Saturday, June 29, 2013

Japan 2012 - Meiji Jingu Shrine

If you are in the Harajuku area, you are actually very close to one of the top attractions in Tokyo - the Meiji Jingu Shrine. This shrine was built in 1920 and dedicated to the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. It was destroyed after the 2nd World War and rebuilt thereafter.

The Shrine is in the centre of a large park, and you will need to walk about 15 minutes from the Harajuku entrance. The entrance to the park is marked by a large torii gate made of 1,500-year-old cypress.

The architecture of the Shrine with its green-tiled roof and timber structures painted white at the ends is very elegant and beautiful.

The Shrine is also a very popular venue for wedding processions.Go on Sundays when you will have the best chance of spotting Japanese brides and grooms in their traditional costumes.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Japan 2012 - Harajuku

Harajuku - so famous it has become an adjective in itself. It is actually an area around Harajuku Station - between Shinjuku and Shibuya, two of the most popular fashion shopping destinations in Tokyo. This area is the popular gathering ground for fashion forward Japanese teenagers. They are attracted there by the cheap and trendy fashion shops that line Takeshita Dori, just opposite the train station.

Harajuku Station. Great place for people watching.

Takeshita Dori - teenage fashion paradise.

This particular shop seems to cater to girls working in the nocturnal profession.

I have seen many pictures of really outre Japanese teens and was hoping to snag some photos of them. Unfortunately when I went there on a Saturday, there were not many of them to be seen. There were some - just not as interestingly dressed as I had hoped. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Japan 2012 - L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon at Roppongi Hills

At Roppongi Hills most of the shopping areas are underground. You reach the different levels through a series of stairs and ramps facing the garden side. The plaza level is reserved mostly for F&B outlets, and here you will find lots of International restaurants and cafes, including L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon - one of the famous French chef's several outposts in Japan.

The dining area is not very big and was almost full. Since I wasn't that hungry, I settled on a couple of items from the pastry shop. I had the Quiche Lorraine and rhubarb Danish.

The al fresco area where you can enjoy your takeaway and coffee.

The pastries certainly looked good. The Quiche was the better of the two. The rhubarb Danish was not as crispy and flaky as it should have been - probably sitting on the shelf too long.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Japan 2012 - Mori Art Museum at Roppongi Hills

The Mori Art Museum is at the same level as Tokyo City View, i.e. right at the top of Mori Tower. It is quite unusual to find a museum in a highrise office tower - let alone right at the top where the view is the most premium. I guess this shows the importance that the Tower's developer placed on art.

The Mori Art Museum has no permanent collection. Instead it features a constantly revolving exhibition showcasing works from some of the foremost artists working today. While I was there the exhibition was called Arab Express - featuring cutting edge works by artists from the Middle East.

A lot of the artists work with the idea of collage - juxtaposing images from everyday life with images of wars and destruction. They express quite strongly their feeling of anguish living in a world that is often dangerous and precarious.

One of the most moving exhibit was a series of photographs of a city square. The square looks really beautiful in the photographs, but when you read the text you realize that many executions had been carried out in the square.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Japan 2012 - Roppongi Hills

I mentioned Ropponggi Hills in my earlier post on Tokyo Midtown. This is another huge urban development in Asakasa and is about 1 km from Tokyo Midtown. Opened in 2003, it is home to the 54 storey Mori Tower - one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo. The tower is designed by American firm Kohn Pederson Fox and looks quite generic aside from its top which looks to me like a Samurai helmet from some angles.

The project is elevated from street level and to reach the plaza you need to climb several flights of steps. At the main entrance to the Tower is the famous spider sculpture -  it is called Maman and was by a French sculptor Louise Bourgeois.

The shopping centre wraps around the tower - and is connected to the tower by an atrium.

There is an observation deck on the top of the tower called Tokyo City View. From here you can get some of the best views of Tokyo and the famous Tokyo Tower. Unfortunately when I was there in the evening hoping to catch the sunset, it rained cats and dogs. It only cleared up after I visited the Mori Art Museum. By then it was already quite dark, but the view of Tokyo Tower was beautiful.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Japan 2012 - 21_21 Design Sight

21_21 Design Sight is one of the main art facilities in Tokyo Midtown. It is an art gallery designed by Tadao Ando in collaboration with renown Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyaki who was known for his technology driven designs.

In some ways this was a departure for Ando from his usual rectilinear style. Instead of a flat roof, the gallery consists of 2 pavilions with triangular folded roofs with the lowest points touching the ground. The smaller pavilion houses a cafe, whereas the larger pavilion serves as the lobby to the gallery. Most of the gallery spaces are underground.

 The form is simple yet elegant - typical of Ando's work.

The entrance is totally minimalist. Blink and you will miss it.

Instead of the normal paintings and sculptures by famous artists, this gallery focuses on everyday things seen through designer lenses. When I was there the exhibition was on everyday items from the Tohoku region on the northern part of Honshu - Japan's main island. The theme of the exhibition is "Tema Hima" - Time and Effort - and hints at the key ingredients that are essential to making great products and craft. There were table ware, baskets, kitchen utensils, rubber boots, slippers, and even food items such as dried fish and prawns. It was quite an interesting insight into the art of living of the people in that region, and how they turn the mundane into works of art. Unfortunately photography was not allowed in the exhibition and you will have to make do with my descriptions.