WT2010 – JAPAN – Day 5/6 – Harajuku & Roppongi

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on March 15, 2010

WT2010 – JAPAN
Day 5/6 – Harajuku & Roppongi
[On the iPOD] Initial D 4th Stage / Animal Collective

Well I really had to dig deep to go out Saturday night, after spending allday inside being sick and JUST managing to keep food down at 10pm I headed to Shibuya to a tiny rock club called Rock No Cocoro. I think it was ‘birthday night’ or something. Sitting there listening to Japanese people sing happy birthday in english was funny. The bar started to get a bit packed and by about 1am and once again, kids moshing without shirts to punk songs and Japanese rock.

Odd music selection. Greenday followed by Ricky Martin for example. Whack. (Yes I just said whack) But there were some good tunes in there too. The club is across the road from a band rehearsal studio, it’s a pretty rad area. Everything is so accessible here. I can’t think of one rehearsal space in Sydney remotely anywhere near anything let alone dead centre of the city surrounded by rad bars.

I then decided to somehow circa 1am muster the energy to go looking for two other clubs I knew of. One had closed permanently by the looks of it. Whilst the other looked like it was converted to a restaurant bar, at least as far as I could tell. So I decided to have an early one, home by 2am.

I felt the need to makeup for saturday so I was aiming for Harajuku in the morning. I got there about 10am, the bridge linking meiji-jingu (a huge shrine park area dedicated to Emperor Meiji) and the other side of the train station known as Harajuku is known for the cosplay scene kids showing up on weekends for photo ops. Cosplay is great though i’d never do it, the dedication these kids have to manga and anime characters is great I think. I don’t know if it was the fact the shrine area is a large tourist attraction or if the area has been bastardized by westerners purely thanks to a certain ex No Doubt singer talking about Harajuku girls has ‘hers’ thus thrusting cosplay into the mainstream but I felt very ‘Tourist’ when standing on that bridge.

It’s something I’m trying to stay away from on this trip, I cringe even having a camera around my neck because it instantly puts that label on me, but I need to document all this and lets face it. I guess I was playing tourist today. With no cosplay kids around as yet (10am) I decided to head to the shrine Meiji-jingu. It’s like 70 acres of park built by volunteers with trees donated by people all over Japan all in reverence of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. It’s quite an amazing feet. I got to the main shrine building and there happened to be a few weddings taking place. This was a huge tourist draw card. I’ve never actually witnessed a Japanese ceremony or at least the lead up to one. Quite enthralling.

I then checked out the treasure museum which holds collections of past emperors, no photos allowed though but the main building literally had paintings of every emperor side by side since 700ad to present day. It was odd staring at 1300 years of family line in the face, also interesting to note the style of the emperors was completely unaffected by foreign influence until the mid 1900’s.

Walking back I headed to the gyoen (lower park area) to hear some bands busking. Entire bands play, drum kits and powered amps and all. One group had drums/guitar/bass coming through one P.A and somehow it sounded ok. There were other musos setting up most interesting of note an older bunch of rockabilly or classic 50’s styled rock guys (think leather jackets with studs and elvis/james dean hair cuts) By this time it was like close to 1pm and I’d decided to aim for Mori Art Centre in Roppongi hills (about a 2.5km walk) followed by Suntory Museum of Art. Walking along the way via backstreets I stumble on some mind blowing stores. I’d reken girls who have never been here would absolutely lose the plot shopping in Harajuku.

I’d promised I would only spend $70 a day in Japan sticking to some form of a budget. This has gone out the window of course but more so when I saw the worlds most amazing jacket for like 14800yen ($180) after speaking to the guy and me explaining I was Australian he offered it to me for 9800 ($115) I replied KYU SEN?? 9000yen ($100) and he looked at his store attendants and said fine. How can you not buy stuff in such a place anyway.

Walking on through Omote-Sando There appeared to be some Irish-Japanese solidarity parade featuring bagpipes and large hounds dressed in clothes. The street was closed off and a huge crowds. I wasn’t sure why this was going on until I checked online, oh thats right. St Patrick’s day, apparently it started here in 1992 for the purpose of Introducing Ireland to the Japanese people.

