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Mapping Claire's Weekend: Liberal(ly) Experienced Arts and Sciences

I've discovered a few perks to working in the Life and Culture division of a publication.
I'm definitely on top of the arts scene in Tokyo: if it's a major museum I probably know what exhibit is on display at the moment (and probably even what's coming up next). I also get to spend a lot of my working day reading about said art, if not new restaurants, new books, or interesting places to travel within Japan. It's almost enough to make me wish I wasn't gainfully employed so I'd have more time to take advantage of all these opportunities!

We are, however, occasionally given opportunities to preview exhibits and I decided to take advantage of one of those invitations. So it was with a mix of excitement and trepidation that I sent back my reply that, yes, I would be attending the opening reception for "Mapping the Invisible" at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum.

There were quite a few people milling about in the main lobby drinking wine or Yebisu Beer (the Yebisu Beer Museum is literally just around the corner) and chatting. Artists were given these red ruffled ribbons (try saying that three times fast) to distinguish themselves from the rest of us plebeians. I DID get a press badge, but, I confess I was mostly there to check out the art.

If I'm being honest, this particular exhibit wasn't much to my taste. A lot of the pieces were videos, and a large part of me resents that particular medium when it's a more "avant garde" work. I dislike feeling forced to watch an entire video for some undetermined length of time (particularly because you never know where in the film's infinite cycle you've entered the gallery) and feel equally unsatisfied if I elect to leave the video before its designated loop is over. If there's sound it's even worse, because then I can't avoid hearing it, even if I'm looking at other pieces on display in the same space.

Admittedly, there were a few interesting pieces (among the ones where photography was allowed).

This piece let viewers play around with the tablet, opening and closing windows as they chose while the background showed some cycle of the Sierra Mountains (the ones that Windows used as their standard screensavers).

There were also some photos that were "of fairies"

And, somewhat hypocritically, my personal favorite: a video where three men sort-of played ping pong while they each monologued in turn about the way that modern artists of today have no background in the history of art and various art movements. It was fairly "rant-y" and more than a little elitist, but at least it made me think about notable art movements of the mid to late 1900s and art today...

I also brought along a friend (because otherwise I think I would have felt too awkward alone). Troy knows more about photography than I do, so, it was nice to pick his brain a bit on technique and some other technical aspects of certain pieces.

Note that this was pre-haircut-Claire.

Then, a few days later, I made a cultural about-face and went to a children's science museum.

Here's the story, my other friend Claire (who is generally awesome; also we're almost the same person) heard that this museum had a giant bubble you could enter. And since I already knew that bubbles in Japan were cool, I was very interested in playing with them some more.

Hello, here we are: Claire² (also my hair is short again).

At this children's museum we "learned" about car engines...

 the first iteration of the bicycle (which had the head of a lion, could only move in a straight line, and was propelled by kicking your feet against the ground like the Flintstones's car...

and whatever this thing is, but since it makes me look like a powerful wizard I have no complaints.

We also found the bubble thing: you stepped in a giant bubble wand and someone else dipped it in soap suds and then pulled it up, essentially wrapping you in a bubble cylinder. It was surprisingly hard to maneuver; equally hard to get a decent-sized bubble before it popped.

From the Science Museum we walked a short distance to the Imperial Gardens.

Admittedly not much is blooming yet (though the plum blossoms are increasingly popping out here and there!) and the grass is still a fairly dismal, crunchy sort of yellow. But this is one of the places I distinctly remember visiting on my first trip to Japan all the way back in 2009 (I even remember taking a ridiculously close-up photo of the statue in front of the main gate), so it will always be a "nostalgic" location.

Here's a less aggressively close-up photo of the statue in question.

I can also now tell everyone fun historical facts about the castle grounds, thanks to the "Japan's Great Peace: 1650-1850" history course I took in the spring of 2017 (and for any Yalies reading this, as long as Professor Drixler teaches that class, TAKE IT).

For instance, this photo below shows the foundation of the Edo Period (1603-1868) castle's main tower, which burned down in the Meireki Fire of 1657 and was never rebuilt (because everyone was, functionally, broke). Now you can climb to the top and look out over the grounds and across the moat.

I also just love all the architectural details that adorn even the humblest of guard buildings or sheds.

And that wraps up a fairly eventful weekend!
Stay tuned for an announcement regarding the blog shortly...


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