgundy was at one point, expelled. His coat of arms were painted black and removed from the choir stalls – the reason for his expulsion was said to be heresy and straying from the faith.

Tomb of Charles the Bold.
Worked by Jacques Jonghelinck (c.1558-1562), Bruges.
While the design of this tomb is extremely similar to that of his daughter’s, it was made nearly 70 years later and shows many signs of typical the Renaissance style – the style of his armour etc.

I can’t get over the detail on his garments – the textures applied that represent heavily embroidered clothing suitable for the noble classes and the expensive fabrics they favoured.

I found these two beautiful embroideries just outside the chancel that held the tombs of Charles the Bold and Mary of Burgundy – unfortunately there was no information available on them, and the musuem staff didn’t know much about them either. They are definitely Opus Anglicanum in style (the 3/4 figures and the elongated hands are very typical of that time frame) and the stitch work is definitely congruous with that supposition – but that could mean they are works from as early as the 13thC. Surely, they wouldn’t just be hanging on the wall in regular daylight if they were 700 years old…? Perhaps they are a fairly accomplished but more recent reproductions done in that style. Very curious…

This, second object was also similarly convincing.

The Madonna of Bruges is definitely the highlight of this cathedral. Sculpted by Michelangelo between 1501 to 1504, it is said to be one of the rare few items of his work that left Italy during his lifetime. It is in an usual arrangement for this subject matter – normally the Virgin and Child motif show a pious mother cradling and looking down on her child, but here you see Baby Jee standing unsupported and appearing almost ready to wander off. It has the typical early 16thC High Renaissance pyramid composition style frequently seen in works from the late 1400s onwards.

The Madonna has been removed twice from Belgium, after originally having been purchased by two wealthy cloth merchants (Giovanni and Alessandro Moscheroni) for 100 ducats in 1504… once during the French Revolution in 1794 and citizens of Bruges were ordered to ship it and other valuables to Paris. It was returned after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815. It was again removed in 1944 during WWII, with the retreat of German soldiers who smuggled it into an Austrian salt mine in Altaussee, where it was found a year later. Seems between this beautiful statue and the Ghent Altarpieces, we are inadvertently doing ‘The Monuments Men’ art tour of the Low Countries. It is stunningly beautiful, and most obviously a huge cut above the other statuary in the church.

Procession of the Brotherhood of Our Lady of the Snows. Anton Claeissens. 1575. Oil on panel.
This painting draws inspiration from the 4thC legend that Mary is said to have caused a miraculous snowfall on Mount Esquiline, one of the Seven Hills of Rome, in the middle of summer. She wanted to indicate that a church should be built for her on that spot, apparently.

This beautiful little random fresco on the actual wall of the church didn’t have any description accompanying it… but I was quite enamoured with the delicate calligraphy and how well preserved the colours were.

Popping back out into the daylight after the somber shuffling inside a cathedral/musuem like this, can often be a bit jarring. Bruges has certainly turned on a beautiful day for us and we wandered around town for a while checking out the architecture and of course, the famous belfry.

Oddly enough, at 83m high and 366 tiny winding steps, I shan’t be climbing it with this fooked knee of mine. All good, just means it stays on my list and I’ll have to come back. Maybe I’ll see if Mr K wants to climb it tomorrow. 🙂

Bruges has more chocolate shops than I have EVER seen in my life. There must be over 50 of them within a 500m radius of our hotel, they are everywhere.

We walked around behind the belfry to hunt for a more out of the way, quite spot for lunch. Everything here is at full on tourist prices, which I don’t mind so much, so long as you’re also able to get something quality for your Euro. We are skipping dinner tonight, so a decent lunch is the plan.

We found a nice cafe called Tompouce – Mr K was exceedingly happy with his large blonde beer that came out in a glass almost as big as his head.

Flemish stew – rich and delicious gravy with slow cooked beef.

Beef meatballs in a tomato sauce with mashed potatoes. There – dinner is done!

After our meal, we wandered around a bit, taking more pics of the architecture and searching out the hidden little nooks and crannies of the back streets. Bruges is super pretty and being a medieval town, it’s a rabbit warren of little treasures around every corner.

