Yayoi Kusama Museum

A large ceramic pumpkin decorated with bands of polka dots sits on a dock on the island of Naoshima in Japan's Inland Sea. From the moment I first saw it in a photograph, I have admired the work of the artist who created it, Yayoi Kusama.

My admiration of her work increased when I experienced the disorientation of being in one of her polka dotted obliteration rooms. The exhibit at an office building in Honolulu had not been well-publicized so I had the room to myself. It was an amazing experience.

Besides dragging Walt to Naoshima and forcing him to endure 2 nights in Takamatsu to see the pumpkin on the dock, I hustled him off to Seattle the day after we retired with the hope of seeing her exhibition which was traveling across the United States. It had been sold out for months, but a small number of additional tickets were released each day to the crowds that waited hopefully in line. In the end, I reluctantly decided against subjecting him to that madness, consoling myself with the thought that Kusama had opened her own museum in Tokyo and that we would be going there in the spring.

It turns out that the museum is only open 4 days a week, and tickets are sold online for four ninety minute time slots on each of those days. Seventy tickets are available in each time slot. Tickets for the month of May went on sale March 1 in Tokyo so I sat at my computer in Hawaii the last afternoon of February hitting refresh until the sale began and I could purchase our tickets. When I checked the site again a little while later just out of curiosity, the tickets for the entire month had been sold.

The building itself is quite interesting. The walls are rounded, and there are exhibits on four floors. A stairway curves up the wall. You climb the stairs to each floor and take an elevator down. It was kind of nice having such a limited number of people in the building, and 90 minutes was just about the perfect amount of time to enjoy the exhibits. You are only allowed to take photographs on the 4th and 5th floors (possibly because the museum wants you to buy their books and postcards), but Walt snapped a couple of shots on the 2nd floor which housed a small collection of of her paintings on paper from the 1950's. The third floor had some larger, more intriguing paintings but it also had a more attentive guard so no pictures are available.

The fourth floor houses a mirrored installation called "Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity." Six people are allowed in the room for 2 minutes. The lighting changes during that time.

Kusama calls this Starry Pumpkin. It sits on the partially open 5th level.

This is the 4th Kusama pumpkin I've visited.

When our allotted 90 minutes were over, we headed to Kagurazaka - the neighborhood where we lived for 7 weeks in 2005. Our old apartment building had been painted, a little shop selling a wide assortment of cat themed objects had opened across the street, and the area, in general, seemed to have undergone gentrification.