Japan is like no place I’ve ever experienced before. It’s amazing! Filled with a buzz and energy, it lived up to and surpassed all expectations I had.
It is a full assault of the senses: bright lights complete with mechanical sea creatures, old and new architecture, the smell and taste of tantalising food, the feel of silk kimonos and delicate embroidery, not to mention the constant musical interludes: tweeting birds when you leave the subway, the varying tempo of street crossings, the melodies played to signal the train doors are about to close and the ones to signal they are about to open, and of course the sight of Mt. Fuji! We spent 2 weeks here and didn’t stop the entire time!
Its impossible to capture the ‘feel’ of being in Japan. It has everything: culture, energy, architecture, food, art and people… SO many people!
To prevent writing a novel sized post, this will be the first in a Japan Series, where I revisit in bite sized, (hopefully!) readable chunks, all the great things I experienced in Japan.
First up is a brief introduction to the TOKYO Art Scene!
Rob Judges exhibition at Nakameguro’s W+K+ Gallery, Tokyo. Find more @robjudges on instagram
There is simply too much going on in this city to give a FULL overview of all the fabulous Arty things happening so I will stick to what I saw personally! Quite a few of the larger galleries were closed for install while we were there which was a shame but it also gave the opportunity to get stuck into the ground level exhibitions! There is the area beside Ueno park which has a number of small scale galleries and is simply just a lovely area to walk around and take in, you really don’t feel like you’re in a big city here (the greater metropolitan area of Tokyo is home to over 36 million people!). It’s very green and there’s not a high rise in sight!
‘Insta Perfect’ interactive installation in Harajuku
On the flip side of chilled out Ueno, is Harajuku. A densely populated area between Shinjuku and Shibuya that’s full of character and charm, along with more small scale galleries, co-ops and pop up spaces. One of the pop ups I stumbled on had an exhibition all about the impact of social media and creating the “perfect” fabricated life. This is a topic that rings true and is certainly implemented all over social media with users capturing “insta perfect” snap shots of their [EDITED] life. In this installation the viewer was invited to take the perfect picture using one of the prefabricated set ups. Really interesting.
pic 1+2: works by: Jacinte Moreno, pic 3+4 unknown artist (see label in Japanese!)
Walking around this area you will stumble upon street art and galleries, one such hub is the Design Festa Gallery, which as we visited, was housing a variety of local and international artists in its myriad of exhibition spaces. A bit of a rabbit warren but well worth a look! I purchased a small canvas from one of the sellers and had a great chat with another, French artist: Jacinte Moreno who was here just to take part in this group show but had already been approached to return for another opportunity later in the year! Her work uses her own photographs from various international locations, which are then manipulated by drawing on top, collaging and adding text- very cool!
Street Art in Tokyo!
There is a nice (if not limited!) selection of Street Art in Tokyo, from what I saw anyway! Tokyo is really ‘clean living’ with everything having its place and sadly there doesn’t seem to be a place for Street Art. There just isn’t the culture here for it – its still largely viewed as an act of vandalism and while that is evidently starting to change, it still has a long way to go. The pieces I saw were all attached to gallery spaces and served a purpose as an ‘edgy’ entryway. Sadly, in the city known for its innovation and progressive approach, Street Art does not factor. Osaka however… that’s a whole other post!
pic 1+2 by Ken Kitano, pic 3 by Ufan Lee, pic 4 by Tamako Kataoka, pic 5 by Kanzan Shimomura, pic 6 by Seison Maeda, pic 7 by Yayoi Kusama
Whilst there we visited the National Museum of Modern Art and saw a selection of artworks. Unfortunately there weren’t many interesting Japanese pieces featured, which is a shame. The influence of European Modernists was evident and the exhibition as a whole was fairly subdued. It’s a great space and I’d love to return to future exhibitions to see how they evolve it as it really has the foundation of a showstopper venue and Art House!
Piece by Ushio Shinohara (title only available in Japanese)
Although there is an undercurrent of an emerging art scene in Tokyo, it is just that: emerging. It’s such a great city to walk about and take in the beauty all around. The energy and buzz in Tokyo is intense. As an artist simply visiting, it’s hard not to leave feeling inspired! There is a good mix of large and small scale galleries available- I even managed to stumble on a piece by Ushio Shinohara (the famous 80 year old Japanese “boxing painter”), completely by accident, en route to Shinjuku station! There’s definitely plenty of Art to see in the city but with so many exciting things, all vying for your attention, Art might not be the main element you take away from an encounter with TOKYO!
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