art gallery

RAW Awakening

Well, after many stresses, RAW Awakening is done and dusted. After thinking ‘it’s not for a long time, I have ages to prepare,’ the entire night surged forward and then disappeared into the distance just as quickly. It snuck up on me so fast, especially as I had been booked for 8 days of assisting work at a time when I was supposed to be preparing. In any case, I was excited to set up my little RAW wall, and have everyone come and point their eyeballs at my photographs.

The day started out happily, with my (un-prepared) interview going well. (You’ll have to wait a few weeks to see that one. #Rawkward) I then had to pick up a few last minute items before collecting the boyfriend and driving back to the exhibition building to begin setting up. This is where things turned haywire.

No method of attaching my work to the walls resulted in my work being attached to the walls. Failing at life.

After 4 hours of stressful, sweaty, emotional, painstakingly slow, horrible, miserable, failed attempts at hanging my prints and mounts to the temporary metal fences, I was on the verge of giving up. Thank god for boyfriends who use reverse psychology to spur me into an angry determination to succeed. If it wasn’t for my boy, giving up there and then would have been highly likely. But his idea of buying bulldog clips from officeworks was a lifesaver.

I had just enough time to race home and eat a home-made hamburger (with boyfriend’s secret sauce) before returning ‘fashionably late’ before anyone noticed I was missing.

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In the end, the night was so much fun, and I felt so special having friends, family, work colleagues, and complete strangers compliment my work. My mum even pretended to be a random stranger so she could eavesdrop on people’s comments. Then she would report back to me with their top secret feedback. Bless.

I realised once I had taken the entire thing down, that I forgot to put up my little print with the names of everyone who supported me by purchasing a ticket for the night. So here it is in the eternal/permanent records of the internet.

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Thank you to everyone who supported me buy either buying a ticket to the event, or just wishing me good luck. I had an amazing time showcasing my work, and can’t wait to create some new pieces to share with the world!

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How To Meet People From ‘The Internet’

Last night it rained, and it was still cloudy when I got up this morning. It isn’t cold enough to snow anymore, and I don’t know if I’m glad or disappointed about it. I had a bit of a slow start this morning, having nothing planned until 5pm, when I would meet a new friend for coffee. So I answered emails and browsed the internet for interesting non-touristy things to do. Eventually I decided to visit a gallery near Akihabara, which I’d been meaning to go to for a while. It was having a uni graduate art exhibition about ‘bio art.’ Sounded interesting, and regular readers will know how I love a good graduate exhibition. So I set off for the hike to Akihabara, carrying my macbook this time; both for hiking practice, and because I’d need it later on.

It was really cold today, and I was glad I had layered up. I stopped at a Lawson en route to buy some lunch for later, then walked all the way to the far side of Ueno park, where the huge lake is. The trees in the park were starting to sprout tiny pink sakura flowers, and teams of park workers were busy hanging strings of lanterns between the trees. Near the lake, I found a bench to eat lunch at. I had a salad with chicken, edamame, hijiki and grated daikon, as well as an ebimayo onigiri. I’m really loving this flavour at the moment. However, this one was mostly rice, and contained only a tiny piece of prawn (maybe 2cm long and half a cm wide), and a dab of mayo. The verdict: 7/11 make better ebimayo onigiri. A lot of pigeons were bobbing around me whilst I ate, but I managed to keep my cool and not scream in front of everyone. The pigeons hovered just outside the barrier of acceptable presence. I thought I was very brave.

Next, I walked along a main road toward the gallery. The sun had come out, but I was still freezing, so I went into a convenience store and pretended to read the nutritional labels of the hot drinks, just so I could touch them and warm my hands up. A little further along, I bought a hot coffee in a can from a vending machine, because I really needed to warm up inside. It was a Tully’s branded cappuccino (kind of the Gloria Jeans equivalent), but it tasted terrible.

I found the place where the exhibition was, and it turned out to be a whole building full of art. There were four floors, all with different little galleries to explore. There was a large section about the Kobe Earthquake, as well as a corner gallery dedicated to a store that is similar to IKEA. There was also a whole room full of inflated things, and weird machines that spun or made noises, as well as giant inflatable hand that moved when air blew into it.

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The second floor held some graffiti art, and some colourful abstract paintings, as well as a white room filled with black and white printmaking pieces. This room also contained a sculpture work called ‘Seed Dish,’ which I thought was pretty cool. I loved the tones and the incorporation of the plants. I think the plates were made of cloth or bread or something. I have no idea. I suppose pictures describe it better than words, so here you go…

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This floor also had the ‘Bio-Art’ exhibition that I wanted to see. It held more inflated things, as well as art incorporating microscopes and petri dishes. But the one thing I really liked were a collection of tiny pointed glass balls, hanging from fishing wire at different lengths. They each had a tiny specimen inside – a bug or a twig, or dirt. I thought they were beautiful.

I also quite liked a 3-screen documentary about goldfish breeding. It was very genetics related, but I liked how the three screens showed different images that interacted with each other. I watched that for quite a while, and it was even educational!

The basement floor had a gallery of works which (I think) were created by disabled people (mental or physical disabilities, I’m not sure.) I’m only guessing this because the gallery was named ‘Able Art’ or something like that, and featured slogans that alluded to ‘equality for all through art’ or something similar. I actually thought this was one of the most interesting galleries of the lot. There were some crayon drawings on one wall, and a video of the artist creating them. Then in the centre there were these sculptures of food scraps, which looked like they’d been modeled from the insides of real rubbish bins. This was my favourite piece of the day. The way the food pieces were laid out seemed chaotic but organised  Perfectly placed, but random at the same time. It just worked.

