Category — Go and See
There are roughly 850 sento, or public baths, still operating in Tokyo. Of these, about 200 are decorated with penki-e, large murals that are painted on the interior. It’s common for them to be repainted 2-3 times a year with most featuring Mt. Fuji in various forms. The art form has its origins in a type of low-brow advertising. Vendors would pay for advertisements to be painted on the walls of sento where town folk often went to rest their weary muscles.
3-12-14 Yokogawa, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 3:30pm – 12 midnight
450 yen per person
5-14-7 Minamiyukigaya, Ota-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 4:00pm – 11:30pm
Closed 5th, 15th and 25th of each month
400 yen per person
If you want to truly indulge, head out to Yamanashi prefecture where hotels offer some of the most stunning private baths and views you’ll ever find. But be warned, private baths with views of Mt. Fuji are highly sought after and rates start at around $300 per night (per person).
This is part of a series of posts on Mt. Fuji. The entire series can be found HERE.
May 23, 2013 1 Comment
Just like there are many categories of photographers – nature, portrait, street – so too exist a microcosm of Mt. Fuji photographers, each who have carved out a niche for themselves after what is presumably many years of photographic study directed at Fuji. The subcategories are as diverse as its subject matter: a mountain, yes. But so much more than just a mountain. Here are some of them:
Koichi Shimano | Mt. Fuji with clouds
Mt. Fuji with clouds is known, amongst a select few, as Kumofuji (雲富士). “Mt. Fuji remains the same yet the clouds and light are continuously changing,” says Koichi Shimano. “Every time I look at it I see something new, which is why I continue to photograph Kumofuji.
Mt. Fuji from afar
Close-ups are always nice. But there is a distinct group of photographers who find pure joy in the challenge of photographing Mt. Fuji from far, far away. Here are some of the farthest possible locations to shoot Mt. Fuji.
Mt. Fuji from the city
For those who love city life (and see no reason to leave), photographing Mt. Fuji behind a landscape of office buildings and high-rises is just the thing.
Photo taken from St. Luke’s Garden Tower in Tokyo | via
Photo taken from Tokyo high-rise apartment building | via
Mt. Fuji Framed
Everything looks better in a frame. Or at least that’s what “tunnel Fuji” photographers will tell you. This select breed enjoys seeing Mt. Fuji through tunnels, sculptures, gates and other man-made objects. The thrill is not so much rooted in the mountain itself, but in a physical location irreplicable anywhere else.
Fujimieki | the fine art of Fuji-spotting
Combine trainspotting with a love for Mt. Fuji and you’ve got Fujimieki, or train stations where you can see Mt. Fuji. The term also applies to spotting Mt. Fuji from trains. Did you know that there are 678 train stations where you can see Mt. Fuji from? It’s true. In fact, there is a website (JP) dedicated to archiving photos and their trains stations.
This is part of a series of posts on Mt. Fuji. The entire series can be found HERE.
May 21, 2013 No Comments
Mt. Fuji seen from above | photo by Flickr user Toshi_KMR
Surrounded by blue sky, topped with white snow and standing at 3776 meters, Mt. Fuji is perhaps the single most revered national landmark of Japan. Over 300K people climb Japan’s highest peak each year. I did it with my Mom many years ago and will adhere to the oft-quoted saying – a wise man climbs Mount Fuji once in his life; only a fool climbs it twice.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t continue to look. The many faces of Mt. Fuji have not only inspired climbers, but photographers, painters, sculptors and musicians. There are even Mt. Fuji otaku who hastily snap their cameras at the sight of the mountain out of train windows.
And now the United Nations cultural organization UNESCO is set to approve Mt. Fuji as a World Heritage site when it meets in June. To commemorate this official global recognition, we’re running a week-long series of posts JUST on Mt. Fuji! Here are a few Mt. Fuji basics to get us in the mood.
Q: Can I make a day trip out of climbing Mt. Fuji?
A: Absolutely. There are several different routes with varying difficulties/lengths but each should get you to the top and back in a single day. The shortest Fujinomiya Route will get you from station 5 to the summit in roughly 5 hours. But beware – during peak season this is also the most crowded route.
Q: When can I make the climb
A: Any day of the year you wish. However, official climbing season is July and August. This means that weather will be more favorable but congestion will not.
