Drive into the countryside anywhere in this archipelago and you will be confronted by massively expensive engineering projects, roads that lead nowhere, dams, concreted rivers, and blighted vistas. http://www.amazon.com/Dogs-Demons-Tales-Dark-Japan/dp/0809039435 Alex Kerr has the full story.
Happily however there are some wonderful exceptions, and Benesse Art Site Naoshima , the collective name for a cornucopia of art museums, houses and installations scattered across three islands in the Seto inland Sea, is right up there amongst the very best that Japan`s art scene has to offer. http://architectuul.com/architecture/benesse-house-museum Forget any concept of art as something to be viewed on the hallowed walls of long-established ancient museums. This is art as Experience. Prepare to go on a Zen-like journey where nature meets concrete, old exists within new, and the ubiquitous contrasts that characterise this infuriatingly crazy country come into magnificent expression.
Its a bit of a hike from Tokyo involving planes and ferries and the odd bus thrown in, but well worth the visit. There are some low-budget accommodation options but this is island life at its simplest and slowest, so don`t expect too much. The best option if your budget will stretch to it (and its not ridiculously priced) is the Benesse House itself which is a combination of museum and hotel. A number of wonderfully designed rooms at different locations on the site are offered. We stayed in the museum itself. Toddle down to breakfast and you pass a couple of Hockneys and some Richard Long land art.
And then of course there is Monet. And water lilies. Take your shoes off and walk through into an astonishingly pure space with cornerless walls, indirect illumination from natural light, and five of Monet`s canvases from the Musee de L`Orangerie`s Nympheas series. To be honest nothing compares to the Paris Museum`s collection but here the effect is amplified by the brilliance of the way they are displayed, seeming to float in a sea of white - created by 700,000 2 centimeter square Carerra marble cubes on the floor and a wall of the same sand plaster used in Takamatsu castle that took 30 artisans a whole day to complete.
It is in the form of a huge white teardrop-shaped blob. After removing your shoes you tiptoe through an igloo-style opening into a cavernous space with no columns or pillars and open to the elements in the form of two large circular openings through one of which you can view the sky and through the other, the trees. The atmosphere is hushed and cathedral-like. As you adapt to the mystical surroundings you become aware of little movements and glints of light on the floor beneath your feet. You realise that this is water issuing in droplets from tiny apertures in the floor. But it does not look like water. The droplets form into globular shapes that slide and shimmy across the floor like some weird living organisms or mercury escaped from an alchemist`s crucible. You find yourself drawn to sit or lie down and stare at these little water-creatures. Its mesmorising. Extraordinary in the true sense of the word. The creation of Naito Rei. You can check it out in this you-tube video ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeZFP7VAF9I&index=1&list=PLLkoLk52gUtVSalue1rXMaPFWHkTV5QeD long but look between 3.38 to 11.03 ).