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I had a quick look in the gift shop and bought a postcard, then sat down at a little table to write on it. As I was leaving the gallery space, I passed this one tiny room that was filled with stuff. Ball-pit balls were all over the floor, and the walls were covered in paintings. There were things hanging down everywhere, and bursts of colour exploded from every corner of the room. It was like a kinder-kid had overdosed on sugar and raided the art cupboard.

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After the gallery, I kept walking towards Akihabara, and stumbled upon a tiny store crammed full of new and used gameboy and Nintendo games, consoles, and controllers. I was really tempted to buy a gameboy and a couple of games for the 6 hour transit I will have to face in April, but decided against it.

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Then I walked around Akiba a little more, and posted a few items at the post office.

That’s where I realized that I’ve lost my credit card.

I looked in all the pockets in my wallet, but it was nowhere. It must have slidden out somewhere. I was just grateful that it wasn’t my main bank card, or my pre-paid card, which can never be recovered. I was annoyed, but surprisingly I didn’t panic or get all upset like I would have in the past. Anyway, getting stressed wasn’t going to solve anything. I had to meet my new friend in Ikebukuro, so I took the train, vowing to search all my pockets and bags for the missing card when I got home.

In Ikebukuro, I planned to meet someone I met online. This might sound stupid and like I was asking for trouble, but before you file a complaint to my mother, hear me out. There is this popular thing called ‘Couchsurfing,’ which is an online community where people offer their couches (or spare beds, or bedrooms, etc) to travellers for free. You can host people, or stay with people, and there are Couch Surfers all over the world. When I was looking for somewhere to stay in Tokyo, I went on this website just to look. I would not normally ever stay with a complete stranger from the internet, but there was one lady whose profile yelled out to me. This person is a real and normal person and not a creepy internet freak! Said the profile. (Not literally, I mean, that would be weird and would most definitely make me avoid a person.) This lovely lady, who I’ll refer to as J, is a teacher at an international school in Tokyo. She likes photography, cooking, and hiking. Wow, I thought, we are the same person! So I got in touch with her asking if I could possibly stay a few days in her apartment. Unfortunately, she couldn’t host me, but by that time I had already found my own apartment in Tokyo. But we got talking online, and decided to meet up whilst I was in Tokyo.

Which brought me to Ikebukuro. I waited at our designated meeting point, and before long, J came up from behind me and asked if I was Steph. We clicked right away! We found a coffee shop and ordered drinks, and talked about anything and everything. There was never a lull in the conversation, and within half an hour I felt like I’d known J for years. What an incredible lady! She was so friendly and smart and funny, and so adventurous! We looked at some of the photos I’d taken on the trip so far (J requested I bring them, which is why I lugged my laptop around all day), and chatted away like we were old pals. She told me lots of funny stories about adventures she’s had in Japan, and gave me some tips on train and bus travel- some that will save me a lot of money (which can be used to buy more Japanese goodies!!) Also, randomly, we worked out that we had seen each other in Tokyo before. At the film screening I went to last week (The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom), I actually sat right in front of J. How did we work this out? I mentioned that I had been volunteering with HOT, and J said she did too! Then she asked if I went to the film, and I asked where she was sitting. She described the area near where I was. Then she said maybe she remembered seeing me. I was by myself  was fiddling with a camera, and talked to a Japanese man, and ate chilli from one of the stalls. Oh my god, that was me! We had been less than a meter from each other! I even remember that I had looked J directly in the eyes when I turned around one time. I couldn’t believe it. How funny.

Before long, it was dark outside, and then we realised it was already past 8pm- we’d been talking for 3 hours! It had only seemed like an hour or so, I was so surprised at how the time had passed. J had to pack for a holiday (for which she was leaving tomorrow), so we both headed for the train station. We both caught the same line, so we had a few precious minutes to keep talking, and say a brief goodbye. My station was further away, so I watched J get off the train and disappear into the sea of people on the platform. And then she was gone.

It was a really brief meeting, but I am so glad that I got to chat with such a wonderful, kind individual. The world needs more people like J. Such a genuine, amazing lady. I really really hope that I can meet her again in the (not too distant) future. I enjoyed her company immensely. I felt a bit sad when we parted ways, like I was saying goodbye to a friend I’d known since childhood. Perhaps I get attached to people too easily, or perhaps J is just so easy to like.

I returned home, braving the freezing cold night, and cooked a quick dinner of veggies on rice, with leftover miso eggplant and oden. Then I had the mochi-anko pan (bread bun filled with mochi and red bean paste) that I bought at the station earlier. It was weirdly good. I spent the next 2 hours trying to find out how to cancel my credit card, which is really difficult when your phone can’t make calls. I tried making reverse calls, free calls, calling with area codes, + codes, Australian codes, Japanese codes. It was really frustrating and pretty much impossible. Then my boyfriend had the brilliant idea of using Skype to call, but I don’t have Skype either. He let me use his account, which, again, wouldn’t work for ages, but I finally got through and was able to cancel the card. Sorry to the person who found it and planned a massive shopping spree.

I bet I find the missing card in a sock sometime next week.

Homeless, But With A View

Yesterdays typing time-saving technique worked a treat, so I’m going to do the same thing today. I woke up after dreaming about an apocalyptic dinosaur invasion, and kind of half dozed until 9, when I decided I’d better actually do stuff. I’ve become way too accustomed to going to bed past midnight, which is going to kill me when I go hiking. Back home, I’d be in bed asleep by 10 or 10:30- I don’t know why I’m such a night owl here. I’ll blame it on the timezone difference for now; Japan is 2 hours behind Australia, so it makes sense in theory. Correction: I’m such an idiot. That would mean I as actually going to bed at 2am, not 10pm. I got it backwards. I’ve really got to start sleeping earlier, drinking more water, and eating a bigger breakfast. Things I am excellent at back home, but suck at here.

