Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Art / Crows / Rocking in the Street

Originally posted on facebook on 12th August:

One of my colleagues has a phobia of crows. I thought, well sure, crows are a little creepy, but to be really afraid of them? Oh no, I was assured, crows in Japan are bigger than you think. Yeah, whatever...

So, of course, turns out crows in Japan are bigger than I thought. Some of them are the size of cats, they congregate in packs in all the parks, they tear up bins, they CROW to each other from all around you. They're hunched and wicked looking, and their beaks are like KNIVES of PURE EVIL. Have they been known to attack anyone? No one thinks they have, but no one would put it past them.

A quick mention for Don. Kihote (i.e. Don Quixote, but I use the phonetic spelling from the Katakana here just incase it makes a difference). Some of my training guys went to a Don. Kihote in Omiya, Tokyo a few times, but I never did, now I wish I had so I could see if it was like the one in Sapporo. The one in Sapporo is maybe six floors high, and has been organised by a lunatic. Or perhaps someone with a severe head injury. There is a lot of stuff. There is TOO MUCH stuff, and while for the most part products are grouped together (cosmetics & lingerie, food, CDs & DVD) there are plenty of crossovers and logical disconnects along single rows of shelving. The camping gear runs straight into the stupid black-light things, novelty items with breasts are all over the place, and stuffed Disney and anime characters are just EVERYWHERE. Everything is packed floor to ceiling, and there is enough room between the shelves to fit one person. Not even a very fat person at that. Whatever you need, they probably have it, but I doubt I could find it for you.

Today I went all over the place! It was hot, but there were blue skies and there was very little humidity. I was wilting certainly, but it was a good heat, not that evil heat that Primal Scream warned us all about. Not the evil heat we've been enduring since last weekend.

I went to two art galleries, the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art was really great. It was packed with people going to see the featured Dali installation that I wasn't all that interested in, but the collection galleries were very quiet. There wasn't a great deal of it, but it was very, very good. After a quiet opener (Art Nouveau glass works hmmm...) came one of the best displays of glassworks, porcelain and so on that I've ever seen! That sounds so geeky! Like I've EVER seen any glasswork or porcelain exhibitions that I found even the slightest bit interesting. Kinda like saying "It was the best Pauly Shore movie that I've ever seen!". But this? Wow! Colours and incredibly intricate shapes and all sorts of strange, beautiful craziness. Upstairs is a great "introduction to art" gallery for kids. Very accessible, colourful and fun. In the lobby they had set up a sort of touring rock-band merch table for the Dali exhibition. Made slightly more surreal by having a Chuppa Chups (the spelling AND pronunciation are up for grabs on that one) machine on the end.

But my real find was that on the way there I stumbled across a small silent, almost deserted gallery devoted to the Sapporo born artist Migishi Kotaro. He died at the age of 31, after a short productive career, full of experimentation and absorbing influences at a hell of a rate. I really, really like his work, particularly the ground it covers, and the atmosphere that almost all his works create. They're sort of creepy, in a good way.

And that was not my only find! Walking down past Odori they had closed off a huge stretch of one of the main roads (haven't been here long enough to know what it's called), for the purpose of ROCKING! That's right, I passed at least two different areas where a PA had been rigged up in the street for bands to play. No stage, no flooring at all, literally playing on the asphalt. It looked really cool, and as you would expect most people seemed utterly nonplussed. It also looked incredibly hot for the first band I saw, who were pinned in a beam of sunshine in the middle of a huge junction while everyone else hid in the shade.

Then I went to Maruyama park, because people had been mentioning it to me, and I'd hit the tourist information place this morning for maps and details. Still on my list: Mount Moiwa (involves a cable car ride, points!), The Sapporo Beer Factory (may just be a shopping mal), some other cool looking park in the north-east of the city (nearish where I live). Anyway it was a very cool place to go because Maruyama Park turns into a hike up a mountain (or at least a big hill) so you really get to see Sapporo run out and turn into forest. One particular view really got me, but I couldn't get a good picture, of the huge, wooded hillside towering at the end of a big urban road. Rurality! Also in Maruyama is the Hokkaido Shrine. Sapporo is not overly blessed with historical shrines,and temples, having been built in the latter part of the 19th century, with the help of savage, heathen Americans, but this was great. It was, like Meiji Jingu in Tokyo, incredibly quiet and peaceful and there was a ceremony going on so while I sat outside, cowering from the sun and from the crows, I could hear drums and flutes. And clapping. For some reason I really like that about Shintoism, that it involves clapping.

My vague aim to learn the Shamisen while I'm here came a step closer on Friday night when I met a guy who thinks that he works with a guy, whose brother may be learning the Shamisen. He's going to look into it, hey, it's something!

Also I may be developing something of a musical infatuation. I've been doing lots of research into J-pop already, trying out artists to find ones that I genuinely like, asking students and colleagues and so on... I'll let you know how this one pans out, but separate to that I was very excited to find out that the bassist from J-pop mainstays Dreams Come True wrote the music for Sonic The Hedgehog and Sonic The Hedgehog 2. That's a hell of a pedigree as far as I'm concerned, although I do like the Sonic 3 music EVEN MORE.

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