Photography 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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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.

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I forgot to put on deodorant this morning- a decision I regretted for the rest of the day. It was the first day of spring here in Japan, and the weather seemed to know that it was supposed to co-operate. Just like the precision timing of its trains, Japan’s weather seems to abide to a strict, timely schedule. It wasn’t freezing when I went outside, and I was able to leave the apartment wearing only a shirt and a blazer, and still feel comfortable. Today I was signed up to volunteer at the Saiseikai Children’s home, as part of my Hands On Tokyo work. I was quite excited about it, but also a bit nervous because I didn’t really know what I was in for.

I took the subway to Azabu-juban, then had an hour to kill before I had to meet at the hospital. I wondered around the surrounding area for a while, then bought some food for an early lunch. I got a chicken and egg salad with sesame dressing, as well as a little bread from a tiny bakery. The bread was freshly made, and was pumpkin flavoured. It was very light and fluffy. I ate at a table inside the hospital foyer, where there was also a 7/11, a  coffee shop, and a giant fish tank. Then I bought a coffee with an extra shot in it, because I almost fell asleep on the subway here, and needed to keep my wits about me around the children.

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As I think I’ve explained before, the Saiseikai Children’s home is kind of attached to the Saiseikai hospital, and is a home for children who can’t live with their families because of financial issues, or neglect, or other such horrible reasons. These children live at the home 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This weekend is Hina Matsuri, a festival celebrated all over Japan. Families display special dolls on platforms, and some people have huge collections of these dolls. Therefore, the festival is also known as the ‘Doll Festival’ or ‘Girl’s Festival.’ The origins of Hina Matsuri date back to Heian times, when people believed bad spirits could be taken away by these dolls.

At Saiseikai, Hands on Tokyo was holding a little party for the children in celebration of the festival. So our job was to set up decorations in a special central room, play with the children at the party, and then pack up afterwards. First, we set up the balloon decorations that we had made on Wednesday. Then we filled some balloons with helium, and put them inside larger ballons, that we also filled with helium. Then the children were bought in.

They were all actually infants! Each volunteer was put in charge of one child, and my child’s name was Kanade. He was still a baby, maybe one year old, and was super cute. He had jet black hair that stuck up as if he’d touched a powerpoint one too many times, and he had the cutest, most perfect eyes ever, with incredibly long lashes. I wish I could share a picture of him, but we weren’t allowed to take photos, for obvious reasons.

In Japan, you add a suffix to children’s names when you refer to them. Little girls are called -chan, and little boys are -kun. So I had to call Kanade “Kanade-kun.” When we first arrived, all the babies were crying, including Kanade-kun. We had to put on special cotton aprons and cloth name-tags, then we were admitted into the baby area. Kanade-kun was wearing a little jumpsuit with built-in pants and bow tie. I think he had had his photo taken in front of the doll display.

I hoped that, being a girl, as soon as I picked up a baby it would instantly feel comfortable and happy, without a care in the world. My maternal instinct would take over and I’d have the kid smiling and laughing in no time.

Not the case.

Kanade-kun cried for about 10 minutes whilst I tried everything to make him stop. I rocked him and patted him and did all the things I’ve seen mothers doing on TV. It was a visit to the air humidity control machine that fixed him. Not because he felt more comfortable near it, but because he just wanted to look at it. For ages. That’s another thing about babies- they never blink. Ever. It’s so strange.

He also liked looking in the mirror at himself. Everyone took their designated baby into the party room for the celebration, except for myself and one other volunteer, who had to stay behind with one of the staff and look after the littlest babies. Kanade-kun was happy being carried around and held, but he got heavy really quickly! If I ever have a baby, I’m going to have to lift weights for months beforehand in order to be able to carry it for more than 20 minutes.

