Okay so my trip to Tokyo was becoming a mixed affair. I was spending most of my time with another traveler, a Portuguese fellow named Gonçalo, who was spending the last days of his trip in Tokyo as well. The shopping here for toys and related stuff was overall much better. The food was good. But I made something of a mistake when I booked my hotel in Shinjuku.
For those who are laughing at the moment, I will tell you this. I know what Shinjuku is about. I read In The Miso Soup by Ryo Murasaki. It is a red light district. There are a stack of clubs, host bars and other places designed to bleed you dry of your tourist dollars (or wages if you happen to be a local). I am not interested. I’m sure I give off a vibe that I am not interested. The touts seem to ignore this. And the later it gets in the evening, the harder the sell. But more about the touts later. This is not the focus of my story here.
The second thing about Tokyo is that there are crowds everywhere and any point of the day and throughout the week. In comparison, my combined experience with people in Osaka, Fukuoka, Nara and Hiroshima could not even hold a torch to the crowd I faced at Harajuku on a Sunday afternoon:
And naturally, everything slows down to a shuffle that gnaws at my internal workings. I do not like large crowds and I do not like waiting in line. I spent two hours trying to find the Erostika shop in Harajuku (the map was turned around on the website), all the while moving about six steps every minute. I missed lunch and went back to the hotel room to fume/unwind.
The next day, when I encountered a similar kind of movement at the Asakusa temple, I was almost thinking about not even bothering to go to Harajuku. I was truly sick of the constant never-ending flood of people. I guess the walk from the temple back to Ueno temple (it is a long walk) gave me time to calm down and try finding the Erostika shop again. I figured that being a Monday, it would be a little different. It was, I guess. But while searching for the store, I stumbled across this:
This is the Design Festa Gallery which provides spaces to artists to present their works at an economy rate. The place use to be an old guest house and everything, including old (and still functioning) bathroom and toilets are rented out as art spaces. There are paintings, murals and picture frames everywhere. A small closet has a projector playing on a loop. Photos of a rock band adorn a shower wall. And strange sculptures are plastered to the walls. These are just some of the surprises you’ll find there. I met Nigel, who is one of the operators of the gallery, explained all this to me, introducing me to a number of the artists who had exhibitions running at the gallery. Nigel, with the help of a guy called Ken, arranged contacting an old-school graffiti artist, called Jell-O (?). I might have an interview within the next couple of days. I thanked them both and took a stack of photos of the gallery.
Thanks to directions from the DFG folks, I finally found the Erostika shop. Erostika is the store that is the outlet for all things Rockin’ Jelly Bean. His whole style and M.O. is a world of exploitation films never made, hot rod culture and sweet demonic honeys. I talked to Jin, who was running the shop, and bought a T-Shirt from there.
More photos to come later. Internet connection is buggy in the hotel and it takes forever to upload one photo along with the weird disconnects I am getting.