Q: What do I need to bring?
A: There can be dramatic swings in temperature so be sure to dress in layers. A waterproof windbreaker on top is also a good idea. If you’re going to be climbing in the dark to see the sunrise you’ll want a head lamp so you can keep both hands free. Hat, backpack, gloves and shoes that offer plenty of support are also a given. Most supplies like water will be available as you climb but be prepared to pay a hefty premium.
Q: So what’s the deal with the huts?
A: Huts along the way (mostly between station 5 -8) provide meals and lodging for those looking to stay overnight and then continue to the summit early in the morning for the sunrise. Some huts take walk-ins but to play it safe you’ll want to make a reservation. Rates are between 7000 – 9000 yen and include meals. Here is a list of huts and their phone numbers.
- Distance: 14km
- Time: 6 hours going up, 3 hours coming down
- Perhaps the least crowded route and the only route to take you through the forested areas of Mt. Fuji.
- Distance: 15.1km
- Time: 5.5 hours going up, 3 hours coming down
- The most popular of routes. A large parking lot accommodates tour buses and people arriving by car.
- Distance: 10km
- Time: 5 hours going up, 2.5 hours coming down
- If you’re not planning on spending the night, this is the route for you. It’s the fastest route but you also take the same path down (most route have alternate descending routes) so you may have to play a little dodge ball.
- Distance: 19.5km
- Time: 7.5 hours going up, 3 hours coming down
- The most difficult and time-consuming of all routes. It requires more planning as there are no huts or supply stores for a large part of the hike.
This is a series of posts on Mt. Fuji. All posts can be found HERE
May 20, 2013 Comments Off
Multidisciplinary designer Makoto Koizumi’s portfolio ranges from the very small (chopstick rests and tea kettles) to the very large (residential architecture projects and interior design). And ever since he established his own studio in 1990 he’s approached each project with the same emphasis on tradition and craft. In 2003 he opened his first shop in Kunitachi – a western suburb of Tokyo. But while walking through his neighborhood Koizumi discovered an old shoe shop that had closed down. Having outgrown his current location – just 45 seconds away – he decided to renovate it and move in.
Fast-forward to April 2013, the new Makoto Koizumi shop opened for business and is selling tableware, utensils and other small necessities. His older space is now a dedicated showroom for larger pieces of furniture. Reiko Imamura and AxisMagazine recently visited his shop and put together a wonderful report (JP).
Koizumi Dougu ten
2-2-31 Fujimidai, Kunitachi shi, Tokyo (Gmap)
Hours：3:00pm – 6:00pm
May 16, 2013 Comments Off
Collaborating with reMADE, the show will feature (mostly) local designers who are challenging the typical classifications of handmade, which has taken on a much broader, economically competitive definition.
te (手) is the Japanese word for hand. te + te is about the hand of the artist but it also implies the exchange of goods from hand to hand. There are some amazing artists and designers participating: Noriko Kuresumi, Wasara, Takeshi Miyakawa, Nao Matsumoto, Kenzo Minami and Kaori Sohma.
Yes, we’re pulling out the big guns. I’ll be at the reception so hope to see you there!
May 13, 2013 1 Comment
200 Artworks, 12 islands and 108 days. The 2013 Setouchi Triennale kicked off on March 20th and will run all the way through November 4, 2013. This time the festival is divided into 3 seasons – Spring, Summer and Fall, with artworks rotating on and off during different seasons. It’s the perfect getaway and a great way to experience both the great outdoors and an outdoor museum with a diverse display of environmental and site-specific work.
“The power to attract people to all of the individualistic islands lies with the art and architecture that has developed there,” says the organizers. “These aspects are an art form whose purpose lies in getting people involved with nature, amid the beautiful natural setting that is inherent to the Setouchi area.”
If you do go, be sure to download the new and improved app courtesy of Kenya Hara (who also designed the posters and overall look). It will help you navigate where different artworks are located and how to get to them.
Here are some of the highlights that I would like to see if I went. You can also check out some of the old articles we’ve written on the Setouchi art movement.
Particles in the Air by Noe Aoki
Rust-covered shafts of Corten (weathering) steel straddle a water tank embedded in the ground. Circular hoops hover in the air above like dancing particles.