Before long, all the babies started crying again, because they were hungry. Kanade-kun was the last to be fed, which I don’t think he was too impressed about. He screamed for ages before I finally got a warm bottle of milk for him. Then I had to feed him, which was cute. When he was finished, he wouldn’t let go of the bottle, and fell asleep for about 30 seconds with it in his mouth, then woke up. His mouth was surprisingly strong (or maybe I was just to scared to rip the bottle off his face.)

Next I had to change him into pyjamas, which was pretty easy, except I couldn’t work out how to button up the leg bits. Luckily he didn’t need a nappy change. Then we had to put the babies to sleep, which was probably the hardest thing I did te whole day. Kanade-kun wanted to stay up late and be a rebel. He cried when I lay him down, but was instantly happy when I picked him up again and held him upright (and when I took him back over to look at the humidifier machine.) I tried a few times to make him lie down and sleep, but he wasn’t having any of that crap! I tried putting him in a special rocking chair, giving him a dummy, and patting his head, but he didn’t want to sleep. What a rebel.

Before long we had to leave, and pack up the decorations in the main room. All the older kids (by ‘older,’ I mean 1.5 – 2 year olds who could walk but not speak.) were roaming around causing trouble. Toddlers are like mini drunk people. They totter around and stumble and have really bad balance, just like someone who has had a few too many drinks. It’s quite entertaining to watch, but strange to make that connection.

Kanade-kun was still awake when I left the room to help pack up, but on the way out of the building (about 15 minutes later), I peeked through the window and he was fast asleep. We collected our bags and thanked the staff, then all went our separate ways. I walked back to Roppongi, because I wanted to go back to the Tokyo National Art Centre to see the rest of the exhibition that I didn’t have time to see yesterday. This was the collection of works by recent graduates from 5 Art Universities around Tokyo. I thought I had seen most of the pieces, but I’d actually missed a lot!

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I even got a free book containing photographs of all of the works from one of the Universities. I thought it would cost money, but the girls at the desk insisted it was free. I felt bad taking it, because it is beautifully printed and bound, on really nice paper. But everyone else was taking them without thinking, so it must have been ok.

Then I headed upstairs to the special exhibition gallery, where and collection called Artist File 2013 was being held. I’d wanted to see this yesterday, but didn’t have time and didn’t want to rush. It cost ¥1000, but it was really worth it! There were 8 artists exhibiting- 5 Japanese and 3 international artists.

I think my favourite pieces were by Hideaki Nakazawa. His works were all paintings of children’s faces, with quite blank expressions. The series, titled Face Of A Child, was spread across two rooms. There were about 25 or so pieces. I think I liked them because they looked unreal, but incredibly lifelike at the same time. Their expressions looked exactly like those of real children. And some of them had funny titles. The hair and facial features looked so so real, and the skin was painted with a special wash (I think I read it had raw egg as one of the ingredients?) to make it look translucent and almost ghost-like. I loved this series so much! There are a couple below that I found online, but of course I wasn’t allowed to take photos in the gallery.

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I also really enjoyed the photographic works of Korean artist Yeondoo Jung, whose images I’ve seen briefly before. The series on display was called Wonderland. In this series, Jung has collected children’s drawings, and tried to recreate them as photographs, being as accurate as possible. He uses teenagers as models, as they represent that in-between phase. No longer children, but not yet adults. The prints were huge, and greatly detailed. The original drawings were also on display, and it was great to compare the two mediums. Below are a few of my favourites.

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After the exhibition, I was starving, so I set out to get some dinner. I was going for some soba or ramen, but then I passed Yoshinoya, and I really couldn’t resist. I had the chicken yakitori tsukune donburi, with a ‘set’ of salad and soup. The soup had vegetables, tofu and konnyaku inside, and the salad was corn and cabbage with Japanese dressing. Then there was the huge bowl of rice, topped with chicken, nori, and spring onion. It was so delicious. I was surprised that I ate the whole lot- I must have been hungrier than I thought- again!

