A suite of rooms at the Takaraso Hotel in Matsuyama, transformed into the world of Yayoi Kusama.

Another southern sojourn, to the city of Matsuyama on the island of Shikoku.

This was, coincidentally, my final check on the list of Japan’s four main islands! I spent years living in the north of Honshu and never made it further south than Hiroshima; not least because it cost me more to get there by train than it did to fly to Korea. After three days with the Japan Rail Pass – offering unlimited rail travel for 7, 14, or 21 days – I’d re-visited Hiroshima, and been to both of the bottom islands.

As it happens, Matsuyama also offers a day pass for the streetcar, which was explained to me by a lovely old Japanese lady who waited with me at the tram stop and regaled me with tales of her travels through Europe, where she couldn’t speak a word of English.

My first stop (and one of the coolest things I did the entire time I was back): a personal tour of the suite of rooms decorated by Yayoi Kusama at the Takaraso Hotel!

This was my guide for the day, who was not only the sweetest person, but also remembered me from my emails asking about the rooms which I’d discovered about a month prior to my trip!

I think we’re in the right place.

The city of Matsuyama is serviced by the historic Dogo Onsen: a spa built around a natural hot spring whose history dates back more than a thousand years. (More on that particular building in the next entry!). In 2014, a unique artistic endeavour was set up to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the present building, which saw prominent Japanese artists launch installations throughout the town. This particular site was part of the Hotel Horizontal project, where a combined total of nine hotels and ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) surrounding the Dogo Onsen were redecorated by photographers, poets and painters, and could be booked for overnight stays by guests. With prices starting at around £400 a night, however, I’d politely enquired whether it might be possible for me just to take a tour!

For anyone unfamiliar with her (which I assume is no one who’s read more than two entries on this blog), Yayoi Kusama is my favourite Japanese artist, whose unique visual language is one of dots and repetition, influenced by the nervous disorders and hallucinations she’s experienced since childhood

A contemporary of Andy Warhol, Kusama’s work emerged as an eschewal of Nihonga – the traditional Japanese painting styles she studied in her youth – and she moved to New York in 1958 where she became a key figure in the avant-garde movement of the ‘60s.

She’s spent the last 38 years living (voluntarily) in a Tokyo psychiatric hospital, opposite which is the studio she still travels to every day to produce her work.

The suite was split into a western-style bedroom, and a traditional Japanese tatami room.


A tiny mirrored cupboard with a singing Yayoi Kusama inside.

Creepy mannequins.

My tour guide actually gave me a lot longer than the assigned 20 minutes, and even let me see all of the parts which are typically reserved for guests staying in the suite…

…like this adjoining room which comes alive under blacklight.

She also pointed me in the direction of all the Where’s Wally-esque Kusamas hidden around the rooms.

…and told me to hop on the bed and recreate this pose, haha.

Had to be done.

Downstairs in the lobby was the 水玉カフェ (Polkadot Café), featuring more artwork by the artist.

Kim Cattrall, eat your heart out.

Polkadot tarts!

I was doing so well for budgeting my spending money on this trip, and then I realised the hotel had an entire gift shop full of Yayoi Kusama goods (which, coupled with my discovery that there was a Ghibli store around the corner, went no good places).

Totally worth it.

I also bought one of the cups I’d been served in the café, which – through some minor miracle – survived a further two weeks of travelling through Japan, followed by two international flights, and an unfortunate tumble five minutes after I arrived back in Glasgow.

You can learn more about the rooms (and book accommodation) on the hotel’s official website here

  1. Markus McD says:

    That looks like such fun! Kudos to the tour guide giving you such freedoms! Such crazy dotty artwork ~ love it!
    Oh, and nice mushroom bum… I mean undies…! 😛

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