Tag Archives: sculpture

Roppongi Hills and the Tokyo City View

29 Aug

On our last full day in Tokyo we decided to try to see the city from above even though it had turned cloudy and was threatening to rain.  There is a newer tower – the Tokyo Sky Tree, but we went for the old standard – the Tokyo City View in Roppongi Hills.

Roppongi Hills is a high end shopping mall/residential complex in the heart of the city.  The upscale stores are framed by sculptures and modern art.  We did a little window shopping as we made our way to buy our tickets inside.  One of the unique elements in the complex is an enormous metal spider that takes over the entrance.  Of course – I had to get a picture with it!

What a spider!

What a spider!

I think I could be swallowed alive!  Look how long the legs are!

I think I could be swallowed alive! Look how long the legs are!

We decided we didn’t need to go all the way to the top for the open air view – it is really high and instead made our way to the glassed in viewing area on the 52nd floor.

Tokyo City View

Tokyo spread out below us – I could see the density of the city – the number of high rise buildings – small swimming pools on the top of some, others with gardens – trying to capture every single inch of space.

Green - in patches

Green – in patches

To the northwest a large park spread across the city – an expanse of green among the man-made structures.  Like Central Park in New York or People’s Park in Shanghai – the green becomes an oasis in the center of the city.

The helpful guide to the sights (in Japanese)

The helpful guide to the sights (in Japanese)

Different views pulled me in as I snapped photos. I even noticed the buildings under construction.  Because of the density, renovating a building is more dangerous in Tokyo than other cities.  That means that keeping all pollution – noise as well as materials – low is key.  The buildings are wrapped as tight as presents and then the construction can be done without disturbing the neighbors.

A main highway - flanked by tall buildings

A main highway – flanked by tall buildings

I enjoyed my visit up to the Tokyo City View and would recommend it for anyone who wants to see Tokyo from high above.

Posing over 50 floors up

Posing over 50 floors up

What do you notice high in the sky?  I realize I have been to towers all over the world now – Tokyo, Shanghai, Taiwan, Chicago, New York, Paris… What next?


The Hakone Open-Air Museum

14 Jul

My trip to Japan at the end of May was completely by the seat of my pants.  I had no travel material and did no research prior to landing at Tokyo’s Narita airport.


My best friend was there for work and I knew that whatever we did was secondary to having the opportunity to spend a few days together.  Of course, we had a wonderful time and the first full day I spent in Japan we decided to go to Hakone, a city outside of Tokyo to see if we would be lucky enough to view Mt. Fuji.

According to our internet research the night before, there were museums and mountain views, fresh air, boat rides and all kinds of good things to see.  It seemed like the perfect antidote to Shanghai’s traffic and pollution.  We were off.

We hopped a train and after sitting in the very front car, landed at the Hakone railway station about an hour later.  We took a type of gondola/sky train to the top of the mountain and decided to work our way down.  After a quick lunch of ramen at a small restaurant our first stop was the Hakone Open-Air Museum.

It was more than I could have hoped for.  The weather was perfect, not hot and not cold – the blue skies contrasted with the green of the forested mountains and the sculptures appeared as if they had been placed by a helicopter – such that each was in a spot that was enhanced by the natural beauty surrounding it.

Tumbling through the sky

Tumbling through the sky

And why is the face crying?

And why is the face crying?

We wandered up and down the mountain viewing each piece.  Some were surreal, others more classical.

The muses - protecting and inspiring thought

The muses – protecting and inspiring thought

Another muse

Another muse

A classic beauty - is she doing yoga?

A classic beauty – is she doing yoga?

Sculpture can be multidimensional.  Do you see me?

Sculpture can be multidimensional. Do you see me?

We saw installations intended for children to crawl through, which tempted me, but I thought I may get stuck inside the glass pyramid.

Who says children don't appreciate art?  This one seemed like a tribute to the IM Pei entrance to the Louvre in Paris.

