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Tokyo Times Part Two: Love at The Mori Art Gallery

Next up on my Tokyo Adventure was The Mori Art Museum in Roppongi!

The museum is having their 10th anniversary this year, and are currently holding a special show as part of the celebration.

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We were all pretty darn excited about it! And honestly I think it was one of the best art exhibits I’ve ever had the privilege of witnessing. There were works by Yayoi Kusama, Jeff Koons, Giorgio de Chirico, Araki Nobuyoshi, and countless other well-known names, as well as some lesser known ones (who had equally as compelling works). The theme of ‘love’ may seem simple at first, but really it’s incredibly complex, as there are so many stages and sides to love, and everyone experiences it differently. There’s the love of a spouse, of a friend, of family, of an object or an activity. Really you could put just about anything in this show and it could somehow be justified! But the way they curated it was incredible! It was like each time you entered a new room you would walk into someone else’s love story, and were encouraged to join in with their experience. Some parts were beautiful, others sad, and some utterly hilarious. By the end my emotions were so conflicted I didn’t know how to feel, and I walked out in a kind of bewildered daze.
Now that to me is the sign of a good art show! (I even bought the catalogue as a memento)

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One of the most memorable works for me (among many!) was a work by Sophie Calle from 2007, titled Take Care of Yourself. (Sorry, no images as it really has to be witnessed in person) In this instance the work had a whole room dedicated to it, in which text, photographs, and videos were scattered across the walls at different sizes and heights, encouraging the viewer to take in the entire space. When you first walk into this room, you’re supposed to pick up a sheet from a stack of paper to the right of the entrance, and read it. It is a breakup letter. You soon learn that each image, video and piece of writing displayed in the room is culmination of the reactions of different women to this same letter. Sophie Calle, upon receiving this letter from a previous lover, did not know how to interpret or process it, and so sent it to hundreds of women around the world, asking them to do it for her.
It is such a simple idea, but so incredibly interesting to view. Some people responded with anger and others with humour – some with sadness and others with laughter. Then hearing the reactions of people around you while they read the letter themselves adds further to the atmosphere and complexity of the work. Brilliant stuff! If you’re in Tokyo between now and September 1st you should definitely check it out!

Lucky for us, there were even areas where you could take photographs!

YAYOI KUSAMA TIME!!!

_DSC012643_DSC013947_DSC013045_DSC013646I’m sorry guys, I just had to do a selfie and a group shot! I couldn’t resist the mirrors! SO MANY MIRRORS!! From left to right is Casey (me), Rebecca, Emma, Wing, and Reina.

Actually Emma (who has a pretty sweet little blog here) managed to get two free tickets to this exhibit because her sculpture sensei had a work in the show! None of us could believe it! Her name is Nishiyama Minako, and her installation work is in the second room of the exhibit.
Here’s a picture of it:

 

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(Image from here)

Titled The PINKU House, the work is a kind of life-size fold-out doll-house, made of plastic material (similar to that of a children’s jumping castle). Although the work is very kawaii (cute), innocent and childlike at first glance, there is a slight sense of suggested eroticism in work. The bed is positioned in the centre of the scene, protruding out towards the viewer, almost as an invitation. The red hearts and roses are also common symbols of romance and sex, and of course the artificial nature of the plastic fabric gives the sense of a cheap hotel room, or more specifically a Japanese love hotel, where people rent a room for a few hours to fulfil their sexual desires until their time is up, at which point the room is cleaned and prepared for the next couple.
When I saw this work it was installed in a black room with lights that made the house appear as if it was glowing slightly. This gave it an eerie quality, and amplified the slightly disturbing nature of the work. It was very successful I think!
Hopefully Emma will introduce me to her sometime soon. I very much enjoyed this work! The image above simply doesn’t do it justice.

Anyways, I’d best move on.
Here are some more photographs of the show (from the rooms we were allowed to photograph in)

Tsumura Kosuke: Final Home and Final Home: See Through

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One of the really interesting things about this show is that it not only included beautiful artworks, but also included photographs, films, and characters seen in Japanese pop-culture, raising them to the status of the other artworks in the show. I absolutely loved this! So often people turn their noses up at manga drawings, fashion photographs, or clothing designs and co-ordinates, dismissing them as worthless repetitive commercial items, but this so often is not the case. So much creativity, imagination and skill goes in to making a good manga or an amazing outfit, and I for one believe it should be given the greater respect it deserves. And this show did it for me. Right next to Yayoi Kusama’s work was a wall of Japanese street-snap photos from Fruits Magazine, and at the end was a room playing a video of a Hatsune Miku concert, with dozens of small screens scattered in front of you with different Hatsune illustrations. This was the point where I nearly cried. It was unlike any show I’d ever seen before, and I am so happy I get to go again with my sister in July.

