Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Spacepods, sushi and Nitten exhibition

Another visit to Midori Sounhonten sushi at Shibuya. Still one has to wait in long queues but the artifice at the end of that queue is worthwhile with the freshest imaginable sushi and sashimi, created by one of the six chefs working fastidiously and frenetically to construct their miniature sculptures.

The atmosphere typical in these fish restaurants is theatrical in itself. As the waiter or waitress hollers your order, a repeat of what you just said (or perhaps an improved version), echoes by all six chefs acknowledging the request, interlaced with cries of 'irashimashae/welcome' as new guests enter and thanks as they stand up to settle the bill. If someone sits at the sushi counter, they place their request directly to the chef in front of them. If a drink is ordered, that is called out across the floor to the drinks waiter who comes running, between topping up the complimentary o-cha and delivering miso soups with sets, etc. This is all conducted in a lively jovial atmosphere and cheerful haste.

I visited the Nitten exhibition 100th anniversary exhibition of Japanese art at the National Art Centre Tokyo in Roppongi Hills. This building is remarkable at least as much for its architectural beauty as for the exhibits inside (also fine). The Nitten exhibition was originally a National organisation, nowadays privately run, including categories of Japanese and Western-style painting, calligraphy, sculpture and more recently crafts. I particularly preferred the Japanese art, though there was no shortage of Japanese 'impressionists' from the 30s or Rodin-esque sculpture. This retrospective anniversary edition of the exhibition convened works from over the 100 years of shows/competitions as well as new contemporary work.

After my Saturday shakuhachi lesson, Toyomi Takahashi-san gave me a lift back to Kichijoji station where I explored the new 8 floor Yodobashi Camera electronics/camera/electrical appliance store and top-floor eateries, where I found my Indian curry and naan. Kichijoji is said to be the rising neo-Shibuya hub of young life, fashionability and activity. It was definitely a hive of the latter in the evening. It is comparatively low-rise with thousands of illuminated shop-lined alleys, covered plazas and to my way of thinking a more dirty/genuine feel than glossy, consumerist Shibuya. There is still the whiff or working life in Kichijoji with many small businesses and family run restaurants tumbling into lane-ways and that evolutionary architecture that has crept and bulged, rather than being planned burst of construction.

On an evening (2am) run when it is only 29 degrees, not 33+++, I discovered this curious inside-out flower/pod. Opened ones on the plant revealed sinewy fluff-like fibres that blew in the wind like dandelions while this closed one with green, veinous shell and curly spiky fronds looked to me like a neural network climbing out of its brain through follicles, especially when photographed with my nice little Petzel headlamp shining through it. There are other 3D heart-shaped orange bulbous pods but this one seems much more alien. Maybe little creatures will pop out soon! By the way, its sap is extra sticky if one ever needs a natural substitute for super-glue.