Nakano Broadway

When I first entered Nakano Broadway I didn’t know what to expect. As I entered under the large red sign into the long corridor that makes up the first floor I wasn’t at all impressed. I was expecting a grander welcome that wasn’t there, at least not on the first floor. I saw a regular cheap ¥100 shop, a suit shop, and a cute place with socks representing each of the prefectures of Japan, but I didn’t see anything right away that would have given me any sense of what this place was hiding. At least not until I saw the Japanese idol trading card shop. Then I knew I was getting warmer and just a bit closer to the Otaku heaven this place has a reputation for. I didn’t have the time to stare and gawk though. I was ushered by my escort upstairs by way of escalator just as quickly as could be done through the crowd. Once on the top floor my eyes began to open wide to the world of Japanese pop culture. It was a treasure trove of Japanese pop culture mania or should say it is the mother load. That is Nakano Broadway, a hobbyist dream come true.

I didn’t realize that half of this stuff ever existed, but a lot of it reminded me of going though my grandparents attic and seeing some of the old toys that were my dad’s when he was growing up, but these were way freakier and not as dusty. These were spotless toys and they were everywhere and some perfectly preserved with boxes and all. Some were out and some were secured behind glass, but each seemed to have its place. It was obvious by just walking around and seeing a few of the shelves that there was a great deal of care put into the display of these mighty little figures and toys. There was of course the familiar Robbi The Robot from Forbidden Planet, Speed Racer, and Astro Boy filling up the shelves in various forms from trading cards to life-sized replicas, but after that all familiarity was gone. The most strange and somewhat disturbing thing I saw was a crucified Ultraman that seemed to be all the rage as he was everywhere. There were creatures and characters here that I’m sure are most beloved by most Japanese, but that I had no idea of who or what they could be. And they were rampant and scattered about, ambiguous in their domain. It was awesome nostalgia meets today’s now! It was glorious and spectacular!

But it wasn’t all toys here. There were all sorts of hobbies on display. There were manga books and anime cels. There were cosplay costumes of every type and character. There were air gun shops full of military realistic weapons and even more realistic if not realistic suits, helmets, badges, and outfits. There were those key chain/phone doodads made to look like everything cute under the sun. There were maid cafes, movie posters, record, and DVD stores. There was even a yo-yo shop and I’m sure stuff that I’m not mentioning that I might still be blinded by if I try to recall. All together it was a reminder of being a kid, and if you looked not even so hard, you could see the wanting eyes of window shoppers as they studied the toys and figures of their yesterdays through the glass. And it was all marked and priced and ready to be loved. And then, there were the people that were living their childhood still. Dressed to the nines in outfits and splendor that a kid’s imagination can only fathom and few can fashion.

We kept popping in and out of shops all day meticulously doing our own gawking at the shelves. We spent most of the time mentioning our own memories that were sparked by the pop amalgam and bursting into laughs at the more than occasional site of the absurd. It was fun. When we made it back to the bottom again we were both starving, but that’s a different story.

The Gunma Museum of Art, Tatebayashi

While temporarily staying in Tatebayashi, a city in Gunma Prefecture, I took the time to visit the Gunma Museum of Art, Tatebayashi. I wasn’t disappointed and it was worth the effort to get there. The post-modern museum designed with glass, concrete and steel sits in a park like setting surrounded by landscaped grounds. The exterior glass walls let in the light and the surrounding landscape grounds create an airy relaxing feeling inside. The general price of admission for many Japanese museums range from anywhere from 650 to 1200 Yen. When told the price was a mere 200 Yen, I was very surprised. I thought this is a real bargain!

When it comes to appreciating Western art, Japan takes the cake. Japan must have the most extensive collection of Western art in the world. On my visit, there was a special exhibit from the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, Gunma, which has temporarily closed for remodeling. Here is just a smattering of the artworks on display when you enter the gallery:

Landscape, Constant Troyon (1810-1865)

The Church and the Farm at Eragny 1884

Camille Pissarro

Couple Reading 1877

Pierre-August Renoir

Jules Pascin

The Girl with Long Hair on a Stool

Woman with a Bulldog 1914

Marie Laurencin

Juefosse, the Effect in the Late Afternoon

1884 Claude Monet

Water Lilies (Nympheas)

1914-1917

Claude Monet

Anywhere out of the world 1015

Marc Chagall

Girl with a Doll 1923

Leonard Foujita

(Fujita Tsuguharu)

Saint Sebastian 1910

Odilon Redon

(St. Sebastian is pierced with two arrows, one stuck in his right thigh and the other in his right chest. Another arrow lies embedded in the tree trunk. His hands are tied behind his back. Except for the cloth that covers his private parts, he is naked. His head is resting against his right side and he is leaning against a tree.)

There was a sculpture piece by Ossip Zadkine titled ‘Van Gogh Walking through Fields’1956 and a piece by Auguste Rodin titled ‘The sculptor and his Muse’ 1890.