Ah, these pics are for Angus – he said he wanted me to bring back Belgian chocolates for him – but tbh, I woudln’t know where to start! I don’t really eat chocolate myself, and there is so many varieties on offer, it’s kinda overwhelming to try and choose something… plus, who asks for a gift from overseas that is 1) perishable, and 2) cost by the 100gms?! Doesn’t he know I have a luggage allowance to consider! 😉

I finally found the perfect chocolate present… though I dare say these aren’t the same quality as the fancy truffles above.

I also stumbled into a tapestry shop, Mille Fleur’s Tapestries, which contained all locally woven products… so many beautiful things in here, though I didn’t allow myself to get too far into the back of the shop where the obviously large and impressive pieces were. Instead, In content myself with a small Cushion Agenda… I found two fabulous designs based on the Bayeaux Tapestry, which of course, Mr K had absolutely no Cushion Opinon on, and so I have bought a couple for our media room at home. There were even Mondrian designs for BigSal, but I resisted… this time.

Ghet thee to Ghent!

Off to Brugge via Ghent today. We’re having our weekend early because Ramadan is over and we have work to do in Brussels and Zurich… which probably makes no sense to anyone.

I’ll never get enough of European architectures. I met a man just now who asked me if I have seen the Bayeaux Tapestry – which I have not, though it seems like something I should have seen by now, and he said, ‘It really draws you into the whole history…’ and I was like, ‘Dude, I’m Australian, EVERYTHING here draws you into the history compared to back home.’

Totally apropos of nothing, that little green car is the Alfa Romeo Tomale we have hired for the week – it’s comfortable but also a bit fussy in a, ‘trying too hard’, kinda way.

Anyway, Ghent… we approached St Bavo’s Cathedral and the main square from the Jan van Eyck Square which is located behind the church and saw this impressive monument to Jan Van Eyck. Mr K was musing that he wants a huge memorial like this, showing him surrounded by a bevy of beauties with their boosies out after he’s gone… I said he had to do something worthy of being memorialised in such a manner, cos let’s face it – no matter how good you are at at it, there ain’t no way any fucking procurement expert is ever gonna be remembered like this! 😀

Ghent town square

Saint Bavo’s Cathedral, also know as Sint Baafs, is a Catholic cathedral and the seat of the Diocese of Ghent since the 16thC, though it has been a religious site for centuries before that.

Just inside the vestibule to the church, was a large, very modern, very worrying ‘chandelier’? Interesting choice of lighting design for a space like this…

Originally this site housed a timber chapel for St. John the Baptist, built and consecrated in 942AD – I love that all this information has been passed down. The construction of the existing cathedral was started over that structure in 1274 and is in a Romanesque style that is still evident in the cathedral’s crypts. The vaulted high Gothic construction of the main hall of the church began around 1274, and the building was subsequently added to continuously through until the 14thC to 16thC with the additions of a choir, radiating chapels, transepts, nave aisles, the chapter house and a single tower on the western end of the Cathedral. The work is said to have been completed by 7th June, 1569… huge efforts over hundreds of years.

When the Ghent Diocese was founded in 1559, this church became its cathedral, however just prior to the completion of the building works, in the summer of 1566, it is recorded that Calvinist iconoclasts visited many Catholic Churches in the Netherlands (including this one) and smashed statues, shattered stained glass windows, destroy paintings and other artworks they deemed idolatrous. Thankfully at this time, the Van Eyck Altarpiece was saved… and it wouldn’t be the last time it needed to be saved from narcissistic fuckwits with cockeyed ideology.

The impressive pulpit.

What is above is what is available to visit upon entry to the church, however, to see the crypts and the famous Ghent Altarpiece, you need to buy tickets online to enter what is ostensibly an museum inside the church. Now, given the exorbitant amounts it must cost to upkeep and secure these elaborate and important buildings and their historical artefacts, I don’t really mind paying my €16 per adult to gain access to see them, but for some reason a lot of these historical sites seem to want to *value add* these days and man do they miss the fucking mark!