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I walked back to the subway, stopping at a bookstore for a quick browse along the way. It has started spitting when I entered the store, and by the time I had finished flicking through heavy books I could never afford, it had begun to properly rain. I took the subway home, and stopped at the supermarket to buy toilet paper and ice cream mochi balls. Luckily I had an umbrella! When I got home, my shoes and ankles were soaked, but the rest of me was dry. I immediately dug into the mochi ice cream. They were mini ones of the brand I love, but there were 9 in the packet. I thought I’d save money by buying the big packet, because it would last me longer.

Wrong again.

I ate six without realising what I was doing. They are just so good. So much for self control.

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What a productive day I had! I’m so tired, but I really want to share today’s pictures with you all before I curl up under my futon and sleep for 24 hours.

When I woke up today I had nothing planned, except to meet up with my Japanese sister Chihiro for dinner. Whilst I debated getting out of bed, I looked at my constantly growing list of galleries that I want to visit, and picked a few that were close to where we would have dinner. I also booked a flight home to Melbourne. For those of you wishing to join the fanfare and parade, I will be arriving home on April 11 at 4:30pm. I want streamers and confetti people!

I had planned to go to the Advertising Museum today, but when I was reading about some of the art galleries in Roppongi, I noticed a few had exhibitions that finished today. So in a split decision, I decided to spend the day in Roppongi.

I made a list of galleries to visit, and drew myself a dodgy map on the back of a Lawson’s receipt. Then off I went into the sunshine. It was actually warm today, so much so that I could walk around with my big coat unzipped!

My first stop was the Fujifilm Square gallery, which was showing the work of Japanese film photographer, Yoshio Watanabe. The series, titled The Beauty of Japan- Ise Jingu, depicted Ise shrine from different angles, in stunning black and white prints. The tones were incredible, and some of the compositions were beautiful. It was a very small exhibition, but worth seeing. Below are a few images from the internet, which don’t do the work justice.

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I also saw a group exhibition of Japenese landscape photography. These images were mounted on woodblocks, and some were absolutely massive. There was one in particular that depicted clouds and a lake that was about 3 metres long. It was mesmerising looking into it, and the sheer scale of the work was impressive. My top three artists from that collection were Matsuda Yoshio, Miyamoto Hiroshi, and Kurihara Hidenobu. Google them. (As is traditional in Japan, I have put the surnames of each artist first.)

There was also a mini museum about the history of Fuji Film and Fuji cameras, that had the biggest and most diverse collection of cameras I have ever seen. I think they had every camera ever made by Fuji. Some of the older film cameras were insanely big, and looked almost comical. I wondered how anyone could even hold them up to take a photo.

Next I headed into the Tokyo Midtown building, and wondered around inside for a while, hunting for excitement. I was’t sure which gallery to head into next, and I had seen an advertisement for an exhibition on one of the shop walls. The exhibition was called “Naturally I Expect A Lot From You,” by Hiroko Ichihara. I walked around for ages looking for the gallery that housed this exhibition, before realising that it was actually on the walls of the shopping mall! The exhibition consisted of a series of installations of giant sentences, which were applied directly onto the walls. They were huge, and very bold. I loved them! The exhibition spanned over 4 levels, and it was really interesting to watch people’s reactions to each one.

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The above images read;

1) “As long as I have you, the world is heaven.”
2) “I could tell you the truth.”
3) “Let’s start over again. The two of us.”
4) “When it happens, it happens.”

Next to number four is a picture of bread from a bakery that smelt like heaven.

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The ‘logo’ for the exhibition is the Japanese hiragana character, あ ( pronounced ‘ah,’ not ‘ahhh.’) This little guy featured heavily inside the building. The exhibition was a really hands on one, where guests were constantly invited to touch, play and investigate the artworks. Most things were interactive, and there were only a few ‘don’t touch’ signs around. Entry for one adult was ¥1000.

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Upon entry, there was an interactive projection, which allowed you to control a large あ with your body. When you moved, the あ moved too, mimicking the body’s shape. It even morphed into two あs when two people entered the designated area.

