Yesterday was my birthday in Japan, today is my birthday in America, so really I’m just gonna double up and keep celebrating.
But anyway, as for yesterday:
I met some friends in Roppongi Hills for lunch at Frijoles, the Japanese equivalent of Chipotle. While not real Mexican food, I appreciated the approximation. At the end of the day, when you’re in a foreign country and missing the American southwest, some beans, rice, guacamole, and spicy sauce’ll do. The spider (first row, second image) is an iconic statue in the area, though if you, like me, look at that spider and go “…why?” I cannot answer that for you. It’s Japan. Just go with it.
Speaking of “huh?” moments, on the way to our next stop we saw the six-story advertisement for McDonald’s Grand Canyon Burger (first row, third image). When I studied abroad here in 2007, McDonald’s had another campaign going for what I think was a seven-patty burger. Why Japan seems to have more obscenely large burgers than America, where one would think the people are more appropriately sized to consume such burgers, I dunno. There’s definitely more of a “food fad” culture here that might make this kind of thing popular. Plus, as far as I can tell, the local media doesn’t fly into a tizzy about these burgers destroying our children (or something else hyperbolic – not that I think fast food consumption doesn’t play a major part in a variety of public health problems in America, just that I think the news is ridiculous and frames things… how do I want to say this… stupidly). So that helps. My friends tell me people usually each such burgers as a novelty, and with help (ie people would split the aformentioned seven-patty burger, and probably the Grand Canyon burger too). The relative size of Japanese people to Americans makes me inclined to believe them.
Anyway, on to the Mori Art Museum. The museum opened in 2007 and was shiny and new when I first lived in Tokyo. It’s one floor of a… well, I don’t know how tall the building is, but it’s at least 52 floors because the museum is on #52. This is my first time back. Nostalgia! It was as nice as remembered, with a fraction of the crowd – the holiday doesn’t really start here until the middle of the week post-Christmas, so Tuesday found Mori pretty deserted. Last time I’d been it was on a weekend and it was packed, which is a little problematic when you have to wait in line for elevators to go up to the 52nd floor. (As if riding in a tiny box rocketing up 52 floors wasn’t spooky enough…)
The current exhibit is “Metabolism,” about an architectural movement in postwar Japan to create buildings that had a sense of “life” and integration with a city, as well as the ability to change and grow depending on a city’s needs. I really recommend it to anyone interested in architecture, or those who just like retro-futurism aesthetics. Most of the works on display were conceived or built in the 1960s-70s, so they have a fascinating, mod vision of the future. One friend I was with also commented some of the buildings made him think of Japanese steampunk, as Metabolism was big on taking traditional Japanese architectural elements and incorporating them into new designs.
Probably the most recognizable concept from Metabolism is the capsule:
The above is a mock up of one of the capsule rooms from Kisho Kurokawa’s capsule tower, on display as part of the exhibit.
The most interesting part of the exhibit was the fantastical designs – particularly ocean cities and elevated cities – meant to create artificial land and alleviate the straight up space problems of Tokyo and other rapidly growing cities. Because they were wildly expensive, of course, it’s the most ambitious designs that never happened, and so that still seem futuristic today.
I’ll scan the pamphlet from the exhibit when I have a chance, you really have to see some of these designs for yourself.
It was dark by the time we left the exhibit, and we took some (blurry, poorly lit) photos from the observation deck of the museum (included with the price of admission, woo~). My friends and I then parted ways, and I met up with some other folks at Bali Cafe Putri for tasty tasty Indonesian food. Chitose, who I haven’t seen since she left DC, was excited to eat spicy food – her kids are 10 and 6 and still like sweet Japanese curry. Overall it was super tasty and had a lot of excellent vegan options. In fact, when we first got the tempeh curry at the table, Chitose thought it was her chicken and didn’t realize it until she bit in.
We stayed out laaaaate – for me, anyway, I’m an old lady at heart – and finally shivered and walked back to the subway (spotting some leftover Christmas Illuminations on the way) around 11. Though I’m still missing home, overall a fantastic birthday.