Monday, June 8, 2009

Museums + Claska

Ando's Museum
Kurakawa's
Claska gallery
Claska shopmy friend!!

On Saturday, we went to Roppongi and saw three different museums. First was the National Art Museum by Kurakawa. There we saw this amazing exhibition by NOMURA HITOSHI called PERCEPTIONS-CHANGES IN TIME AND FIELD. It was all about space and time, I had a existential experience ;) Next we went to Kengo Kuma's Suntory Art Museum. It wasn't anything memorable, unfortuantely. Last, we saw Tadao Ando's museum at the 21_21 design sight. The exhibit, "Bones", was really interesting. The following day, we wandered around Daikanyama and saw the Claska Hotel. It is this old hotle from around the 1950's that has been remodeled well. The gallery/shop was very nicely done. Downstairs was a dog grooming salon. There, I made a friend!!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Yokohama

Ferry Terminal

150 year anniversary pavilion
the park that Masao Koizumi designed
night shot....
Yesterday, we visited Yokohama. We were fortunate to have the pleasure of being shown around the city by architect Masao Koizumi. We first visited his firm and then he took us to see some projects along the harbor. A park that he designed had just opened two days prior, so it was a great experience being able to listen to him describe the project to us. We also saw two other architecture offices. I regretfully cannot remember the names of the firms, but one of the architects from one of them showed us a project he worked on. It was the pavilion for Yokohama's 150 anniversary. The pavilion was cool, but the events inside were bizarre. There was this girl singing to a very unanimated crowd, and that was about it. Except for...a giant spider!!! There was this huge animatronic spider that these mechanics climbed inside and operated. Very strange, and very Japanese! We also visited the Ferry Terminal, which was amazing. One on my favorite modern architecture projects that we've visited so far in Japan. We ended the day by eating in Chinatown. Very fun! Oh, and I am done with design as of today. Hallelujah!!!!!!

video

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pecha Kucha

making our yakisoba
Jon and his "Mexican" okonomiyaki, complete with Doritos!!PechaKucha

Last night, we went out on the town! First, we stopped at this area famous for okonomiyaki (this cabbage, egg, meat pancake-y thing that cooks on a grill in front of you.) It was yummy! Trudy and I split an okonomiyaki and a yakisoba (stirfry noodles). Afterwards, we went to Super Deluxe, a bar in Roppongi. They were hosting PechaKucha, an artist exhibition that allows each artist/architect/photographer/etc to present 20 slides for 20 seconds each. I've been to a few in San Luis Obispo, and I really wanted to see it here in Tokyo, since this is where it originated. Architects Klein Dytham are the creators and they were there last night MC-ing. There were a ton of Westerners there. And it was about 100 degrees in the bar, but it was alot of fun!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Gokayama

making paper
hey cutie!

regional dance

Our last stop on the trip were the remote mountain villages of Gokayama. This was what I pictured rural Japan to be like. It was beyond words. When we walked up to the town from the bus stop, it was like walking back into time. The village we were staying in had 18 minka, Japanese farm houses. We split up into two groups and stayed the night in these historic houses. It was a beautiful thing, seeing the townspeple go about their day exactly how their ancestors did for generations. We watched a man and his son prep and plant a rice paddy. The food in this town was delicious...you could tell it was fresh, and for once, no preservatives!! yay! We walked down the hill to town to a paper factory and watched how they made paper. The old woman making the paper informed us of a festival that was going on in town and took us through these back alleys to the "town square". There we watched music and dance performances. It was such a special experience to see how connected these people were to their culture and to nature. And the landscape was breathtaking. A great way to end our trip through central Japan.

