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Art in All Forms and Media (The Museum Saga Continues)

Today was my mom's last day in Japan, and the weather gods blessed us with a day that was, for once, cool. It was the first time in days I felt I could be outside without melting into a Claire-shaped puddle and we took advantage of the change in temperature to walk quite a bit. Also I'm so sorry you guys must be so sick of reading about museums, but I can't help it...

So. Our first stop was the Sumida Hokusai Museum.

It's a small museum that exhibits works by Hokusai, particularly those that involve scenery of the Sumida area, where Hokusai live for most of his life. The building is supposed to be shaped like one of the artistic jags of lightning from this particular print of Mount Fuji, which some of you might recognize:

We were fortunate--the museum was currently exhibiting most of Hokusai's well-known "36 Views of Mount Fuji." Not only did they have the three most famous ("The Great Wave off Kanagawa," "South Wind, Clear Sky," and "Rainstorm Beneath the Summit") but they had a majority of the other 43 as well. Even though the series is called "36 Views" there are actually 46 unique prints. Go figure.

The museum also showcased the detail-oriented and time-consuming process of making prints such as these:

I'm just imagining the printer (who was separate from the artist and the carver--although we associate the finished result with Hokusai, he didn't do the carving or printmaking) going to put on the last layer of color and putting the paper down just 2mm or so off and then the whole thing is ruined...I know the point of prints and woodblocks is that you can make many of them, but that sort of error would just kill me, and I've DONE simple printing on a printing press.

From the museum we walked to Senso-ji, enjoying the cloudy weather and passing the Skytree on the way:

Here's Senso-ji:

No, wait, nevermind, HERE'S Senso-ji:

Senso-ji is Tokyo's oldest Buddhist temple and, according to Wikipedia, the font of all knowledge, the most visited spiritual site in the world. There was clearly something going on today because the entire complex was mobbed. Or maybe that's just what "most visited" feels like in real life.

Breathing in the smoke from the main brazier is supposed to be good for your health and also to heal sickness, so everyone just stands around it fanning the smoke into their faces.

The view from just inside the main hall of people tossing money into the offering box and maybe proffering a prayer or two.

As if we hadn't done enough today, before our 5:30 pm dinner reservation at kiki bistro in Harajuku (10/10 would recommend) we went to 21_21 Design Sight in Roppongi. It's a very unassuming but chic museum designed by the incomparable Japanese architect Tadao Ando. Their current exhibition was all about artists that defied scale to create massive, often temporary, exhibits. For example, they had a bunch of information about Christo and Jean-Claude's project, "The Floating Piers," on Lake Iseo in Italy.

Other weird art installations included this webbing-thing made of tape that people could enter. I just think it looks like the spider webs from Tolkien's "The Hobbit" and that there should be some too-large and deadly spider lurking somewhere in there. 

There was also a very cool optical illusion by Georges Rousse that made for good photography. We also had quite coordinating outfits:

It feels weird to be truly done with my break and to have to go back to work, properly, tomorrow. But I guess that's what life actually is from now on? I'll see my mom to the express bus for the airport, lurk around for an hour or so, and then it's off to my usual 8-hour shift. Now I just have to wait for the next visitor(s) to come explore Tokyo with me!


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