Who says children don’t appreciate art? This one seemed like a tribute to the IM Pei entrance to the Louvre in Paris.

Ready, set, crawl!

Ready, set, crawl!

There was also a Picasso exhibition space where they focused on his later work.  Seeing Picasso half a world away from Spain/France was surreal, but obviously many people had come just to focus on him because that part of the museum was most crowded.


Picasso-esque sculpture

Picasso-esque sculpture

After walking for more than an hour we soaked our feet in the hot spring that ran through the corner of the property.  Hakone also has many onsen (hot springs) perched in the mountains so while we didn’t spend the night, we did get to sample a touch of the specialty.

The last exhibit we entered was my favorite.  It was called “Symphonic Sculpture” by Gabriel Loire.  It was a tall tube which was completely covered in stained glass.  However, you viewed it from within and could also then climb to the top – surrounded by the colors and images from the walls.  Within the panels were classic symbols and new things like cars and airplanes that shouldn’t be in such a traditional medium, but they fit and they made me smile.

Viewing "Symphonic Sculpture" from the inside

Viewing “Symphonic Sculpture” from the inside

The staircase allowed you to view each part individually

The staircase allowed you to view each part individually

What modern images do you see?

What modern images do you see?

Any surprises?

Any surprises?


I would highly recommend visiting this museum if you are in the Tokyo area with space for a day trip, even though Mt. Fuji remained elusive, it was worth it.  The museum was unexpected and alive and if we had a specific travel plan, we probably would have missed it.

Sometimes it is the things that you accidentally wander into that are the most memorable.  Please share any “unexpected” travel memories that you’ve had.

Exploring – Shanghai’s Hongkou district

23 Oct

During the recent long holiday (when I wasn’t sick in bed with a cold) – we had the opportunity to explore one area of the city that I hadn’t been to before – the Hongkou district.  We followed another one of the Time Out Shanghai walks and had a beautiful sunny day to explore this section of the city.

Another blue sky day – Duo Lun walking street

The first stop was a road called Duolun Lu – formerly known as Darroch Road which was part of the former Japanese concession.  China and Japan have been doing a lot of political posturing lately about the Japanese position on the Diaoyu Islands and visiting this section of Shanghai during the midst of that did lend a different perspective to the reconstructed walking street.

You can get a sense of the western and eastern architecture combined in this church

On the street was also a small modern art museum and one of Shanghai’s first Christian churches with characteristics of both a Chinese temple and a western church.  There was also a Paulaner brew house but I didn’t see any other foreigners.  It was a neat area.

My favorite exhibit in the art museum

Discussing with the famous poets

The other highlight (for Li at least as I hadn’t heard of most of these writers) was a visit to a house that was the home/meeting place of many of the leftist writers who set up the concepts of communism prior to the rise to power of Chairman Mao.  The building had been newly renovated  in the middle of a very local back street and we were the only people there during our visit.  These writers included Guo Moruo, Lu Xun and Tian Han.

Signs and historic memorabilia

The history inside was palpable. Li said that many of these things reminded him of his childhood – so they weren’t really that old.

We also poked our way into a couple of antique shops and then (per the tour) went into a bank where on the second floor was an exhibit to the same writers.  There was no sign and when we were there the security guard had taken off his shoes and was taking a nap in the deserted exhibition room.

Our final stop was a wander through the Lu Xun park which is right next to the Hongkou Football stadium.  The park was absolutely packed because of the holiday and the nice weather.  All over were groups of retirees singing Chinese nationalistic songs at the top of their lungs.  There were children’s rides, and a huge set of lantern exhibits ready for the lantern festival later that evening.  I think I would like to go back when it is a little less boisterous – but we had some lamb kabobs and called it a day.

This post marks another milestone for me and I think it is fitting that I am posting about Shanghai and exploring another part of the city.  This is my 200th post since I started Zhongguo Jumble a year ago July.  Posting has been a great antidote to the busy life here and I have found and explored many things across these 200 posts.  Thanks for reading and commenting!

