In the heart of Tokyo for 36 hours, I embarked on a creative adventure of my own design. With limited time, there were only so many places I could physically see and absorb. The result was an exciting itinerary filled with contemporary art, design and pop culture, a slice of life in the Tokyo subway system and a few memorable meals. The entire experience was its own artist date! Here are some highlights below – and here is a short video I did on Tokyo and one on the artistic stuff I bought while there.
In the Roppongi area, I went high and low – visiting first the chic shopping experience of Estnation. There, I lingered over the innovative floral designs by Nicolai Bergmann: sculptures formed of petals, boxes of color in the form of flowers and gorgeous packaging. Beautiful clothing and jewelry design were mesmerizing at every angle. Later on, for the complete opposite end of the spectrum, I was curious to head to the local “DonKi”, the local nickname for the chain Don Quixote, a superstore where large fishtanks flank the entrance to enhance the sense of the bizarre. Inside was an explosion of graphics: rows of printed colored socks, Kit Kats of unheard-of flavors like Creme Brulee, and various objects in every color and concept. This was pop – from fans to magnets to paper to cosmetics. My shopping basket filled easily with all kinds of cute and random objects, especially for my son.
The next morning, I was up and ready for more profound artistic inspiration. On my map were several museums and neighborhoods – let’s see if I could make them all in a day!
Top on my list was the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo – an “Artist Date” I have long dreamed of. The Membrance of the Time / Breathing Collection was an exquisite celebration of contemporary art in all its kaleidoscopic glory, unfolding before me like a vibrant dreamscape.
The section titled Membrane of the Time captivated me with its ethereal exploration. The section commences with the mesmerizing creations of Mikami Seiko, and expands to encompass diverse paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, and videos, through which the artists delved into the concept of a “membrane” that veils and unveils our inner and outer worlds. It was a profound contemplation, inviting us to peel back the layers and ponder the intricate interplay of our humanity, societal ideas and relationship with technology.
Stepping into the section called Breathing, a collection of artworks emerged, evoking the delicate flow of wind, water, and air, intimately connected to our own breath. As I immersed myself in the space, I encountered Sam Francis’ expansive paintings, alive with vibrant colors and flowing forms that emerged from his dynamic physicality. Alongside, the works of Montien Boonma, Endo Toshikatsu, Matsumoto Yoko and others beckoned, urging viewers to awaken their senses and embrace a deeper connection with the world around us.
A subway ride later, I found myself in the chic Marunouchi area, the site of some truly remarkable architecture where ancient and modern meld. My destination was the Mitsuo Aida Museum, a haven of zen tranquility filled with the works of the eponymous calligrapher. On the way there, I stumbled into Kitte, a beautiful high rise devoted to Japanese design brands. On the top floor, I dined on a sashimi lunch served with a kind of quiet reverence I’ve only experienced in Japan.
Inside the calligrapher’s galleries, photography was prohibited. Aida’s artistic philosophy embraced the concept of “one character, one world.” As I gazed upon his masterful brushwork in a sanctuary-like setting, a sense of serenity enveloped me. Each stroke encapsulated a story, poetry – and while I do not read Japanese, the characters transcended their linguistic origins, speaking a universal language of emotion. I was in heaven in the gift shop, with dozens of postcards and printed folders to bring home and contemplate further.
Tokyo Girl Shopping
After much wandering by foot and zig-zagging on the subway, I ended up at the renowned Shibuyu crossing, headed to the cool kids mall: Shibuya 109. Inside, I found every element needed to dress in the style of Tokyo’s coolest – black tech fabrics, super mini skirts, over-the-knee socks, oversized tees – all a kind of elegant punk. Here, English is used in a non-native way on T-shirts, and I enjoyed the bizarre phrases I found printed. When I exited the multi-story shopping center, the neighborhood was lit up with neon, like an electric rainbow.
Some other places I visited were the Imperial Palace, Uniqlo Ginza, Muji Hotel and Flagship store, Tokyo Hands, Itoya and Odakyu.
As I jaunted through Tokyo’s streets, I was taken in by colorful street art and my graphical vision of the city. Without knowing the language, the entire cityscape became simply a canvas of color, form and feeling. Walls were moodboards, and mundane alleys transformed into galleries of urban expression. It is heavenly to be immersed in something truly new, unseen and radically unfamiliar. It allowed me to record new visuals without preconception. After my Tokyo whirlwind, I was then headed to Kyoto, which I cover in a different Compendium installment.