Just when the routine of residency life was threatening to burden, we are packed off for two days in Tokyo. The main purpose of our trip is to visit some of the main suppliers so that we can get stock of materials for our studios at home. We were introduced to the metro system and after a delicious sushi lunch (I am a huge fan of squid nigiri these days) we headed off to the Ozu paper company. This small washi paper company has been trading since the 1600s. Its 8m x 4m shop floor was a treasure trove of handmade paper and paper things. I was completely seduced by some printed papers but also ordered a selection of sized papers for Mokuhanga printing at home. They are launching their English website this year and do ship by EMS to South Africa (FYI).
From there we were taken a tiny brushmaker’s shop. The space was crammed with every conceivable type of brush (including those inconceivable types made from peacock feathers and deer hair). The brushmaker himself served us each individually (Hayato patiently translating). It was as magical as the wand store in Rowling’s books. Each brush was selected, combed, stamped, wrapped and packaged. I bought an old Mizubake (for water) and Dousabake (for applying size to paper). We were there a considerable time so those waiting outside ventured into the neighbouring café for some flapjacks and a slow brew (or fusion brew) coffee (produced in a kind of high school chemistry set).
Fortified by our caffeine we plunged into the metro again headed for Jimbocho where we were deposited at an art supply store and told to explore the many book shops that also house original Mokuhanga prints from the 1900s at affordable prices. Reeling from my spending I didn’t purchase a print but found some incredible works for only 12 000 Yen. Perhaps worth a return visit.
- Jimbocho bookstore
- Jimbocho bookstore
Back at the hotel for a 30min shower and relax, Charles and I sought dinner along the Ueno main street settling on a stylish rhamin bar that didn’t disappoint. We met the rest of the group at Keiko’s gallery space, the headquarters of MI-Lab or the Centre for the Science of Human Endeavor, a converted studio complex that used to be a Secondary School. We were not invited to the main lecture by Katsutoshi Yuasa as it was in Japanese for paying visitors but we caught the question-answer session. I was quite delighted to meet Katsutoshi who is a Tokyo based printer that I wrote about in my Masters thesis. He has an exhibition on at the Yokohama Museum that we were given free tickets to see. I asked him about the new direction his work is taking and he told me his thoughts about slowing down time enough to really look at the systems of sight our technology is engendering. I found him a profoundly interesting thinker.
With beer from our supper fuelling our resolve, Charles and I managed to convince a group to go to Akihabara district to see the streets at night and sing some more karaoke. It was truly memorable!