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But I Must Maintain!

I have a soft spot for art that lets the viewer interact with it, or museums that let visitors take photographs of the galleries. An exhibit that checks both of these boxes--and is full of mind-boggling optical illusions to boot!--is an experience I just couldn't pass up. So with my buddy Troy (he took all of the good photos in this post and if you want to see more of what he's up to check him out at A Troy in Tokyo!)  we hit up the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi to check out an exhibit called "Seeing and Believing" by Argentinian artist Leandro Erlich.

Believe it (haha) or not, I've seen some of Erlich's work in person before: he's responsible for the optical illusion "swimming pool" installation at the 21 Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa. The 40-odd installations at this exhibit certainly didn't disappoint.

One darkened room had five boats "floating" in what at first glance seemed to be water. Take a closer look at the…
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Oh, Hie There!

Happy 2018, everybody! It feels weird to me that I've already been in Japan for over seven months: time really does fly. I was fortunate to spend a week at home for New Year's where I did a lot of eating, sleeping, and general relaxing. But now I'm back in Japan where the weather is a lot warmer (mid-40s most days) than it is in Chicago (-15 degrees for the entire week I was there). And since Christmas is technically a full 12 days, I was still home for the holidays.

Speaking of Christmas, I had a lovely time. I went to church at Saint Alban's for the first time in several months and enjoyed singing (and harmonizing!) to hymns. Most of the Christmas music I'd been exposed to thus far had been the overly peppy songs played in-store like "Jingle Bell Rock" (gag), "Santa Baby" (more gag), "Let it Snow," and other non-denominational songs.

Then, after a delightful sushi lunch in Akasaka--

--I stopped at the nearby Hie Shrine.

The shrine is…

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...


Or at least the holidays. Tokyo really decks itself out for Christmas, beginning almost immediately after Halloween (there's no Thanksgiving interlude here, of course). The trees that line the major streets are all wrapped in lights and almost every single department store has some sort of themed Christmas light show.

Shibuya's trees have little red Hello Kitty bows.

The pathway outside Shinjuku station is somehow penguin themed?

The nearby Odakyu department store is entirely pink.

Generic lights aside, Tokyo also has its fair share of Christmas festivals.
I decide to go back to the one in Hibya Park, near the Imperial Palace, which I had stumbled upon last year. I found it last year because I had just been rejected from a job interview--I finished my last final, flew home, flew to Japan, interviewed, was rejected, and STILL had my senior thesis to finish. I found the Christmas market while wandering around the area somewhat disconsolately and it cheered me right up…


When I told my coworkers that my Friday plans included going to Boroichi, I was met with blank stares. One or two people had sort of vaguely maybe heard of it. Most people had to google it themselves, quickly whipping out their phones behind the counter while no one else was looking.

Boroichi (bless you) is a massive semi-annual flea market held every year in Setagaya on December 15-16 and again in January. It's known for its cheap prices and massive crowds--apparently over 200,000 people will come each year, crowding the narrow streets around the Setagaya and Kamimachi stations, on the hunt for a bargain. Fun fact: the word "boroboro" in Japanese is an onomatopoeia for "worn out" or "raggedy," and "ichi" is another word for market, so Boroichi (ボロ市) is a market for worn-out things. 

I met up with Troy and his mom around 10:15am and already the crowds were intense. Stalls lined both sides of the street and you really had to fight for a viewi…