Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tokyo 2013 Trip Highlights: Day 7 Part 1 - Modern Art Day, Japan Media Arts Festival, Roppongi Hills, Mori Museum, National Art Center 
Well, it has been a whirlwind tour of Tokyo this last week.  Today is our last full day in Tokyo and it was time for some modern art and architecture.  Today wasn't fast paced, but we managed to make it last until the shops started to close that night.  This post will be in two parts as there is a fair bit of material.
Mori Tower, Roppongi Hills, from the north.
The Big Spider near the front entrance to the Mori Tower
More spider.  It is a popular meeting spot.
Breakfast started at a Starbucks in the lower levels of the Mori Tower of all things this morning (they don't carry breakfast items like they do in North America, but is there a nice selection of cakes).  We couldn't find a particularly good place for a sit down breakfast on the way to Roppongi Hills (part of the mall there was being renovated too).  The first place we tried was the Anderson Bakery in Ikebukuro Station but it was packed when we got there and we gambled wrong that we would easily find something on the way to Roppongi.  Eating outside was also out of the question as it was cold and windy.  Still, after some coffee and cake we were ready to head up the famous Mori Tower for the view from the City View level and visit the Mori Museum.  I really like the Roppongi Hills megaplex for its futuristic design and looked forward to seeing it again.  I previously blogged about Roppongi Hills here.

Skytree from Mori Tower
Tokyo Tower from Mori Tower City View.
Tokyo Tower closeup.
Years before I visited the City View which is on the 53rd floor of the Mori Tower along with the Mori Art Museum is also on this floor.  The views of the city from this level are always really good, but the art exhibits that were on both times I was here were outstanding.  I saw Ai WeiWei's exhibit last time with many monumental sculptures and this time it was the art of Aida Makoto.

Aida's exhibit was titled "Monument For Nothing" and covered a broad spectrum of his work.  His distinctive style embodies war themes, the use of pretty young girls and even businessmen in strange compositions that are surreal critiques of society.  His painting style is wonderful and many of the images were both fantastic and disturbing.  For example he likes to use pretty young girls to make statements and had a massive painting that envisioned a first person shooter where the girls were hit and exploded into flowery shards and such.   Another had mountains made out of dead businessmen that went off into the distance - the cost of building modern society and conformity.  He was also working on a massive cardboard sculpture there too and it would look pretty impressive when it is done.  It was a fun couple of hours there with plenty of visual stimulation and I can understand why some of his work is controversial after seeing it.
Onigiri Man, his version of the thinker. Achieving zen while performing an essential biological function.
After the museum we explored around Roppongi Hills for a bit and visited another interesting anime exhibit about Doreamon at the HQ for Asahi TV there.  Inside was a Doreamon Cafe and some Kamen Rider costumes on display.  All of this was to celebrate 55 years of Asahi TV and it seems like everywhere you turn there is a bit of anime or manga.
TV Asahi 55 Years - of course there is a gift shop!
Doraemon Secret Gadget Cafe and his magic door.
Kamen Rider Costumes
After exploring around the building I thought we were heading north towards the National Art Centre, but I was actually turned around and heading south.  I was a little disoriented after wandering in and out of these big buildings.  Still we wandered just a short distance out of our way over an overpass and found a wonderful little bakery cafe that had these really tasty looking breads and other baked goods.
The Cafe / Bakery
Baked Goods
Yummy Buns and Bread.
They were actually full inside (something very typical on this trip actually) and we decided to sit outside where we could just eat immediately.  We grabbed a few drinks, picked some baked goods (which they heated up for us!) and sat down under a heat lamp outside.  The food was really good and after a break we continued on to see this really cool robot themed playground just south of Roppongi Hills.
Roppongi Robot
The playground is very colourful, but the Robot Totem Pole there is the coolest thing.  The playground is built on a hillside and there are a pile of slides and one really long slide made out of rollers (you roll down the hill like a package at a mail processing plant).  This was when I realized we were really heading in the wrong direction and we backtracked to Roppongi Dori, the big road, that runs on the north side of Roppongi Hills.  Roppongi Dori is hard to miss as the humungous Metropolitan Expressway No. 3 Shibuya Route runs overhead along the road.

View Shibuya Shinjuku Harajuku in a larger map

Walking a little ways west down Roppongi Dori from Roppongi Hills takes you a big intersection.  Here you can find an underpass to take you across to the north side and then make your way to the National Art Center.
National Art Center
National Art Center - the disc out front is an giant umbrella rack area.
Awesome interior space with all that wavy glass facade!  Nice place for a cafe.
Last time I was in Tokyo I never made it to the Center and ended spending more time at Tokyo Midtown that is also in the area.  This time I skipped Tokyo Midtown and really enjoyed all of the exhibits (mostly free) at the National Art Center.  Best of all I caught part of the 16th Japan Media Arts Festival  that was showing the winners in their various media categories and more.  There were exhibitions in computer graphics, games, animation, and entertainment categories.  The entire center was pretty busy and there were also these fantastic university art student exhibits going on in the second floor that were also amazing.  I didn't see much Godzilla on this trip until I met him at the Art Center.  The art exhibits I saw here remind you there is a large body of alternate and mainstream art that is part of modern Japanese culture of which anime and manga are just a sub-element (but an important one).  These talented university students produced some great art that I was very glad to have seen.
Art Student Exhibit
Art Student Exhibit
Medieval Anime Style Paintings!  Awesome.
Seven foot tall Godzilla!
After the student art exhibits we popped into the 16th Japan Media Arts Festival.  This is a long running festival that travels to different countries too and emphasizes the best of Japanese media and art of course. We didn't even realize it was on until we were in Tokyo and I'm glad I managed to catch it.
Part of the Gunslinger Girl Manga Exhibit.
Some of the highlights we saw are presented below in the form of media clips I found on Youtube. 

The Grand Prize winner for Animated short film was Combustible.  The animation looked like it was coming out of an Edo period scroll and was both action packed and beautiful.  The film is about one of the great fires that occured in the metropolis of Edo.  The film was directed by Otomo Katsuhiro who also directed Akira, Memories, and Steamboy.

There were also video presentations relating to Perfume's global debut media campaign that involved Hatsune Miku.  The Perfume "Global Site Project" won the Entertainment Division Grand Prize and announced the global debut of the techno-pop group Perfume. Over 500 web projects, choreography, and animations were done with collaborators. 

Finally, there was this really cool, but really strange Pendulum Choir that sang different notes as they were swung about. Pendulum Choir was a European act that won the Grand Prize for Music Performance in the
Art Division. The choir stands on tilting platforms made of hydraulic jacks and  make all kinds of sound based on a choreographed computer sequence.

There were many other exhibits too including one on the giant robot Kuratas and some manga grand prize winners too.
Kuratas Exhibit.  The real robot wasn't there though. So sad....
After all this art our party split in two.  I was going to visit Artnia and then return to Ikebukuro to meet them at the Nekorobi cat playground int the Tokyu Hands there.  We would then see Sunshine City and the Animate flagship store afterwards.

View Day Seven Part 2 of the travelogue here.
View the Tokyo Travelogues Master Page here.

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