After the show, we went to the observatory to check out the view of Tokyo!

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_DSC017557Emma and Reina lookin’ lovely on the 52nd floor!

By this time we were all STARVING as none of us had had breakfast! So lucky for us there was a Hatsune Miku themed cafe/restaurant set up just for the exhibition! AWESOME!!!

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_DSC019563 _DSC019964_DSC020566_DSC020065_DSC018860 _DSC019362There was also this wall in the cafe covered in stickers! Most people wrote love messages or drew their own little Hatsune’s. We were given some stickers too! But by the time we finished eating we’d forgotten all about it. Oops.
Anyways, for those of you wanting a review, in short the food here wasn’t special. It was kinda like the usual packet curry you get at a cheap restaurant, only decorated cutely. But like the moomin cafe the drinks were delicious! I got some-kind of lemon-lime cocktail with the zest cut out in the shape of stars. Very cute.

After this we went on to Shinjuku for some shoooopping!! Next up with be my final Tokyo post, and boy is it gonna be a big one! For those interested in Japanese street fashion, definitely stay tuned!

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Tokyo Times Part One: Tokyo Sky Tree and The Moomin Cafe

I know I’m skipping ahead with this post, but I just spent the most amazing 5 days and 4 nights in Tokyo over the weekend and I simply must post about it before my memory fades! It was like living in the dreams of my 14-year-old-self – shopping in Harajuku, meeting famous faces, getting street snapped, going to themed cafes, and seeing one of the most incredible art exhibitions I’ve ever had the privileged of witnessing.
In fact, it was such an intense few days I think I may have to split it into three posts… (sorry!)

So here’s the first one!

First of all I guess I should talk about how we got there.

Now most foreigner traveling to Japan with the intent of moving around the country normally get a JR pass for a set amount of time (usually sold in increments of 1 or 2 weeks). Depending on how often and how far you want to travel, the JR pass can save you a lot of money! But unfortunately for Emma and I, a JR pass was not an option, as they are only offered to short-stay tourists, not exchange students like us. So we had to pay the full amount for the shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo. Luckily we got a small discount from our university, but it still came to over $100 AUD. A little steep for me… Emma’s friend Wing, who had been staying in our dorms for a week, was the lucky one with a JR pass. Jealous!

_DSC000517 _DSC000316Here’s Emma and Wing on the Shinkansen! We took the Hikari, which took about 2 hours and 40 minutes to get to Tokyo from Kyoto. The Nozomi line is faster, taking only about 2 hours, but because the JR pass isn’t valid on the Nozomi trains, we decided to take the longer trip to save Wing some money. (More for shopping with! Yay!)

The train was very pleasant. Clean, bright and very spacious! I sat next to a lovely Japanese man who spoke to me through most of the trip, telling me about his family, his trips abroad, his work, and a few interesting facts about Japanese culture. I had some nicely wrapped homemade brownies in my bag at the time, so I gave him one when I got off the train, and he gave me his business card (which I can’t read. Little bit of a fail, but sweet none-the-less).

581859_10151434309648321_1650448593_nMe with ma ticket!!

After the train we met up with two of Emma’s friends, Reina and Rebecca, and the five of us went for lunch. Rebecca had to leave at 1pm, but the rest of us ventured on to our hostels for the evening! Both were located in Asakusa. Emma, Reina and Wing stayed in Khaosan Annex, and I stayed in Asakusa Smile (as there were no rooms left at their place). I don’t know about their place, but the building I stayed in was quite nice and clean, with a nice little kitchen and very bright, clean rooms. I was staying in a 4-bed female-only room, and the young ladies who stayed with me were lovely! One was from Germany, one from Japan, and the other I believe was from China (but I’m not sure). There was wifi included,  toilets on every floor, and they gave you a free drink ticket to use at their bar! Also the staff actually lived there as well, so if you needed help they were always there. And it was only 25 AUD a night!! The only downside was that there appeared to be only one shower for the whole hostel (which holds about 20 people I think), and they forgot to leave fresh sheets for two of the beds in my room. Also they had no locker facilities, so I had to leave my small suitcase in the room and carry all my valuables with me in case of theft. Luckily the girls in my room were lovely and I trusted them enough not to worry too much.

