A few days ago I posted about the Jimbcho used book and bookstore paradise, but I wanted to save this one for a special post – the Komiyama Book Store (小宮山書店). This is a used book store that specializes in modern art, culture, photography, subculture, philosophy and recent history, with a heavy emphasis on art and photography. I have visited hundreds of used bookstores on three continents in my life so far but nothing comes even close to this place. They have the most random, most obscure and most well curated stock of any similar store I have ever come across. For a japanophile like me this store is pretty close to paradise on Earth. Anyone who was ever something in recent Japanese art and performance history and ever published, wrote or shot anything, is bound to be represented in this store. The collections are all incredibly jumbled, and you will find an autographed biography of an obscure 1970s political figure next to a signed poster sized silver print of a portrait of Mishima Yukio, in heaps and heaps. Even if you are not particularly interested in Japan they have plenty of foreign books and related items. For the sheer variety just have a look at their list of new arrivals. It is also a great place to sell your rare art book collection, which I sometimes do and regret shortly afterwards.
This year (as every year) I attended the annual Godai Art University Graduation show at the National Art Center in Tokyo’s Roppongi district. It was full of good stuff as usual and a real treat: nowhere can you get so much contemporary Japanese art as in this exhibition, for such little cost (it is free). I particularly enjoyed one sculpture, “Inisible” by Hifumi Sugata of Joshibi, a sinister looking metal sculpture. This year’s exhibition is over but there is a new on in February – early March next year! Be sure to see it!
Roppongi is home to hundreds of art galleries, but finding them and visiting them can be both difficult and exhaustive. One of the less well known cluster of art galleries for the aesthetically hungry is the Piramide building, very close to Roppongi Hills. The building itself is peculiar enough to interest modern architecture fans but there are also many tiny galleries housed inside the building, making it a convenient place to see a lot of contemporary art in one tiny place. I might be biased, but it seems that most of the galleries are focused on photographic art, but there are paintings and sculptures and even sometimes installations on show. You can find a lists of galleries, addresses as well as restaurants and other businesses in the building here, under ピラミデ.
The most senior of all art universities in Japan, the Tokyo University of Arts might not be on top of anyone’s list of places to visit, but there is still a lot things to see. I visited on one of their days when they welcome the public and I am not sure how accessible the campus is on other days. One of the first things you see on the inner courtyard is Auguste Rodin’s The Vanquished (Le Vaincu, from a 1876 sculpt but I do not know when this particular bronze was cast). Not a bad way to start your day if you are an art student! There is quite a lot of sculpture on display in the inner garden of the university, and while none of the buildings are very impressive sometimes the views are.
The university itself was founded in 1949 of two smaller schools that were both founded in 1887. I definitively need to visit again.