Tom Na H-iu by Mariko Mori
This contemporary monument is a symbol of life and death. The sculpture, which is connected to the Kamioka Observatory by computer, glows each time a supernova explosion is recorded, signaling the death of a star.
Distant Memory by Chiharu Shiota
For the first Setouchi Triennale iｎ 2010, the artist gathered wooden fittings from various islands to build a tunnel. Three years later, weathering of the structure dictates that 2013 will be the last year the current work will be open to the public.
Equipoise by Harumi Yukutake
More than ten thousand hand-worked mirror plates are suspended from the ceiling of a renovated storehouse. Light reflected in the mirror fragments shimmers with each passing breeze, enveloping the viewer in a vision of light.
The Light of Shodoshima by Wang Wen Chih
A giant dome constructed of 5,000 island-grown bamboo lies at the foot of a slope of terraced fields. The impressive structure alters the landscape. Visitors can enjoy wandering around the building and, at night, can see it lit up by LEDs.
Tsugi-Tsugi-Kintsugi by Masayuki Kishimoto
Ceramic dishes and vessels collected from the islanders are joined together by kintsugi, a Japanese pottery restoration technique.
Liminal Air -core- by Shinji Ohmaki
Two colorful 8-meter pillars stand at Takamatsu Port. Parts of the pillars mirror the scenery so that the appearance of the sculpture alters depending on the time of day and where the viewer stands.
Unsinkable Ship by Ryo Toyofuku
A three-dimensional work using fishing tackle and household items to create an undersea world with schools of fish. The highlight is the 50,000 floats made during workshops with the islanders as well as with children and adults from Kanonji city.
April 2, 2013 Comments Off
Did you know there’s a book shop in Tokyo that periodically replaces their entire stock of books? I guess it could be frustrating if you were looking for a book you found once and neglected to pick up. But I like how it mimics the ever-changing landscape that is Tokyo – one day a barber shop, the next day vintage clothes, another day a café.
But there is a method to their madness. Each installment features a curated selection of books based on publisher. They opened in November 2011 with a pure selection of books from German publisher Walter Koenig. And they’re just about to debut their 8th rotation (which would mean a clean sweep every 2 months), featuring books from publishers MACK, LIBRARYMAN and Pierre von Kleist Editions. They recently relocated from Yoyogi Village to LimArt (Gmap) in Ebisu. Go check it out!
January 29, 2013 Comments Off
If I could choose what dreams I had, I think I would re-up with the imagery of Tomoko Nagai every time. Filled with fun things like friendly bears, bunnies, forests and princesses, Nagai creates stage-like sequences that almost seem like scenes from fairytales, frozen in time. And yet, contrary to any kind of formal storyline, Nagai says that the elements in front of her just come together randomly. There are never any advance sketches.
Speaking about her latest show at Tomio Koyama Gallery in Singapore (Jan. 18 – Feb. 24), Nagai says that “within our every-day lives we occasionally encounter split-second dramatic moments. These happen when element like time, weather, seasons and mood all perfectly align…. What I’ve tried to do for this exhibition is capture those precious moments, embed them with my own hopes and ideals, and vacuum-seal them.”
Also on display will be plans for a new nursery school in Shichigahama (Miyagi prefecture), which was damaged by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The school is being fully funded by the Singapore red cross and Nagai has agreed to create a large-scale mural at the bottom of their new swimming pool. The school, which was designed by architect Takashi Ippei, is on track to be completed in March 2013.
January 23, 2013 Comments Off
Summer is winding down. The locusts are fetching up new breath for one, final onslaught, humidity is on its last leg and back-to-school commercials are invading the airwaves. But you can still enjoy the great outdoors while simultaneously visiting the largest art gallery in the world. Running until September 17, the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale is just about half-way through. But that still leaves you 3 weeks to immerse yourself in one of the largest art festivals in the world, in one of the most unlikely places in the world. Known for their heavy snowfall in winter, the Echigo-Tsumari region is located in mountainous Niigata – easily accessible from Tokyo in a little over an hour by train.
Once there, you’ll traverse 200 villages across roughly 190,000 acres, all dotted with site-specific artworks created by some 220 artists from all over the world. The organizers admit, it’s an “absolutely inefficient approach deliberately at odds with the rationalization and efficiency of modern society.” The intention is to interact with the beauty and richness of the land, which serves as a canvas for art.