Have you been to an exhibition before where you were the only person there?  It was eerie – and not something that I would have expected in Shanghai over a national holiday.

Travel theme – texture

20 Sep

After skipping a week of the travel theme at Where’s my Backpack, I am back this week with two shots that symbolize “texture” to me.

Can you feel the scales?

The first shot was one that Li took when we were on holiday in the Philippines earlier this year.  This extreme close up of a snake still makes me feel slightly uncomfortable when I look at it – but the shot itself captures the texture of the snake’s skin almost perfectly.  Looking at it I almost expect the snake’s tongue to come out of the monitor hissing towards me.

We took lots of shots of different wildlife while on that trip – if you’d like to see any of the others, you can check out my post from earlier this year on Wildlife in the Philippines.

Stone pocked texture

The second shot is one that I recently took when in Seoul, South Korea at the palace complex in Seoul.  I was fascinated by the different guardian animal/humans that surrounded various buildings and this one has the contrasting texture of the carving in the sculpture, but also the pock marked stone itself creating an interesting contrast.

I haven’t decided if this was a guardian of good or guardian of evil.  What do you think?

How do you view texture in the world around you?  If you’d like to see other people’s ideas of texture, please click on the link at the top of the post.

Exploring – Qufu, Shandong Province

19 Jul

It was only after we had come back from Shandong province that I got my copy of the July edition of Time Out Shanghai.  Tucked inside in a special section was a visitor’s guide (in English) to Shandong, including Tai An (home of Mt. Tai) and Qufu (home of Confucius).  A little late, but it did fill in some of the knowledge gaps from our recent trip there.

We went to Qufu the day after we climbed Mt. Tai, too tired to contemplate climbing another section of the mountain.  We took a taxi from the hotel about an hour to there and were dropped off near the entrance to the Confucius cemetery.  Qufu’s three most famous attractions are – the Confucius Temple, the Kong Family Mansion (Kong is the surname of Confucius in Chinese) and the Confucius Cemetery.  Conveniently, they have a ticket that allows entry to all three places which we purchased and entered the cemetery.

Li eavesdropped on the guides who were explaining different things to tour groups and I wandered around, wondering how much of what I was seeing was actually real.  We both believed that this area must have been ransacked pretty well by the Red Guards and so each story, each tablet needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  Monuments aside, the place itself is beautiful with long lines of cyprus trees and pathways that seem to continue into the mist.  There are many, many monuments and a long winding path along the outside.  We elected just to see the highlights as we had more stops planned through the day, but I think it would be an interesting place to perch with a sketch book and a picnic lunch – maybe sketch, maybe write poetry and let the history of so many people soak into my memory.

After the cemetery we went to the temple to see how it would compare to others that we have seen.  It is a grand Confucian temple as you can see by the photos.  To tell you the truth, it didn’t leave much of an impression on me – I think the heat may have had something to do with that.

The last main destination was the Kong Family Mansion.  It was set up like a mini-Forbidden City with lots of waiting rooms and halls, pavilions for important decisions and then in the back 2/3rds of the property the house for the family and beautiful gardens.  The gardens were my favorite part – the rooms were sparsely furnished so it was difficult to see them as a true home, but the gardens you could think of children playing or an elderly gentleman going for a stroll.

Qufu was interesting.  It made me think about China’s past and the Confucian values that used to be the basis for behavior.  Despite the fact that many things on the itinerary were reproductions I still got a feel of the importance of this family with the hometown a day’s journey from Beijing.

What place you have visited really made you think?  Please let me know, I’d like to add some more spots to my must visit list.

A Hong Kong sculpture snapshot

14 Jun

I seem to be attracted to sculpture lately.  When I went to the sculpture garden in Shanghai I had a great time looking there and Hong Kong also had lots of sculpture in different places and parks.  On my walking tours I saw quite a few and decided that these shots were my favorite and represent different sides of Hong Kong.