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Next was the most incredible sound and light display I have ever seen. A huge room with just a table in the centre was transformed by synchronised sound and light projections. It’s really hard to explain what happened, which is why I took a video of the place. I don’t know how to upload that, so you’ll have to wait until I work it out to see. But basically, all four walls became projection surfaces, and as  a colour or a shape or a number was being ‘sung’ about, spotlights highlighted the corresponding items on the table in the centre. For example, when the sound was singing about ‘blue,’ the walls showed giant pictures of blue things, and the blue things on the table (like the bucket and the world globe, for example) were lit up. I think the more I try to explain, the more confusing I become. I’ll get onto that video asap…

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Other interactive parts were origami and furoshiki folding and sushi making (mostly for kids, as the sushi was made out of cute wooden blocks. A little girl made me some sushi to ‘eat.’) There was also ipad sketching and coin rubbing, as well as lots of deconstruction exhibits, which showed what books or sushi or an array of other items might look if they were deconstructed and arranged in a design-ey manner.

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Above is a ‘demo’ of what packaging might look like in the future. The penguins on the packet moved around, like a little movie. They marched all over the place. Imagine that in the future! Then, for the photography buffs, there was a timelapse of the giant grass-covered あ, which changed daily as the plants grew (there’s a picture of this somewhere above.) Below is a reflection of me in the window. How very artistic and contemporary of me, ne?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was quite hungry after all my exhibition interaction, so I grabbed a quick salad and onigiri from a Family Mart across the road. As I was heading back to the park to find a place to eat, a Japanese man approached me and started talking to me. He obviously wanted to practice his English, and it’s pretty common for Japanese people to latch onto foreigners for some free English conversational practice. He asked what I was doing today, and if he could sit with me while I had lunch. He seemed genuinely nice and not creepy, so I said ok. He was actually pretty interesting, and we talked about all kind of things- mostly differences between Australia and Japan. After I’d finished lunch, he asked if I wanted to go to Mos Burger to eat more. I was full already, but said I’d go with him if he was hungry. I didn’t want to be rude, and I didn’t know how to politely decline without being direct (because of the language barrier.) So we went to Mos Burger and the man ate his burger and chips. Then I said I had to go meet my friend for dinner (even though it was only 3pm), so we walked to the station. The man had no commitments, and was really keen to talk, so I couldn’t get away easily. Then he wanted to take me to a photographic bookstore nearby. I agreed, again not wanting to be blunt or impolite. So we ended up in this bookstore that was actually awesome. So much art and photography and design! I’d been having trouble finding books on those topics until today. Whilst I was browsing, the man said he had to go to the bathroom, but he’d be right back. I almost felt like ditching him, but he was genuinely nice and I felt too guilty. So we looked in the bookstore for a while, then I said I really had to go. I wanted to go to a few more galleries before dinner, but I wanted to go myself and see the works in my own time. I knew this would be hard to explain, and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. So I said I’d walk to the next station and catch the subway from there. He insisted on walking me there, despite my multiple renditions of “oh no, its ok, I don’t want to trouble you.”

So we got to the station. Luckily, he kept walking as I pretended to go down the stairs. I was worried he’d also catch the subway, and even more worried it would be on the same line as mine, because then I’d have to go on the train. I thought about just going back to the surface, but I was paranoid he’d be waiting there to make sure I got on the train safely, so I walked around underground for a while and came up at another exit. I must have looked so dodgy, snooping around and continuously looking over my shoulder, on the lookout for a man in a beige coat. I’m pretty sure I saw him a little further up the street, but I don’t know if he saw me. Darn red coat makes me stand out.

So then I walked all the way back to the main are of Roppongi, and hunted for two small galleries that had exhibits. First I went to Taka Ishii Gallery of Photography and Film, which was closed for curation. But right across from that was Ota Fine Arts. I think the building was more impressive than the tiny exhibition. I spend a whole 3 minutes in there. I did like one piece, but I have no idea who the artist is or what the work is called, because there were no identification tags or brochures in the gallery. The work is below.