Architect: Terunobu Fujimori

client's house

tea room
ceiling of the tea room...awesome!!
Fujimori's home
chilling on the roof...

lunch!!
Fujimori's wife conducting a tea ceremony

Today we met Terunobu Fujimori (architect and Professor Choi's old professor from when he studied in Japan). He designed the "coal house" that we saw in Utsunomiya. He took us to see one of his clients house that had recently been finished. At first glance, I was a bit hesitant. But once we went inside, my mind was made up: Fujimori is a genius with no equal. He follows the wabi-sabi style, which is characteristic of rustic teahouses: things are worn and have a natural look to it, rather than being clean and pristine. This style looks better with age. The house has copper shingles which right now look a bit odd, but I think in a few years with a greenish patina from the elements, this house will look amazing. Fujimori is very particular as to whom he takes on as clients. He likes to design with his clients rather than designing for them. This client was a ceramics instructor to Fujimori's children. He has this extensive collection of antiques that Fujimori took into consideration while designing the house. The teahouse is hanging off of the third floor and accessed through a small door that you have to crawl through. I could imagine that room would be perfect for just going into and being lost in thought for hours. After we left that house, we went over to his personal residence. It was very distinct. There are plants growing out of the walls!! There is just a certain feeling of intimacy in his interiors that is hard to describe or to photograph. Fujimori took us up onto the roof to get a better look, and then proceeded to climb up it!! When I thought we were going to leave, him and his wife had us sit down in the tearoom/living room and brought out lunch for all of us1 And it ended up being some of the best sushi I have ever had. Afterwards, his wife conducted a tea ceremony and gave us each macha (green tea). Fujimori and his wife were some of the most gracious people I have ever encountered. I was happy just to be shown his work, let alone be invited to lunch so unexpectedly. This experience will be forever in my memory of the wonderful time I spent in Japan.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Kanazawa

Kenrokuen GardenThe Teahouse at Kenrokuen


The 21st Century Contemporary Art Museum of Kanazawa
I like the wallpaper!!
Beep, beep!!
Watch out for the giant comb!
Hi girls!

Next stop on our week of travel is Kanazawa. It is a big city on the western coast of Japan. We walked around the Kenrokuen Garden, another picturesque garden. There was a teahouse that served macha (the powder-type green tea). After the garden, we walked to the 21st Century Contemporary Art Museum of Kanazawa. The highlight were these funky bicycle things that were all decked out that you could ride around the museum in. I wanted the pink one shaped like a giant comb :) It was pretty yucky and rainy today, so we headed back to the hotel after lunch.
I'm starting to really miss all the comforts of home. I have definitely enjoyed my time here in Japan, but I miss California!! Only a few more weeks!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial







After we checked out of the House of Light, we took the train over to the next town where there were more art installations. The weirdest thing happened on the train ride. We had to go though this long tunnel through a mountain, and since another train passes going the other direction while we going are going through the tunnel, our train had to stop for safety reasons. So we are waiting there, and as the oncoming train is passing, everyone in the train get this strange feeling instantaneously. It was kind of like when you are changing altitudes and have to pop your ears, except this was ten-fold. It felt like we were being sucked into a vortex or something. It was bizarre. And the bizarre-ness did not stop there! When we got off of the train, we walked into this fantasy land. There were all these art installations and sculptures everywhere! Apparently, the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial is the largest international art festival in the world. And it is in the most (seemingly) remote place. This town in the mountain was super small, with rice paddies everywhere. It was one of the strangest, yet coolest, things I've ever seen. The natural landscape was amazing, so lush and pure. We strolled through the forest and up this mountain, seeing dozens of different art pieces. Absolutely amazing. They do this every three years, and this summer will be the fourth time it occurs. This is definitely on my list of things to see again if and when I ever come back to Japan.

James Turrell's House of Light






Last night, half of our group spent the night in James Turrell's House of Light. It is an art installation that is part of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial. Turrell designed this somewhat traditional Japanese house, except the roof slides away and allows for a "light experince" of sorts. The roof slides away after sunset and with the darkening of the sky, the ceiling of the room changes colors. We saw a piece by Turrell when we were on Naoshima, but it was nice to be able to experince this one for an extended period of time. The bath downstairs was amazing. It was all concrete and completely dark except for stands of fiber-optic cables that gave an eerie glow. The best part about the experience for me was the fct that we were so far away from the city. You could really tell by the air quality. While we were laying on the tatami mats, watching the ceiling, you could hear leaves rustling and frogs croaking...and that was it. Overall, a great experience.