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AKady 09-05-2007 08:39 AM

Scuplture in Tokyo/Japan
Hey all,

I am studying a semester in Japan and was wondering if there are any must sees or just some cool sculpture parks to visit while I am here.

fritchie 09-05-2007 08:12 PM

Re: Scuplture in Tokyo/Japan
By all means, visit Kyoto and Nara (the Imperial capital until somewhere about 900 - 1000 A.D., when it was moved to Tokyo). Some of the best Zen-type gardens, with affiliated temples, are there. Here's a link to Ryoanji, possibly the most famous of these gardens and temples. Osaka is about a 250 mile bullet train trip from Tokyo, with Nara a tourbus ride from there.

Nara features mainly a single very old wooden, Imperial temple, but is worth a visit for at least half a day to a day. Kyoto seems to have a temple in every other block, and the exteriors, at least, are very worthwhile. Allow a day or even two at Kyoto, as there are several other temples and gardens in the same class as Ryoanji.

The Imperial Palace (now a museum) in Tokyo also is worth a visit, though I saw only the outside on my single visit. It's a walled, moated city of a sort, somewhat like very old sites in Europe, and appears beautifully planted and landscaped.

I realize all these are religious and garden sites, but they are very sculptural in feel. I found them very inspiring in terms of spatial activity.

AKady 09-14-2007 01:50 AM

Re: Scuplture in Tokyo/Japan
Ya I have been in tokyo for a week now and it seems that one of the biggest influences on my ideas so far have been the furniture store. I know sounds crazy but they have some crazy awesome stuff.

fritchie 09-14-2007 07:22 PM

Re: Scuplture in Tokyo/Japan
I didn't realize you were going so quickly. When I was in Japan for my only visit, many people at the conference said you must visit the department stores, but time was so short that's something I skipped.

Give us a travelogue, as you do various things. I think it would be fun to "look over your shoulder".

AKady 09-14-2007 09:41 PM

Re: Scuplture in Tokyo/Japan
I will definably be posting some pictures of the gallery's and shows when I start going. The past few weeks have just been getting a acquainted and meeting people and going to Karaoke. The most interesting thing so far about Tokyo is how defined the districts are. Like you have one area that is all foreigners and then another area know for electronics and another one mainly for music. I just find it interesting.

Ries 09-14-2007 11:11 PM

Re: Scuplture in Tokyo/Japan
Well, if you havent been already, you should definitely go to the Mori Museum, in Rippongi.
It is on the 53 and 54th floors of a modern skyscraper, with changing shows, so you never know what will be there.

Then, if you have the time, I highly recommend taking the train out to see some of this guy's work- he is a crazy Japanese Art Noveau architect who changed his name to Vonjour Caux, and his stuff is unbelievable. I know some really good japanese blacksmiths who worked with him quite a bit to make the ironwork for some of his projects, which are mostly apartment buildings, and every detail is amazing.

Then, there is this sculpture park,
which is a couple of hours by train.

The big museums, up in Ueno Park, are all pretty interesting too- there are something like 6 of them there, along with the zoo.

I really like a couple of the specialised department stores- Tokyu Hand, which is kind of a crafts/tool store, over in the Shinjuku train station complex, and is pretty cool.
And, depending on what kind of art you do, you might enjoy Yuzawaya- this is a chain of GIANT craft supply stores- the one I like best is out in Kichijoji neighborhood, is something like 7 stories tall, with every kind of craft and art supply, usually very nice quality japanese stuff, too- beautifully made crochet hooks, or little brass rulers, high quality materials of all sorts, in store classes in some things.
Kichijoji in general is kind of interesting- its a quiet, suburban Tokyo neighborhood, which means about as busy as the biggest US cities- with a nice park, with a lake in it, about a ten minute walk from the station, interesting hipster stores, and just normal japanese life. Its a few stops past Shinjuku to the west, where tourists never go.

I had a great time walking thru the kitchen supply neighborhood, Kappabashi Dori, which is near the Asakusa subway stop, which has whole stores that sell nothing but perfect plastic food, and the most amazing knife stores. Need 100,000 chopsticks- buy a bundle.

dondougan 09-16-2007 05:46 PM

Re: Scuplture in Tokyo/Japan

Only been to Japan once to visit family living there then over a Christmas break at school, so I never got to see much art, but the sculpture park Ries mentions in Hakone is definitely worth a trip. Figure a good part of the day. You can visit the hot spring resorts nearby when you're there.


AKady 10-25-2007 10:32 AM

Re: Scuplture in Tokyo/Japan
So I went to the Sculpture park this past week, three hours by train, and well it was amazing, I saw my first moore in person amazing. Here are the pictures

wolff 10-25-2007 11:32 AM

Re: Scuplture in Tokyo/Japan
Where in the city are you staying?

I`m partial to Yanaka (adjacent to Tokyo National University of Fine Arts, with another Balzac on campus), which is roughly between Ueno and Nippori. Makes a nice walk from one to the other, and takes you through the cemetary/park in Yanaka, which is very beautiful in a sculptural sort of way. Also, right now, there`s a show of Ufan Lee (the originator of the Mono-ha movement) at Scai the Bathouse, which usually has very strong shows. It`s halfway between Ueno and Nippori, 10 minutes on foot from either.