Today I wanted to visit a few galleries in Shinjuku, and do a bit of shopping, before heading to Hiroo at 6pm for a Hands On Tokyo event. The event was a film screening of a Tsunami documentary, with funds being collected for the victims of the Tohoku earthquake last year. Before I left for the station, I attended to some work emails that I’ve been putting off replying to, then cleaned the bathroom and vacuumed the house, because I’m good like that. As I walked along, I kind of regretted rugging up so much, because it was pretty warm. I told myself I’d be grateful for the scarf and trench coat later tonight when I’d come home late in sub-zero temperatures. I also felt quite happy and content, for reasons I wasn’t sure of, but didn’t care to consider further.

When I got to Shinjuku station, I was already hungry, so I bought a bento from inside the station, and found a bench overlooking the bus terminals. The bento was amazing, and I was so hungry that is disappeared very quickly. It.contained brown sticky rice with ume furikake, some chicken and vegetable spring rolls, chilli carrot and broccoli, simmered mushrooms, lotus and carrot pickles, purple sweet potato salad, and a chicken and seaweed ball. I’d had it heated up, which was a good call because everything tasted good warm.

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I was somehow still hungry after that, so I found a Tully’s coffee store and got an iced green tea latte, which was really really good. I thought it might be either too bitter or far too sweet, but was perfect.

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In the same building as the coffee store was the Nikon Salon, which had an exhibition of graduate work. I took the lift up to the 28th floor, and was momentarily dazed by the awesome view of Shinjuku. It was more impressive than the photographic exhibition, which wasn’t all that exciting. The salon also had a showroom of Nikon gear, as well as a camera help centre.

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Next, I headed towards Shinjuku Central Park, to find a tiny art gallery showing ‘Signtseeing’ by Japanese photographer, Yusuke Shimura. I found the Family Mart that the galley was supposed to be next to, but I couldn’t see the gallery either side of it. Feeling a bit dumb, I went inside the Family Mart, thinking that there might be some kind of secret entrance near the back of the store, but obviously there wasn’t. Then I looked on the fine print of the exhibition flier and found that it said it was on the second floor of an apartment. So I picked an apartment to the left of Family Mart, but it wasn’t that one, because I’d accidentally gone into some kind of insurance company office. The man inside looked really surprised at my presence, but be helped me find the correct apartment, which was on the other side of FM.

For all the trouble, I hoped that the exhibition would be a hidden gem, but it really wasn’t that great. Most of the images looked the same, as if they were all taken within 30 seconds of each other. They reminded me of the Facebook profile pictures of teenage girls. You know he ones- 20 images of pretty much the same angle, taken in the bathroom mirror.

shimura_ss_ny-468x309I passed through the park on the way back, and came across a sign that said there was a Community Gallery within the park. I thought I might have a quick look, but it wasn’t an art gallery, as I’d expected. It was more of an empty room with a mechanical cherry-picker inside. So I crossed the park again, passing a lot of tents and tarpaulins, strung up between the trees. It took me a while to realize that this was a camp for homeless people. Once I did realize, however, I saw homeless people everywhere- sitting on benches, snuggled under thing blankets on even thinner cardboard, and huddles underneath ‘huts’ made out of umbrellas and plastic rubbish. There was one big, very permanent looking camp that looked like a proper army set-up. There was a collection of cooking items, well-constructed tarpaulin tents with little slippers set outside, and even a collection of old coat-hangers, dangling over a tree branch for later use. It made me feel quite strange seeing the homeless people. Like I didn’t know what to do, or how I should feel towards them. The non-homeless business men and mothers with babies seemed to just accept their presence, or ignore it completely, but I thought it was odd that so many of them were ‘camping’ in this park. I don’t know what the political or social view is of these people, but perhaps the park/area is ‘known’ to be a base camp for them. Nobody seemed to mind that they were there, and it appeared that they hadn’t been ‘shooed away’ by government or community groups, because the camps looked established enough to have been there a while.

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Next, I headed into the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building to go to the viewing platform on the 45th floor. This is something I’d read about in guidebooks, but never thought to do. But since I’d passed it on the way to the last gallery, I thought I’d have a look, seeing as it was free. I had to have my bag inspected before I could wait patiently for the lift. The lift took about 50 seconds to get to the top, and my ears popped around the 40th floor. The viewing area was really really hot, thanks to the combination of the bright sun, and the building’s giant glass windows. But the view was spectacular. You could see so far in every direction, and the horizon just turned into a kind of white mist. You were supposed to be able to see Mt Fuji from one side, but it was too hazy, so I couldn’t see it. At one point, I thought I’s spotted the white top of the mountain, but it turned out to be the reflection of a baby’s hat behind me.

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I walked back to Shinjuku station, using this amazing tunnel that I didn’t know existed. It was just a straight tunnel, but it passed under all the streets, creating a no-traffic-light shortcut back to the station. Whilst I was looking for the exit to the department store, I witnessed my first fight in Japan. It was between an old lady and a middle-aged lady, and I have absolutely no idea what was going on. The middle-aged lady was grabbing the older lady and yelling, and a station security guy was holding her off and speaking calmly to her. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, over the noise of the station, but it was really weird to see a physical fight between two women, especially Japanese! I wanted to watch but I thought it was rude, so I went into the department store and used their escalators to get to street level.