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Next door from the Ota Fine Art gallery was the Wako Works of Art gallery, which was showing Reanimation by Joan Jonas. This consisted of some abstract paintings, huge projections, and this strange but mesmerising hanging crystal sculpture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It was past 4:30 by the time I had finished looking in those small galleries, and I didn’t think I’d have time to visit the large group exhibition at the National Art Centre. But I thought it was the last day today, so I rushed over to see if I could still make it in time for the last admission.

When I got there, I found out that the exhibition I wanted to see ran until April, so I could come back another day and give myself enough time to see it properly. I did go into an incredibly large exhibition of recent graduate work from 5 art universities in Tokyo. There was some incredible works in there, and I didn’t get to see everything, so I will definitely go back and have another look when I have time. I had to do a rush job because I needed to get to Shiokanedai to meet Chihiro. I took a few snaps of some of the pieces I liked…

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChihiro was there with her American boyfriend and two Japanese friends, one who I had met before. They had a present for me! We walked along to a restaurant that was draped in tiny fairy lights, and Chihiro led us inside. It was an Italian bistro-style place, and would be the first non-Japanese meal I’d eaten since arriving in Japan. Chihiro ordered a salad for us to share and a starter, then we all ordered pasta or pizza as a main. I chose a chilli and tomato pasta, with ‘toppings’ of eggplant and spinach. The salad came first, and it was delicious. There’s something about the salad dressing in Japan that I love- I can’t find the taste anywhere else. It was a crab and avocado salad, and was so fresh.

The mains arrived soon after, and the waiter shaved parmesan cheese onto our meals. Mine was delicious. If pasta tasted like that in Australia, I would actually enjoy it. I don’t like pasta back home; I think it’s boring. But this was really good! I didn’t realize how hungry I was, because I ate the whole thing, and it was pretty big.

For dessert, we shared an apple pie and a marscapone cheesecake. It was so tasty! There was some raspberry sauce to go with it, which matched really well. And the cheesecake wasn’t too sweet and sickly, it was just perfect. Everyone was really funny, and we had a great time discussing Disney films, differences between American and Australian English, and other subjects that made everyone laugh.

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Then we all headed back to the station and caught our various modes of transport home. I opened my present on the way home from Tabata, and it was a big bag of popcorn- caramel flavour and a flavour that I think is supposed to be cheese. I ate some of the caramel on the way home and it is way too good! So moreish. When I actually got home, I felt like cereal, so I ate that as I flicked through today’s photos. It’s 1:30am now, and I thought about going to bed earlier, but the people in the apartment above me are being really loud and banging the furniture around- I think they are re-arranging the whole room. They also have really loud voices, so I know getting to sleep is going to be a pain. But I’ve got the Hina Matsuri festival at Saiseikai tomorrow, so I’ll have to sleep sometime.

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Parasites and Modern Art

I really don’t know how to ‘do garbage’ here.

There are about 6 categories that rubbish needs to be sorted into, and they are all collected on different days of the week with different times between collection days. I thought it would be easy because we have a similar system at home, but this is recycling level expert.

I put out my paper and plastics yesterday, but I had no idea what to do with the food scraps. So I cheated. When I left for the station this morning, I put my food scrap bag into another plastic bag and deposited it in the train station bin. There are only three options there, so it was easy.

It was freezing on the way to Tabata station, so I decided to test the brilliance of vending machine drinks. In Tokyo, there are at least 2 vending machines on every block, selling anything from drinks to cigarettes to raw eggs. Most of them are drink machines, that dispense both hot and cold drinks. I wanted to see just how hot one of the hot drinks could get, so I put in 100yen and pressed the button for a milk coffee in a can. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When I picked it up from the dispensing tray, it was luke-warm. Not that impressive. But then it began getting hotter and hotter in my hand! I was actually amazed! It not only warmed up my freezing fingers, but tasted ok too. A bit too sweet though- I think I drank my day’s sugar allowance in that tiny can. Next time I’ll try one of the ‘strong’ coffees, or maybe the hot milk tea (but that it probably diabetes in a cup.)

