"So I have to ask," our friend Hiro said as we sat eating lunch on Mount Koya. "Why Takamatsu?" Our English speaking guide spoke up before we could answer. "Tadao Ando,"he said.

He was partially correct. Actually, I had become obsessed with seeing the large ceramic pumpkin designed by Yayoi Kusama which sits on a dock on Naoshima overlooking the inland sea. The island is also the site of several art museums and art installations.

There are various strategies for visiting the island. The best option, if you are willing to pay the price, is probably to spend a night at the Benesse House Museum. Guests can actually roam around the museum itself after closing time. The room rates are impressive, though, and I just couldn't bring myself to press the reservation button. There are also some small ryokan on the island and even a sort of campground with yurts, but many ryokan will only accept guests who are Japanese, and November didn't seem like a good time of year to stay in a yurt.

I opted instead for two nights in Takamatsu and a day-trip to the island. The hotel I chose was suspiciously inexpensive, but it appeared on all the usual web sites so I figured "How bad could it be?"

It really wasn't all that bad, although I think that if we return to Takamatsu I might opt to stay at one of the more expensive hotels near the ferry dock. The room was the smallest one we encountered on this trip, and we were awakened at 3 AM by the very drunken occupants of the room next-door. They were at least happy rather than argumentative, though, and they soon passed out.

The shops around the hotel were mostly run-down, and bars were more prevalent than dining establishments. We settled on dinner at a cute little coffee shop near the streetcar station, and in the morning, we sipped coffee at Starbucks's as we listened to the inevitable Christmas songs. I think I heard "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays" played more times on this trip than I have heard it played in my entire life. Then we hurried off to catch the ferry.

The ferry was much like the ones in Seattle, and we were soon disembarking on the island. I thought I had studied up for the day, but suddenly everything seemed confusing. At the ferry station there was one small bus that could only be used by local residents and another small bus for tourists. I wondered how all the tourists get around at the height of the tourist season, because the tourist bus could only hold about 20 people, and some of locals had opted to take it.

The shuttle meandered through the narrow streets of a small town, cruised down a highway, and deposited us in a parking lot where we bumbled around for a bit before happening upon the Benesse House Museum. Tadao Ando designed it to blend in with the natural surroundings, and he surely accomplished that task. That's the entrance to the museum in the picture on the right below. Considering that Naoshima is supposedly a popular tourist destination, there wasn't a whole lot of English signage on the island, and we weren't encountering any other English-speaking tourists.

I gotta say that this is one of those museums where the building itself is more impressive than the art inside, but I did enjoy some of the pieces - a collection of modernistic figures with moving mouths and a sound track saying "Chatter Chatter Chatter Chatter" over and over - small life-like weeds growing from a concrete wall - and a large pebble-shaped sculpture that you are encouraged to recline on and look up at the sky.

The brochure distributed by the museum says, "The works of art are exhibited along the coastline and within forest around the museum. Visitors may spontaneously encounter them while strolling around." Here are some of the pieces we encountered when we left the museum.

Best of all, I had my long-anticipated encounter with the giant ceramic pumpkin.

After admiring the pumpkin, we found a sort of snack bar where we ate lunch and pondered our options. The Chichu Art Museum was in one direction, and the Ando Museum was in the other. We chose the Ando Museum and headed for the place where the shuttle had dropped us off, but after about 15 minutes we grew tired of waiting and opted to walk down the road. It was a pleasant walk without much traffic, and eventually we arrived in the small town where the museum is supposedly located.

We wandered all over that town. We never did find the museum, but we did finally happen upon a shuttle stop. According to the schedule that was posted, arrival of the shuttle was imminent, so when it appeared we hopped on and returned to the ferry station.

We had a couple of hours to kill before our return ferry would appear, but we amused ourselves by admiring another Yayoi Kusama pumpkin, eating soft serve ice cream and drinking coffee, cruising the gift shop, and taking pictures of the incredible sunset.

Here are some pictures we took the next day at the Takamatsu JR train station. I don't think Takamatsu is quite ready for the tourist hordes, but it looks like it's thinking about preparing to welcome them.