October 6th, 2003


Osaka Strut

Don and I went to Osaka and took a LOT of pictures.

The Namba Hatch auditorium and radio tower.

The building above is surrounded by a surprisingly romantic boardwalk. Couples were nuzzling everywhere.

I know, vending machines in Japan, big deal. But THIS is a MINI SHOP.

Giant eyeglass frames. Yeah, I am a sucker for corporate sculpture.

Don stole a quick nap in the Shinsaibashi First Kitchen.

We went searching for art, and found some, though not the art we were looking for. Rubbernecked through Shinsaibashi and finished the evening in Amemura (America town), chatting with the Dutch bartender. He's been in Japan for two years, just like us, and he reports that "Japan is crazy." "I feel like I've been picked up by a UFO," he said. I asked whether he lived in Shinsaibashi; my suspicions proved correct.

I'll be posting more photos tonight, so stay tuned.

Underground: The art we were going to see

"The Underground Project will unfold beneath the streets of Minatomachi in Namba through Oct. 5 between the hours of 16:00 and 19:30. From the looks of it, the cavernous site seems neither to be teeming with rats nor raw sweage - something of a disappointment - but video installations by Kubota Tetsu and "seesaw," and a sculpture by Takahashi Kyoto, in which 1,232 lights promise to create a total whiteout, will surely make up for the absence of filth. Danger, on the other hand, is apparently rife: a fee of ¥1,000 is required to insure each visitor against the wide range of unexpected risks that might occur. In exchange, a passport to the lower depths will be issued."

We had no idea where to start looking for this exhibit. We asked the Osaka Station information counter how to get under Minatomachi, and the four women looked.. very afraid. As they discussed our bizarre inquiry in a huddle, we politely told them not to worry, we could make do on our own. Minatomachi was dead quiet, and we walked to one end without seeing any sign of art. On the way back, we cut through a dog park and noticed a graffiti'd shack guarded by a couple of attendants who confirmed that this was Underground. They pointed us toward a subway tunnel where we could by tickets, but alas. It was only 5:30, but they'd sold out for the day. A huge crowd waited patiently, clutching numbers. We left with a pamphlet.

(This picture is scanned from the pamphlet. There's a different sort of show at the same location over the next two weekends, so we'll probably try to go....)

Watch this spot for the art we DID see!

イチハラヒロコ: Art we serendipitously found

As we walked back into Namba from our failed attempt to see The Underground Project, I noticed these works by Ichihara Hiroko wrapped around a building that was under construction. I knew it was her right away because I have one of her books and I've looked at pictures of her work on the net.

This is typical of her work: typographical design, black on white with no serifs. These messages appear on buttons, ashtrays, walls, shopping bags, and so on.

Is it considered poetry? I'm not sure, but her work seems to represent a different kind of Japanese poetry, measured not by syllables, but by aesthetic perfection. This concept suits Japanese well, since the language is written in three character sets which are, for all practical purposes, interchangable.

(The artist always prints her name in katakana, which is, visually, as different from Chinese characters as it gets.)

Enough of my rambling - take a look!

My Japanese is somewhat lacking, so I'd love it if someone could help me interpret these. I can look up the words, but I don't think I get the subtle nuances quite right.

"Go your own way."

"Hard work pays off."

"Freedom packing." (??)

"Pray for a happy marriage."

I don't get that third one. "Konpou" means something like "styrofoam peanuts." So, "wrapped up in freedom?" "Protect your freedom?" "Insulate yourself and become free?" "Foam frees us all?" Is it a play on words? Something I'm not clever enough to understand? Or might the artist have simply liked stacking those characters like that? Anybody?