Before heading to the next gallery on my list, I decided to do a bit of shopping. So I went to Takashimaya Times Square, and visited one of my favourite stores in Japan, Tokyu Hands. I spent a while looking at the stationary, then went down to the kitchen section, where the bento boxes and accessories are held. I can spend hours in this department alone. I was trying to decide between about 5 different boxes, when one of the staff began saying something about a ‘today-only’ discount on the bento. The kept saying the same 2 sentences over and over. This went on for at least 10 minutes, before I actually thought to listen to what she was saying. The special was, if you buy 2 bento, or one bento and one drink bottle, you get 20% off. Of course, I was thrilled, and bought 2 bento boxes. With the discount, the second one was only 1000 yen! So I was super happy.

It was almost 4, so I thought I’d better head to the gallery near Shinjuku Park (a different and bigger park from the one I went to earlier) before I ran out of time and had to go to Hiroo. I walked around for ages and ages looking for this stupid park (which is huge, so shouldn’t have been that hard to find.) But I couldn’t find it, and ended up in Yoyogi- the next suburb. I find my way back to Shnjuku station, and it was nearing 5pm. So I thought I’d scrap that idea and save those galleries for another day, and go to Shibuya instead. I wanted to walk from Shibuya to Hiroo, because it was only a 20 minute walk, and there was a little gallery I wanted to pass on the way.

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So I got off at Shibuya, and went to Loft there, because I am obsessed with that store. I spent a long time in the bento section again, but resisted buying three more bento boxes. Then I attempted to walk to Hiroo, but I had failed to take a screenshot of the map, and had no idea where I was headed. Frustrated, I went down to the subway, with the intention of catching the train to the station (in order to remove all chances of getting lost and thus being late to the film.) But the station I wanted to go to wasn’t on any of the lines that ran through Shibuya, so I had no idea what to do. I stood there looking like an idiot for a while, then found a map of the entire subway network, from which I was able to construct a route to get to Hiroo. I had to go back on the train for one stop, then take the subway from a different station.

When I finally got to Hiroo, I had forgotten how to get to the International School, but luckily there was a map outside the station. I walked up a hill for ages, but ended up on the wrong side of the campus, which housed the University, when I wanted the Primary School. So I walked all the way back, then finally found the reception.

Which was empty.

Except for a guy in a janitor’s outfit, with a broom.

Yes, just like in the movies.

I poked my head inside, but the janitor disappeared and there was nobody else in there to ask. I thought that maybe I had to go straight to the room they were showing the film in, but I couldn’t see any signs or posters telling you where to go. I did, however, spot a poster for the event… which said that it was on Friday the 8th.

Tomorrow.

I wanted to cry. Not really, but I felt like a real idiot. I’d wasted a lot of time and some subway cash getting here, when all I really wanted to do after shopping in Shinjuku was to go home. So I got back on the subway, mad at myself for not checking the date properly. What an idiot. As punishment, I made myself walk from Ueno back to the apartment, instead of taking the train. (This also saved money, which I had wasted getting off at Shibuya and Hiroo.)

I got back from Ueno in record time, because I walked quite quickly and didn’t stop for anything. I had to walk through the Yanaka cemetery  which I thought would be creepy. But it was really lit up, like a night market or carnival, and there were other people walking along, so I didn’t feel scared. I also felt completely safe walking home by myself, which I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing in Australia. The walk cleared my head, and I felt ok again once I’d reached home, but my feet were really sore because the shoes I wore today aren’t really made for long walks. I think they rubbed my toenails off.

I wasn’t hungry, but it was already 8:30, so I made a simple salad with sesame dressing, and heated up a vegetable bun which I’d bought from the Gardens. It was ok, but nowhere near as good as the eggplant one.

Advertising, Advertising, Advertising

I spend a lot of time each day typing out these blog posts, and doing a quick retouch of photos I’ve taken. But I think I need to work out a way to reduce the time spent doing this, thus increasing my Japan-enjoyment time. Which is why today I’m typing this out on my phone whilst riding the train to Shiodome. I thought about bringing my laptop to do this, but its really too big and obnoxious to use on the train. Plus it is much heavier than my little phone. Maybe I should invest in an iPad- these seem like an acceptable form of technology for train use.

Anyway, I woke up with a sore shoulder, from sleeping in a strange curled up ball. I felt kind of tired an gluggy, so I pretended to sleep for a little while longer, before opening up my laptop to plan the day’s exiting schedule. I had a huge list of galleries to sort through, so I looked each one up, then made a shortlist of the interesting ones and sorted them according to location. Tomorrow is going to be a gallery intense day kids- get excited!

Then I walked to Tabata station and got a double shot latte from the Starbucks there. It worked a treat, and I felt much more alert and awake. I’d never be able to have coffee in Australia as often as I do here, and I’d definitely never get a double shot. It would give me stomach pains back home, but the coffee here is much more ‘gentle.’ It doesn’t even taste like coffee if you only order the regular kind.

So I took a train to Shimbashi, where I had to switch to the subway to reach Shiodome. The plan said the subway part was only a one minute ride, so I thought I might walk it and save myself 200 yen. I’m glad I did, because the station was only 100 meters away.

If I had to describe Shiodome in two words, I would use ‘tall’ and ‘buildings.’ I’m not usually awed by big buildings, but this cluster of them is so overwhelmingly tall. They are so tall that most of the area is in shadow.

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I made my way to the Caretta Building, which houses the Advertising Museum, as well as numerous shops and cafes. I had a quick look around, but the place was mostly filled with restaurants, including the Japanese version of Din Tai Fung- a Taiwanese dim sum chain that I fell in love with in Kuala Lumpur.