Below are some of our favorite picks – a small cross-section of what you will see if you make the pilgrimage. Unless otherwise noted, all images are courtesy Echigo-Tsumari Art Field.
(Note: some works were created for previous triennials and remain standing)
Nakasato Village Juji Project (2003) by Ryo Yamada
Architect Ryo Yamada installed a foundation of colored wooden decks that interact with its surrounding nature. During summer, flowers and weeds grow through the boards while, in autumn, they transform into a canvas for fallen leaves.
Kamaboko Storehouse Project (2003) by Tsuyoshi Ozawa
Artist and “The Group 1965” member Tsuyoshi Ozawa created a series of architectural sculptures inspired by Kamaboko Storehouses – an indigenous warehouse with a curved roof, designed to withstand heavy snowfall. The functional warehouses come with a fish-eye window so visitors can see what’s stored inside.
Reverse City (2009) by Pascale Marthine Tayou
Cameroon-born, Belgium-based artist Pascale Marthine Tayou created an installation of oversized pencils, hung at varying heights. Each is inscribed with the name of every country in the world. While awe-inspiring in its multiplicity, standing under it one is reminded of the menacing and destructive potential that each holds.
Forest (2000) by Jun Honma
Upside down pencils not your thing? Jun Honma created an installation of 7000 right-side up pencils, all collected from locals, in a kamaboko warehouse (remember those?). The forest of pencils works to merge with the real forest surrounding it.
image courtesy analoglife
Ikebana House (2012) by F-Nokai
The 12-member collective F-Nokai has transformed an old tea house into a large ikebana flower arrangement.
The Cosmology of Yusuke Nakahara (2012) by Tadashi Kawamata
Before his death, the art critic and triennale advisor Yusuke Nakahara donated his collection of 30,000 books. As a form of commemoration, the prominent artist and sculptor Tadashi Kawamata created an giant house-like installation using his books. An added bonus: free wifi available inside through the end of the festival.
images below courtesy boycooking
Restructure (2006) by Harumi Yukutake
Walking down a small, grassy dirt road you will come across a house, covered in thousands of small mirrors. Depending on your perspective, the house, at times, appears to melt into its surroundings. Harumi Yukutake, known for her large-scale installations in which she covers public structures with mirrors, hand-made every mirror, which gives me a new-found respect for her art. Stepping into the house is like stepping into another dimension – one where conflicting elements like truth and deception, light and shadow, still and moving, all peacefully coexist.
Golden Teahouse (2012) by Ryo Toyofuku
Nothing is more out of place than this Golden Teahouse, in which Ryo Toyofuku covered the disheveled interior with gold paint.
0121-1110=109071 (2009) by Lee Jae-Hyo
It’s hard to believe that Lee Jae-Hyo’s geometrically soothing spheres are made only from found wood. The sculptures will eventually be consumed by the vegetation surrounding it.
Tsumari in Bloom (2003) by Yayoi Kusama
Yes, even Japan’s most in vogue artist is blossoming at Echigo-Tsumari.
August 23, 2012 Comments Off
images courtesy livedoor news
Along with wind chimes, fireflies, mosquito-repellent and shaved ice, goldfish are one of the most prominent symbols of summer in Japan. A game involving paper nets and drugged-up goldfish – the objective being to scoop them into clear-plastic bags so you can watch them die – is a staple at summer festivals across the country.
However, if placed in an actual tank, rather than a plastic coffin, watching the little fishies bob up and down is admittedly soothing, and is a great way to take your mind off the sweltering heat. So instead of engaging in the cruel pastime, head to Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall where highly-stylized aquariums – the work of self-proclaimed art aquarium producer Hidetomo kimura – are sure to satisfy your fishy fancy. Oh, and did I mention the space was air-conditioned?
The show-stopper is undoubtedly the oversized goldfish bowl “Oiran,” filled with 1000 goldfish. But flanking it are other unique aquariums like the 8-meter long “Four Seasons Aquarium,” the rectangular Kaleidoscope aquarium “Kaleidorium” and the screen (byoubu) aquarium “Byoburium.” General admission is 1000 yen and the exhibition continues through September 24th.
If goldfish is your thing, I think you’ll like Riusuke Fukahori’s goldfish.
images courtesy Art Aquarium
August 21, 2012 3 Comments