By Tai Ikegami
This summer, I learned how to drive on the left side of the road as we covered the North Island of New Zealand on a family vacation. After spending a couple of nights in Auckland, we headed north to the Karikari Peninsula, driving through stunning sceneries along the way, and foraging for mussels at Langs Beach. There were almost too many beaches, waterfalls, caves, etc. to keep track of, but Maitai Bay was a definite standout with its picture perfect crescent beach. Luckily for us, it was the off-season so we had the beach all to ourselves!
We headed back down south after a few days, passing back through Auckland and further south to check out the glowworm caves in Waitomo, followed by Hobbiton. I have not seen any of the Lord of the Rings movies but the Hobbit village was a big hit with the kids. The set is meticulously designed, and includes what was at the time the most expensive movie prop in history – a fake tree. The original tree was taken down between the movies so they had to construct a fake tree to match, with every leaf carefully hand painted. And I thought architects dwell on details too much…
We then explored the areas around Lake Rotorua, before heading over to the Karangahake Gorge and Coromandel Peninsula where we kept seeing more stunning sceneries, many reminiscent of northern California but much more dramatic, grand, and lush – plus you see a lot more sheep. Geysers and natural hot springs were some of the highlights from this area. At Hot Water Beach, visitors who arrive at low tide can dig a pit on the beach and enjoy the ocean front natural hot spring until the tide comes back in.
New Zealand is a beautiful place with hospitable people. We are already planning another trip to explore the South Island the next time.
Before heading back to SF, we traveled to another place where cars drive on the left to spend some time with the family and eat good food. Here are a few fun extracurricular activities we explored while in Japan:
I had seen the works of teamLab a few times before, in the US and Japan, but this was definitely the largest by far. It’s basically a 10,000-square meter indoor amusement park filled with their greatest hits.
Part gallery, part model maker and storage service, this place typically has interesting architecture related exhibits all year around. There was one show on Corbusier and another one showcasing architectural models from select architects in their 30’s. Very inspiring.
Roppongi Hills and Mori Art Museum:
Mori Museum was hosting a very well done exhibit on the history of Japanese architecture. It did a fabulous job of mapping out a very concise picture of the evolution of the architecture in Japan, from very traditional to the arrival of the west/modern and to the modern architecture Japan is now well known for. Having only studied architecture in the US, it really helped to connect the dots from my perspective.
Tanihata Kumiko Ramma Showroom:
I also had the chance to visit the showroom of Tanihata. Kumiko is an amazing woodworking technique that dates back to the Asuka Era (600-700 AD) wherein hundreds of small wood parts are precisely cut and fitted together to form an intricately patterned wood screen, called ranma, without any use of fasteners or adhesives. We hope to have it incorporated into one of our projects as a privacy screen for the master bath.