You enter the church amid signs asking for silence a respect to be shown in this place of worship, (as is standard in every single important religious site in the entire world, regardless of the local variant of omnipotent invisible friend being worshipped!), only to be ushered into the crypt and given a VR headset with a loud and blaring soundtrack with heaps of church bells, a gratingly brash American accented narration (on the English setting at least), and a whole pile of glowing cauldrons, crosses, footprints to stand on, holographic models of the town of Ghent and it was just… fuck, no! What the ever loving hell are they doing? If I wanted to see some crass, seppo, bastardisation of history, I could have just stayed at home and switched on the History Channel with it’s over-sensationalised and over-dramatised presentations. I lasted less than five minutes into the one hour virtual tour, before ripping the headset off in disgust and choosing to just see the crypts for what they are… it left me seriously concerned for what I might expect upstairs at the Altarpiece. :/

Here is the info of the VR Tour for anyone who is interested, engage with it at your own risk:

The downside of not sticking with the all hype, no substance VR tour is that there was not a single fucking information plaque down here – just glowing footprints that auto start another onslaught of imagery and shitty narration that put your teeth on edge.

I believe – that the fresco paintings here are c.12thC, but don’t quote me on that. No plaques.

Above: A reliquary to Saint Macarius (whose connection to Ghent I have been unable to ascertain), and,
Below: A very recognisable reliquary of head of Saint John the Baptist. Both 17thC, neither attributed to artists.

The ‘History of Saint Andrew’ painted in 14 panels by Frans Pourbus the Elder in 1572…


Leaving the crypts, we head up a few levels to the ambulatory chapels which are elevated and behind the main nave of the cathedral. The ceremonial tomb of Bishop Anton Triest, in dramatic black and white marble, sculpted by Jerome Duquesnoy.

The Rubens Chapel, so named because it contains a most important masterpiece of the Baroque artist, Pieter Paul Rubens, completed in 1624.

The ambulatory pathway between the various chapels…

Ooh… one of the ambulatory chapels was filled with modern art – I have just gotten over the trauma of the VR headsets, please, no… the Altarpiece is around here somewhere.

Originally the Ghent Altarpiece, which is formally known as the, ‘Adoration of the Mystic Lamb’ but here everywhere is referred to as the, ‘Son of Lamb’, was installed in the Joost Vidj Capel on the eastern side of the ambulatory chapels. Now it is housed in the ‘Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament’, all to itself. The work itself was originally started by Hubert van Eyck, but was completed by his brother, Jan van Eyck, after Hubert died. The painting is considered to be Van Eyck’s masterpiece and is one of the most important works of the Northern Renaissance – being an exemplar of the transition between paintings of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. This enormous artwork was undertaken in 1420 and completed by 1432, and has such a storied history.


Over 500 year old and so vibrant and detailed…

One part of the painting, the lower left panel, which is known as, ‘The Just Judges’ was stolen in 1934 and has never been recovered. It is believed to have been lost years ago, and possibly even destroyed. A copy of the ‘Just Judges’, completed done by Jef Van der Veken, now sits in its place. Would be very cool if it turned up one day in some dead rich guy’s private art collection or something.

The Adoration of the lamby-lamby ding dong…

I’ve always enjoyed how the rays of sunlight are rendered in this painting… the lines draw the eye around the art work and keep you looking, and finding, more detail. The overall design of the work is believed to have been drafted by Hubert van Eyck, but most of the work executed by Jan van Eyck, who refers to himself repeatedly around this work, ‘as the second in art’ to his brother.

Fecund Eve… just to remind us of the Sin.

It is even possible to see the back of the altarpiece – or rather the front as it would appear if it were closed:

It looks like this when closed properly, but very hard to make out in the darkened chapel:

It truly is a stunning piece. I also feel so fortunate to be seeing it, not just in this chapel where it belongs, but at all. With its turbulent history of having been stolen by Nazis and stored in a salt mine in Austria until it was found at the end of the war by American soldiers, and then returned to Ghent by Eisenhower… it’s perhaps just blind luck that it wasn’t lost forever.

In another of the ambulatory chapels, called the Priests and Bishops chapel which had confessionals lining the walls for the sinners… were these two peculiar caskets. Unfortunately, there was no information on them. They look somewhat like reliquary caskets, but those almost always contain information on what/who was supposed to be contained within. The work on these was absolutely stunning! I’m thinking 16thC embroidery but they could be far more modern, it’s hard to tell.

Metal strap work surrounding the embroidered motifs:

Beautifully executed – I know how much work it takes to create figurative pieces in this style.

