Sunday, 9 December 2007

版画展と原宿 Art Exhibition And Harajuku

Still suffering under too much JLPT, I headed out again the next day after the hiking for Tokyo. Having seen wonderful natural landscapes, it is time for artificial ones and for seeing humans and their works.

So I joined my dear companion Hong Lun (Singapore) to Tokyo.
Arriving in 新宿 (Shinjuku), we had a little lunch in the 小田急 (Odakyuu) basement floor, where you can find all kinds of food (but next to none vegetearian cuisine, of course...) and then continued for the 6th floor of the 小田急 shopping complex.

小田急デパート Odakyu Shopping Mall

On this floor at the rear end of the building artists can exhibit their pictures and visitors of the mall can enjoy them. While both Hong Lun and me were disgusted by the shopping mall and it's products (you know these expensive ugly cloths and stuff), the art exhibition was quite nice. There were two rooms, displaying the works of two different artists.
We mainly came for the works of Ikuo Hirayama (平山 郁夫), a still living 77 year old traditional Japanese artist, whose art reflect his deep wish for peace. The exhibition was named: 祈りの旅路 (The journey of prayer). I was lucky to have my dear friend Hong Lun to my side, since he could explain to me how the artist tried to display all the similarities between China and Japan and traveled back to the roots of both Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, which are found in India. The message of the pictures is thus very simple and still fundamentally true and important: We should not constantly look at what differences we can find between us, but should look at the similarities. Since the first leads to conflict and war and second to harmony and peace.

Hirayama-sama seems to be very fond of camels, which make a big part of his pictures. Being placed between the pictures displaying mosques, temples, cathedrals, pagoda, shrines they give the exhibition the impression of actual movement, you can see the journey by traveling on camel backs from one pictures to the other :).

In the other room we found paintings of modern Versailles (France) in an traditional European way of painting. I think it is called impressionism. The painter however was also Japanese, but he lived in Versailles for over 20 years of his live. We were lucky, because the painter himself was present and would explain his pictures and talk to us. It was quite a language experience talking to the painter in French helping out with Japanese, where my French ended.

新宿 Shinjuku

We had some more language experience, when we left the 小田急 Odakyu building for 新宿 Shinjuku. There was a guy asking for pictures of cell phone ornaments. Hong Lun, curious and courageous and I asked him for the purpose and where he was from. He was an art student from Berlin making a photo series about Japanese cell phone ornaments, which are incredibly popular here. Sometimes, he would tell us, you can find tiny cellphones with ornaments three times as large hanging from them. The language experience was, since Hong Lun is perfectly fluent in German (he is studying in Darmstadt), we could talk in German to this guy from Berlin.

autumn expression right in front of Tokyo's biggest station (Shinjuku)

We went on to explore 新宿 Shinjuku without having any specific aim. We found a vast number of young girls, all dressed in a nice fancy way, something between pop-punk and pop-goth waiting in a huge line to get signatures from their favorite boy group band, releasing their new album in some store (see impressions below).

there were many girls waiting

the boy group band, they were all standing in line for

Some had quite cool outfits

原宿 Harajuku

And on we went with the infamous 山の手 Yamanote line (the circular railway in the center of Tokyo) to 原宿 Harajuku. While Shinjuku is the center of young adult culture in Tokyo, Harajuku is the same for the youth and for young fashion. Hong Lun would relate that sellers would come from as far as Hong Kong to see the newest fashion articles and buy the newest stuff here, to resell it in Hong Kong. So it was not surprising to see many foreigners here.

As soon as we left 原宿 Harajuku station, we saw that autumn colors also invaded Tokyo. They give some interesting contrast to the all too grey concrete structures and streets. Here are some of my impressions:

impressions of Harajuku

竹下通り Takeshita Doori

The most interesting hot spot in Harajuku is the 竹下通り (Takeshita street). You can find many cool little gothic lolita stores, punk stores, record stores, hip hop stores and many other kinds of crazy shops. We went one time to end and back, looking in interesting stores. Here's some of the stuff we saw.