Some of these places had lots of people – like the Avenue of the Stars where I felt surrounded by mainland Chinese tourists – and others didn’t. The park in Kowloon because it was rainy felt very intimate which was not what I expected in Hong Kong.  Sculpture in public places makes them more beautiful, more accessible and brings art to a pedestrian level.  I’m a fan.

Any favorites here or what is your personal favorite sculpture?

Exploring Shanghai – Red Town sculpture garden

22 May

As I wrote about earlier, I spent a lovely morning exploring Hongqiao Park and Xinhua Road.  After lunch I headed to the last stop on the walking tour, which was Red Town.  Red Town is an artistic community with lots of galleries, but there is also a huge central park area of sculpture.  I took several pictures of the sculptures and even tried to include myself in one shot as proof I had been there.  For any trivia lovers – on the side of the sculpture of Albert Einstein’s head it said that he was in Shanghai when he found out that he won the Nobel Prize.  In addition, there are several cafes where you can have a coffee or a tea and observe the sculpture away from the bustle of the main road.

Enjoy the photos.  The sculptures really range from the very life-like (the ladies on the bench) to the entirely surreal – a whole bunch of colored legs.

The whole day was full of interesting sculptures – from Deng Xiao Ping to naked ladies to bicycling clowns.  Any favorites?  What sculptures inspire you?

Exploring Shanghai – Hongqiao Park and Xinhua Road

20 May

Shanghai as a city of over 20 million people is physically a big city.  Even with no traffic, driving from one side to the other can take well over two hours.  Since I live within walking distance of my office, there are days where I don’t exceed my little one mile bubble, but it is good to get out of my ordinary routines and walk through neighborhoods and parks that I typically don’t see.

This walk starting at Hongqiao Park and then continuing down Xinhua Road was inspired by another of the Time Out Shanghai walks that I have taken before.  I have posted about a couple of them last year – the walk around Longhua Temple and walking through Shanghai’s Jewish district.  I’ve also done another couple but haven’t posted but may eventually.   Because they are walks they are best done in the spring and fall – it’s not really fun to freeze and/or sweat incessantly when trying to snap photos and enjoy the street life and architecture.

I chose a beautiful spring day for this walk – sunny and clear.  It started from the Line 10 Yili Lu subway station which is right next to Hongqiao Park.  I wandered through the park, snapping photos of the beautiful sculptures and even saw a couple taking their wedding photos.  One thing that I noticed was there is a small red bridge in the park – Hongqiao translates to red bridge, so I thought that was fitting.  There were lots of folks with baby carriages playing on the grass and others sitting on benches reading a book.  The quiet of the morning was refreshing and very “un-Shanghai” – at least not like the district that I live in.

After that I wound around until I eventually got to Kaixuan Road.  From the magazine I discovered its history.  Kaixuan Road used to be called Amherst Road which was where the wealthiest merchants in the late 20s and early 30s built their houses.  There were many different styles of house – none of which I would typically relate with Shanghai.  There were traditional English Tudor Houses, Spanish colonial styles and other less defined, but non-Asian types.  The leaves on the trees have filled in over the last couple of weeks and a green canopy shaded the sidewalks and houses.

I had been walking steadily for over an hour and decided to get some lunch at a large restaurant on the main street.  It was very Chinese – no English menus, but I ordered some veggies and another dish and chomped away.  Once my stomach was full I continued down the street to a very modern area of Shanghai called Red Town which I’ll share in another post.  Red Town is right next to the Line 10 Hongqiao metro station, so once done, I got on and went back home.

In total with my lunch stop and the time it took me to get there on the subway it was about a four hour exploration (one hour of which was subway time), not too long, and allowed me to be outside and enjoy the beautiful day.

What places do you explore in your city?  Where would you like to go, but never find the time?  I used to joke that I only saw new things in Chicago when I had visitors in town, but in Shanghai my visitors are few and far between so I’d better get used to exploring without them!

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