Kichijoji IS very nice. If you`re there, stop by the nearby Zenpukuji park and check out "Trolls in the Park"

Tokyu hands and Yuzawaya both have multiple branches through the city, and the big Home Centers are pretty interesting for object makes, too.

As mentioned, the Mori museum is great, and the next door, brand new National Art Center has been getting great reviews (as have the shows it hosts).

I`d say at least 3 days in Kyoto is a must, and 6 days is not too many. There are many unique places just outside of the city, and temples like Sanjusan Gendo, To-ji, Kinkaku-ji should not be missed by any visiting artist. Make sure you go to the top of the train station, there are nice views of the whole city, and it`s fairly unique moden architecture.

Hakone is great; imagine Storm King plus hot springs. Good work outside and in (they have a nice collection of very delicate Rosso works inside, among others).

A couple of comments by way of clarification: Nara has several very worth while temples and shrines, although they are very spread out. Todai-ji is sometimes credited as the world`s largest wooden building, and has an enormoous bronze buddha inside and two very large and well-known guardian dieties dating from the Kamakura era (around 1400). Horyu-ji was constructed around 700 AD, and is often credited as the worlds oldest wooden temple (though many buildings have been reconstructed). Both, and other sites have numerous historically important, aesthetically complete and technically impressive major and minor works of sculpture.

There is no place else in the world where you`ll see vibrant wooden sculpture from 600 years ago still in excellent condition.

Nara is easily accessed by train en route from Osaka to Nara. Check out for quick and easy train info.

The Imperial castle in Kyoto is open to the public (and akin to a museum), the Imperial residence in Tokyo is not.

Bill Wolff

Ries 10-25-2007 12:42 PM

Re: Scuplture in Tokyo/Japan
Bill, Yanaka is my favorite place to stay when I visit Toyko- I have stayed a couple times in a hotel right near Sendagi Station, and its a great neighborhood, not touristy at all. I love the little window that opens up, and the lady sells skewers of grilled chicken for 100 yen- my kids and I could never walk by without buying a few.
You are lucky to be living there.

I have also stayed over in Minowa, which was interesting to me as a metalworker- I stayed in a totally groovy modern little hotel called Andon that is like a tiny erector set/Bladerunner sci-fi box dropped into a single house lot in a regular Tokyo neighborhood- it has won some architecture awards, I think.
But the neighborhood itself, Minowa, is full of little machine shops, fab shops, printers, cabinetmakers, framing shops, hardware stores, work clothes stores, and all the normal industrial stuff you sure dont see in Ginza.
Its fun to see the garage door rolled up, and, in a space that here in the USA would barely fit a compact car, see a guy running a CNC lathe all day, making thousands of precise parts.
I would just wander around, seeing how things are made on a small scale by hundreds of co-operative businesses that work synergistically together. Nobody has much room, most of em park the forklift inside on the only patch of open floor space each night, and have to put it out on the sidewalk to work the next day.

AKady 10-26-2007 02:55 AM

Re: Scuplture in Tokyo/Japan

Originally Posted by wolff (Post 47553)
Where in the city are you staying?

I am in Bunkyo-Ku at todaimae, about a fifteen min walk or five min bike ride to the heart of ueno.

RuBert 10-26-2007 12:24 PM

Re: Scuplture in Tokyo/Japan
Akady - Thanks for posting the link to your nice gallery of photos from Hakone. I've been there before and it is a Sculpture park worth seeing.

I want to suggest you make the trip to Utsukushigahara Open Air Museum. There are more sculptures than there are at Hakone and it has a completely different feel.

It is located near what was loosely translated from a friend to me as the Japanese Alps. You can take a train to Matsumoto (see the castle) and then a bus from there. It is a bit of a trip, but the scenery is wonderful and if you are into sculpture then the park is well worth the time.

You photos make me want to visit Japan again, I noticed some airline specials going on right now for around $790 to Tokyo from the midwest.

wolff 10-28-2007 08:43 PM

Re: Scuplture in Tokyo/Japan

Are you at Todai for a semester? Great campus...

Tokyo Art Beat ( is probably the best way to check out what is showing at any point in time. The site includes directions to venue, galleries and museums in proximity, etc...

There`s a lot going on in Ueno now. Beginning 11/22, I`m showing in Ueno`s Sakuragicho neighborhood with the rest of the wood sculpture department at Geidai (Tokyo National Univ. of Fine Arts and Music) at the studio and home of the late Hiragushi Denchu, who was probably the best known 20th century Japanese sculptor, and was still carving after 100. He died at 108 about 15 years ago.

Information on the show is at

Also, while the weather is still good, you should absolutely make the Kamakura. There is a lot of great period work scattered about, and a small contemporary museum as well. But the real treat for sculptors is the huge Daibutsu. Originally housed in a temple that was washed away in a tsunami, the 13 meter cast bronze is much nicer outside. The real treat for sculptors is that for 20 yen (cheap!), you can go inside the piece. From the interior, you can clearly see the cut off gating, venting and the seams of the cast parts. It`s very cool to be inside a piece of cast bronze that size and to be able to get a real sense of how it was made.

Bill Wolff

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