Here are the websites for the hostels we stayed at if anyone is interested.

http://asakusasmile.com/index.php

http://www.khaosan-tokyo.com/en/annex/

If you ask me, they were both a little far away for my liking, as all the things we wanted to see were in Shibuya, Shinjuku and Harajuku, which are on the other side of Tokyo and took about an hour to get to. The cost of the trains as well made it not really worth it, so I would recommend figuring out where you want to spend most of your time, and find a hostel near there, even if it means paying a little extra per night. It will save you a bunch of time! Tokyo is huge!

Anyways, enough about the hostel!
Once we settled in, we went to the Tokyo Sky Tree. There seemed to be an anniversary of some-kind so there were a bunch of special promotional items being advertised and sold.

We also found a poster of this crazy guy, who Emma felt the need to imitate in a rather… disturbing manner.

_DSC002018Oh Emma…

But our real reason for going to the Sky Tree was to check out the Moomin Cafe!!

_DSC002819Wing manages the Moomin shop in London, so she was having the time of her life in there! Photographing everything and looking at all the goodies in the gift shop. It was super-adorable so we all decided to sit down for coffee and sweets.

Look who came to join us!

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From left to right is Emma, Reina, Me (Casey), Wing, and MOOMIN!_DSC004021Little My decided to join us too!

_DSC004122Our waitress was super-lovely and kept bringing over more toys for us to play with.

_DSC004824 _DSC005025 _DSC005927 _DSC005426The foooooood!!

Now everything in this place looked absolutely amazing and adorable! But in all honesty the food wasn’t the best… It looked great but the pancakes were cold and dry, like they’d been sitting there all day, and there was barely enough syrup to cover one pancake! The fruit was sweet and delicious though (like all Japanese fruit), and the berry-flavoured coffee I had was probably one of the best coffees I’ve had in Japan so far. It was actually creamy! And not filled with that sickly sugar syrup stuff they put in everything here! I was very pleased. Also, the little baked-custards came with a complimentary mug! Just like the ones above. Each design varied slightly, with differences in the shape of the handles and the images printed on them. So lovely!

After eating we mucked around a bit with the toys and hats.

_DSC004323 _DSC006128 _DSC006229 _DSC006530On our way out, Wing mentioned to the staff that she was the manager of the London Moomin Shop, and they all got really excited and decided they wanted a photo with her! Then they gave us all a limited edition 1st-year anniversary badge each! It was so lovely!

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After that little bit of excitement we roamed around the mall attached to Sky Tree for a while. We found a Q-pot stall, the Jump store, Rilakuma shop, and many other nice little places.

_DSC007734  _DSC007031Q-pot even had gacha pon machines!! You put in 500 yen and got a special pin. You could choose to try for a special ‘Sky Tree themed’ one above, or go for the normal one below. I went for the normal one, and got a yellow heart badge with Q-pot written inside. I love it!!

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Then the Rilakkuma store and Jump shop!_DSC0088113_DSC008035By the time we finished at the mall we were absolutely exhausted… so we went got some food from the local seven eleven and went back to our hostels for the night.
But I did get a nice night-time shot of the Sky Tree before heading back to my temporary home!

_DSC009636So there you have it folks! Day one in tokyo!
It only gets more exciting from here. Next up, the Mori art Museum and observatory, the and Hatsune Miku popup cafe!

Glamorous Days

At Seika I’m enrolled in a video class that teaches the basics of Adobe Premiere and introduces us to a number of different styles of video.
Because the class was in Japanese, I had some difficulty these past two weeks trying to understand what our latest projects were . We could choose between “Observe” or “Behavior and Happening,” which I gathered to mean either doing a documentary, or a kind of performance piece and filming it.
I chose to do a kind of documentary of a weekend out in Osaka with my two new friends Emma and Wing. We’re all pretty into Japanese fashion, so we made it into a kind of “Lolita’s exploring Osaka” thing (even though we weren’t wearing that much extravagant clothing. Oops.) But we did eat limited edition Innocent World pies from an adorable shop and shopped until our feet were ready to fall off!
Here is the product. Please enjoy:

Here is the website for the Cafe and the info page about the Innocent World collaboration:

http://gourmet.walkerplus.com/169079056001/

http://innocent-w.jp/15th/info_e.html
If you’re in Osaka at the moment, I would really recommend this place. The cakes were amazing and the strawberry tea was even better! Not to mention the decor! THE DECOR!

