August 30, 2012

Goldfish as Art

The Art Aquarium exhibit at Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall, running until September 24, 2012.

The main theme is the Japanese goldfish, perhaps the humblest thing you can focus on. Yet, the exhibit wonderfully combines the traditional and the modern, celebrating Japanese culture by adopting a contemporary touch.

The exhibit is 1,000 yen for adults, and is open until 11:30 at night -- quite incredible! I went during daytime, but the exhibit itself takes place in a darkened space. Drinks are served after 7:00 pm, and there is even a DJ on hand.

Photography is encouraged,  so long as flash isn't used.

Each type of goldfish (this is a ranchu) is labeled, allowing dumbfounded visitors to learn a new name or two.

 ...and I thought demekin were extreme. These look positively anime.

 The glass tanks and giant vases were Venini glass, allowing for a collaboration of sorts.

Goldfish swimming against a video backdrop -- an idea that needed to be taken further to be truly radical.

It did not help that the video looked like generic stock images.

What are the triangles?


 A play on light and shadows, using the traditional tapestry as a backdrop.

Poor fish stuck to the air suctions. Maintaining the health of the fish must be difficult here.

Go see it.


(Right below the street light.) Too large to be an insect, too erratic a flier to be a bird, I finally have proof that bats live in Tokyo Bay.

According to a city report, the type of bat seen around here is called the Japanese House Bat. True to its name, it prefers to live where there are houses rather than forests. They have one to three pups in early summer.

Unfortunately, they never stop flying once the sun goes down, so it was virtually impossible to get a clear shot of the birds.

August 25, 2012

Revisiting My Favorite Shrine

My favorite shrine is in Bunkyo Ward, near Denzuin, and is a fantastically chaotic-looking Inari shrine.

I went by again and noticed some things I hadn't noticed on my first visit: the foxes incorporated into the woodwork of the main hall...

...a thousand origami cranes hung up on the side of one of the outside altars...

...(the altar itself has maintained its artful disarray)...

...and the shed skin of a cicada on a stone fox's ear.

August 21, 2012

The Accoutrements of Japanese Painting and Japanese Calligraphy

On a street somewhere between Nezu and Nippori, two beautiful shops catering to Japanese art.

Kikaido is a shop selling supplies for Japanese painting, mostly mineral and other powdered pigments.

There are over 2000 colors in stock, and they have been arranged in a gorgeous rainbow effect. The store is either very new or recently renovated.

Across the street, a store selling calligraphy brushes. But they are far removed from the standard thin brushes you use in elementary school.

I didn't get to look inside, but you can see from the enormous fat bristles that these are made for very large scrolls.

I only hope that both stores have enough customers to stay afloat! There may be curious visitors like me who are simply enamoured in the beauty of the colors and the craftsmanship, but unfortunately that doesn't translate into business.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography

The Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Ebisu.

I went to see the exhibit "The Pencil of Nature", which traces the history of photography, from calotypes to daguerreotypes to color photos (they existed in crude form in the 1840s!), to Kodak's color prints. Unfortunately, the explanations were only in Japanese (an English summary can be read here), and actual exhibit didn't probe the potentially exciting question posed: What is photography? It was definitely a missed opportunity for some deeper analysis.

August 20, 2012

Fresh Spring Rolls

Dinner on Friday night was fresh spring rolls. I've always wondered how restaurants were able to align all the ingredients inside so neatly, and I finally know: it's all in the rice paper.

We used rice paper from a Japanese brand called Youki, which sells products for "ethnic" food, and uses no preservatives or chemicals. Aside from being so translucent it looked like you were rolling vegetables up in nothing, the rice paper had a nice elasticity that made making tightly-wrapped rolls very easy. 

The end result.

August 19, 2012

Green Curtain Failure

Growing goya (bitter melon) have been touted as part of an "eco" (ecologically conscious) way of life in post-earthquake Japan.

In theory, it provides shade, pleasure, and food.

But as you can see from this giant goya tangle near an office building in Ebisu, it is not being appreciated for any of the above qualities. This goya has gone beyond ripe and has basically imploded, looking like a deflated vinyl balloon with a bad case of smallpox.

Watermelons Grow on Trees

A watermelon growing in a tree!

Or rather, a watermelon in a potted plant whose vine has grown so long, it has been looped around a nearby tree. There were at least three watermelons from this one plant.

Across the street, a kitten who responded so well to my fake meowing that it may not yet know the distinction between cat and human.

Caught My Eye

On my walk around the Hongo area of Tokyo. See that weirdly thick thing at the end of that weirdly long vine?

It's a caterpillar with a horn on it.

Cupcake Tea Shoppe

A cupcake/tea shop/clothing boutique in Omotesando.

Clearly, men are not welcome here.