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Asakusa Temple

Christmas, a day I normally evade as best I can, found me in Tokyo where I’m doing a workshop at the Tokyo Film School.  As it happened the space we were using there was not available on December 25, so it was a free day for me.  In the days before in the hyper-busy Shibuya district I’d noted the frenetic Christmas theme in the many young people dressed in red Santa outfits, hawking restaurant offerings and such.  Noxious seasonal songs pervaded the speaker systems, though it was clear that this country – unlike South Korea – is very minimally Christian, but they seem to have gone whole-hog on Christmas as yet another excuse for rampant consumerism – as if they needed one.   While Japan supposedly wallows in a now several decades long malaise of the economy, and was hit with the double whammy of the March 11 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, and the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster it caused – recently said by the government to be a 40 year long problem to clean up – one would be hard-pressed to note this on the streets.   Or when exchanging money, where the Yen seems to stand supreme, despite the alleged difficulties in Japan’s economic machinery.   Rather there seems a constant rush of well-dressed people, young and old, wrapped up in fashion (a wide range of often curious ones), and with the means to have it, as well as engorge themselves in the endless restaurants and bars, not to mention classier places which I can’t afford to enter.   As well “love hotels” hawk their space and time with notices of 1,000 to 4,000 Yen for “rest” (120 mins) or 6K for “stay.”   Yesterday during my random walk around Asakusa and Ueno I bumped into a street of these, nearby the Ueno station and across a railway track from the Tokyo National Museum, with appropriate ladies standing about on the street offering their wares.  No Christmas outfits though.     As it happened the museum was mostly closed, as was the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum and I found myself instead going to the National Museum of Western Art for a somewhat dismal collection of 2nd and 3rd rate works from major artists, and a larger assortment of lesser artists.  There were though a few good paintings – a Hammershøi being perhaps the best.   They did, however, have a very interesting exhibition of William Blake engravings.  At least they let in the elders for free.

Buddhist prayers

Tokyo seems a vast melange, a cyclotron in which the sublime and the crass are racing by one another at the speed of light, and occasionally they smash into one another and produce a hybrid of the two, spinning out in delirious design.  From their arts it seems they’ve been at this a long time.  I am sure Mr Blake would have found it all fascinating.

William Blake draws himself

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