I headed into the Advertising Museum not expecting much, but I was pleasantly surprised. There was a special exhibition showing called ‘One Show 2012,’ which was a collection of award winning advertising from agencies all over the world. Todays was the first day of the exhibition. The works included gold, silver and bronze winners from magazine and poster print, product packing design, outdoor/ location campaigns, and TVC advertisements. I’m really interested in advertising and the psychological mechanisms behind it, so I spent ages watching the TVCs and mini documentaries about the successes of different campaigns. There were some really clever ideas and brilliant executions, and most had arisen from very basic concepts. I particularly liked the piece called ‘The True Origins of Pizza (한글자막)’ which was a mini mockumentary about how Korea actually invented the pizza, and Italy stole the idea from them. The best part was when they went to a historical Korean statue and claimed that the part on top of it was a pizza box, with another smaller box on top, resembling the world’s first ‘garlic bread combo deal.’ I found the clip on youtube, which you can watch here, if you feel so inclined.

Another campaign that I found really psychologically interesting was about swaying people’s political voting views. The piece, called ‘Book Burning Party,’ was a huge media event, where a fake political group was created to make people think about voting in a different way. It revolved around a little library in America, which could not afford to stay open unless it raised taxes. Of course, the public didn’t like the idea of taxes, so they were going to vote ‘no.’ But the clever campaign made them vote ‘yes,’ by persuading them that a ‘no’ vote would equal a book burning party. I’ve explained that really really badly, but check out the video here– it’s much better than I’ve made it out to be!

Greenpeace New Zealand’s campaign against deep sea oil mining was also very moving, and won a silver award. I found this video online too, here. It is titled , titled ‘Oil on Canvas, because Greenpeace activist used dead birds killed in an oil spill to make individual prints on canvas of hundreds of birds. It’s really devastating and very sad, go and watch the video. It’s something everyone should see.

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Following the TVC area, there was a permanent exhibition of the history of advertising in Japan, which ran from the Edo period (1603-1868) to the present day. This would be pretty interesting for history buffs, but I really liked the more contemporary work.

The last section consisted of more poster design and product packaging. Some of which I thought was absolute genius. Take this nori company, for example. Nori is the seaweed that is found on the outside of sushi, and after the tsunami last year, the company was finding it hard to make a profit. So they employed  the ad agency I&SSBDO to re-brand their product. They came up with this special lazer-cut nori, which is exactly the same as the regular stuff, but has intricate patterns cut into each piece. Each pattern is a traditional Japanese design. There were some real samples there, and they looked incredible! Below are some images I found online.

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I also really liked the package design of this Indian comb company, which is based in Mumbai.

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Aside from product advertising, there was a lot of awareness raising campaigns which aimed to change consumer’s perception of wildlife and social issues. I was really moved by this series created by TBWA Hunt Lascaris for the Endangered Wildlife Trust. The posters were huge and white, (A1 size perhaps), and contained lots of little square pictures of one kind of animal. The tagline underneath the cluster of pictures reads ‘You Are Looking At Every ___ Left In ___,” with the first blank being the name of the animal pictured, and the second blank being the place where it lives. It really made you think about just how few of these precious animals there are left. I’ve found images of a few of them here, but the impact isn’t as great on a tiny screen as it is when they are huge physical posters. The Northern White Rhino one is the saddest, as there are only eight pictures.

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Two other pieces that stuck with me were;

– ‘Half For Happiness,’ for client Casa de Zezinho.
A campaign where shoppers were asked to buy half of a product for the same price as the full product. One half of the purchase would be donated to Casa de Zezinho, a NGO with a focus on low-income areas that guarantees basic necessities for children in need.

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– ‘Raising The Roof,’ by agency Leo Burnett, Toronto.
A series of posters stuck in strategic places that sent messages aout youth homelessness. The posters made people think twice about how common this social issue actually is.

RTR_AMBIENT-POSTERS412068D_1After visiting the gift shop and buying a retro postcard, I headed to 7/11 and got a chirashi onigiri, then found a table in the sun (decorated with turtles) to sit at and eat. The sun moved really fast, because I had to shuffle over twice to keep from being enveloped by shadow. Eventually I couldn’t move over any more or I’d fall off the bench. And I was only sitting there for about 10 minutes!

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Next, I took the subway to Meguro, to re-visit Galley Cosmos, which had a new photographic exhibition by Hisanori Katou. The black and white prints were very simple in subject matter, with a strong focus on tone and design elements. And they were printed beautifully. After looking around, I went downstairs to the office, to visit my friend Niiyama-san. He was the man who showed me all the folios and photographic papers last time I was there. I wanted to check that he’d received my email regarding folio stores in Melbourne, as I hadn’t heard back from him and thought that maybe I’d sent it to the wrong address. I didn’t want him to think I’d forgotten or ignored his kind request for information. Niiyama-san was on lunch break when I arrived, but after ten minutes he appeared and was keen for a chat. He showed me some books of his father’s photographs, which were beautiful. I actually genuinely loved the compositions and un-pretentious subject matter. He also talked about upcoming exhibitions at the galley, and suggested a few things to see whilst I was still in Tokyo. He told me that I was welcome back anytime, and that if I ever needed anything, I shouldn’t hesitate to contact him. Genuine nice guy.

From the gallery, I walked along Meguro River towards Ebisu. It was really warm, and the sun was nice on my back. Before long I’d shed two layers and was down to a t-shirt. I had taken what I thought to be a shortcut, but was actually a longer way to walk to Ebisu. Including steep inclines around a residential area. Hiking training, I told myself. There were a lot of big houses in that area, which was strange to see because most of Japan consists of tiny little box-houses, all crammed in together. But these ones were spacious and looked really expensive. They even had two car parking spaces! (And not many houses have that!)

