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Wednesday, March 28

Ueno in the Pink

Spring has definitely arrived in Tokyo as the cherry trees are doing their best to show-off the new season. One grand place to see spring in action is Ueno Park, where a friend had treated me to tickets for an Ikebana exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum located in the park. The school exhibiting was the Ikenobu, the exact one that I have been eager to find a sensei for. As you may have noted, I haven’t been posting any new Kofu arrangements lately. I actually haven’t taken a class since December. There are several reasons for this which are much too trivial to get into. This doesn’t mean I haven’t been practicing but without a sensei telling me if I am on the right track, I refuse to post something calling it Ikebana when any expert can see that it is really a cheap imitation. So, I simply continue my practice in the solitude of my own home until, as I said, I find a sensei who teaches Ikenobu. Enough with the side story. Ahem.

Yesterday, Russia and I caught a train to Tokyo for a day at the museums. In this particular area, there are actually many art museums to peruse but one had a special DaVinci exhibit currently showing which we intended to add to the end of the day’s itinerary. Once in Ueno Park, we initially missed finding the Metropolitan but did end up at the Tokyo National Museum where DaVinci was being shown. Going a bit backwards from the original plan, we scuttled to the counter and purchased two tickets for 1,500 yen each. Then we got in line - a line that actually wrapped around two of the buildings in the complex. We waited for the slow moving line to approach the front door, next passing through the x-ray machines and finally forcing us into the slowest scurry that man ever performed through the room where each person strained their necks at all angles to gaze at the amazingness that is the “Annunciation.” As we left this first room, Russia and I eagerly awaited seeing the rest of the works displayed. The information we were given was in English but I wouldn’t say they were beneficial in directions. After scanning some rooms and coming up with nothing short of restrooms, we noticed that their seemed to be a trail that was leading back out of the building and around a shady corner of the grounds. So we followed. Just doing what those Romans do! We enter another building with anticipation galore only to face quite the little letdown. This never occurred to us, but there were no more DaVinci’s to see! That one beautiful painting was it! The second room was what, thinking back now, seems completely indicative of live in Tokyo… digital reproductions of DaVinci’s work. While the exhibit was quite crafty, it was still just TVs and paper mache sculpture reproductions explaining the man’s work. If I wanted explanations, I could read a book. I paid 1,500 yen to see art! I wanted to stand in front of greatness and be moved to tears! Instead I stood in an overly crowded room where the limited English translations were all below tops of the multitude of dark heads. To actually read the part we could understand would mean that the room would have to rather devoid of other bodies… frankly impossible in this chock-a-block city. Feeling a little saddened at missing the real stuff and maybe a little frustrated because what we could see, we couldn’t actually read, we called an end to our DaVinci wonder and wandered back into the park.

On our way back to the Metropolitan, we gaped and gawked at the cherry trees lining the path, the large quantity of cleanly-dressed and shaven but obviously homeless men that gathered around the fountain and then the several blue tarps laid out and covered with about one hundred Japanese business men in suits enjoying lunch and was that… beer?? Yes, indeed it was. Laid out in the middle of each circle of suits were cans and cans of Asahi while many of the business men looked as if they had helped themselves to more than a few… including the suit that came running over to the two gaping blondes and offered them grapefruit chu-hi on an obvious dare. We gratefully accepted because what smart person would turn down a refreshing and (importantly) free alcoholic beverage on a Tuesday afternoon? Among heaps of hoots, the gentleman rejoined his group beaming with pride as we wandered off to find a spot to sit and enjoy the token chu-hi.

Back on our way to the museum, which we finally discovered in a quiet corner, only to accidentally enter through the employee entrance and be quickly ushered back on track by security. We had been attempting to find the restaurant inside that we could see from the outside but had too much difficulty explaining ourselves to security. Instead we merely shoved our tickets for the Ikenobu exhibit towards him. After a glance, he personally escorted us through the building, up two floors and to the exhibit’s entrance. Perhaps he feared we were trying to make off with the art inside, but frankly we just haven’t learned how to read the obvious (and even in English) signs splashed on the doors that we passed through. Finally arriving at the exhibit, we tossed aside the previous concerns over our detours and hunger to taken in the many splendid arrangements that filled the room. It was just as beautiful and amazing as I know the school to be and gave me that much more incentive to get back to my Ikebana education.

The day was getting late and we still were missing lunch so we found an English pub-looking place that concocted some form of fish and chips with a bit of Japanese flair. (Do the English really eat their fish and chips with rice and undercooked egg?? I think not.) Stuffed and disconsolately looking towards the work that called to both of us at home, we headed back to the train home.
The rest of my week is all about bringing home some dough with the help of my mighty substitute’s hat. After this weekend, I should have a pretty amusing festival to tell you about… this one not meant for children. I’ll save details for then.


Anonymous said...

Fish and chips with rice? There would be riots here in London. Even kedgeree is not exactly fashionable these days.

Love your blog,

Mike S said...

Ueno is a neat place to visit, but navigating has always been a bit daunting.

Heather Meadows said...

My husband and I stayed in Ueno for a few days on our honeymoon. We got to know the area really well after awhile, but yes, it was confusing at first!

Sorry there was only one Leonardo for you to see!

Those ikebana arrangements are beautiful. It's no wonder you're inspired to take classes. If I ever make it to Japan (or move to a city with a large Japanese population, maybe) I hope to seek out lessons myself.