Atami’s MOA

Last weekend, I went to Atami’s Museum of Art with a friend, Sol. She had gotten free tickets as a birthday gift and invited me. Luckily, I love museums — art or otherwise — so I was pretty jazzed to go. And, I like Atami. It’s a beach city right on the coastline, particularly popular as a day trip for Tokyo-ites who yearn to get out of the skyscraper jungle for a bit.

We took a bus to MOA, which Sol and I both kept saying it like a word “Moe-ah”, but in Japan they say the full abbreviation (“M.O.A”). Sol’s Japanese is pretty high level, so it was nice being with someone who could tell me things — like what the descriptions for the art said, or what the signs said. As for Sol, she got to see my usual struggle with being understood and understanding things in Japanese — starting with the bus.

I don’t use the bus much in Japan, mostly because it confuses me. I can’t read the kanji to most places, so unless the bus stop is written out for me beforehand, and I can match it on what the bus says (if the bus lists each stop), or unless someone tells me which specific stop it is, there’s really no way to know where I am. Most the buses in Fuji also use my Toica card, the same one I use for the train (it’s pretty handy, you can just put money on it and then swipe your way through the train station). But in Atami, the bus only used change.

Exact change.

Which I didn’t realize.

So I put in 250 yen when it was a 230 yen fare. The bus driver looked at me with rolling eyes and said something in fast Japanese before reaching into a change purse by him and pulling out 20 yen. Then he started pointing and saying more things. I understood it was something about the change, but all I could get in my limited language skills was “keep,” “money” and “count.” He started tapping the machine and I thought he meant to put the 20 yen into it, although I couldn’t figure out why. I moved toward it, my hand extended, and he said, “No! No!”

At this point, Sol came back, wondering why I hadn’t gotten off the bus yet, and explained. When I needed change, I put the money into a different slot in the machine. The change would come out from the bottom. I could count my exact fare and then put it into the correct slot at the top.

“Oh,” I said, smiled at the bus driver, and murmured, “Arrigato gozaimasu.

Sol joked, “This happen often to you?”

“Welcome to my daily life,” I answered with a shrug. Ah, trying to get around when you don’t know the language.

Atami’s MOA is a really good museum. I admit, I liked it more than Shizuoka City’s. First, it’s on a hill that overlooks the ocean, and to take advantage of that fact, there is a beautiful garden with benches, and in the lobby there’s floor to ceiling windows with benches.

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There are two floors’ worth of escalators that bring you to the main lobby, but the escalators are light in neon lights and provide a pretty atmospheric ride. Between the two floors is a round area with some seats and an impressive, artistic ceiling that changes color. Sol and I paused to appreciate the aesthetics.

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The exhibit that we saw at Atami’s MOA was called “The Flower of Edo Ukiyoe” and featured works by some famous Edo period artists, such as Hokusai. There were woodblocks, scrolls, and pottery. I think my favorite was the art that showcased beautiful women doing daily life things and the ones that showcased mythological scenes. I also learned that if a courtesan had their kimono obi (sash) tied in the back, they were a high class courtesan for entertainment, but if it was tied in the front, they offered “happy endings” (if you get my drift).

Afterwards, Sol and I walked around Atami for a bit. We found an organic food stand where I purchased basil (the first time I’d found enough fresh basil to make pesto!), and a very cute cafe. We ended the trip getting a small piece of cake and some coffee. A girl came by and chatted with us, practicing her English. When it neared nine o’clock, we headed back to the train station and parted ways.

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I definitely want to go back to Atami, and to MOA. The museum closed pretty early, so we only had time to see the special exhibit, but I’d like to go back and see some of the permanent art — like the sculptures.


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