Monday, June 30, 2014

Proletariat Art at Kichioji

Last week I saw a fantastic show out at the Kichioji Art Museum on social movements and the proletariat in mid-twentieth century Japanese art. The exhibition was small, but powerful.

The show was titled "We Are Real 1920s-1950s From Proletariat Art to Reportage" and included four galleries packed with political art, art which attempted to raise the status of the worker, and art related to war.

Not only were the selected artworks powerful in their message, but the way in which the pieces were closely placed, including cases of published materials, made for an intense experience.

After viewing the exhibit, I wandered back to the station through the many vibrant, lively shopping streets in the area, pausing for a fantastic piece of black-tea flavored cake at a sunny little shop.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

描かれたチャイナドレス Chinese Style Dresses at the Bridgestone Museum of Art

Museum exterior.

After all the work of the past few weeks, there are a few exhibitions around Tokyo that I want to catch up on, so on Wednesday I started into doing just that by heading to the Bridgestone Museum of Art to see Chinese Style Dresses. The exhibition included paintings of women dressed in Chinese style clothing, as produced by Japanese artists between 1910 and 1940. This is a fascinating group of artworks that address issues of gender, colonialism, orientalism, power, and fashion in what was a tumultuous time in Asia. The Taisho period saw a boom of interest in things Chinese, much of which was linked to the new Japanese colonies of Taiwan and Manchuria. Seeing these fascinating paintings together in two large galleries, and accompanied by a small showing of historic costumes was truly a treat.
Gallery one. Kume Tamijuro's Chinese Dance from 1920 is visible at the left. This painting is my new obsession. 
Gallery two- historic costume juxtaposed with the paintings.
The catalogue!   

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

発表 Research Talk

Well, folks, it is done. I completed a one hour talk on my research (in Japanese). It was hard, it was painful, but it is now over. I can't express what a huge relief it is to have this in the past! For weeks I've been writing and editing my text, about 12,000 characters total (I think about 30 pages if it were double-spaced English), which took me about an hour and ten minutes to read. I presented my work at the kenkyukai (research group) at the research institute, and received some really great and helpful feedback. For me, this was one of the most challenging tasks of my academic career thus far- I'm comfortable with speaking about my research in English, conducting research in Japanese, and speaking casually in Japanese, but having to present at a professional forum requires a different type of language, one which I don't often have to use. In any case, I had editing help from a few wonderful people, and in the end, it is finished! As is the standard for the monthly research forums, we all raised a glass for a congratulatory kampai when all was said and done. This beer tasted so fantastic. I'm sure it will take a few days to work all the stress out of my system, and as I always do, I keep thinking about the mistakes (why do we do this to ourselves?!?), but for now, a huge amount of pressure is off of my shoulders. Here's to a summer of feeling accomplished!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Perfect Sunday Outing in Tokyo: Meiji Shrine and A to Z Cafe

 Entering the shrine.

Last week, my dear friend Emily came from the States for a visit. On her first day here, we headed down to the Harajuku-Omotesando area of Tokyo for what may be my perfect Tokyo outing: the Meiji Shrine and A to Z Cafe. We exited Harajuku Station with all the cool kids and hit up the shrine first- perfectly beautiful, verdant, and calm, despite the throngs of Sunday tourists. 

Shrine gate.

The Meiji Shrine is where Emperor Meiji (r. 1868-1912) is enshrined. It is also a huge shrine in the middle of Tokyo, includes two museums dedicated to Emperor Meiji, and is a large green space, making it a popular site with a variety of visitors. As it relates to the Imperial, and is a lovely natural escape from the concrete expanses of Tokyo, it is one of my favorite spots in the city.

 A small waterfall along the path.


 Sake barrels as donated by breweries.

 Little dude exhibiting proper ritual behavior at the shrine.

 Little dude goofing around (e.g., not exhibiting proper ritual behavior).

 The main area of the shrine.

 We saw a wedding!

 Shrine doors.

 On our way out.

After a bit of walking through Harajuku, and a quick lunch stop, we headed over to the Omotesando area, one subway stop away. If it had not been raining, and us not in the company of a tired-of-walking kiddo, the stretch between the shrine and Omotesando is a nice 15-20 minute stroll along streets filled with beautiful high end retail- in some ways a museum of contemporary material culture combined with the adjacent Harajuku fashion (read: youthful hip). Ultimately, our destination in Omotesando was the A to Z Cafe, which is a project of the artist Yoshitomo Nara.


