Sunday, October 19, 2008

"Meeting Artists in Tokyo"

This year I've been spending a little more time visiting art galleries and listening to musical performances than... before. I've tended to spend all my time taking/editing photos/videos and haven't spent much time seeing/hearing other people's creations. For whatever reason, I've begun to take more of an interest in these things, so I thought I'd mention a few that I've recently seen.

There's a good-sounding street guitarist I've seen a few times, most recently in Shinjuku, where/when I bought one of his CD's. As it says in the liner of the CD, he plays a 5, 6, or 7-string electric bass guitar, playing "the melody and backing lines at the same time" (and it really does sound like two people playing two guitars sometimes!). He goes by the name "ani-zoo" (兄蔵, which is pronounced "a-knee zoe" - I suspect the musician doesn't realize English speakers will see "zoo", think of animals, and looking at the "ani", imagine "animal zoo"...), and this YouTube video of him playing in Shinjuku is a good representation of how he looks and sounds when he performs:

His website (in Japanese)is:

And the page of his website with links to several YouTube video clips of his performances is:

Another musician I've met a few times (most recently at "Smiles" in Yoyogi-uehara), is Torazo Udagawa, saxophone player. I haven't actually seen him perform live myself, but there's a compilation of his playing in this YouTube video:

His YouTube website (with several videos of his performances) is:

For paintings, photographs, etc., there are a collection of galleries in the fascinating Okuno Building, which was built in 1932 as an apartment building. Actually, in walking around the building, it's apparent that one half was built as an independent building first, and the second half was added on afterwards. I haven't yet found the details of this in print, but heard it verbally from a tenant, and the evidence of the building itself suggests that that is indeed the case. There is one elevator (with cool manually operated doors!) for the dual structure, and one restroom per floor, but dual staircases (one per building, or per half of the building, depending on how you look at it), with windows (mostly opened when I visited) between the landings.

The address for the building is:
1-9-8 Ginza
Chuo-ku, Tokyo

This (Japanese) website has some photos of the building:

And this next website (in difficult-to-decipher English - obviously translated from Japanese, possibly with translation software) has some good photos of the Okuno Building, although the pictures of the elevator are old. The elevator has since been renovated with glass doors on all floors. A happy (but very rare in Tokyo) instance of something old being restored rather than destroyed). This website indicates that the elevator only goes to the sixth floor, but now it stops at all floors:

So - if you're in Ginza and want to check out art spaces, the Okuno Building is something you ought to see - both for the art on display (most exhibits change weekly) and the building itself.

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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