A very strange cafe and an even stranger restaurant…

Japan is known for it’s weird and whacky themed cafes and restaurants, so it was only natural that I go to at least a few during my stay here! I’ve only been here two weeks and already I’ve been to a Neko (cat) Cafe and the Ninja Kyoto restaurant. As these places tend to be tourist hot-spots, I assumed they would be severely overpriced and likely of bad quality… But I thought I’d give them a shot anyway…

And oh boy am I’m glad I did! The neko cafe was warm, clean and inviting – 800 yen to sit with the cats for one hour, and 200 yen per beverage (and apparently you can find even cheaper places than the one I went to!) The only real downside was that the cats weren’t particularly playful… and instead of stroking them or scratching them we were advised to hit them on the backside, and not softly… which was possibly a little too strange for some of us neko-cafe-newbies to handle. But on the plus side, I got some pretty adorable photos!

NekoCafe_20130407_00011NekoCafe_20130407_007335NekoCafe_20130407_005526 NekoCafe_20130407_005425NekoCafe_20130407_00156NekoCafe_20130407_002111NekoCafe_20130407_006732NekoCafe_20130407_007837NekoCafe_20130407_007636NekoCafe_20130407_00145 NekoCafe_20130407_003016 NekoCafe_20130407_00134 NekoCafe_20130407_00092
Oh, and at the end of our stay they handed out little business cards to us that were PERSONALISED TO EACH OF THE CATS. That way if you had a favourite you could remember it for next time. Genious!

Here are a few pointers for visiting a neko cafe such as this:
1. Take off your shoes before entering. Normally they supply you with a locker to put your other possessions in so don’t worry – your goods are safe! Just don’t let one of the cats swallow the key…
2. Wash your hands at the supplied basin before entering, and then again after exiting.
3. Do not wake sleeping cats or pick up the cats! If they don’t want to be patted don’t force them too much. You just need to relax and enjoy their company.
4. Do not speak too loudly in the cafe! It will depend on where you go, but if it is a quiet room please try to maintain the peace. Many people come to these places to relax, so it’s nice to be as respectful as possible.
5. Feel free to take photos if the place allows it, but do not use flash. And be aware that chunky cameras can look rather intimidating to the cats, so don’t overdo it or they may avoid you.

Ok, that’s all for the neko cafe! Now onto the Ninja Restaurant!

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I had been to this place once before on a school trip to Kyoto a couple of years back, and I always had fond memories of it. Some friends and I at the time simply stumbled upon it one night, and we were lucky enough to get a table!
First thing to know is that there’s three dining options here. There’s the buffet to the left, the a la carte restaurant in the middle, and from what I could gather a shabu shabu dining area to the right (with black ninja crepes!!). The main attraction here I believe is the a la carte option, which we went with. The names were just too crazy to resist! And the staff were just too adorable in their ninja outfits!

Out the front of the restaurant:

Around Kyoto_20130415_00081Around Kyoto_20130415_00166 Around Kyoto_20130415_00123

The food: (Seriously you’ve got to read the menu!)

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Us and the staff:

Ninja Pose! (me above and emma below)Around Kyoto_20130415_00199 Around Kyoto_20130415_00188 Our super-cool ninja magician (kids would love it here!)

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Something that must be said about this place is how amazing the staff are. Sometimes their English isn’t the best, but they always apologize and try their hardest to give you an enjoyable experience. The lady in the image above even ran half way down the street after we left the store just to show us this scroll. I just wanted to give her a hug it was so adorable! And actually the food was very affordable considering how much service you get, and it was darn tasty too! I’m not sure how I feel about mayonnaise on pizza though… but it was certainly an interesting experience and definitely one you should try for yourself! I think all up we got an alcoholic beverage each, shared an entree, had a main each and then a dessert each and it only cost 3500 yen each. (In Australia you pay that kind of price for a main and a drink!) Although we didn’t do it this time, I would recommend doing a course menu, in which you get a sample of many of the dishes on offer (minimum 2 ppl). It seems to be very good value for money, especially if you’re catering for a group. (This place would be amazing for birthday parties! Lots of privacy with you own booths too.)
I will definitely be going back before my exchange is over.