An Old School Artsy Afternoon in Tokyo

Allen Chen
October 15, 2017

Thursday | October 12th 2017 | Taito

Last Thursday, with an afternoon free of classes, we ventured into Tokyo to visit the Yanaka district in Taito. This particular neighborhood still exudes the old school Japanese vibes in contrast to central Tokyo. Our first stop of the day was Kayaba Coffee, a local coffee shop with a rich history.




Built in 1916, this structure has helds its own against earthquakes and wars. Although it closed down in 2006, it was revived in 2009 in collaboration with the Taito Cultural & Historical Society and SCAI The Bathhouse. From the outside, the simple brick and mahogany architecture was inviting and understated. We were welcomed into the second floor of the restaurant, sitting on tatami mats rather than chairs. Our delicious meal consisted of hayashi rice, omurice, their famous egg sandwiches, and some iced drinks.




If you ever find yourself in this particular area, it would be a missed opportunity to not check out SCAI The Bathhouse down the street. A former bathhouse, SCAI now serves as a gallery for contemporary art.




From September 15th to October 28th 2017, the featured artist is Natsuyuki Nakanishi (1935-2016), a major figure in Japanese avant-garde art. The exhibit featured two of his paintings, both featuring floral patterns on white canvas. However, the main showstopper was the three-dimensional structure in the center of the studio.




Titled “Touching Down on Land and Touching Down on Water XIV: Itsuura Coast” the foundation of this art piece is a wooden hexagonal structure. On it, purple tatami mats are laid out in an irregular pattern, with small metal beads and mounds of white sand dispersed throughout. The most outstanding part, though, were the hanging rectangular plates. Made out of brass, the six reflective plates swayed back and forth as visitors walked around. It is likely that this piece was created in tribute to the Rokkakudo temple, which was destroyed by the 2011 earthquake. Although I am no art expert, I was particularly entranced by the color story of the art piece. The combination of the saturated purple tatami mats with the wood and the brass was particularly stunning. If anyone is in the area, I highly suggest checking out this free exhibit! I’m hoping to make another stop after Nakanishi’s exhibition is completed.

After some lunch and some art, we decided it was time for dessert (obviously). We stumbled across Kokonn, another old school café in the Yanaka area.








Even though the architecture and interior design is distinctly Japanese (more tatami mats, shoji doors), Kokonn offered an eclectic selection of Polish pottery and French ice cream. Thanks to the delicious ice cream (I recommend mascarpone) and the cozy atmosphere, everyone in the café started talking and sharing life stories. Between three study abroad American students, two nomadic travelers from Israel and France, and one Airbnb host from Japan, we all shared a common appreciation for travel, photography, and food.



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Allen Chen

Hailing from Southern California, I traveled the (not so) great distance of seven miles to attend Occidental College in Los Angeles. At Oxy, my coursework in American Studies and Sociology allows me to explore American history, literature, and culture. While abroad, I aim to broaden my understanding of the American experience, improve my Japanese, and grow as an individual.

2017 Fall
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Occidental College
Alhambra, CA
American Studies
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