Gothic Lolita

A Japanese interpretation of Goth culture becoming more and more popular. The Japanese interpretation is to appear incredibly baby cute, while using known Gothic symbols and mainly black colors. For example we saw some cloths having vampire bunny bats on them. While visually pleasing, I didn't like that the store would also sell Hakenkreuze and different symbols of Nazi-Germany. So we left the store.


We saw some street sellers selling unexplainable wildly jumping little wire clowns for 1000 yen each. Hong Lun warned me, that he and Youngki (Korea) fell for such people already. And explained me that there is a trick to make them jump like this. Indeed when looking reeeeaaaally carefully, you could see tiny strings leading to a person having one hand in his trousers while insignificantly operating a cell phone. I wanted to warn the people, but Hong Lun said, he is afraid of getting beaten up, so I succumbed and we left the people to their fate of being tricked :/.


I made some pictures of a costume store, showing incredible clothing.

Hip-Hop Superheroes

In yet another store, which appeared to be a Hip Hop store, we found kapu-sweaters, which you could transform into super heroes costumes and become Venom (from Spiderman), an X-Man or a kind of power-ranger robot. In ordinary sweater mode, nobody would expect them top be costumes! While being a nice idea, I feel reluctant to pay 16.800 Yen for a sweater (100 Euro, 150 Us-Dollar).


There are some Crepe shops in the middle of 竹下通り selling some really delicious crepes for a little bit overpriced 500 ¥en. Hong Lun and I could not resist and we made a break eating crepes here :)

Punk Store

Weee I thought, finding a real punk store! It is called Tokyo Punker and looked cool at the first glance. However when I wanted to take a picture, a lady got really angry, screamed at me and made me leave the store...
However there were enough cloths outside to illustrate why I would never enter this store, except out protest, criticism or mere disgust. As you can see on the t-shirt, the Tokyo Punker, seems to like to combine punk hair and outfit with Nazi ideology... How very disgusting. I am really angry that such a shop can call itself Tokyo Punker, and that apparently many Japanese punks buy such crap. :/

the shop obviously sells both to Nazis and Punks...

Daisou 100 ¥en Store

Finally we entered the biggest 100 ¥en store in central Tokyo area. We made perciculars (small colorful pictures, where you make all kind of weird poses) and bought some stuff for a small amount of money. In contrast to 1 Dollar / 1 Euro stores, 100 ¥en stores have almost every article a super market has, from food to gardening and the quality is not as bad, as you might think.

After that the sun already started to set and we made for our long way home to Atsugi. We saw a lot of interesting things and made some nice and some bad experiences this day, it was really a round day.


Hong Lun trying on some new shoes, but they were too slippery and thus he didn't buy them


Rudie said...

Yeah actually the woman yelling at you wasn't for Tokyo Punker! That's the angry bitch that runs the stop infront of Tokyo Punker. And if you thought the swastika was an actual political statement sucks to be j00.

Vilwarin said...

Hey Rudie!

I went again to Harajuku this weekend and showed it to a friend. This time I entered the store, and the keeper was cool. I guess I mistook the angry woman last time.

But I very well know the swastika and I hate how the Nazis have perverted this symbol of peace and harmony.
However whenever you place the Swastika on a white disc on a red flag and turn it around it becomes the symbol for the WW2 cruelties. This time I even talked with the keeper about the Nazi flags he was selling, and after he got to know I am from Germany, he apologized to me and said that Tokyo Punks like ti buy them, but they don't associate racial hatred or antisemitism with it, but a simple protest against Japanese society.

I think there are better symbols for that, but still I understand that Tokyo Punks don't wear it to show their hatred against Jews or foreigners.


Anonymous said...

hey, just wanted to let you know that swastika isn't nazi paraphanelia. It's an image of Sid Vicious from the Sex Pistols. He often wore nazi garb purely for shock value, kind of a jab at the "normal" folk. So really, that's just a Sex Pistols (or Sid Vicious if you're picky) shirt.

Vilwarin said...

hey anonymous.

ok that might be so, but the shop also sold directly Nazi flags and T-shirts not corresponding to Sid Vicious. I replaced the Sid Vicious T-Shirt Photo by another one I made, I think the new picture very well illustrates that the shop simply wants to sell both to Nazis and Punks...