On our way to Oyado Tamaki, the bus had passed the Ikaho Green Bokujo (Farm) and the sign pointing to the Hara Museum ARC. I'd waved in the general direction of all the animals and wheedled "It's a farm next to an art museum, let's visit both!" M & D weren't too keen, but as luck would have it, we still wound up there in the end.
Having covered almost the entirety of Ikaho onsen's famous step path the previous evening in a bid to walk off how full we'd felt after dinner, there wasn't much left for us to do in the town area proper. M initially wanted to visit a glass factory that seemed close by on the map, but after we found that it was a 20 minute drive away with no bus links, that plan had to be nixed as well.
The farm was only 10 minutes away by bus, so to Ikaho Green Bokujo we would go. Once we told the manager of our plans for the day, he pulled out a ticket booklet from behind the counter and gave us a voucher for the three of us to get free entry to the farm, saving us ¥3600. (Yay!)
Before we even made it through the main gates, we were already ¥400 down because we got waylaid by the MouMouyaki stall. It was Taiyaki, but in the shape of a cow. All three of us wanted one with Anko (Red bean filling), and D kept saying "Get the one with Bolognese!", so I ordered one of that as well.
As it turned out, D didn't actually want the Bolognese-stuffed MouMouyaki: He thought that we wanted to try it, but were too afraid to order. There was much face-palming and looks that should have killed or at least maimed terribly, but D remained oblivious to it all. The Bolognese MouMouyaki wasn't all that bad, but it felt a bit odd, eating a cow-shaped pastry stuffed with beef. It seems like it should have been the most natural thing in the world, but my brain kept going "Ahahahaha. Mad Cow Disease!", which was fairly disconcerting.
We eventually went pass the main entrance where we gleefully handed over our voucher for free entry, then went down the same path as everyone else towards the animals. The first pen we saw was the Animal Idol Corner. I wasn't sure if these were supposed to be their star attractions, because the goats blankly chewing cud behind the fence didn't look particularly interesting.
The whole place was overrun by families with young children, who quite eagerly snapped up the cups of fresh vegetables you could buy to feed the animals.
As we walked on, I got distracted by a beautiful yellow-green-red spider. Completely fascinating little creature. Nice handiwork on the web, and it was interesting to see it wrap up a trapped fly. It attracted quite a few stares from passing children, who quickly moved on after they'd done their gawking.
I was fairly sure I'd lost M & D by the time I managed to get a somewhat clear picture of the spider, but then I saw a gift shop up ahead. True enough, they were inside.
No matter where we go, if there is fresh milk to be had, we'll try it.
We got three bottles from the lady in the gift shop, and sipped our chilled milk while basking in the sun. It wasn't as thick as the milk we've tried in Hokkaido, but it was very pleasant all the same.
Once we were done, we returned the bottles to the recycling tray outside the shop.
Next to the store was a small room where they were holding handicraft workshops. You could make a candle, or do some leather stamping, or create animal shapes from bits of felt. Tooling leather seemed interesting, but I couldn't think of anything cool to imprint so we moved on.
As we walked towards the stalls where all the action seemed to be concentrated, we came across a sheep all decked out for Halloween. Indignity upon indignity had been heaped upon this sheep. (Orange is so not her colour.)
We wound our way through the throng of people and made it to the first of the buildings, only to realize that you had to pay to get in. You had to pay to pet the baby rabbits. You also had to pay to milk the cows. You had to pay to feed the calves too. After paying, you then had to fight with at least fifty other people to touch the same animal. I did not pet any baby rabbits on this day.
What M appreciated as a germaphobic mother was the gleaming row of child-friendly sinks outside every petting area. When BB & I were little we'd visited farms where the sinks seemed dirtier than the animals, and M gave a wistful sigh at all the small Japanese children who were whisked away to wash their hands immediately with copious amounts of soap after touching the cows. "If only I could have done that too." M said, no doubt thinking of times when sinks could not be found and the wet tissues had to be called in.
After a bit of a wander, I finally found the one petting area that was free! Of course, most of the sheep were entirely disinterested and would get up and walk away if you got too close, but there was one sheep at least, that suffered to be petted.
Of course, right outside the free petting area was a vending machine that sold nibblets you could use to get the sheep to come to you.
On our map, we found the strawberry picking area, and followed the path leading to the greenhouses, only to find that the strawberry season had just ended.
The whole place was utterly deserted. With little else of interest at the farm, we decided to move on to the museum.
The ticketing counter was located on the edge of the farm, right by the road separating it from the museum. Apart from our tickets, we also received a whole stack of paper that included the museum regulations. Apparently, the Museum Shop and Café d'Art are considered museum facilities, and museum admission is required for entrance into these spaces as well.
The Hara Museum ARC is an extension of the original Hara Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo, and also includes a space for the exhibition of traditional East Asian art in the Kankai Pavilion. On the ground of the museum is a piece by Olafur Eliasson called Sunspace for Shibukawa. Prisms on the ceiling of the domed observatory produce rainbows that can be seen on the inside, which change when the sun moves. We didn't want to venture out that far under the mid-day sun, so we just looked at it from afar, with Mt. Akagi in the background.
Apart from the extensive list of rules we received, there were also pictorial representations placed outside each gallery. We were the only visitors in the Kankai Pavilion, so I felt free to discuss the works with M & D. All of us were impressed with Maruyama Okyo's Landscape of Yodo River (1765), where the artist depicted the landscape on both banks of the river as it flowed from Kyoto to Osaka as he saw them from the opposite bank.
D was largely unimpressed by the pop philosophy of Miranda July's The Hallway (2008), which was English in one direction and Japanese in the next. I just thought it was difficult to get into the idea of the texts as an internal voice when, just as you read "You look up and see a post-it note with the name 'Joy' on it. To your left is a dirty drawing and a cup. What does it all mean?", a Japanese man making his way from the other end bops his head on the sign and then very apologetically attempts to squeeze past you.
"Nothing means anything, but life is full of slapstick moments." doesn't seem like the sort of takeaway July was going for.
I am very sorry to say that Yayoi Kusama's piece Mirror Room (Pumpkin) didn't inspire very much aside from dizziness. After we were done with all the galleries and M had done her rounds of the gift shop, we went to see the outdoor pieces that were close by.
This one reminded me of Cinderella's pumpkin as it turned into a carriage.
Speaking of pumpkins, apart from that poor sheep, other parts of the farm were also getting into the Halloween spirit. As we made our way back to go to the bus stop, we passed by a stage area that had been set up for Jack O'Lantern carving demonstrations later in the day.
There was even a fake pumpkin patch that had been set up.
We stumbled upon a Momiji peach tree, where most of the fruit had already fallen and were lying on the ground underneath.
Finally, we made it to the gift store, where M did all the necessary shopping.
We reached the bus stop in good time. Japanese buses are so on schedule that once you settle into the groove of making it to the stop at an exact time, delays of three minutes or more are enough to cause panic. For some reason, there were massive jams in Shibukawa that were affecting the punctuality of the buses that day, so we kept thinking we'd missed our buses when they were in fact held up elsewhere. Eventually, the bus made it to us, and we went back to Ikaho to check out the source of the hot springs there.