I’m back in Tokyo for the weekend. DJing on the Friday at Right Right Right. About to enter its 5th year. Goodness knows how we’ve made it this far. Sleep is scarce but done in a small hotel in Hibiya, called R.E.M. The more I stay here the more I love it. The rooms are tiny but it’s far from a capsule. There are no real amenities but it’s cheap, clean and modern. I got tired of staying in flea pits on the wrong side of Shibuya quite quickly. Don’t let fancy foyers fool you.
A big plus is the Muji restaurant on the second floor of the hotel. This means I can eat alone cheaply and healthily and not have to resort to the typical gaijin (foreigner) thing of living off McDonalds and 7-11 sandwiches all weekend. I’d never dream of going to McDonalds back home. As The Dead Kennedy’s once prophesised “Give me convenience or give me death.”
Another big plus are the hotel’s other customers. R.E.M. is opposite a theatre called Takarazuka. A theatre where all roles are played by women. It does look strange. Posters with middle-aged women in tuxedos and pencil moustaches. But it’s far more serious than panto and prinicipal boys. The street outside the theatre is always jammed with women of all ages.
Likewise the hotel is packed with well dressed women. Those in town to catch the show. and actresses so stunning that I have often had to laugh out loud at the impossibility of it. Koyuki Katou is a graduate of the theatre’s school. I eat my breakfast like a pig in shit. Surrounded by beauty. A Hugh Hefner Playboy Mansion moment to start the day. I never see another man, which is probably why they always give me a room on the top floor. Up and out of harms way.
When I’m in Tokyo for the weekend I try to set myself a mission. Set my sights on somewhere I haven’t been before. To be honest, the DJing and associated bad habits can get in the way of the stuff I`m finding more enjoyable these days. Will power where art thou. I’m cool about fluffing asking for directions in Japanese, but not so cool abut doing it when I still stink of booze.
This month I checked out an exhibition at the Mori Tower. I never had the time to go to the Mori when I lived in Tokyo. Distance and school pick-ups were against me. The entrance to the gallery is on the 3rd floor, but the exhibitions are up on the 53rd floor. If I had realised I had to go all the way to the top I might have thought twice about entering. It didn’t click until I was carefully ushered into a lift. My ears popping three times between the 30th and top floors. I ain’t never been very good with rollercoasters and the like. Except in times when all seemed lost. While now maybe I’m found.
The current exhibition is called Sensing Nature. Snow storms made of feathers. Tables cast from light. Pure white oblivion oozing blood on an operating table. PET bottles mapping the Milky Way. One of the exhibits consists of a series of short films taken in the artist’s neighbourhood shown on huge screens in cavernous darkened halls. A tapir in a local zoo. A lake. An underground car park. Each film 10 minutes in length. People standing transfixed for the entire duration. I was wondering how many people would take as much time to watch a real landscape.
My favourite piece is Kuribayashi Takashi’s “Wald aus Wald”. A forest made from white paper mache, which you are invited to explore both above and below. Below, everyone scurries about, bent double, on all fours, looking for a way to find the light. The light, provided by head-sized holes through to the forest above. Poking your head above into the forest you are greeted by four or five other human “bunnies” doing the same. I couldn’t stop laughing. Trying to snap people as they popped up. A bit like that arcade game where you have to club the moles with a mallet.
When I was taking photos, I noticed that the pictures only really looked interesting when they caught both the model of nature and part of the modern world of the gallery housing it. And I think this is what the exhibition sets out to illustrate, something the Japanese call Shizen or Jinen. The co-existence of man and Earth. That everything is nature be it a snow-capped mountain or 53-storey skyscraper.
That night, before another evening of DJing, R.E.M. and dreams of beauty, I take dinner in a tree-house in the heart of Harajuku.
With Shizen, Tokyo makes a lot more sense.