 Sparkling wine and pumpkin coconut cake. Dreamy.

 Artist kid in a cafe created by an artist who addresses kids. Woah.

Yoshitomo Nara, long a favorite of mine, creates work that has a certain child-like quality to it. While many of his artworks are somewhat disturbing, others focus on the emotions of childhood, and the childhood experience. So, it was completely appropriate that little dude went straight for his blank-page book with his crayons. 

Lighting by the cafe entrance.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

えんやラーメン Enya Ramen

Last week, I was getting ready to make myself a quick rice bowl lunch at home before heading into the research institute for the afternoon when I thought to myself- no, don't just make rice at home, go on a Tokyo food adventure. Live it up. Enter Enya Ramen.  A quick web and Tabelog search came up with the shop near Oji station. They serve shio (salt) broth ramen with chicken broth (I know, cheating vegetarian, but ramen is just not often veg), seabream, sanma, and shallots. It is so savory perfect. Mostly I love the noodle part of ramen, so I'm hoping to explore a bit further afield on my next ramen adventure to find veg ramen. That, and the meat-based broth is a bit oily/greasy for my palette, so I'd prefer something lighter. Enya was a great little shop though, and was voted one of the top new ramen spots in Tokyo back when they opened in 2012. Yum.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hara Model Rail Museum 原鉄道模型博物館

 Entering the museum.

 About two weeks back, little dude and I took a trip down to Yokohama for the day. The main aim of our visit was to pick up a book I needed, but as a bonus we hit up the Hara Model Rail Museum. This museum, opened about two years ago, was a tour de force of all things model trains. Of course, it was little dude's dream come true. I thought we'd spend about two hours there. Instead, we closed the museum out after nearly five hours of train gazing. It was just that cool.

 Someone can hardly contain their excitement.

The museum is the result of Hara Nobutaro's life long love of model trains. Mr. Hara, who is still around at age 95, collected and created what is believed to be the world's largest single collection of model trains. What was truly remarkable about this lovely museum and collection though, is that he not only collected an astounding amount of train paraphernalia from around the world, but he also customized the model trains, making them more authentic reproductions of the real trains they imitate. For example, he switched the power to be drawn from the overhead lines, as in real life (but not in most models), and he changed the chassis of the model trains to closer recreate the sway and rhythmic click of full-scale trains. The attention to detail in his models was truly beyond compare.

 One of the main exhibit rooms.

 Gazing at the trains.

 One of many beautiful models.

 Vintage model suspension railway from Germany.


Of course the best part came at the end with the working models. In the course of the many hours we spent at the museum, the staff introduced different model trains to the model set; each would appear in photograph form on one of the large screens accompanied by data about the train, and then would make its appearance on the rails. It was a beautifully crafted set, with a high level of wonderfully crafted detail. The room went through cycles of light and dark, and little dude wore himself out running back and forth watching the trains.

 Part of the model set.

 The roundhouse in the main set.

There was also a smaller set that replicated the city of Yokohama, and my former stomping grounds of Minato Mirai, also where little dude was born! This was a definite highlight for me- to watch as the Keihintohoku-sen pulled out of Sakuragicho eki, and as the lights of the Pacifico building changed throughout the simulated day and evening.

 Minato Mirai!

 Sakuragicho-eki, complete with Bubby's Pies!

 Minato Mirai ground level view.

 Trains passing through.

 Evening in Yokohama.

 More train memorabilia.

 A model of Mr. Hara's workshop as rebuilt in the museum.

A parting shot of the central model. Amazing!

Friday, June 06, 2014

Kayaba Coffee カヤバ珈琲

This is Kayaba Coffee.  It's located not far from the research institute in a neat little neighborhood between Nippori and Nezu stations, and close to Tokyo University of the Arts and the well-known gallery SCAI The Bathhouse. I've been meaning to post an ode-to-Kayaba Coffee for a while now, but finally got some decent photos to do so with. The building was constructed during the Taisho period (I believe 1917), but didn't become a coffee shop until the late 1930s. They serve great coffee and fantastic matcha cake, as well as a changing daily menu. I've only been for lunch, but it is always something light and healthy with lots of veggies. There are usually three options, plus the standard sandwiches. It is affordable, but it really feels like somewhere special-I always leave having had a great conversation and a fantastic meal.