DT Suzuki Museum

“wonderful, wonderful, and most wonderful wonderful! And yet again wonderful” – D.T. Suzuki, channeling Shakespeare from As You Like It

In his 2006 book on practical aesthetics The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton writes

“A feeling of beauty is a sign that we have come upon a material articulation of certain of our ideas of a good life.”

(He also wrote that “Our jobs make relentless calls on a narrow band of our faculties, reducing our chances of achieving rounded personalities and leaving us to suspect (often in the gathering darkness of a Sunday evening) that much of who we are, or could be, has gone unexplored.” – but that’s matter for another post…)

I’m not sure of that, but I’m sure of one thing: his spelling’s atrocious buildings shape our moods and ideas and experiences. Thus, every time R. and I visit an art gallery or museum I find myself metally re-decorating: my computer desk goes here, by the picture window onto the rock garden; we can hang the Clifton Karhu on this cool grey concrete wall; some portable screens will break up the space nicely, but the gift shop has GOT to go. Read the rest of this entry »

Just a reminder to everyone Tokyo-side that this weekend there will be a charity music and reading event at Infinity Books in Asakusa. Proceeds go to Support Our Kids which sends Tohoku teens on homestays abroad. The event kicks off at 3pm. There’s also Shakin’ it Back, an anthology of poems and stories collected to support victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear disaster.

Hope to see you there!


Kenrokuen is, apparently, considered the best of “the three most beautiful landscape gardens” — or maybe it’s a stroll garden — in Japan. Heck, the wise crowd at Tripadvisor ranks it the #1 site in all of Kanazawa. Even the name taps into the rarefied aesthetic of a thousand-year tradition of gardening in Japan which started with ‘The Emperor Keiko [who] put a few carp into a pond, and rejoiced to see them morning and evening.’ “Kenrokuen” translates in English to “Garden of the Six Sublimities”, meaning the six essential attributes of an ideal Chinese garden: spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water, and broad views. Read the rest of this entry »

Jan Fabre, The Man Who Measures the Clouds (1999)

Jan Fabre, The Man Who Measures the Clouds (1999)

Olafur Eliasson, Colour Activity House (2010)

Olafur Eliasson, Colour Activity House (2010)

21 Century Mueseum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa

21 Century Mueseum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa

Teshima Art Museum. I know, right: the title promises a post on the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, then leads with a link to a museum — with a really uninspired name, even — in an entirely different part of Japan. Hey, at least they’re both in Japan! Besides, there is an interesting connection between the two: the Teshima museum building, like that of the 21st Century, was designed by architexts Kazuyo Sejima Ryue Nishizawa of SANAA. So when R. and I visited Kanagawa we had Teshima on the mind. Even now, two years after first making the pilgrimage to the Benesse Art Site Naoshima in the Seto Inland Sea, I am haunted by that low, white, droplet-shaped building set in the terraced rice paddies of rural Japan, inspired by the wind and light through the large oval windows, transfixed by the water drops running errant courses across the smooth expanse of floor like, like, well… like each of us, people I mean, dare I say souls? Similar but unique, as we follow our own errant paths across the floor of life. Until, like those droplets of water, we trickle down the drain to be recycled in a fresh drop. As R. says, Teshima Art Museum isn’t really a museum, but a piece of art itself. As much as any forest or mountain or cathedral I’ve visited, Teshima Art Museum is a spiritual place. I really need to write about it some day. Guess I’ve already started… Read the rest of this entry »

(revised 3 April: added “Fun Facts”)

APA New Grand Hotel Annex

APA New Grand Hotel Annex

“wonderful, wonderful, and most wonderful wonderful! And yet again wonderful” – D.T. Suzuki, quoting Shakespeare from As You Like It


Never mind the nigh-eight hour bus ride from Shinjuku, that the Kanazawa Station area at dawn is a rectilinear, parallelpiped wasteland, that the petulant cherry blossoms refused to bloom, that our downtown business hotel needed a “No prostitutes in your room!” sign AND camera in the elevator, or that the main exhibition space of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art was closed in preparation for the next exhibition. We had a good time anyway, though maybe not quite up to the standards of D.T. Suzuki’s ecstatic quote, above. Then again, he was, like a zen master, so there you go.

Highlights for me have gotta be

  • The D.T. Suzuki Museum
  • The Chaya Geisha and Samurai Districts
  • The Clifton Kahru Collection and ema shrine plaques

Read the rest of this entry »

attachment-536832681 Back in 2011, the local and expat artistic community alike wanted to do something to help the survivors of the March 11th earthquake/tsunami/nuclear crisis in the Tohoku region of northern Japan. Some staged charity events; others went north to volunteer with the cleanup. Some did both.

For my part, I read a short essay at a charity reading even, Shakin’ It Back, at What the Dickens in Ebisu. “In Bloom” was inspired by the bravery and self-sacrifice I witnessed in some of my students the day we had to evacuate the main school building and spend the night in the gym, uncertain, what lay ahead of us…

Now, three years later, clean-up and recovery efforts continue. As a fund-raising effort, some of the performers from the original Shakin’ It Back event have contributed their poems and prose pieces to an anthology, available as an ebook from amazon.com.

Two readings are being planned, both at Infinity Books‘ new brick-and-mortar location in Asakusa. The first event will raise funds for Support Our Kids, which sends Tohoku teens on homestays abroad. The second event will once again support Japan Heart, the original recipient of the What the Dickens event, which provides healthcare and life support to Tohoku survivors, as well as people in Myanmar and Cambodia.

The first reading is scheduled for Sunday, April 20th from 3 – 10 pm. The second reading will be in May (TBD).

I plan to be at one or the other – perhaps both! Hope to see you there!

Since at least the invention of moveable screens and sliding paper doors,  and more recently the Metabolism movement, Japanese architects have been masters of modular design,Shigeru Ban designs temporary housing — even a so-called Cardboard Cathedral” — for disaster victims at home and abroad. He has, however, taken his modular concept further, designing space-shifting houses and a mobile art gallery — the Nomadic Museum, currently on tour with Gregory Colbert’s “Ashes and Snow” exhibition, currently on world tour. I saw “Ashes and Snow” when it played in Tokyo back in 2007… and still meditate to the DVD (or, more usually, lucid dream through a nap).

The New York Times has two reports on Ban’s win, Pritzker Architecture Prize goes to Shigeru Ban, and With Paper Tubes, Building Social Change. Be sure to check out the slideshow of his work!


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