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I wanted to see the new exhibition at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, but before that I planned to visit a small gallery on the East side of Ebisu, where an exhibition called ‘Sign,’ by Tomoko Sawada was showing. The tiny place was easy to find, thanks to an excellent map. This exhibition was obviously a tribute to Andy Warhol, and his Campbell’s Soup Can. On one wall, there were numerous prints of Heinz tomato ketchup, but each bottle’s label was in a different language. The other wall held a similar collection of images, but with Heinz mustard instead of ketchup. I thought they were brilliant, and the repetition worked really well in the simple, clean gallery space. I spent a while looking at the books on the ground floor of the building, and collecting a pile of brochures for more exhibitions I want to visit.

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Above is a sample image from ‘Sign.’ I’ve put it here to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. The image is credited to Tomoko Sawada. The MEM building (where the exhibition was) also had these really cool lights in the stairwell, which I photographed really quickly and hence really badly.

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Next, I headed back to the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography to see the 2012 APA Award exhibition. I only had an hour until the museum closed, and I debated whether or not that was enough time. But I decided that since I was already there I would go in. It cost 500 yen, and the photography was excellent. Keeping with today’s theme of advertising, the competition was in commemoration of the 41st Japan Advertising Photographer’s Association Exhibition, and most of the works were of a commercial nature, with a few ‘arty’ pieces thrown in for good measure. I was really inspired by a lot of the pieces, and the creative approaches to ‘selling’ different products.

Below is one of my favourite pieces from the exhibit, called ‘Be Noisy,’ by Yasutomo Ebisu (I did not take this photo.) It was created for the store, Laforet in Harajuku, and is part of a series. There’s a few short youtube animations too, here and here.

14814-b_rikako_nagashima_be_noisy_laforet Another of my favourite was this one by Hirano Takahashi, called ‘Yellow & Black.’ I loved the bold, flat appearance of it, but in the rel print you can see detail and tone in the skin and face. I thought it was striking, and it made me feel inspired to do a shoot with this kind of simple shape and colour combination. I think that good art inspires you to create something yourself, which is why I really loved this piece. Again, this image is from the internet, and I don’t take any credit for it.

45810121179735763_ZUX7xcJs_cI really wanted to buy the thick colour book of the 2012 APA Award, but it was almost 100 dollars, and pretty heavy. I didn’t have that much money to spend, so I’m going to hunt for my favourite artists online instead. It was starting to get dark, so I headed back to Ebisu station, stopping at the supermarket there to buy some supplies for dinner. The train ride home was quite interesting. You’ve probably heard about rush hour in Tokyo, and how you should avoid trains at all costs. I didn’t have my eye on the time, and it was 6:30, so i got stuck in the rush. But how busy could it really get? Busy enough that I was squashed into the train carriage so badly, that even when the train jerked around a corner, nobody fell over or really moved more than an inch. Every part of me was squashed up against someone else, and I was glad that I don’t get claustrophobic. I couldn’t move my body at all, apart from turning my head about 5 centimeters in each direction. So that was fun.

By the time I got back to the apartment, I was starving, so I got some vegetables frying for dinner. I topped them with a fried egg and some miso topping, then heated up the bento I’d bought from the station. It contained pickled carrot, lotus and eggplant, as well as chicken soboro (a kind of minced chicken cooked in dark soy sauce), scrambled egg, and a piece of pumpkin, all sitting on top of brown rice. Everything was incredibly good, and I finally managed to cook an egg with a runny yolk, instead of forgetting about it and overcooking it. After dinner I tried a weird pudding that I got at the Lawson 100 store. It was green tea pudding, with a brown cake layer and a brown syrup layer. It sounded and looked really weird, but tasted strangely good. I was still hungry after that so I ate some cereal with banana and yoghurt, and a little more cereal with coffee milk because I’d run out of normal milk.

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Oh, and I realised I’d left the heater on all day, which is something the rental people told me not to do if I didn’t want to pay excess electricity fees. Oops.

Pandas At Ueno Zoo

Last night I had my first bout of feeling lonely. As I tried to sleep, I just kept thinking about all the people I left behind in Australia, who would be going on their daily lives without me. I missed them, and the thought of how far away they were made me feel really isolated and small. I guess because I have literally been on my on for a few days, the solidarity began to kick in. I mean, I haven’t seen friends (Japanese or Australian) for a few days, nor have I volunteered with a group of other people. The only human interaction I’ve had has been with sales clerks, or the occasional ‘sumimasen’ on the train. I’ve had nobody to share adventures with.

In any case, I slept in really late this morning, only waking up around 10:30, which is unheard of for me. I debated whether or not I still wanted to go to the zoo, but decided that I would still have time to see all the animals. So I got up, packed a bento, and walked to Ueno park for the third day in a row. I was really warm and sunny, and by the time I got to the park, I needed to shed a few layers.

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Ueno zoo is, I guess, ‘famous’ for its pandas, because the whole suburb of Ueno has panda-themed everything. All the convenience stores sell panda toys and hats, and there are many shops that sell all kinds of foods in the shapes of pandas. I’m talking bread, meat buns, obento, cakes- everything! Even the bus in Ueno has the fave of a panda sculpted onto the front. So I guessed I was in for a bit of panda overkill by going to the zoo where they actually lived! I bypassed the stalls selling ice cream, pizza, and panda paraphernalia, and entered the zoo through the main gate. But there was no escaping them. The very first exhibit was the giant pandas, whose every move was being narrated by a megaphone-touting panda caretaker. There was, of course, a huge crowd around the female (who was eating bamboo), and a not-so-huge crowd around the male (who was asleep with his back to the crowd.) They were pretty cute, but incredibly dirty. I imagined Japanese pandas to be immaculately clean, with snow-white fur and perhaps little bows clipped to their fur (possibly with plastic gems and Disney characters emblazoned on them.) Not so. In any case, you could get really close to them, and it was kind of surreal seeing them in real life.

