Dipping a To(e) into Tokyo

Tokyo is huge.  It’s exciting  and exhausting! The motherland of sushi?  The boldest of buildings?  The best of art collections?  A shopper’s paradise?  A non -shopper’s idea of hell?  A business man’s playground?  Definitely a city with an underbelly, often visible, of pimps and prostitutes and the mob. A pamperedpoodle’s place to live an overly indulgent life? For sure all of the above.

I spent a few days there investigating small areas of the city and having a fine time before meeting one of my daughters and heading back to Kyoto.

Must Be Seen to be Believed

I’d read about a book store complex that when visited, astounded me. Definitely in the category of Must Be Seen to be Believed. The Japanese seem to have the amazing ability of bringing big dream projects to life. I don’t know the history of this project, but I think  Tatsuya Books, in Daikanyama (Tokyo neighborhood) must have been some powerful and influential person’s dream.

Not to be missed is the Tsutaya Books bookstore itself, a literary enclave that features elaborate interior design. The modern complex includes a lounge, café, upscale convenience store and one of the busiest Starbucks joints. Comprised of three interconnected buildings, the bookstore has a seemingly endless offering of books, periodicals, English-language titles, DVDs, stationery, and movies. I can spend hours perusing their vintage magazines from the 60’s and 70’s on their 60-yard long “Magazine Street.” savvyTokyo.com, Nanno Betts

 

Don’t expect to spend less than half a day in this book complex. There is sooo much to investigate. Here are more examples of what caught my restless eyes!

Art works intertwine with books and books and books!

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My daughter Joined me as we joined the long lines visiting the new Basquiat exhibition at the Mori Art Museum.  Short on context, but deep on his vivid, quixotic paintings.  It’s an intense show and a lot to take in.  I did my best.  So fortunate to see it here.

Finally to round to round out the day, it was time for a cocktail.

Observing Beauty in a New Museum

 

The gray clouds thickened yesterday, giving some credence to the possibility that a monster typhoon was scheduled to hit Japan in the near future. As far as we could tell, no one in Kyoto, with the exception of ourselves, seemed overly concerned.  We vacillated between thinking we should get supplies and hunker down, to feeling like we were over reacting to the situation.  After hard boiling some eggs, and getting some bottled water, we grew restless.  I suggested we take a break from the uncertain storm watch and visit a new museum that had opened in Kyoto on Oct. 1.  It was a good decision.

The museum was unknown to our first cab driver.  He said no to our request because he couldn’t easily figure out its location.  Undeterred, we got into another cab.  We found the building  on the river bank in Arashiyama, a naturally beautiful area of Kyoto where aristocrats and nobility used as a retreat.  Now it is often overrun with tourists, but still beautiful.  The museum was an uncrowded  delight.

Continue reading “Observing Beauty in a New Museum”

HAPPINESS=Dance

DANCEworks 10th reunion, final bow Lobero Theater

Do you ever wonder what part of you has remained unchanged from childhood and what you  lost on the way to adulthood?

For me it’s been quite clear what I’ve held onto.  I began dance class at age three and there is still there is little I enjoy more than watching “good”dance or dancing myself, as it was for me at age three.

Doug Varone, Nocturne

Yesterday, I watched a run through of Doug Varone’s new work, Somewhere, created here at DANCEworks during our 2019 season.  The work is a new interpretation of the musical score from West Side Story.  I was enthralled.  Not only by the dancers, but by the smiles on a few  acquaintances who were watching  it with me.  Then I spied the look of pleasure on the face of its creator, Doug Varone. I felt even happier.

Doug Elkins dancers.

One of the most satisfying parts of the DANCEworks residencies is the joy that comes along with helping to make a choreographer’s dance dreams come true.  In our case, it means providing time and space and other support  for dance artists at the Lobero Theater as they bring their dance dreams to reality.  Often, I learn that these dreams have percolating for years, waiting to be born.

Brian Brooks, I’m Going to Explode

It’s occurred to me during this recent process of introspection, there is  nothing else for the past 21 years that could have bought me more pleasure.  That’s a strong statement, but I stand by it.

