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Here are a few web sites that might be of interest and give an alternative view from my own narrow perspective.
A what’s on guide to Tokyo
Echigo-Tsunari Triennale site
Tokyo art/night club, ‘ok people once in while’
Rodger MacDonald’s blog - curator, co-director AIT, man about town and brother of Peter (London painter)
American curator/English teacher
Tokyo’s street dwellers are nearly all 50+ males, the theory is that most of them opted out when they lost their jobs back in the 80’s crash. The street settlements are well organized often in pack away form, during the day you just see stacks of cardboard sometimes neat piles of possessions otherwise I think mostly possessions are carried around. The fixed camps are often well equipped with cooking facilities, DVD players and small libraries, particularly in Uneo park, a park principally dedicated to museums, including the very plush (if modernist can be) Museum of Western art. In Ikebukuro I watched the homeless working through the food department in Seibo, think Harrods, they pick up the free taste stuff of which there are a lot, not a bad diet, if a little rich. Most of the street people seem pretty funcitional, I even witness what seems to be a family visit, mother and daughter. People tell me there is a lot of shame involved, failure at work being seen very dimly by a wider society. Kumagai seems a little envious, ‘they dropped out, it’s not a bad life’ and certainly when he describes the work ethic it does make you think, 9am to 9pm being a pretty normal routine often weekends as well. They remind me of the ‘Tramps’ of my childhood, always trudging the roads of Britain, post war drop outs, stopping in for a thermos of hot water, the Pinter character from the Caretaker. The bums are treated with a certain amount of respect and seem to have a degree of freedom re access to places and campsites. I heard they moved a lot of people from Uneo by forced eviction. I saw a tV programme that followed one character who was evicted, he did a very bad mime act to raise money, busking in the most unlikely spots where there were no people, avoiding police, there is no busking in Japan, his act was all black and silent including a full face mask white gloves (Butoh!), it seemed to be mainly pulling a rope thing, basically people laughed at/with him, had their photo taken doing handsigns and gave him money, it was quite weird, the anonymity of it, the kids did nt know who they were talking to, no age definition etc. The programme followed him on a visit to his wife and daughter living respectably in the suburbs. The bums reminded me of the 7 Samurai, all that business man as samurai and loyalty to the company being akin to samurai loyalty to the master and of course the end of an era and becomeing obselete - it all seems a terrible waste of people and skills. An 80’s ad campaign for a tonic drink portrayed the Japanese business man as a samurai warrior imbued (via drink) with incredibly endurance, the jingle became a massive pop hit, ‘Can you fight 24 hrs, business man, business man,
You do see in Tokyo so many signs of vast expenditure on buildings, over the top materials and use of space, the proximity of such colossal waste and relative poverty is as ever a bit incomprehensible and disturbing.
Ikebukuro has the most gigantic department store much favoured by visiting shop frenzy celebs, its pretty grand and really unimaginably vast, my kind of no.1 Ichiban nightmare, thank god Karen was’nt with me, everything you ever imagined you didn’t need.
The main exit of the subway brings you to the principle plaza and the Tokyo Metropolitain arts centre, there is a great out-door stage all kitted out, encircled by carboard encampments and behind that the most colossal art centre, it’s atrium being about the size of the turbine hall at the Tate, the gallery has a local arts exhibition on at the time of my visit. This could be a good site for an event, certainly anything in the line of formal performance would be easily done here.
I attended an evening of avant garde jazz and Butoh dance at Super Deluxe, really just to see how the venue works for live performance. It was pretty full, maybe 200 people, the event was Billy Bang a kind of 60's NYC free form jazz violinist playing with a well known Japanese koto (very big zither) player plus congas and a Butoh dancer. I quite ejoyed the music but then I always quite liked that sort of thing, it's formulaic and 60's retro, no one plays the instrument straight they are always exploring its bits, dropping stuff on it and generally dicking around, trouble with this is it always sounds the same, tapping, scratching, very high notes and discord. The old 'everyone has a go at freaking out' seems to go down well, 'its my happening and it's freaking me out' to quote Russ Meyer. The Butoh dancer is all a bit daft, it's like Marcel Marceau having a dick fit, like terrible 70's performance art, a man stuggles with his chains while wearing a blindfold, jesus. Well I did'nt expect to enjoy it but actually it was funny.
Via Yokohama Triennale, which is nice, a fun day out, refering to itself as a circus, a playground would be more accurate, but yeah nice. I am thinking about how the Grizedale project can work and increasingly wonder if some of the artists should stay in Tokyo, split the group but still do events in both places, could be a lot easier to make work.
Sunday morning input overload
I take a wander in the park and temple gardens, the garden architecture draws from all the country stylings I have just seen, much like European gardens, follys etc. The parks in Tokyo were the playgrounds of the royal family, with fishing platforms, thatched cottages etc.
It's some kind of kids fest, all dressed to the nines in trad costumes, not sure anyone realty knows or cares why, it certainly is an opportunity for the keen photographer to get stuck into some cute kid shots. Stopping a family to do a quick photo shoot with their 6 year old seems completely ok, back in shiny Britannia they’d get arrested double quick, it’s just older blokes are interested in photography, no really there is a huge interest in really quite esoteric photography, lots of groups.
A trad wedding on the way, now here we have some big footwear, not easy to walk in I guess, but style before a fall, female Japanese fashion seems to have taken an overly large leaf out of the Vic Beckham book of looking posh, the high heel jeans, wrap shades and a furry top are all de rigeur. The only challenge seems to be from a kind of Jodie Marsh look, bright orange skin, Tina Turner wig and trashy minature clothes, not really super appealing. I am guessing but I think 3 inch heels are always in there somewhere with female Japanese fashion, although the short leg doesn’t seem to have quite the same horror status it has back in cor blimley.
Richard Gere and Junichiro Koizumi (Japanese PM)
I mean look at Gere they are having to pull him off, he wants more than dancing, attractions of similarity
Ken Russell and Beat Takashi
Ok not that simialr but what a fusion that would be. Takahashi is constanly on TV doing trashy shows, his own maybe, why cant we value Ken like this, a great film maker and a family entertainer. The Great Beat n' Ken TV show. By the way Ken's son makes Kung Fu movies in China - Sean Russell, good too.
And another one that really is spooky, same jacket and zip top David Elliott director of Mori Gallery shiniest gallery in Tokyo and Mark Knopfler pub rock vet
The restaurant at the Snow centre draws some of its ingredients from a vegetable patch just by the building, the chef is assisted by local old ladies who have been teaching her local country receipts. I know it sounds a bit to good to be true but it really does seem to work, the food is amazing and the enthusiasm of the old ladies and the chef unthinkable in the UK. I showed some mushroom porn I had on my computer (pictures of mushrooms from the lake district) and they were near ecstatic, my best trout photos nearly blew the place apart.
Among the more interesting projects to me are within the agricultural programme. Berry Spoon project introduced a number of hitherto ungrown berries/soft fruits, raspberries, blue berries, mulberries etc, a low tec but interesting building to sell from and a support structure to maintain the canes. During our visit there were people working on the plants, its low production, maybe a half acre but demonstrates what’s possible and local farmers seem interested (they are the ones maintaining it).
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