Tokyo is a lot of fun. It’s a 24-hour city, full of new experiences — no matter what you think you’ve done before, you will be surprised in Tokyo.
(N.B. You don’t come to this blog for the photography, because my pictures suck. Instead, you should go to my friend Magie Crystal’s blog, where you can see many gorgeous photos and read her thoughtful words about Tokyo. Here’s a good place to start.)
As mentioned in my last post, it was the Tsagaan Sar holiday, celebrating the Lunar New Year in Mongolia. We hadn’t really understood how much would be closed in UB, and it turned out to be a good time to have left town. Amid our neighborhood-exploring, friend-seeing, errand-running and Japanese-food-eating, there were a few highlights. Very reflective of modern, urban Tokyo.
After I got to cuddle with a couple of therapy dogs on the way (no real life photo, but I love that straightforward slogan), we spent Saturday morning at an art space. Upstairs from a department store, sharing the eighth floor with the neighborhood emergency preparedness center, are galleries, a small museum and a work/lounge space for artists to work and meet — kind of a combination shared office and club for creative people, in a good way. The first gallery had an exhibit up called “Spring Has Cum” that featured erotic woodblock prints and collage versions of well-known Japanese art images. Next to that was a show of small, cheerfully-colored paintings of trees that really had, well, nothing to say after the collage of the woman in an embrace with an octopus… You can imagine.
The museum, d47, features exhibits made by artists and craftspeople from the 47 provinces of Japan. The current show is textiles: woven, embroidered, indigo-dyed, linens, wools, some made into things — clothes, bags, etc. — and others in pieces that you could touch. I feel my mother rolling her eyes from the other side of the globe, but they were beautiful, and it was fun to think of the artists from all over the country. Paired with the museum is a restaurant that serves food from the various provinces, where we had a very healthy lunch of seasonal vegetables and grilled fish.
Which was good, because: dinner.
Tokyo is sort of famous for its subcultures, and that’s part of what I love about it — every obsessive, niche interest has a home here. There are model train bars and cat cafes and clubs for people who want to dress as manga characters or cowboys. So imagine how welcome I felt when we found a cheese bar right near our hotel! This is a tiny, sophisticated place, probably a former sushi bar, that could seat ten comfortably, with a glorious selection of cheeses and the wines and beers to complement them.
Here’s what made it so Japanese: A) The proprietor was playing some kind of collectors-item-double-boxed-set of the Carpenters the whole time we were there. Nonironically, and with no songs repeated over two and a half hours. Did you even know that the Carpenters had covered “Day Tripper”? B) THE PLACE IS OPEN UNTIL 5:00 A.M.
What kind of crazy person crawls in at 4:00 a.m. for one last round of Pont L’Eveque? Who misses the last train home over a slice of Cabrales?
See? Isn’t Tokyo great?