Thursday, 5 July 2007

Parasite Museum, Ukiyo-e woodblock Ota Museum Harajuku, Nature study park Meguro

On Thursday 5 July, we visited the traditional craft museum, Mingei-kan at Komaba, next to 'my' campus Komaba II research and RCAST of the Tokyo University. This traditional old building housed a magnificent collection of handcraft items ranging from fabrics, textiles, weaving, ceramics, woodwork to the furnishings themselves - log chairs, polished wooden floors of different kinds, cabinets and dressers, etc. as well as the seasonal feature of blue and white porcelain hand painted in ink.

Image courtesy of Mengei-kan web site: old painting of geisha woman disguised as a shakuhachi-playing courtesan

We caught a train to Meguro Nature Study Park where mosquitoes voraciously attacked us despite 'medicinal' into-insect cream and wandered distractedly through the so-called 'wild' (transl. slightly unkempt but otherwise organised) garden and then to Meguro Parasitological Museum. Oftentimes, people ebulliently rave about the quirkiness and strangeness of Tokyo and I often think to myself "it's not that weird!" but you would have to say a parasite museum of snails, mosquitoes, endless varieties of worms, flukes, microscopic parasites and generally visibly large ones is unique, yet I concede rather fascinating! It appears that some Japanese scientists who founded this museum and whose labs continue to conduct work there, were very important in the discovery of many new bugs and critters, especially they seemed to favour varieties of worm and snail found in Asia and Africa that like humans as hosts. Many intriguing pictures of the consequences of these afflicters adorn the walls but most interesting were the specimens stored in formaldehyde for inspection, including the 8.8m long tapeworm extracted from somebody's stomach. Wash that lettuce!

Some impressive worms, types various - sorry I am no epxert in these matters - but notably the one is pictured beside Mum to give a sense of scale: this curled around tape worm extracted from a human being's stomach. It is 8.8m long. Others include the worms attacking the intestine [below] and hand-drawn research documentation by the founding researchers at the institute who have discovered and named many new kinds of snail, worm and other delightful creature with parasitic habits, from Asia to Africa.

Finally we made a dash for the Ukiyo-e Ota Museum of Woodblock prints and paintings in a back lane-way in Harajuku, which turned out to be frustrating to locate especially in the flurry of bodies on Omotesando darting frantically towards luxury shops! Anyway, eventually we did find the barely labelled museum of dimly illuminated prints, including some of the world's greatest. The visibility issue was extremely irritating. There are ways to light art works without damaging them as many other galleries and museums testify so the dank, dingy display was disappointing, combined with the fact that from a collection of thousands, they only deigned to show one by the famous Hiroshige. That said, this was one of our only disappointing tourist experiences. Being in Harajuku, we glimpses at Meiji-Jingu and meandered part-way down the main Harajuku street so that Dad's curisooty abotu Tokyo fruits and outrageously costumed girls could be sated. We did not see to many totally weird goths, lolitas and other local wildlife, but enough to challenge my parents, probably. It's hard for me to find this weird anymore because the cos-play outfits are sadly so commercialised/regulated/ubiquitous that they are another form of uniform and disguise. The interesting exceptions are those more handy girls who craft customisations and additions on of their own or who can't afford the trappings of the shops and therefore innovate. Some girls clearly have a fine art degree just to complete their makeup and typically drag small suitcases behind them containing cosmetics and outfits for a day's parade. A queasy squid dinner confrontation at Ginza Lion was appeased by delicious ice-creamu concoctions from Shibuya.