Somehow it was like 3pm and I STILL hand’t eaten. I was looking for a sushi place, something which you’d think would be analogous to hitting water after falling out of a boat but I couldn’t for the life of me find one. I’d even skipped breakfast for it. Eventually had to google it and running through backstreets towards the closest place on the way to the Mori Art Museum I got there to find it closed! I settled for ramen and gyoza and the next available place. Still haven’t had sushi in Japan, hmm.

Mori Art Museum is in the Roppongi Hills complex in a large tower which is also an observatory. You can buy a ticket that gives you access to both. I took some photos high above the Tokyo skyline, you can pretty much see everything obviously. Odaiba bay is pretty big even from afar.

I’ve never laughed out loud or stood so long at certain pieces anywhere as I did at this Mori Art exhibition. It was modern art and design, something which I normally stray from. No photos allowed unfortunately but I’ll do my best. Upon entry theres Instructions on the wall features Nintendo DS’. Yup thats right, rather than having long-winded captions under art works which limit artists to a word limit this exhibition simply had the Artist and piece name and a Nintendo DS outline with a number. You bring along your DS and type in the number and connect to the remote system and select a piece number and you get all the info as well as Artist info. Great idea.

There was a 3metre wide white canvass which was painted with black ink, a scribbly mind-explosion style with uber high detail spanning from left to right and then I noticed something. The Artist, barefoot was on the right hand side, ink felt and ink bottle in hand. Drawing it LIVE! I’d hazzard a guess It started as a blank canvass on day one of the exhibition and he’d come in from opening to closing drawing his work from scratch with all to view. He was on the far right of the work when I was viewing it but it was utterly inspiring, there were still a few blank spots open. Who knows when he will consider the work done.

Further on to a design section. Hows this for an idea; A Jacket that turns into a tent. Yes a camping tent, it was so utterly out of nowhere I laughed when I saw the design sketches, as did others. It was layed out pegged up on faux grass and was totally functional as both a one person tent which folds and zips up to a regular looking jacket, amazing.

Other works were a seemingly inconspicuous draw that folds out a 2metre long table in mini-sections. The craftwork that went into this was mind boggling. It was like origami from wood.

Kids toy lines, animations and yet more art. It was all kind of refreshing, but just like that it was over. And it was 5:15. So much for the Suntory Art Museum. Checked out a small park right near the building and then wandered on to get invited into a small gallery featuring works by disabled artists. Usually painting with brushes in their mouths, or sometimes feet. All I can say is wow, I couldn’t paint half as well if tried using a steady hand let alone a paintbrush in my mouth. It’s amazing how much determination some people have.

Roppongi is the upmarket part of town. I’d discerned this from seeing no less than six, yes six Ferraris fly by me in an array of colours, then a Corvette Z06 and a race-spec 911 GT2 and finally an R35 GTR. Whats more the streets had gone from standard uber clean Japan to eat off the floor / inside of your house clean. Apparently its also home of the red-light district in another part and home of many a Yakuza member.

I caught a train back to Harajuku to check out what it was like on a Sunday night. No major cosplay gatherings unfortunately but most of the shops were still open at 9pm. Does this city ever sleep? Lured by the distant and faint sounds of a nasel-whaling Johnny Rotten I wandered into a (literally) underground Punk & Goth clothing store and was met with ‘no photos’ before I even got down the stairs. Weary of people ripping off their designs was this shop owner. I was just browsing having already spent too much that day but they did have some gear I’d never seen anywhere. Maybe you’d have found them in Mclaren and Westwood’s stores in the UK in the 70s, or at least I was getting that vibe. The store owner explained she’d been open for 28years and a lot of Aussies go there. Wow, didn’t I feel like a tourist.

I saw a girl carrying a bag she’d bought and I tried to ask where she’d gotten it (I’ve been looking for something similar as a gift) only to find that she spoke absolutely no english and my Japanese wasn’t working and then her boyfriend turned up and it got seriously awkward. Time to head home I think.




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