My plan for the day consisted of visiting a museum and two art galleries, as well as doing some shopping in Ikebukuro. First up was the Meguro Parasitical Museum. Yes, a museum dedicated to parasites. It claims to be the only one in the world. I got to Meguro station fine, but then I walked around for about an hour trying to find the museum. I walked past some interesting things whilst being lost, including a man collecting vending machines on the back of a truck, and a construction site in the middle of the street. At this site, there were two men controlling traffic, and every time they let a car through they bowed to the driver. I also saw a store with a whole row of premium French wines in the window, and one not-so French wine that I thought was cute (below.)

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Oh, and this store selling many things including ‘Diaper Cake.’ Needless to say, I didn’t go in and try their specialty…

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I walked all the way to the next suburb, then back to the station, before asking a guard where a river I had to cross was located. I’d gone in the total opposite direction that I was supposed to. So heading off the correct way, I trekked for another 20 minutes or so, spotting all the landmarks that I was supposed to before reaching the museum. But then I ran out of landmarks and felt I’d gone too far. Cutting it short, I’d overshot the museum, which was very trickily disguised as a regular suburban building. I was expecting it to be shaped as a giant tapeworm or something. I decided to have lunch before going in (I’d been searching for that long that it was already lunchtime.) In addition, I thought I might not feel like eating after seeing the real live parasites that I assumed would be inside the museum.

For some reason I really craved Yoshinoya, but I settled for another Japanese chain store, MOSBURGER. This is just a regular Japanese burger chain, except they also have burgers that are made with rice patties instead of bread buns. They squash the rice together and grill it, then put fillings inside. I had a kinpira (a mix of 3 kinds of vegetable) rice burger, and a salad. Nom!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith a full stomach, it was time to see some parasites in action! I was actually surprised at the size of the museum. I thought it would take me at least half an hour to see everything, but it was only a tiny place with 2 floors of information. Most of the exhibit consisted of different worms and ticks and other gross things in jars, as well as some maps and graphic images of infections and diseases. I did quite like some sketch books of the different critters, but the rest of it wasn’t that interesting. I had to resist buying my dad a t-shirt that said ‘parasite museum’ on it, with pictures of the most popular nasties.

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Then it was time to head to Ebisu to visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography. On the way back to the station, an image caught my eye, and I found myself climbing up some dodgy looking stairs to find a tiny gallery, called ‘Cosmos Gallery.’ There were two artists exhibiting black and white prints, and I had a quick look around, enjoying the over-powerful heating.

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I was just about to leave when a Japanese man came up the stairs and greeted me, asking if anyone had introduced me to the exhibition yet. I said no, and he welcomed me, telling me a little about the artists and the pieces. He asked if I was a photographer, and I said yes. He invited me to come to his showroom to see some new photographic papers he was trying to export. I really couldn’t say no, so he led me down to the next level of the building, through a door labeled ‘SHOWROOM.’

This guy was legit. The room was packed with photographic papers, portfolios, and storage boxes and shelves. He showed me a sample book of the papers, which were similar in kind to Canson paperstock. Then he showed me some portfolio books, which he imports from America, and asked if there would be a market for them in Australia. He gave me his card, and asked me to email him the details of folio-book binding places in Melbourne. He also asked for my website, as he was interested in seeing my work, and invited me to exhibit at the gallery when I next come to Japan. I’m sure he was just being nice.

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Before I left, the paper guy gave me 2 packets of paper samples, as well as an invitation to a new exhibition opening next week. I thanked him and left in a kind of daze, thinking that was odd.

