First, spoken word events. I fulfilled a three-years-old ambition to attend a Pecha Kucha night in its hometown. If you haven't seen Pecha Kucha, it's an evening of presentations, with a preponderance of architect/arty type people, each talking about their work with 20 slides, which change every 20 seconds. Part-English, part-Japanese, the event felt like the coolest thing I've been to in Tokyo so far. Underground in the SuperDeluxe space in Roppongi, it was standing room only and absolutely full of excited audience members. Plus, there were some really cool talks. Can't wait to attend the next one. Also in the world of spoken word, I went to a storytelling workshop in Yoyogi Park run by Apocrypha, a growing storytelling organisation. It was really fun to hear people's different perspectives in storytelling - and I'm still touched by a story a Russian woman told about getting into a helicopter in the dead of Siberian winter at the age of five, and suddenly, magically finding herself looking out at real leaves and grass!
As for art, the highlight of the week was the Mori Art Museum, and in particular, the Roppongi Crossing: My Body Your Voice exhibition. Designed to offer a 'comprehensive survey of the Japanese contemporary arts scene', there is a lot here, and much of it is beautiful and thought provoking. In terms of fun, I loved one exhibit that featured an interactive game of tossing buttons onto a target - which I missed every time. And in terms of thought provokingness, there was a really intriguing piece on the 'impossible baby' about same-gender IVF. Great, innovative stuff. It's on til 10th July. I also tried to go to the mural-painting event with Dr Sketchy that I promoted in last week's blog but I think I turned up too early and had to flee when I was the only one there! Saw photos of it later, so clearly I need to be less punctual...
For cinema this week we ventured to the cool, arty cinema at Bunkamura in Shibuya. If you venture along and can't spot it, the secret is: it's on the 6th floor of the building. We saw Youth, which I didn't especially like. Great performances, but a rather over-long musing on the different perspectives on the world from youth and older people in a weird Swiss retreat... It's my favourite cinema so far in Tokyo. What other pretty, quirky, ideally bar-containing cinemas would you recommend? Feel odd being the only couple - weeknight film viewing seems to be a solitary activity here?
Of course no week can be complete without some restaurant fun. With a focus on the Daikanyama area, we loved the Spring Valley Brewery - we had an amazing kale salad and a completely fun set of six beer flights in a very cool, industrial-feeling building with outside deck. And after reading all sorts of good things about Cujorl, an Italian-ish restaurant, we went along and had a beautifully prepared meal, though being vegetarians, we got overexcited by the 'vegetables' part of the menu and had beautiful dishes which were clearly side dishes... but there were some veggie main course options too. A very nice, relaxed but rather elegant ambience, and we were really impressed with the cuisine. A good wine list too. And goodness, the Tokyo branch of the Dominique Ansel bakery/cafe in Omotesando! There are long lines to buy their amazing bakery items but you can get a seat upstairs in their restaurant fairly easily. Everything looks spectacular but I find it hard to deviate from their outstanding Soho avocado toast. Well, except for a helping of 10 tiny, freshly baked madelines afterwards...
The big question is what my Tokyo-based exercise is going to be. I am lazy and never really like exercise stuff so I need to trick myself into it by going to classes or social things rather than the gym... This week, I tried my first ever hiphop class at En Dance studio. The music was so loud my dodgy Japanese skills were rendered fairly irrelevant. The studio had a cool industrial-chic vibe and everyone was very nice. But there was no getting around the problem of my lack of rhythm and zero-level dance skills. Ashamed... What should I try next? Suggestions in the comments please. Bonus points for the quirky and for Shibuya/Daikanyama proximity!
Brit About Town Golden Picks of the Week for 29 April - 5th May
Golden Week seems to mean there are not as many evening events in Tokyo as usual. Which makes it a great time to hang out in the cinema. So after the individual date suggestions, see my top English-language cinema picks for Tokyo this week!
Fri 29 April - Improvazilla is on tonight and if you like improv, it sounds great! It's at Crocodile in Shibuya.
Sun 1 May - I love the sound of networking/drawing event Pause Draw... particularly as this one's right next to my house at Saigoyama Park in Daikanyama. Bring a sketchbook. Starts at 4.
Mon 2 May - There's a big art show at Spiral (Shibuya/Omotesando), SICF, showcasing lots of new artists. On til the 4th.
All week: cinema
I'm currently bonding with the Japan Times listings for films on in English (though if you're reading this, JT, a search function that narrows the films to those showing in English in Tokyo rather than having to click each individual film to find out where it's on would be amazing!). But I digress. As a special treat for this week, let me tell you about films on this week that I've seen, with a mini-review (click the link to see where/when they're on):
Room: Probably my top recommendation, this is an adaptation from an excellent book of the same name - and the film does it justice. A mother and son are imprisoned in a small room for many years, until one day, they plan their escape into a world the mother has missed and her son has only ever seen on television. Watching it is not altogether jolly - but it's not as harrowing as it sounds. It's about love and family and optimism and wonder, really.
Spotlight: This year's best picture Oscar winner, Spotlight is the true story of Boston Globe journalists uncovering a paedophilia sex scandal in the Catholic church. Nobody could describe the film as a cheery date night film... but it is nevertheless compelling and excellent.
Carol: Opening from Saturday at the Uplink, Carol is a beautiful piece of filmmaking. It's a love story between an older and younger woman set in 1950s New York. I got to go to the world premiere in London and while I found it a little sterile at times, it is very much worth seeing.
Youth: I reviewed this above. I wouldn't rush to see it but it was quite good.
Paddington: Who doesn't love Paddington bear? This is a children's film and it has its flaws, but it is charming and fun.
Zootopia: Having seen all the films I just mentioned above, I'm planning to see Zootopia this week, a fun buddy cop animation in a city of anthropomorphic animals. Because why not!
Have a great week! And remember to send suggestions of upcoming events!