The second chest has more goldwork techniques worked in more floral designs without the gold metal strapwork as a background…

Padded and heavily couched goldwork…

The main nave at the top of the cathedral… so much beautiful stained glass. Many panels of the glasswork in the lower part of the chapel appear to have been replaced with modern glass, but in this old section of the church, they appear to be original… thank goodness Hitler was an art lover and tried not to destroy all these amazing buildings.

From the back of the nave looking towards the main entrance of the cathedral.

Back out in the square, the Ghent Belfry dominates the townscape – now a tourist information centre. It was a fairly cold and miserable day, not as windy as out at Volendam thankfully, but we beat a hasty retreat to a local cafe for a hearty lunch with the intention of skipping dinner this evening.

I tried the onglet with champignons, Mr K ordered the Ghent boeuf stew – both of which were excellent and our meal came with some frites and mayo, of course.

Farewell to Ghent for now, we may have to pass back through on our way to Brussells. We are spending this evening In Brugge… you know, of ‘You can’t give ketamine to a dwarf!’, fame.

I had booked us a canal view room in the Hotel Bourgoensch Hof, and the view from our window did not disappoint… the building on the right at the edge of the canal is the one that poor Colin Farrell had to jump out of six times when filming, ‘In Bruge’, here.

The view was even prettier as the sun went down… there is a saxophonist playing out there somewhere and the indistinct chatter of people enjoying an evening aperitif, and the smell of freshly baked waffles drifting up to our room on the third floor.

Tokugawa Art Museum and Garden

“The Tokugawa Art Museum houses over 10,000 artifacts, with the bequests of Ieyasu Tokugawa comprising the core, and holds daimyō family treasures collected and inherited by many generations of the Lords of Owari, starting with Ieyasu’s ninth son, Yoshinao Tokugawa. The collection includes 9 National Treasures, including the Tale of Genji Illustrated Scrolls, and 59 items designated as Important Cultural Properties. The museum takes great pride in the rich variety, quality and level of preservation of its collection.

Or so reads the description of the facility on the museum’s website – however, it is one of those curated collections that 1) won’t let visitors take any photographs, and 2) has very few descriptions of objects in languages other than Japanese. Which makes for a very superficial and sad visit over all.

Honestly, I don’t mind the no photos thing – especially of delicate objects such as 800 year old scrolls or ancient paintings, but please, please, please, sell us a guide book at the end if we can’t photograph any detail. And for the life of me – why can’t we photograph things that notably all have ‘reproduction’ on the plaque beside them? :/

Two sets of armour that greet visitors at the front door… reproductions.
Traditional feudal map of the Nagoya area… could not ascertain from the description when it was created or by whom.Ooh, pretty garden visible from one of the internal passage ways between exhibition halls.

So instead – here are some images ripped off the internet of things we saw:

“This room recreates the study (shoin) and preparation area (kusari no ma, literally “chain room”) of the Ninomaru Goten, Nagoya Castle. It shows the tea utensils, hanging scrolls, and calligraphy implements that were handled there. In the case of the Owari Tokugawa, the shoin was an official space for governance. The exhibition space thus replicates its various formal, magnificent displays such as the board-style alcove (oshiita), the staggered shelf (chigaidana), and the desk (shoindoko), all of which testified to the status and authority of the Owari Tokugawa. With this history, the museum holds one of the leading Japanese collections of Chinese-style lacquerware, inks, and incense.”

Below: The Hatsune (First Warbler) Troussseau

“Princess Chiyo (1637-1699), the eldest daughter of the 3rd Tokugawa shogun Iemitsu, received this bridal trousseau in 1639, when she married Mitsumoto, the 2nd lord of the Owari clan. The motif on the matching ensemble comes from a poem in “The First Warbler,” chapter 23 of The Tale of Genji, which reads: “The old one’s gaze rests long on the seedling pine, waiting to hear the song of the first warbler, in a village where it does not sing.” The poetic design is elegantly embedded in the lacquered furnishings with scattered letters and pictorial motifs. Designated a National Treasure, the Hatsune Trousseau represents the finest example of the decorative lacquer technique of maki-e (sprinkled metal decoration) in Japan as well as the power of the Tokugawa shogunate.”

There you go – some actual information cadged straight from the museum’s website… sigh.

