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Marunouchi Brick Square with British architecture, Spanish chocolate, American pizza, Swiss-French art. / 23 September 2014


The British architect Josiah Condor designed the 1894 western-style building that houses Mitsubishi Ichigokan on two sides of Marunouchi Brick Square. I've admired the red brick and cast concrete structure from the outside and decided it was time to find out what this Tokyo museum had to offer.
The current exhibition: 'Fire under the ice' by Felix Vallotton was either going to be ok or dreadful. Famous for his capacity to produce the great and the awful, the Swiss Vallotton has reportedly just one work in public ownership in the uk

The building itself was fascinating inside, if a little confusing. Vallotton's black and white woodcuts displayed well in one 'dining room red' painted gallery, but reacted badly with a back and white chequered floor in another. His horrendous oil-painted nudes in shades of beige rooms looked even worse. His dislike and mistrust of women shouted from the walls.
I wondered how anyone could imagine there was any fire under his obvious ice. I felt very cold and deeply sad making my way away from this disappointment.

The museum has a permanent Toulouse Lautrec collection and some wonderful original prints, by artists like Aubrey Beardsley, for sale in its shop. It's quite big with lots of gallery spaces on several floors, but most of them, apart from a small exhibition of monochrome Chinese porcelain, were devoted to Vallotton.

I'd had lunch in Marunouchi's Californian Italian restaurant A16 and the strange experience of a Japanese interpretation of an American Italian pizza. I sat opposite the Henry Moore seated woman, and close to a work by Cuban sculptor Agustin Cardenas.
The restaurant has had good reviews from American visitors, but after a large, chewy and dry bread disk lightly pasted with a hint of processed tomato, a few parings of garlic, a light sprinkle of chopped olives and some hot chilli oil, I'm not convinced.
And I still don't think Japanese chefs understand the nuances of olive oil.

After Vallotton I headed to Sampaka for a Spanish peppered hot chocolate to warm me through. It was rich and satisfying and did a lot to cheer me up.



Will Japan loose its mystery in
a universal, multi-cultural
equality, or will this capital-
driven ecology peter out
before it overflows Tokyo
completely? The tourist rules. Hai
for just as long as the oil lasts;
or we invent some other way
of driving the market onwards and
outwards. Some other measure of
success, before nature takes revenge.
Or blows humanity mindlessly
out of the water, the star spangled
galaxy, that might just be unique.