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Next, I saw giant birds and eagles, as well as vultures and other such horrible birds. Anyone who knows me knows I am deathly afraid of birds. And these ones were giant. I’m talking bigger than a toddler! If the birds stood next to me, they would easily reach halfway between my hips and shoulders. I managed to keep my cool and pretend like I was fearless in the face of having my eyes pecked out.

Then I saw the zoo’s tiger, who was a lot more advanced than the tiger at Melbourne Zoo. Whilst Melbourne has the stuffed version, and the mechanical version (why do you think they are always ‘sleeping’ or pacing only at the back of the enclosure? Think about it…) this zoo seemed to have a real tiger. It walked around and climbed trees and actually did stuff. Although this is Tokyo, and it was probably just a really advanced robot.

I visited gorillas, birds, nocturnal animals and Japanese cranes (which are so much bigger than I expected!), before heading to Ice and Snow world to see seals and a really cute polar bear. He looked like my old dog, basking in the sun, and looking around at all the primary school kids yelling ‘suuuuuugoiii!!!’

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Then I went to bear mountain, which housed a Malay sun bear, a Hokkaido brown bear, and a Japanese black bear. They were all very active, and I had even timed it right so that I saw them being fed. They ate mostly sweet potato and carrots. I passed by the elephant enclosure on my way to have lunch, but they were cleaning it, and the elephants were stuck in a tiny room inside whilst they waited for their home to be cleaned. I felt really sorry for them, because the enclosure wasn’t that big, and was pretty bare and ugly. Like the old enclosure at Melbourne Zoo used to be.

I ate lunch at a picnic spot next to ‘Monkey Mountain,’ so I could watch the little kids watching the Japanese macaques jump and run around, and steal branches from one another. I had a salad and an onigiri for lunch, both which I’d purchased yesterday and packed into my little bento, in an attempt to pretend I’d actually ‘made’ lunch. I also had a mini banana.

After lunch I saw the bison, squirrels, Japanese deer, and other monkeys, as well as a tapir. Then it was time to head to the West Garden- the other side of the zoo. You could take a brightly coloured monorail for 150 yen, or walk for about 3 minutes. On the other side, there were African and Madagascan animals, as well as Australian animals. Everyone fawned over the kangaroos, and loved the cockatoos. They looked at me weirdly when I didn’t stop to pay these particular animals any attention. It was interesting to see how much people cared about Australian animals, which aren’t even cool compared to, say, wolves and armadillos.

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But around the corner from the dumb kangaroos were GIANT ANTEATERS! They were so funky! There were two, but they were separated, and they both paced around really fast, not stopping for anything. I thought they were so funny looking and very very cool. Their noses are so long! Next to the anteaters was the small mammal house. This housed lots of mice-types, including desert mice, meerkats, and naked mole rats. They were really cute, but the whole place stank really badly. If you’be ever had a pet mouse, imagine that smell multiplied by 100. The small mammal house had two levels, and the bottom level was the nocturnal small mammals. I loved this part. There were all kinds of rodents, bats, and squirrel-looking things, but the best bit was a pair of real life armadillos. They were incredibly cute, and looked like something out of a video game (think Crash Bandicoot, in the level that’s at night time, and you have to jump on the armadillos and squash them. Too obscure? Sorry. My sister will understand it.) I have never seen an armadillo before, so I stood there for ages watching them go around and around and around, following each other’s paths. Eventually they went in their little nest hole because they’d had enough of being watched.

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That’s when I saw hedgehogs.

NYAWW! I had also never seen one of these in real life, and I was glued to the enclosure like a kid watching cartoons on a TV.

They. Were. So. Freaking. Cute.

They were very small, about the size of guinea pigs, and had tiny little peg legs. Like the armadillos, they ran around and around in circles, following each other. I couldn’t stop myself from smiling like an idiot the entire time I watched them. All the little school kids raced past me in a river, glancing in at the hedgehogs to give a quick ‘kawaii,’ before heading off to the next animal. Not me thought, I stayed there for ages.

Eventually I dragged myself away from my new wish-pet, and followed the school kids to see African animals. There were all the usual suspects; zebra, giraffes, hippos and rhinoceros. But I really didn’t like this part, because I didn’t like the animal’s enclosures. I’m sure that the zoo staff take really good care of each animal, but the small, concrete cages that they were kept in made me feel sad. It was like going back in time, to an Australian zoo in the 80’s. The hippo had a tiny pool to swim in, and the giraffe had a concrete building with a patch of hay. The rhino only had dirt. All the enclosures were small and old looking, and lots were covered in poop. It made me feel really really uncomfortable. I have this strange double feeling about zoos, and I don’t really know how I feel about them. I love animals, and I do admire the conservation and breeding aspects of worldwide zoos. But there is something about keeping wild animals in captivity that I don’t agree with. If they are there to be brought back to full health, or for careful breeding in order to help a species survive, then I am able to accept their captivity. But I don’t like the idea of holding animals purely for people to look at them. There’s something really sinister and backwards about that, in my opinion. This feeling is especially reinforced when the animals are kept in ‘cages’ rather than ‘enclosures.’ By ‘cages,’ I mean horrible metal bars, tiny living spaces, and conditions that don’t suit the individual creature. I think the Weribee Zoo in Melbourne, for example, has excellent enclosures for its animals. Large open spaces that closely mimic the animal’s natural habitat. But concrete cages and tiny patches of dirt made me sad, if not a little angry. So I bypassed the rest of the African critters really quickly, trying not to think about it.