Hina Dolls: The Hina Dolls were special ordered for the daughters of the Owari Tokugawa family.

Sword mounting for a Tachi long sword – Edo period, late 19thC.

The black armour picture in the back of this image was an authentic extant suit from the Tokugawa family collection… can’t remember exactly what period because, no photos of information plaques. 

A Daimyo’s tea room – this thatched building is a reconstruction of the Sarumen Tea House from the Ninomaru residence in Nagoya Castle. Tea ceremony was an integral part of the social and cultural life of the Edo samurai, and their teahouses constituted a measure of their social standing. This room is a recreation of the Sarumen Tea Room at Ninomaru Goten, Nagoya Castle. It was a national treasure, but was destroyed by fire during WWII.

“The National Treasure Illustrated Scroll of The Tale of Genji (early 12th century), the oldest surviving pictorial representation of The Tale of Genji.” Below are presumably images of the originals from the museum’s website – what we were able to view in the museum were recent replicas to protect the delicate originals from light.

All up, the Tokugawa Art Museum seems to house some very interesting objects… somewhere? But most of them don’t seem to be on display, just replicas. The lack of ability to take pictures of the replicas and the lack of guidebooks at the gift shop were disappointing.

The Tokugawa-en Garden on the other hand is an oasis of serenity in the middle of the busy city of Nagoya City. The garden is a genuine of traditional Japanese garden design. It was created as a leisure and entertaining space for the demanding generals of the past. It is expansive, beautifully maintained and exquisitely designed. There are plant and flower species arranged to make each season uniquely enjoyable all year round. It was quiet even though there were quite a few visitors.

Multiple beds of irises that must look amazing in the spring.

Toyama Glass Art Museum

Managed to sleep in a bit this morning and was pretty happy about that. Breakfast was available in our hotel and was an amazing buffet of Japanese breakfast yumminess. The Dormy Inn tends to be quite a popular business hotel, so it is clean, quiet, efficient and well appointed. It’s not a traditional ryokan with a private onsen, but it’s certainly a popular chain hotel choice in large Japanese cities that I can recommend for an affordable choice.

Our Dormy Inn in Toyama was barely 400m away from my ‘must do’ stop in Toyama – the Toyama Glass Art Museum. The building is also the state library (or similar) and houses a permanent glass exhibition as well as temporary exhibitions from talented local and international artists. The building itself is quite impressive with the most amazing open atrium… At the moment the 6th floor houses a large exhibition show casing the works of Dale Chihuly – an American glass artist who is various lauded as either overrated (given a lot of his production is done in a workshop with a plethora of unnamed artists) or iconic, as he most definitely had a huge global impact on the glass arts over the last fifty years.

The following three pics are the Kok-hi Chandelier, the Ruri-iro Chandelier and the Ukon-ro Chandelier, all created in 2015. They are all about 1.4m square and take up an impressive amount of space. In an art gallery they get lost somewhat – recontextualized into a different setting, I imagine they’d be a massive ‘wow/conversation’ piece., Toyama Reeds – 2015. This piece is 3m wide, by 4m deep and 5.3m high. These blue glass reeds are very impressive and give the impression of looking through a glass forest.Toyama Persian Ceiling – this installation work is most reminiscent of the ceilings in the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas and was created around the time when Chihuly’s primary interest was in sea forms and creating these large ridged / fluted plates. Toyama Float Boat – 2015, glass 9m long, 60cm high and 65cm wide comprised of 117 boat ‘floats’. This is an amazing piece! Yes it is mostly large balls of glass, artfully arranged in brilliant colours, but it also looks like a boat full of planets, or marbles, or sweets, or Christmas baubles. It is colourful, playful and really visually attractive.

The next Chihuly in the exhibition is the Toyama Mille Fiori – also from 2015, it is an enormous 9m wide, 5.8m deep and 2.8m tall. The reeds, spirals spikes and balls in this ‘garden’ work together in the dark installation space to creat an alien-like garden that seems to change from every different angle it is viewed from.

While Chihuly retired from glass blowing himself personally in the late 70s and turned to mostly teaching glass blowing as an art form, his vision and execution is impressive. You can not deny that his work has Brough international prestige to the art sculpture and glass blowing communities – these works are visually arresting to behold. yes, I probably took far too many photos of this Mille Fiori garden – but it was so beautiful and so well curated, that I fell in love with it.

