18 January 2009

japan, day two

we set out the next day first for roppongi hills, tokyo's fifth avenue, of sorts.  not before snapping a picture of one of tokyo's beautiful manhole covers.

the hills were a little underwhelming --- too much like hong kong, just ultra-high-end shopping mixed with a few design objects, like the spider sculpture to the upper left.  

walking around the immediate neighborhood was much better.  all the architecture in the neighborhood was different, yet different in similar ways.  the skinny orange building in the middle was one of my favorites.

tokyo tower.  eight feet taller than the Eiffel.  take that, frogs!

my next major stop was the national art center.  excellent building, inside and out.

even better, i was allowed to take pictures of of the artwork on exhibit.  there were rooms and rooms of contemporary japanese calligraphy: large pieces of paper with usually just a few characters rendered, mostly black or dark grey with just a spot of red for the artist's signature.  they're all poems, too.  that i can't read.

a few other galleries were dedicated to more representative works.  this was one of the better ones, really great colors.

this one was easily my favorite.

after leaving the national art center, i stumbled on the 21_21 design museum, the newest art museum in japan.  they had a crazy exhibit about, essentially, experimental furniture.  the main artist's work was growing chairs and lounges from crystallized salt in giant tanks of water.  wild stuff.  another highlight was a bonsai tree frozen in a clear cube of ice.

the museum was designed by one of my favorite architects, tadao ando.  though he's a japanese architect, he has very few works in tokyo, so i was really glad that we made it here.  i wish i could have taken some pictures inside.

afterwards, we went to a nearby mall, the ritziest in tokyo, to have a look around.  after handling some famous japanese products, like this heater by one of my favorite industrial designers, naoto fukasawa, we had some noodles and made way for akihabra.

akihabra is the anime-electronics mecca of tokyo.  i got lost in a ten-story bookstore, then a ten-story electronics-goods-mega-huge-mall.  i spent three hours, easily, wandering around.  isles of nothing but mice, three different displays in the mall where one could by an ipod, just a complete overload of things.  

afterwards, a walk around the immediate neighborhood drained us of all the energy we had left, and we made way back to the hostel.

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