Larry Keigwin, Ballad #1

The hurdles, the anxiety, the excitement, the trust we have of each other,  and ultimately the creation of the new work, is a magnificent endeavor to be a part of.  I feel so lucky to have been a participant  for so many years.  I’ve been touched by the magic.

Mark Dendy, Rumsfeld, from Elvis Everywhere

For those reading this, who have come to enjoy and support SUMMERDANCE, I hope you’ve been touched as well.  We’ve done our best to share with you the startling diversity of modern dance, the talent that lies within its walls and the good will we share with the artists.  When great art thrives, we all thrive. I expect, if you attend the DANCEworks performances on September 6 & 7, you will leave the theatre in an elevated mood with a new appreciation for our shared humanity.

A THANK YOU to everyone who has helped make this residency possible!

Adam Barruch, The Worst Pies in London from Sweeney Todd

For right now, buy your tickets to come see Doug Varone’s dance at the Lobero Theater, September 6 & 7.  Go to Lobero.com or call the box office (805) 9630761, for tickets.

photos of our DANCEworks choreographers by David Bazemore.

Ceramic Pleasures

If you’ve visited my home, you know I have a “thing” for ceramics.  Particularly Japanese ceramics. If I can add some fresh foliage or flowers to the vessel, my aesthetic needs are completely satisfied. 

This powerful attraction began on my first trip to Japan in the 1980’s.  I was in an art gallery that displayed ceramics.  It was one of those aha! moments.  I saw for the first time the power of the earth’s clay in a master’s hand.  I was hooked, astounded, excited.  This was new territory for me.

I returned home certain that I too was meant to be a ceramacist.  How else to explain my strong reaction? I took it as a sign.  Follow your bliss, if you remember that!  I quickly enrolled in a ceramics class at a neighboring community college.  I just as quickly learned that centering a blob of clay on a wheel in a class taught by a disinterested and overworked teacher was not something I had the patience for, at least under those circumstances.  End of promising but short lived ceramics career fantasy, but not the end of the love affair. Continue reading “Ceramic Pleasures”

See You Later

It can be heaven for some or bordering on hell for others.  I learned how to shop at my mother’s knee. I know what I like and easily make decisions about items, their value and appropriateness for me.  No internal struggles.  “When in doubt, count it out,”I learned from Mom as well!  It’s never led me wrong.

By the way, please touch the towels. The colors are never better, the weave never softer, anywhere!

You can always fill the need to restore vitality in the restaurants in department stores

Shopping is seemingly ingrained in the Japanese pursuit of leisure.  You see young couples, teens , new mothers, and befuddled tourists all enjoying the pursuit. Each depato houses several restaurants so in case hunger strikes, that can be  easily satisfied without leaving the building.

show stoppers!

My pulse rate quickens when I walk into a sophisticated Japanese depato (department store). Welcome to fantasy land for anyone who likes to shop. This world exists to coddle, support and take away barriers that might make it difficult to separate you from your money.  The best in the business create displays guaranteed to make you stop, gaze and consider.

 

Salespeople here have learned how to hover discretely; there to help when needed, but almost never intrusive.  That’s a skill not see in the West too often.

I can be expected to make a pilgrimage to a favorite depato soon after arriving in Japan.  It just comes with the territory.  I must see what the treasures of the day await in the Exhibition Hall.  Often,  I discover a wonderful ceramic artist. I seek out special displays of Japanese made objects, often finding the artisans themselves at work in the store.

charming and clever window display.

Here, form=function and materials shine. Seasonal displays are always varied,fun and engaging. I must browse through the basement food floor, hungry or not, just to gaze at the art of the possible. Presentation of food is always taken to a new level of beautiful (if unnecessary) packaging and gastronomic allure.

Time and cares have a way of disappearing on these outings.  It’s escapism at its finest for those of us who appreciate such things.  For American spouses, not so much.

Depato shopping for me is usually best for me as a solitary pursuit, prefaced by an airy and indeterminate “See you later!”