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Able Art / 20 April 2011

Wooden statue of a warrior figure with muscled torso, held in a dramatic pose

Wooden statue ready for painting and guilding. Photo © Gini

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I miss bathing in the sun.
Here in Tokyo is no
private space and sitting out
is shaded from its
heat. White skin is prized;
whitening creams
and sun-umbrellas
already selling well.
I seek out sheltered
corners from the wind
and watch face-masked
passers-by, in polo-necks
and dark coats; tiny
dogs in jump suits
and the odd rebel
in shirt-sleeves, skin
exposed to danger.
But strangely, no-one
wearing sunglasses.

Sumida, dark and mysterious, has sparkling circles spreading over her skin; she seems confused. Waves cross-cross beneath her surface and swish along her concrete sides with sounds of a beach; gulls call to each other.

Shortly after SP leaves for work another quake rattles the building. I'm not keen on being in the metro during a quake, but I've planned to visit Ningyocho, the textile district, today so I set out for the station.

It's a beautiful sunny day and the station staff are happy to sell me a ticket, until I ask about access. Ningyocho has no elevator, I will not be able to leave the station. They look expectantly at me; I had hoped someone might have a suggestion, but that is not the Japanese way.

I say the first station that pops into my head: Ueno, and everybody is happy.

I read the road signs when I get there, but am not much wiser. I head in the opposite direction to the public park, towards Sky Tree. Still far away, here in Ueno it does actually look quite close.

From the main road I find my way into the little side streets and discover a hive of industry. Tiny places where cabinets, statues and shrines are made; minute garages where cars are serviced,     small spaces packed with tools and ladders and each one with masses of plants and flowers in all sorts of containers or nooks and crannies.

One place is actually a flower-shop, but until I am in it I couldn't tell the difference; the whole area looks residential at first glance. The Japanese don't seem to make a distinction. I find Temples too and a shrine dedicated to business prosperity and matrimonial happiness.

In the afternoon I travel to Akihabara to meet with the friend of a friend's friend. Akihabara is known as Electric City, but we are to visit an un-used school building which has been turned into artist studio space and galleries.

They advertise an exhibition, the "White Rody Project" which appears to involve A|A galleries. A/A is Able Art. I feel hopeful.

Struggling to find the few understandable words in the English version of their information, I got the impression that the exhibition opens today. It doesn't.

Identifying itself with the recent disaster, the "White Rody Project" called for international artists to make work in response to a cartoon character named White Rody. The exhibition is visible through one of the gallery's glass walls, but a notice on the door says Opening Saturday.

The whole place looks a little empty. There is no trace of any disabled artists. The exhibition will not entice me back on Saturday, but the venue itself is interesting and several other works draw my attention.

We browse the studios and galleries set out on several floors. We meet a pretentious (outside) gallery owner and a talented young Japanese artist. He talks at us. She pauses in her work and prompted by our questions, attempts to explain why she is covering a large white wall with pencil drawings of chrysanthemum heads.

The drawing gives the wall a vibrant energy, reminding me of Sumida, or flocking Starlings. It will be painted over in a week. She seems to be saying something about the edges of reality; she has some leaflets about her work and I look forward to reading the English bits.

Electric City is the home of Maid Cafes and the route to the station is lined with pretty girls in maid costumes inviting lonely computer nerds, and anyone else who wishes to experience this phenomenon, to join them for coffee and a chat.

SP phones while I am at the station and we agree to meet at Roppongi for dinner. This time it's the Japanese version of Indonesian, and very tasty. The tables are laid with spoon and fork, but we soon call for chopsticks. Asian food, particularly noodles, is so much easier to eat with chopsticks.

Keywords: art