Summer in Aasgaardstrand 1890

Evard Munch

Follies (Los Disparates) 1815 – 24

Francisco de Goya

The gallery opens up to another gallery featuring for example the works of Miro, Picasso, Oskar Kokoschka, Wassily Kandinsky, Matisse, and featuring a sculpture piece by Barbara Hepworth titled Helicoids in Sphere 1938.

Here are some of the pieces:

Ubu Rex 1966

Joan Miro (1893-1983)

Fishes, bottle and Compote (La petite cuisine) 1922

Pablo Picasso

The Dreaming Boys 1908

Oskar Kokoschka

Sounds 1912

Wassily Kandinsky

(1866-1944)

Jazz

Henri Matisse

(1869-1954)

Fables (1928-1931)

Circus (1) Frontispiece 1967

Lovers

Beauty viewing the moon

Marc Chagall

And there were several galleries featuring the works of past and contemporary Japanese artists. Here’s a smattering of the artists on display:

Napping Model 1903 (a Japanese nude)

Yuasa Ichiro

Village Girl

1906-07

Yuasa Ichiro

Sea at Brehat

1892

Kume Keiichiro

Sunset behind a Prison 1919

Nakagawa Kazumasa

Portrait of a Woman 1927

Takabatake Tatsushiro

Girl 1935

Hasegawa Toshiyuki

Leda 1962

Prayer 1958

Slum Lords Rich on Our Misery 1965

Black Agitator 1965

Fukuzawa Ichiro

The Gunma Museum of Art, Tatebayashi has a gallery dedicated to the stylized animal sculptures of Francois Pompon, a former assistant of Rodin, and a sculptor in his own right. He is famous for his stylized polar bears. There’s also a bronze sculpture of Cosette 1888 by him and a Weathervane Cock. On display in the same gallery were sculpture pieces by August Rodin, Emile-Antoine Bourdelle, and Aristide Maillol.

Here they are:

Head of Balzac (H)

1894

August Rodin

The Monument for Adam Mickiewicz 1928

The Three Polish

Emile-Antoine Bourdelle

Description: The middle muse is embracing the other two muses. The outer two have joined their left hands. They are looking up. Their expressions are sorrowful.

The birth of Venus 1918

Aristide Maillol

I finished my visit with a look around in the Museum shop and a light supper in the Il Cornetto, the museum restaurant. It was a fitting end to a brief stay in Tatebayashi and no doubt the visit lifted my spirits!

Originally posted on ThingsAsian.

The Shrines of General Nogi and the Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shokan

The serenity of General Nogi’s shrine overwhelmed me. It is nestled amongst the concrete jungle of the city. It’s an oasis of peace and calm and filled with landscaped grounds. The silence was broken by the occasional shuffling of feet or the chirping of birds. Two huge sets of Torii and guardian lions lead the way to his shrine. The son of a samurai family he pursued a military career culminating in his victory over the Russians.

On site is a small museum dedicated to preserving his memory. On exhibit are his rifles, saddle, medals, gold watches, and a myriad of photographs and scrolls/citations.

Regrettably, there isn’t much information available in English but don’t let that stop you from visiting the Nogi Shrine.  There is a plaque however in English and Japanese describing his house and stables. He was very proud of his horses. There’s a walkway wrapped around his house that lets you peak inside. It sounds morbid, doesn’t it? It’s a little eerie to say the least. His house has been left as is.

The grounds are lovely, immaculate, and inviting, and are a testament to Japanese gardening. The shrine and its surroundings, I found, express an inherent Japanese sensibility, which is bestowing honour amongst its beloved.

Two stops away on the Tozai line is the Meiji shrine. It’s definitely worth a visit. It’s situated amidst a beautiful park and wood lots. It’s breathtaking and evoking the splendor and glory of Japan’s former emperor who was at the helm of its transformation into a powerful, modern nation along with his devoted General Nogi. The Toriis marking the way to the Meiji shrine are imposing. They must be the tallest in the land. The grounds are immaculate. I thought the park must be an oasis for the people of Tokyo from the stress of city life.

There’s a plaque along the way to the shrine that cites a poem of Emperor Meiji, which hints at his essence. Here it is:

By gaining the good and rejecting what is wrong, it is our desire that we’ll compare favourably with other lands abroad.
Poem by Emperor Meiji

Emperor Meiji was a shining light in the modernization of his country by embracing Western ways and customs. He cut off his topknot and donned Western clothes.

The soul of the Meiji emperor and his consort’s are enshrined here. If you wish, for 500 Yen, you can purchase a votive plaque, an ema, and write out a wish or wishes, which are then offered up by the Shinto priests.

I walked over to the Treasure House, which houses artifacts belonging to the Emperor and his Empress. Regrettably, it was closed today. Perhaps, I thought I’ll get another chance to visit. Nevertheless, I very much enjoyed my visits to the Meiji and Nogi Shrines and came away with a deeper understanding of Japanese history.

Originally posted on ThingsAsian.