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I headed to the Vivarium next, which had reptiles and amphibians, including snakes  frogs, crocodiles and tortoises. These creatures had nice enclosures, so I felt a bit better in there. Near the entrance of the exhibit, an old Japanese man started talking to me in Japanese about this giant salamander, which he was super enthusiastic about. He explained that it had no eyes, and just opened its mouth and snapped to capture things to eat. He sad that in te wild there are lots of small ones, but none as big as the one that was in front of us. He was really really into this salamander, so I thought I’d better take a picture of it and appear interested. When I left the Vivarium, he had latched onto another group of people, and was continuing to talk passionately about this big salamander.

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I visited Aye-Aye Forest next, to see the only Aye-Aye in captivity in Asia (or so the sign said.) Aye-Aye are those ones you’ve seen on the animated movie, Madagascar- the ones with the really long skinny finger. They are associated with the devil in their home country, apparently. I also saw lemurs in this area, and some more water birds.

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After watching a porcupine sleep for a bit, I had a quick look in the children’s zoo, which is where they keep all the farm-type animals for children to pat. You know the ones- goats and sheep- the kinds that won’t bite your face off or shred you to bits if you touch its ears. Then it was time to head out.

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I was going to get some things for dinner to take home with me, but then I thought I’d go to the art gallery next to the zoo, just to see what they had on. There were a few ticket exhibitions that weren’t of much interest to me, but then there was also a free exhibition of some art university graduate work. I loved the graduate work I saw over in Roppongi last week, so I was keen to have a look here too. There was some excellent work in there, but I didn’t take photos because I thought you weren’t allowed to. But I loved some of the design and advertising work (inlcuding one student who made this whole campaign about eating anpan from a string.) I also loved the work by Yurie Hongama, who had made a whole heap of 4 panel comics on canvas. They were funny and quirky, just simple line drawings and basic colours. Her website is here, but unfortunately it doesn’t have any of the comics I’m talking about.

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I was also a bit sneaky and saw one of the paid exhibitions without actually paying. The exhibition was called Ezotic Art, but it was on the bottom floor of the building, and you could see it from the top floor without having to go down. If you’d like to save yourself 1000 yen, please look here and don’t worry about going through the ticket gate.

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Next, I headed back to Ueno station, and wondered around for a bit looking at some different stores. I looked at clothes and shoes, as well as food. I got some supplies from a grocery store called “The Garden,” and then went back to the place I bought the okazu last night to get some fish. I have wanted to eat this particular fish since coming back to Japan, because I love the taste and texture of it (and it has no bones.) But everywhere I look, it’s really expensive. Like 5-7 dollars for one small piece. But at this place, it was around 300 yen for 100 grams. So I picked the smallest piece I could find and took it to the counter. ‘This’ll be under 100 yen,‘ I thought to myself smugly. ‘I’ll get my tasty fish at a bargain price!’

Wrong again.

The scale said it would cost me 400 yen for this tiny piece of fish. 400 YEN?! That’s more than I paid for my entire lunch yesterday. That’s enough for FOUR onigiri. But of course I couldn’t back out of it at that stage, so I handed over my coins thinking ‘this better be the best darn fish I’ve ever eaten.’ So me and my expensive fish took the train back to Nishi-Nippori, and then walked back to the apartment, stopping at the supermarket for some mochi ice cream balls. At lease I got a bargain there- all the ice cream was reduced to 98 yen!!! I also stopped at 7/11 to buy an onigiri and some pumpkin.

It was already 7:15 when I got back, so I started cooking vegetables for dinner. Every night I use a bowl as a lid for my frying pan, because the apartment doesn’t come with a frying pan lid. So every time I have to take the lid off (which I do with a spatula), I end up steam-burning myself. But it’s worth it to have tasty veggies. Tonight I had some nimono which was leftover from yesterday, some of the pumpkin from 7/11, an onigiri, fried vegetables, half of the expensive fish (I thought it would seem more affordable if I ate it over two nights), and a special bun filled with eggplant that I got from The Garden. The bun was so good. The eggplant inside was soft and sweet, with a kind of sticky soy sauce filling. It came frozen, and I didn’t know how I was supposed to cook it, so I microwaved it until it had defrosted, then gently fried both sides in olive oil to give it a bit of golden colouring and a bit of crispness. It was the best thing on the plate! There were 3 other kinds at the supermarket, so I want to go back and try them all! The expensive fish was also very very tasty. But still expensive.

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As I was eating, I realized the onigiri had pork inside, so I couldn’t actually eat it. Luckily I had only had a tiny bit, and hadn’t eaten the porky bit. I’d stupidly overlooked ‘pork’ on the ingredients list. So after I’d finished dinner, I went back to 7/11 and bought a chicken soboro onigiri instead, because I knew I’d be hungry if I didn’t eat something else. I also had the last of the All Bran, and the leftover bit of dorayaki from last night. And the new mochi ice cream!! There were two new flavours that I hadn’t tried- strawberry mochi skin with strawberry icecream filling, and plain mochi skin wiht vanilla ice cream and liquid berry filling (this one was called ‘Rare Berry Cheesecake.’) The strawberry one tasted like strawberry flavour (ie: fake), but the cheesecake one was so good. I’m going to stock up on these tomorrow whilst they are still 98 cents.

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