Not as odd as this guy, who jogged past me as I exited the building.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI stopped at Meguro shrine for a few moments before heading towards Ebisu. Thanks to getting lost earlier, I knew that I could walk to the next gallery, instead of taking the train. I saw these cute trees on the way there…

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At the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (which I’m going to refer to as TMMoP from now on), there is currently an exhibition called PUBLIC –> DIARY (actually the arrow is meant to have a left-pointing arrow underneath it, but I don’t know how to do that symbol.)

“Finally,” I hear you say, “some photography!”

Wow. I wasn’t expecting that much from this exhibition, after the disappointment of the parasites and the Hikarie building yesterday. But this exhibition was fantastic! It ran over three levels, and included print photography, multimedia, video photography and instillation. I really enjoyed one video piece in particular, that was directed by Christian Jankowski. It was called Eye Of Dubai, and was a 47 minute documentary about Dubai. Sounds pretty normal, right? But the whole thing was created by a blind crew. So the cameraman, sound guy, and Christian (who was the host and director) were blind for the entire time. it was really really interesting. A very raw and honest take on visiting a new place. It was funny as well, as you can imagine. I couldn’t find the film online, as it was only made last year, but here is a link to a media clip about the film.

Another piece that really intrigued me were Receipt Project by Yasushi Noguchi, which was interactive, as the artist asked guests to donate receipts that they had in their bags or wallets, which would be added to the evolving piece of art. The receipts were suspended mid-air on fishing wires hung vertically. There is a really good explanation of the piece here. Below is a photograph of the installation  taken from the website. I did not take this and don’t take any credit for it.

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I was also quite moved by a video/sculpture piece by Hito Steyrl, titled The Kiss. It was a bit distressing, as it explored a real life story of a train kidnapping in Bosnia. 20 people were abducted from a train and were never seen alive again. One person, described as ‘a black man,’ has never been identified.

There were so many amazing works in the gallery, I would easily go back again. Next month there will be two new exhibitions that I want to see- the Photography APA Award 2013, and a collection of works by Mario Giacomelli.

When I was leaving the final exhibit, a foreign guy started talking to me about which pieces I liked. He had asked me earlier what I thought about the Jankowski video. He was really friendly, and we got talking about what we were doing in Japan etc. He said he was hungry, and invited me to go get some food. I said ok, I’d help him find somewhere to eat, but I wasn’t hungry so I’d probably only have a drink. His name was Paul. He was originally from Poland, but now lives in Malaysia, and was visiting a friend in Tokyo.

Paul wanted to eat sushi, so I asked someone for directions, and we found a sushi shop on the 38th level of a building. The elevator was on the outside of the building, and was made of glass, so it was a bit nerve-racking to go up. I felt like the elevator would fall off the side of the building, but the view was fantastic!

We both had green tea, and I helped Paul order a la carte nigiri. I had a salmon one because I felt bad making him eat alone. When we were done, we went back to the lift, and this is what I saw…

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Paul had to go meet a friend at Shibuya, so we got the train together. It was peak hour on the train, so it was very squishy. Paul got off at Shibuya, and I kept going to Tabata, then walked home. I stopped on the way to buy plain rice and icecream.

Dinner was mostly leftovers, as well as some bok choy and shimeji mushrooms fried in garlic (the first thing I have cooked in Japan!) I can’t believe how cheap mushrooms are here. A whole bag of shimeji was 100 yen. In Australia a tiny packet is at least 5 dollars. The best thing on the plate was the round brown thing underneath the snowpea- a sort of tofu and vegetable puff thing that soaked up a lot of liquid.

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After dinner I had the mochi-wrapped icecream again. I tried to be good and only eat one of them, but I gave in way too easily and devoured them both.

I have more photos from today, but I’m too tired to edit them now. Writing blogs takes ages! Now I have to go to bed because I need to get up early and go to Kamakura in the morning. I love how now I think that anything before 9am is early. I blame you Bali.

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