At the moment, the Toyama Glass Art Museum is hosting an exhibition of works by Akio Miyanaga called Wrapping Poetry. I particularly liked this image of a cat inside a fish tank, looking at a fish. The works use glass, resin, leaf veins and salt to create a disposing art that evokes history and the perishable nature of substance.

These pieces contain a sliver of napthothene which deteriorates if exposed to oxygen – it is safety concealed in the glass and resin of the piece but would disintegrate quickly if exposed to the air… it is frozen in time, which is a central theme to the artist’s work.

Tree (green) by Toshiharu Murosawa, 2015.

Bird and Butterfly and Skull Goblets by Makiko Inoya , 2015.Time of Migration by Fujii Yurkia, 2015

Glass art might not be to everyone’s taste but we spent a couple of hours there engaged with the works and enjoying the colours, textures and of course laughing at some of the heavy artistic twonk in the artists’ statements. Well worth the visit.

Fujisan Museum

The Fuji area of Yamanashi Prefecture has sooo many museums. If we had loads of time, we would have tried to do two or three a day and it would take you a couple of weeks to see them all. However, given we are moving on today, we decided to go to the Fujisan Museum as Mt Fuji holds a special place in Mr K’s heart after he climbed it in 2015. The museum itself is a beautiful and impressive modern building with a large viewing area on the roof that has uninterrupted views of Mt Fuji on a clear today – which unfortunately, in the direction of the mountain; today wasn’t really.

Much of the walkways and underpasses around the museum were constructed of lava formed stones/rock…

There were numerous informative displays contained inside – and obviously I couldn’t replicate them all here. Many of the objects had only descriptions in Japanese and I translated only those that were of greatest interest.

At the beginning of the Heinan Period (c.794-1185AD) Mt Fuji experienced repeated large scale eruptions. At the time, it was believed that the eruptions were due to angered gods and the Imperial Court ordered that people worship Mt Fuji as a God to appease the god and attempt to quiet the eruptions and avert disasters… it didn’t seem to ‘work’ per se, but they gave it a good go by the sounds of it.

Climbing the mountain and leaving small sacrifices became a ritual pilgrimage that many Japanese (men in particular) aimed to achieve at least once in their lifetimes. A sentiment that seems to still carry forward today with many having climbed the mountain at least once. The god-like status of the mountain saw it become prevalent in many artistic endeavours through the period and since – indeed now, with mass production, representations of Mt Fuji are probably more prolific a motif than any other throughout Japan.

A scroll carrying container… c.1640s

Depictions of climbers in antique scrolls.

Cloth flags carried by climbers undertaking pilgrimages across the last century.

Today, modern climbers will carry a pilgrim’s walking pole which has the symbol of each station passed on the climb burned into the pole as a keepsake. In times past, pilgrims would have their clothing ‘stamped’ to show the passing of the many different stations on the way up the mountain.

The Cherry Blossom Princess believed to inhabit Mt Fuji.

Each year a Fire Festival is held at Mt Fuji, it is an annual ritual that is part of worshiping the mountain – origins of the festival are vague, but it is a great honour to be chosen to help run the festival each year and become a six month all-consuming task for those who undertake it. First is the heavy task of soliciting donations to make the pyres that will be burned in late August – over 70 3m pyres are needed and stated around to be burned simultaneously during the festival.

A woodblock print showing the people engaging in the fire festival around the base of Mt Fuji. Below: the actual wood blocks used to create this amazing print.
An example of the 3m pine pyre that will be carried to the base of the mountain from the Kitaguchi Hongu Fuji Sengen Shrine and lit on fire during the Fire Festival.

A personal hand mirror with a motif of Mt Fuji from the Edo Period, considered a sacred object.A piece of molten rock that turned into a projectile during an eruption on Mt Fuji.The various strata formed by the repeated eruptions – 8m high.Model of Jason Period home…The area has also long been known for it’s textiles, particularly silk, and more recently has gained world renown for its linen manufacturing as well.

Maps showing the various routes up to Mt Fuji – this from 1926….This from 1964… And this a contemporary map showing the different routes that hikers take to the summit.